One place we did get to visit, as we fancied a change of scenery was Sentosa Island. Here, there are several tourist attractions as well as being the home for the Universal Studios franchise; although we didn't have time to visit this time.
As we arrived at the terminal, to go over to the Island, we decided to go on the cable car and were talked into buying tickets from a concession. Arriving at the terminal, there was a long queue, however, feeling confident, as we had already purchased tickets, we took the lift straight away to the cable car boarding station, only to be deflated, as the tickets that we had bought only entitled us to a cheaper ticket at the ticket office. Humbly, we joined the long line to get our tickets.
The view was impressive and we were soon on the island, where there were a full range of activities. Having enjoyed the luge in the past, we chose the more difficult route and raced down that to the bottom of the hill. Unfortunately for Sue, a large school party of young children, was also going down and as is often the case the one pupil with no common sense or fear decided to race her!This proved quite a scary experience watching him tear around the corners and she arrived at the bottom quite shaken up.
As we explored further, we found the beach area and there was a wide range of other activities on offer such as bungee jumping and an aerial walkway, as well as some impressive gardens. These reminded us of the Gaudi mosaics in Barcelona. At the end of the garden was a large Merlion sculpture overlooking the park.
An enjoyable day and with a longer time, a place where we could return as there was a lot more to see and do.
Singapore at night
The views by night, as we explored the city, were just as impressive. We crossed the Helix bridge, one night and went to the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. From here we were treated to a colourful light show and views of the city from all sides.
We also had a fantastic view of the city by night from our hotel room, that gave us a different perspective of the area.
Several times on these excursions around the city we used the underground system Once we understood the layout this proved to be very reliable and cheap, and something we would highly recommend.
The only observation was that it's strange seeing young people riding these trains, as they seem oblivious to their surroundings; too busy looking at their phones!
One young man was sat next to a young lady, in the past they may have chatted and who knows what may have followed!
These are just some of the sights, in the next blog I will talk about the one we were most looking forward to.
After our interesting first day, we decided to venture further afield and fortunately for us, we sought the advice of the hotel concierge. We had seen various bus tours advertised but these could be quite expensive. He advised us, to try a small outlet in the nearby shopping mall, where these were sold at a reasonable price.
We found this eventually and decided to do one of the tours around the city, as a bonus we even got a second day free! The bus stop was just across from the hotel and we were soon on our way. Although we didn't use it as such, the bus also acted as a hop on hop off tour.
It was an easy way to see the highlights of the area and allow us to get our bearings. Although we only drove past these places, it gave us an idea of which ones we would like to see. This tour took all morning and covered half the city. In the afternoon, we boarded another bus from the same company, at no extra cost, that covered the rest of the city.
The first place we decided to visit the next day was Marina Bay. Here was the famous Merlion, an unofficial mascot of Singapore, depicted as a mythical creature with a lion's head and the body of a fish. This was impressive with water shooting from its mouth. It also drew large crowds, as people posed for selfies, as groups or pretending that the water was hitting them.
Across the bay was also a view of some of the more interesting buildings in Singapore. The Marina Bays Sands and in front of it the Art and Science Museum. Both structures enhanced the skyline. It's a pity that other towns don't follow this example and insist that new buildings create a more interesting skyline and aren't just box shapes.
On another visit, later on in the week, it was good to see that a series of benches had been commissioned to add interest to the area; although I'm not sure you could sit on all of them!
Like most big cities there were far too many places for us to visit during our stay. We passed through Chinatown but had already visited several in other countries so decided to give it a miss. The one place that we would have liked to have visited longer, especially in the evening, was Clarke Quay, as there seemed to be a lot going on there. Unfortunately, we found the Quay, on our last day, which was a shame because there were lots of things happening during the day and we didn't have time to explore this interesting area.
What was also impressive here were the subway tunnels. Here artists had painted large murals, depicting the history of the area, to improve the normally dark walls and there was no sign of graffiti. It's a shame that this couldn't be safely done in many of our towns in the UK.
