Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sleepless (& Sick) in Singapore

It's Christmas Eve right now, 600 am to be exact, and I'm wide awake, have not slept a wink yet. Yes, it's partly due to jet-lag, but I slept well enough last night. I shouldn't have made an appointment to meet someone in town at 1130am later! Whenever I worry about getting enough sleep so I can wake up fresh for an appointment, I end up not sleeping well at all. That's one reason I don't really like planning for meet-ups etc, I get somewhat stressed thinking about preparing for such meet-ups and being sure I'm on time, and end up not doing much the rest of the entire day. I really prefer things to be impromptu.

Have also been sick since arriving in Singapore a couple of days back. Sneezing like crazy and can feel the onset of full-blown flu, but am managing to fend it off. Brian was coughing really badly too, especially at night. We had to cancel a meeting with the Tans, our buddies from Frankfurt days, at the last minute, on Monday.

Then yesterday, I had a hair spa appointment. Brian seemed better and so I called up the Tans and they were headed for the city too. After lunch, I went to the hair salon, while my mum took the boys to Borders. The Tans then picked the boys up while my mum went back. After I was done some 1.5 hours later, we had tea and cakes at Borders Bistro. Funnily enough, we bumped into Bao and her hubby Vic, a couple from Frankfurt, who are also back on hols. We suddenly felt like we were hanging out at Frankfurt's Zeil having coffee again and generally lazing about doing nothing much (we did this for many an afternoon back in those good old days). Only difference was the darn muggy weather; being ill makes Singapore weather pretty unbearable (I'm usually okay with it).

At 5pm, we drove to Dempsey Place and walked around a bit but I wasn't really up for restaurant fare. Mr Decisive Daniel then kept asking me what I wanted to have for dinner. I said Newton Circus (although I went there on Sunday night but I couldn't think of what to eat!). I don't think he was keen on that and kept asking me what else I wanted to eat, so I said, maybe Teochew porridge. He insisted he knew a place at Balestier for great Teochew porridge and we went on futile hunt for this shop; meeting with multiple after-office traffic jams. We ended up at Newton Circus, some 1 hour plus later than if we had gone directly from Dempsey. As usual ordered and ate too much. That's what I mean by impromptu meet-ups, they are always so much fun, everything's unplanned and so go-with-the-flow, very much like...ME!

I have a baby's 1-month celebration to go to at around 5pm, I really need to get some sleep. Now I'm thinking if I should send out a text cancelling my 1130am appointment. I will, I will, I'll be deader than a walking zombie if I don't. Almost 630am now, arrrrgggghhhhh!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The 13 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear

My friend Slim bought this book for Brian and Sean (her kids love the book). Brian read it first; then when Sean was bored in Singapore, he started skimming through the pages. This was in July this year.

Now Sean's totally engrossed and reading every page of this 700-page tome, twice-over and more (closer to 6 times). He hogs the book 24/7, and Brian would peer over to read too, within minutes, an argument would break out as both want the book nearer to themselves. I'll probably get another copy on my coming trip to Singapore.

The book is actually translated from German, which makes me wonder how many more great, fun reads there are in other languages that we are missing. An excerpt from the Foreword of this book will give you an idea of why the boys are so enthralled by it, the author Walter Moer creates a whimsical tale filled with magical creatures and worlds that little boys can so easily get lost in:

I should be lying (and everyone knows I'm not a liar by nature) if I claimed my first thirteen-and-a-half lives were uneventful. What about the minipirates? What about the Hobgoblins, the Spiderwitch, the Babbling Billows, the Trogotroll, the Mountain Maggot? What about the Alpine Imp, the headless Bollogg, the Bolloggless head, the nomadic Muggs, the Captive Mirage, the Yetis and Bluddums, the Eternal Tornado, the Rickshaw Demons? What about the Venomous Vampires, the Gelatine Prince from the 2364th Dimension, the Professor with Seven Brains, the Demerara Desert, Knio the Barbaric Hog, the Wolperting Whelps, the Cogitating Quicksand, the Noontide Ghouls, the Infurno, the Ship with a Thousand Funnels? What about Gourmet Island, Tornado City, the Sewer Dragon, the Duel of Lies, dimensional hiatuses, Voltigorkian Vibrobassists, rampaging Mountain Dwarfs? What about the Invisibles, the Norselanders, the Venetian Midgets, the Midgard Serpent, the revolting Kackertrants, the Valley of Discarded Ideas, the Witthogs, the Big-Footed Bertts, the Humongous Mountains? What about Earspoonlets, Time-Snails, Diabolic Elves, Mandragors, Olfactils, the Upper Jurassic Current, the smell of Genff? Mine is a tale of mortal danger and eternal love, of hair's breadth, last-minute excapes...But I mustn't get ahead of myself!

