Dubai bus stops are the coolest, literally

Dubai's air conditioned bus stop

Despite Dubai being in the desert, my trip to the city wasn’t as hot as it was in Sri Lanka. Most of the time, I hid in shopping malls or the freakishly cold buses.

One of the best things about the bus in Dubai is the bus stop. Some of the bus stops here are air conditioned! Inside, the temperature is a chilly 22 degrees Celsius.

Air conditioned bus stops. "We're 22 degrees Celsius all year round."

Bus stop looks like from the front.
Bus stop looks like from the front.

Isn’t it just awesome?!

Less awesome is a video of me giving you a tour of the bus stop. I look like I was very very bored. The truth is, it was rather sunny and I couldn’t open my eyes as wide as usual.

Enjoy!

Video tour of Dubai’s air conditioned bus stop

Singapore’s most WTF: Haw Par Villa

haw par dance class

[This blog post contains some photos not suitable for children as they include violent torture scenes. However, nipples of merpeople have been censored. You are welcomed]

I visited Haw Par Villa some Sundays ago with D and M. It was my third visit to the “historical theme park”.  I left with the same feeling I had the two other times I went: “What on earth did I just see?”

What is Haw Par Villa? Travel site Your Singapore has a nice description:

Haw Par Villa is like no other place in the world, with over 1,000 statues and 150 dioramas that dramatise Chinese legends and folklore. Founded on Chinese legends and values, this historical theme park has large, imposing statues from famous legends of old – featuring characters like Fu Lu Shou, Confucius and the Laughing Buddha.

If you have been to Singapore multiple times and have seen almost all of the tourist attractions, you should visit Haw Par Villa.

Haw Par Villa gate

Previously, Haw Par Villa was in the middle of nowhere. Now has its own MRT stop, aptly named Haw Par Villa Station, so it’s very easy to get there.

You will definitely know if you’ve arrived at Haw Par Villa if you see concrete statues around. Yes, get yourself in there. Entrance is free!

After passing the gates, you will be guided by a bearded old man who points with two fingers. Further inside, a dancing Thai/Burmese person teaches a stance of Taichi.

Welcome to Haw Par Villa

Ten Courts of Hell

If you only have 10 minutes at Haw Par Villa, you must check out the Ten Courts of Hell so you know which court your worst enemy will go. (I now know which courts are reserved for me.)

It’s kind of funny how the crimes get repetitive but the torture scenes are always…fresh and creative.

Ten Courts of Hell

Ten Courts of Hell

Myths and legend

Besides the courts of hell, there are a lot of the statues in the villa is about Chinese folklore.

There is the usual Journey to the West (lower right) statues and also Legend of the White Snake (not in photo).

Haw Par Villa

The place has a few signs around explaining the scenes so don’t worry about not understanding them. Heck, even I don’t understand much of it.

For example, I have no idea where these topless mermaids, clammaids and crabmaids come from.

Considering how conservative we are, it’s surprising how these sea creatures have nipples. I mean, male manga characters do not have nipples but these merfolks do? That is just crazy weird. Oh, I’ve censored the nipples in case anyone gets offended by bare-breasted women sculptures with weird grins.

Modern family

Besides folklore, there are also strange statues of good-and-evil. Here are a few photos of sins and what happens to bad people (or something like that).

Haw Par Villa Modern family

(Click to enlarge)

The park/villa is quite big so be sure to have at least 45 minutes to look at everything. It’s also best to bring a few friends who can help you take photos.

Haw Par Villa

PS You are not supposed to do what I did. Hat tip to J for the giraffe pose.

To end the post, I should like to teach you the dance of my people and a bonus video!

Haw Par Villa dance class

Photo credit: Mel

[Video music credit: Also Sprach Zarathustra by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0]

Things to know about Haw Par Villa

Nitty gritty: Haw Par Villa
How to get there: Haw Par Villa MRT station
Opening time: 9 am to 7 pm (Ten courts of hell officially closes at 6 pm but caretaker wanted to be off at 5.40 pm)
Who to go with: Friends, family.
Free entrance!!!