Finally, we had arrived in Singapore, the part of the trip we had looked forward to most. After checking into our hotel, we decided to do a little exploring of the area. I don't know what other people are like but we always like to get our bearing's before setting off further afield.
Our hotel was connected to a shopping Mall and as we emerged, the heavens opened. This time we were prepared and had our cagoules with us. We sheltered in a doorway and put these on. Eventually, the heavy rain eased but did not look like ending completely. Because of this we decided to find an inside venue to explore. We always try to find an art gallery in a new place and as the National Gallery of Singapore was close by, this seemed an ideal place to shelter.
We arrived not knowing what to expect and soon realised that this was a lucky choice. An exhibition showing the impressionists called a Century of Light was just finishing and because of this, entry was free. Being one of our favourite periods in art, we were soon enthralled by the paintings.
It was good to see so many other people spending time taking in these masterpieces; there were even a couple of people sat sketching
With over 60 paintings we were spoilt for choice and spent a long time in the first gallery. The exhibition was set out chronologically showing how the style evolved and how the individual artists influenced this.
The exhibition, which was more than three years in the making, is divided into six sections based on colours. It begins with black, including pieces such as Manet's striking Moonlight Over The Port Of Boulogne (1869).
It then moves through clear tones, whites, greens and blues, scientific colour theory and winds up with pinks and purples.
While visitors will doubtless flock to Monet's water lilies and Renoir's full-figured women, Mr Perrin hopes they will also pay attention to the lesser-known figures that were also key to the movement.
Among these are Paul Signac, a Neo-Impressionist who helped to develop the Pointillist style of using dots of colour to form an image; portrait and still-life artist Henri Fantin-Latour; and Berthe Morisot, one of three "grandes dames" of Impressionism, notable in her choice to highlight domestic scenes featuring women and children.
Certain things like, the early use of black surprised me, as well as how the use of colour on snow became popular. It was also interesting to see how the changing light had been captured in the cathedral pictures by Monet as well as seeing the palettes used by these great artists. Such things as these are always of interest.
Half way around there was an areas where the public could make their own impressionist picture. To help there were blocks that you could use to set the scene. As you moved around the table you could pick which ones to use and then add your own drawing on top. These were then put up on show. This was an excellent way to relax before continuing and both Sue and I had a go. You could say we have both now exhibited in this prestigious gallery!
As we wandered around the next room admiring the paintings we kept bumping into one couple. Eventually we started to chat to them and had several interesting conversations about art and this exhibition. It's good that art can break down barriers and shared experiences can be enjoyed by different people.
it turned out that the lady was teaching art in a local school and they had an artist in residence at the moment. Her perspective on the work was interesting as was her husbands. My knowledge about impressionism and the work we had seen in other galleries led interested them and we had a good chat.
If we had come to the gallery two days later the show would have finished so the rain did us a great favour this time.
They say its a small world at times. One night whilst sat watching a show in the bar, a lady said to Sue, "Are you a teacher?" It turned out that Sue had taught her children.
Whilst returning from Bali, we were getting off the boat, when a lady recognised Sue and it turned out she had been in the same class at High school. Her husband lived on the same street as Sue and they had played together as children. Anyway, we chatted for a while and discussed the trip so far. They had played it clever on Bali and pre booked a taxi from the UK, because of this they had seen more of the island and saved a lot of money compared to us having to go on cruise trips.
We decided to share a taxi the next day on Semarang. Going ashore, we were greeted by large groups milling around. The locals had organised two tables, one with information and one to book taxis. This was a well thought out plan, apart from the fact that there were several ships in port and hundreds of people coming ashore. With only three people manning the taxi booking desk, they hadn't really thought this through. Fortunately, people were busy deciding what to do and I managed to get served quickly. We booked a three hour taxi journey and were given a sheet of things we could see and from this we could pick as many as possible within our time limit.
Visit to #KampungPelangi
Our first choice was the painted village, as we decided to look for something different.
A nondescript village in southern Indonesia has become an unlikely tourist trap - after undergoing a dramatic transformation.
Hordes of people have been flocking to Kampung Pelangi in Randusari, Central Java, after local government officials paid for it to be re-cast as a 'rainbow village'.