The author illustrates the book himself, and Sean loves poring over his drawings as much as he loves reading his writing. Highly recommended for kids (and adults) with quirky tastes in books.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

Saw this trailer on Youtube a few weeks back and knew this is one movie I really want to watch, even more than Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Probably huge on sentimentality, but that's me, nothing like a feel-good movie with parts that make me bawl. It just got nominated for Golden Globe's Best Motion Picture - Drama.

Anyone knows if it's showing in Singapore?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Random things about me

So much housework to do and now kena do MEME, tagged by Petit Fleur and Monica. Six trivial/random stuff about myself. Here goes nothing:

1. I don't like anything potentially pokey anywhere near my bellybutton. Don't even talk about that potentially pokey thing being near my bellybutton. I cringe. I rub my tummy in an effort to banish those thoughts. Sometimes when I lie in bed on my stomach, this stupid thought will appear in my head, that of a sword pushing up from under the bed into my bellybutton. Immediately, I'll shift my position or even turn around, rubbing my tummy again.

2. I love smelling babies' armpits. Only babies' and maybe tots'. Related to this, I can smell a rubbish dump or a rubbish truck well before they are anywhere in sight. Friends know I smelt something nasty by the way tears start welling in my eyes as I retch and try to get the smell out of my mouth.

3. I am a tabloid junkie. London was heaven for me in at least one regard, tabloids were loads cheaper than in Singapore. As a teenager, I spent my allowance on magazines like Galaxie, Saturday Weekly, Movie News; we didn't get expensive magazines like Tiger Beat in Malacca. The magazines I read had English news about Hongkong stars and synopses on HKTVB dramas. These days, it's magazines with stories on the Jolie-Pitts. If I see Angelina Jolie on the cover of tabloids, my hands immediately reach out for the magazines. At one time, the draw was Nicole Kidman, but not anymore.

4. I have an overactive imagination. I tend to think ridiculous thoughts and have to stifle myself lest I blurt them out loud amongst less familiar people. I enjoy humour like this. At home, many times, I'm the one talking rubbish and laughing hysterically at my own rubbish while Brian just looks on and smiles. Times like that, he just seems so much more mature than I am. I think he takes after his dad, though thankfully he's less serious. Sean appears to have taken after me, and loves indulging in toilet humour. He can't outdo me though, I give him more than he can take (and give), so he'll beg to stop after a while.

5. I had my entire pre-NUS education in Malaysia, went to a convent school till O levels (the Malaysian equivalent) and then a Lasallian boys school for Form 6. Looking back, I had a fantastic schooling experience. When I was 11 or 12, me and my classmates would hang out near the school before band-practice. Our school is located next to A Famosa, a 500-year old historical site, in fact, now a World Heritage site. We'd make our way up St Paul's Hills, and then back down, visiting the Malacca museum, at the time located in a smallish building near Stadthuys. I don't remember feeling stressed about exams or having too much homework. We joined lots of after school activities, just for the fun of it. I was pretty active as a girlguide in secondary school, so lots of memories of campfires and camping. Form 6 was a blast, the subjects I took finally made sense, NO MORE SCIENCE, yipppeee. I was the only girl from my school to go to the Lasallian boys school, the rest who opted for Arts stream had to go to CHIJ; where I was for a month, HATED every minute of that awful school. So glad I got the transfer (through a family friend), cos some of my Form 6 mates have become life-long friends. Been 20 years since we left school and we're now scattered all over the world, me in Moscow, two are in Dubai, one in Ho Chi Minh City, one in Guangzhou, one in Shanghai, a couple in Kuala Lumpur and a couple in Singapore.