First impression of Bangkok

mcdonald bangkok

mcdonald bangkok
Ronald greets us with a wai

Hello, I’m still in Bangkok and I’ll be returning to Singapore on a 6.30pm plane this evening.

I quite like Bangkok. I love the Skytrain. Any city with a metro system gets one thumbs up for me. Two thumbs if it doesn’t smell like pee.

I love the shrines along every street. I love how the king is loved so much that I see as many of his posters as I would a regular celebrity.

Unfortunately, I’ve only eaten one meal since I have arrived. Yes, the Glutton ate ONE meal in Bangkok. It’s a long story: I had to wait 1.5 hours for a massage and I was too lazy to find food. Plus, having a full stomach is not conducive for the wrestling moves I had to do.

Here’s a video I did before I head out into the streets.

Stayed Hotel Maruchu, Tokyo review

Room of Hotel Maruchu Tokyo

The worse part of travel preparations is booking a hotel. Even with reviews, I’m never sure how a room would turn out.

Luckily, Hotel Maruchu in Tokyo turned out to be alright.

When I extended my business trip in September, I had to look for a place to stay. I found Hotel Maruchu online and thought that its location right next to Minami-Senjuu is great.

As a miser budget traveller, the 3,500 yen (US$44.5) price was what clinched the deal. In comparison, the price of a dorm bed at Sakura Hostel is 2,940 yen (US$$37.3).

The hotel was not too difficult to find. It’s just across the tracks of Tokyo Metro’s Minami-Senjuu station, and a bit more walking if you come from the JR station. There’s an overhead bridge with slopes to roll your suitcase around.

When I reached, the concierge was really enthusiastic and spoke a bit of English. I should have been ashamed of myself for not speaking more in Japanese. (Sorry mom!)

I chose the Japanese-style single room (which is also a two-person room according to the sign outside). The room is really tiny but I guess that’s what you get in space-constraint Japan.

Hotel Maruchu's 3 tatami big room
Hotel Maruchu’s 3 tatami big room

Amenities

There’s a Chinese saying, “A sparrow might be small, but it has all five internal organs.” The saying is a lot more poetic in Chinese, I assure you.

Well, Maruchu’s room is definitely has a sparrow’s innards. My room had a futon mattress, pillow, blanket fridge, TV, bathrobe, towel, a box of tissue, a table and a cushions. It also has free Wi-Fi, take that Marriott!

Hotel Maruchu's bathrobe and towel
Hotel Maruchu’s bathrobe and towel
Room of Hotel Maruchu
Room of Hotel Maruchu

Bonus! A clip of me rambling on about the room.


(I never managed to visit the cemetery because I got lost.)

Shared facilities

Outside the room, there’s the shared toilet and pantry.

The toilet has men’s urinals (though it will be really awkward walking in on a man peeing) and the cool modern Japanese toilets.

Hotel Maruchu's shared washroom
Hotel Maruchu’s shared washroom
Hotel Maruchu's modern Japanese toilet
Hotel Maruchu’s modern Japanese toilet
Hotel Maruchu's shared pantry and "makeup area"
Hotel Maruchu’s shared pantry and “makeup area”

Not included in the my photos is the public bath. For me, this was actually the main attraction.

Hotel Maruchu bath
From http://www.hotelmaruchu.com/pc-j/building.html

In a public bath, you take a shower and bath with other people. Some people might feel uncomfortable about this but I actually like the Japanese’s nonchalance of other people’s naked bodies. As they say, when in Rome do as the Romans.

Do note that the bath is open to women at a shorter timing than men.

Misc

There’s a nice Japanese restaurant outside of the JR station which is within walking distance of the hotel. A 7-11 is a short walk away too. The streets were quite deserted at night when I walked to the convenience store, although I don’t think it’s dangerous for a woman to walk alone.

Minami-Senjuu is near Ueno Park but it’s actually a lot further to the city center. I didn’t like the travelling.

In a nutshell
Stayed at Hotel Maruchu, Tokyo
Pros: Enthusiastic concierge, cheap cheap price, cool Japanese room
Cons: Train station is far from the city center, people who are shy about being naked with strangers might not like the public bath, small Japanese room