The area's council committee provided a budget of 300,000,000 Indonesian Rupiah - or £17,000 - to have the unassuming spot converted into a must-see attraction.
This proved to be a fascinating place. Apparently, it had been classed as a slum and now attracted tourists. Shops and other businesses have provided employment for the locals. It reminded us of when we visited Madeira, where they had painted the doors in a run down area; it proves that with a little imagination, you can transform a place and improve the economy.
After an enjoyable walk around the village and a treasure hunt for a dropped earing, which Sue spotted just as we were about to leave, we set off to see more sights. We stopped at the Lewang Sewu building but didn't have time to count all the one thousand doors, it is said to have and then we drove on to our next stop.
As we toured a few back streets the driver said he was looking for a petrol station; these were not some of the better parts of town . Eventually, after a couple of stops, he found one that had petrol and we were able to continue.
Our next stop was a small square by the Dome Church Blenduk. Here, as we walked in the garden, we seemed to be the main attraction, as several groups stopped us to ask if they could have their photograph taken with us; my fame must have spread worldwide! Either that or they weren't used to tourists in this part of town!
As our time was now running out, we returned to the ship whereupon the driver asked for more money. Apparently, we had just gone over our three hour time limit so we explained that the extra time had been when he was getting petrol and we weren't paying several thousand Rupiah for that! It was only later that we realised it was probably only a couple of pounds and we were going to give him that as a tip anyway.
An interesting insight into a small part of the island. We would have liked to have seen more, but only had a limited timeslot before we had to be back on board. Some interesting buildings and parts of the town tourists don't normally see. One of the other things that stuck in our minds was the almost suicidal motorbikes everywhere here and on Bali. They seem to start riding these at an early age and weave in and out of traffic at high speed. Quite scary for us who are not used to it.
One more day of cruising then we arrive at Singapore, which is why we booked the cruise in the first place. We have seen some incredible and diverse places and have thoroughly enjoyed it, apart from some of the tenders to port, which were often poorly organised.
Now a few days to explore Singapore. Would it live up to our expectations?
Having never having been on a cruise as long as this before, it is interesting to reflect on the evening entertainment that was on offer.
The shows in the theatre were excellent and varied. Like all entertainment not all of it was to our taste. The dancers and singers on the entertainment team were talented, as were the visiting performers. A comedian did two shows. The first was very good but on the second night not as impressive; the audience participation didn't work well and the act suffered because of this.
As with most cruises, there were several bars and singers. From the five main ones, we enjoyed two of the groups the most and sought out where they were performing,, as they moved locations at times. Our particular favourite was 24 Kara, a duo featuring a man and woman. These were mainly rock singers but also had a good repertoire. Unfortunately, watching them too often, their songs started to repeat, however, in fairness to them, it was possibly because they were the ones most requested.
The Spinnaker lounge was the largest bar area, which had other activities and game shows, earlier in the evening. There were some excellent ballroom dancers amongst the guests and I could only watch in awe as some of then moved gracefully around the floor. Sue would have loved to dance but this is not one of my strong points!
Also in here, they had the cruise obligatory games and quizzes. These could be quite enjoyable to watch, as participants had to fulfill different tasks. One night popping balloons with various parts of their bodies. and another time not being able to answer yes or no to questions. Prizes were given and then the floor was cleared and there was a chance to enjoy a disco for a few hours.
If taking part wasn't your thing you could just sit and relax with a drink and the bars were always busy. Also a lot of guests had drink packages which helped!
There was also the chance to see some stunning sunsets whilst having a quite stroll on one of the decks.
So lots to do, but in our case with so many nights, it did get a bit repetitive at times and we looked forward to a night with our feet up in front of a television. No pleasing some people!
After an interesting visit to Komodo, our next stop was Bali. Here we decided to do another trip on the first of two days. There were two tours offered both with fascinating history. The one we chose visited two temples, the second one being on a volcanic rock outcrop, separated by a narrow walkway.
We set off in glorious sunshine and after a drive through villages, with several family temples on the way. we arrived at our stop. The guide handed out thin plastic rain covers. This was not a good sign and as we set off to explore the Royal Temple, the rain started. Fortunately, it didn't last long and we were able to leave our shelter and wander around the temple grounds..
,After an interesting tour, we climbed back on the bus just as the sun came out. Now, we were travelling to the highlight of the tour; the temple at Tanah Lot.
We arrived and walked through the market stalls to a fantastic viewpoint overlooking the temple. The clouds seemed to have followed us and it went very dark. The pictures I took look like they are from a black and white film. As we wandered further, the rain came and we found shelter again.
Not to worry,the guide said told us. It would only last about ten minutes. Half an hour later, he got a phone call and we were told that the bus had to leave. Paddling up the road, we were completely soaked even with the thin raincoat provided. The hour and a half drive back to the port wasn't pleasant, as we were sitting in wet clothes. At least the driver turned the air conditioning off!
We arrived back to bright sunshine and people were surprised when we told them about the rain. It took us days to dry out our trainers!
Second day in Bali
After the first day's trip, we decided against doing another one so we took a taxi into town. This was fairly easy and we arranged a time and place for the driver to pick us up, for our journey back to the ship.
The beaches had a reputation as being the Australian's Benidorm or our Blackpool, and this had put a few people off going to them. This was not the case for the beach that we visited. When we walked along it, the atmosphere was very relaxed and not at all crowded. There were several areas where small bars had been set up and you could sit and buy drinks from their coo boxes. There were also a few market stalls but although they asked if you wanted to stop, they were very polite over it, unlike some countries we have visited, where they can be quite aggressive.
After a walk along the beach we had some refreshments and decided to do a little shopping. For the first time in our lives we were millionaires and wanted to spend all our money. This unfortunately was in Indonesian money and wasn't worth much in ours. It did take some working out what 100.000 Rupiah was worth about £5.00. Even so good were very reasonable and we managed to buy a few interesting items.
We arrived back at the pick up point for the taxi and waited. For entertainment we had all the school children racing past on their motorcycles. They seem to start riding these at an early age and speed around like everyone else on the island. Quite scary to watch.
Anyway after waiting half an hour we decided the ordered taxi wasn't coming, so stopped a passing taxi and returned to the ship. An interesting and colourful town and it showed that you shouldn't be put off by other peoples opinions.
One thing we love about cruises is when you wake up in a new place. We had researched Komodo but all that is really mentioned is the Komodo dragon.
Stepping onto the deck, we were greeted with a stunning vista of islands and seascape. This surprised us and we decided to walk around the ship to take in the fantastic views. On top of one of the mountains, the trees looked like a row of lollipops This was the first sketch I decided to do.
Small boats were crossing the calm sea, taking people from Komodo to other Islands and the whole scene was one of peacefulness.
When doing our research,we read that it wasn't always worth going on a trip to see the dragons, as they often wandered near the beach and you could see them on the shoreline. However, we were informed on the ship, before we arrived at Komodo, that no one was allowed ashore unless on an official tour, as the island was a National Park. You could organise a trip before you went but without internet or a printer this wasn't possible. Instead, we had to pay for a trip organised by the ship.
The tender in this case was one of the small lifeboats. This was not ideal, as it was often very hot on board and to cool it down the staff had to open the front windows. Unfortunately, if we hit a wave the people at the front were soaked.
On arrival at the docking area, it was abundantly clear that the planning and organisation of disembarking was not very impressive. We arrived at a rickety wooden pier, the crew member in- charge of steering the boat, realised that the gap between the exit of the boat and the pier was only about three foot high and he would have to dock very carefully. The boat bobbing up and down did not help the matter. After about half an hour and several attempts, we finally docked and were helped off, or should I say, passed through the gap, one person at a time. This was not ideal for some of the more immobile guests.
Walking ashore, we were greeted by our guide, a local man, carrying a forked stick and also a park warden. These were extremely knowledgeable and talked about the island; its fauna and the animals living there, although most of the smaller animals seemed to be the food source for the dragons. We walked along a trail leading into the rainforest and finally looped around back towards the shore.
Eventually, we came upon a waterhole where three large Komodo Dragons were resting. We did wonder afterwards, if they were slightly drugged or just kept well fed so that tourists weren't disappointed on the tour.
As we stood in a circle, a baby dragon wandered around for a while before disappearing into the undergrowth and then a bigger one arrived. This one was more inquisitive and had to be pushed away by the guide using the forked stick.
We stood under a nearby tree, whilst the ranger explained that the young ones, when born, quickly climb these so as not to be eaten by the adults. I don't remember much of the talk after that as we all started to look upwards expecting one to drop on us!
We were also lucky enough to come across another adult male, just before we reached the shore. This also surprised the guide, who was quite wary of it.
As we arrived back at the beach, we were greeted with the locals, manning their market stalls. These sold a wide range of clothes and several sculptures of dragons. The small ones looked like they were mass produced and the large ones impossible to take home, although more impressive looking.
Fortunately, going back to the ship proved much more successful, as the lifeboat was at the nearby concrete pier and there were no problems.
An interesting day out where we were lucky enough to see several dragons; some groups only saw the three around the waterhole.
We had been meaning to visit this gallery for a while now and even went a few weeks ago, forgetting that it was closed on a Monday.
I had an exhibition there about 18 months ago and was impressed with the way the gallery was organised. The exhibitions change monthly and are very diverse, as was the case on this occasion.
In the left gallery, as you enter was the 'Pursuing Pattern' exhibition by Janet Mayled. She says her compositions "Explore complex pattern and colour balance". They featured still life, urban landscapes and allotments.
These were impressive and certainly brightened up the room.
In the right hand gallery, was the work of another Northwest artist; 'Head in the Clouds' by Jessica Owen. This exhibition featured big brooding skies with a strong concentration of light and dark. They were certainly a contrast from the other gallery. Again these were impressive in a different way.
The gallery was busy with a pastel workshop with Paul Pigram. Here, a group were following along as he demonstrated a landscape scene. As they worked, he walked around giving advice.
They were engrossed in their work and we felt a little uneasy wandering in the gallery looking at the exhibition, although nobody minded.
This is another excellent facility offered by the gallery.
,As we wandered to the community gallery it was good to see some paintings from the local
St. Matthews C of E primary school. You could notice the creativity in the work and it's great to see that they have been given a chance to show their work in such a prestigious place. They had been studying the Chinese story of the Willow Pattern found on Chinese plates and using ink and collage they created their own versions of flowers. As you can see from the middle photograph, the children also looked at the work of Mondrian. We particularly liked the creativity of the collage of the viaduct. Here, the lollipop people were inspired by L S Lowry. I'm not sure the lines from the famous song; 'and he painted, lolly pop cats and dogs' would have the same ring to it though!
Upstairs was the 126th Annual Exhibition of Stockport Photographic Society. Here the walls were split into sections featuring Portrait, Natural History and Pictorial scenes amongst others. The standard was very high and showed how seriously the group took their photography. Sue did notice one scene our daughter had photographed near Snowden and decided that hers was just as good. Sue herself had taken a sunset on our visit to Whitby that wouldn't have looked out of place on the wall.
An enjoyable afternoon and we even bumped into Katherine Rosati, the curator, who remembered me from my exhibition, and we had a good chat with her.
Like all galleries this will have had it's funding cut, i suppose, but by finding ways around this they still have a fantastic range of exhibitions and because they have three galleries available every month more artists have a chance to exhibit there. Also having the small gallery on the corridor, schools, local people and artists looking for their first exhibition have a chance to show their work.
I mentioned in an earlier blog about time spent relaxing on sea days; for those wanting organised activities there were several on offer.
The first one I noticed were the art classes on offer. A member of my art group, an experienced painter, was hired in the past to provide these classes and I expected someone like this running them. Instead, it was a couple of the young cruise staff giving the tuition. Observing this paint along session, I noticed that the tuition was very basic and as the image was easy to paint, the guests made good attempts to recreate the image. I was worried that these simple lessons might put off the participants, however, I also noticed that the same guests signed on for more than one session. The cost was $30 so, they must have enjoyed the activity. As for the cruise line, with up to six people each time, this was quite profitable for them .
As we tended to relax in the Spinnaker lounge, I also sketched the dance classes as the participants enjoyed the sessions. Unfortunately, for me they kept moving, which made sketching them very difficult!
On other cruises, we have taken part in the quizzes and actually won one. Feeling quite confident, we went back a few more times only to be thrashed by one lady, who was a librarian. This seemed an unfair advantage!!
We had a go at a couple of the afternoon quiz sessions but couldn't enter properly because it was an ongoing quiz, where you had to enter every sea day and we had already missed a couple.
It was interesting to listen to these and I sketched others listening as well.
There was a games room and this was always full of guests playing board games and the popular card game bridge. Other passengers set up shop in the lounge and played a variety of card games, which also provided a good subject matter for me.
There were many other daytime activities provided such as cocktail making and various food demonstrations.
Outside, there were small football and basketball activities, although it seemed too hot at times for these. We even tried Shuffleboard, which was lot more difficult than we expected but it was good fun. We tended to blame the rocking of the boat for our wayward discs and a couple of sunbathers also moved out of range to be safe!
Lots to do and these were just a few of the activities. If you wanted to you could keep busy all day on this type of cruise.
I have followed Manchester Urban sketchers facebook site and know a few of the members but until now had not attended an event. Partly because of other commitments and partly because I don't like sitting out in the cold!
Today was the ideal opportunity to dip my feet in, as an introductory meeting was being held at Salford Art Gallery, where I had my art club meeting later on in the day.
The event was opened by Amy from the gallery and four members sat at the front.
Anne Percival gave the introduction and continued with a brief history of the movement, which started in 2008. After a session, the aim of the group was to share their work; not to compare it. Artists learn a lot from each other and she told us that sketches, can evoke more memories than a photograph, as you have immersed yourself in the moment.
Next to speak was Roger, who told us that he bumped into a group of sketchers at the Manchester Symposium and decided to go home and get his paints etc. and join them. He explained that only simple equipment is needed and whilst out sketching, he discovered a whole new world of buildings and viewpoints he would never have noticed before. He said, "it was a great way to meet people and make friends."
Andrea added that you should start off by being comfortable in your surroundings and with the materials and that you don't have to post your sketches all the time. She encouraged people to dip their toe in, starting today after the talks.
After the talks we had a choice of following the fourth member, Colin, through to the other gallery for a short demonstration or to go out sketching.
I decided to watch Colin before doing any sketches.
Colin explained that when starting a sketch there are no rules; sometimes he uses pencil first, other times colour first.
He started the sketch of the corner of the Coronation Street set by finding an eye line. He then sketched his design out roughly with a graphite stick, before starting to find details. He then used a pen, adapting the drawing as he goes along, concentrating on the things that interest him.
After drawing the outline, he adds colour to highlight some features. This concept was also shown to great effect in his sketch book, where only some areas had been coloured to add emphasis to them. He also showed us one he believed had been overworked and had lost a focal point.
He finished the short session by adding thicker lines to emphasis certain areas.
A really informative demonstration and a fascinating insight into his range of working methods. As he said, "!t is a great chance to try out different ways to capture the scene.
Below is Colin's quick sketch, as well as a longer one, which demonstrates his point about only adding colour to some areas.
The time had come for me to have a go myself. I took the easy option by working in the Gallery Café. This gave me a chance to have a coffee in the warmth; a decision I was glad of, when a couple of sketchers came in from outside with frozen fingers!
By this time I had only about half an hour for my sketch so quickly got on with it. I managed to draw out my idea and add some colour before it was time to go back upstairs to show our work to the group.
It was interesting to see all the different approaches and scenes chosen to sketch.
An enjoyable event and having "dipped my toe in" I am hoping to attend some of their meetups in future. For those of you who would be interested in trying their hand at sketching, there are more workshops at the gallery, which I am sure are well worth attending; check out Salford Art Gallery website for more information.
Some of the sketches are shown below.
It was time now to get something to eat before returning to the gallery for my art club's portrait session. No rest for the wicked!