6. I have to mop the floor now. Okay okay, the last random stuff about myself, which most will know, is that I HATE HOUSEWORK. I can live with a pretty messy place. I always feel that if someone can't stand the mess, that someone should be the one doing something about it. Since I can live with the mess, I shouldn't be tasked with cleaning up. Isn't that more equitable? But duty I'm off to mop the floor now...groannnn. Well, at least that's my intention. So often, the spirit is willing but...

Who to tag? Aiyoh, okaylah, Wendy, Adeline and Cindy.

Okay DONE!

Flight of the bumble-bee @ rocket speed

Gosh, he's crazy goooood. Mind you, at competitions, he has to learn to play not just 1 or 2 difficult pieces, but 5 at a time!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Well done Kant!

My friend May's 11-year old son Kant performing for the first time at Small Hall Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Moscow. Piece played: Scherzo No 2 Op 31. This was the winners' concert held over the weekend; he had won first prize at a competition earlier in the week. Fantastic talent!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Almost prime numbers

Sean has been entertaining himself all afternoon, writing little stories, drawing 3-dimensional shapes, imagined 4-D and other-D shapes; while Brian and I worked on some Singapore Math. Oh, he also watched Sound of Music alone. Eddie flew off to Athens for a meeting this morning, that's why I could get Brian to do some work on a weekend. Otherwise, we'd be vegetating in front of the tv watching dvds.

Right before bedtime, I found a piece of paper with the scribblings above. It's a mathematical term concocted by Sean called "Almost Prime Number".

Just to refresh, remember the definition of Prime Numbers? ie Numbers that have only 2 factors; 1 and itself.

Well, Almost Prime Numbers are numbers with only 3 factors, Sean says. He squares prime numbers, and discovers they only have 3 factors.

He goes on to explain:
"As you can see here, a prime number times itself equals an almost prime number. And there's also something special about it. Every almost prime number always has 3 factors. 1, itself, and its square root. The square root is the thing that makes the number not prime."

When I tucked him into bed just now, he asked this, "Mummy, are square roots of prime numbers always irrational numbers?"

Brian says, "Of course."

I said, "I'm not sure."

Brian goes, "Look Mummy, prime numbers only have two factors, 1 and itself, so obviously it cannot have any square roots that are rational numbers or that number would be be its factor."

I then wondered if all square roots of integers have to be either integers or irrational numbers. Brian says that is so and when I googled, Wikipedia says, "Square roots of integers that are not perfect squares are always irrational numbers."

Interesting stuff.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ice-skating on Red Square

Friday was Parent-teacher conference so the boys didn't have to go to school. After my morning meetings with their teachers, we headed for the city. The ice-skating rink on Red Square had just been erected, and this year's rink is bigger than last year's.

From last week's Moscow Times, "The crowning glory of Moscow's ice rinks is the rink on Red Square. Occupying a quarter of the square, the rink's temperature-controlled surface is surrounded by blue walls bedecked with 1960s and 1970s illustrations of Father Christmas and children on rocket ships welcoming the new year. Music plays over speakers, colored Christmas lights hang above gliding skaters below, a giant Christmas tree adorned with shiny ornaments and GUM signs and topped with a red Kremlin-style star stand in the way of Lenin's mausoleum."

The boys had a great time even though Sean spent most of his time falling on his butt and picking himself up. I watched from the sides as I can't skate to save my life. They both insist I have to join them in the rink on our next visit...and since I'm always saying to them: JUST TRY, DON'T SAY YOU CAN'T!, guess I'll have to practise what I preach...yikes! Sore bum alert!

Bored in McDonalds

Photos of Sean taken in McD one evening. Yes, I was that bored. So were Brian and Sean. We were in Old Arbat's McD waiting for Eddie to come by and pick us up after work. A meeting he had took longer than expected and we ended up waiting for 2 hours. During that time, the three of us finished 21 pieces of chicken mcnuggets, 2 vanilla icecream, 1 large fries, 1 regular fries, 1 large coke, and 1 regular coke. And this while waiting to go for dinner! Of course Sean didn't take a bite of dinner after that.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Weathering the winter blues

When I lived in Frankfurt, a friend of mine, Ade, would warn me about being hit by depression during winter. I didn't get depressed, winter came by and went and I didn't feel any different. The same in London, life pretty much remained the same, we still went out and had our makans, I still made my daily school runs. So I thought it was just her, that it was all psychological, and I was above all that.

But last winter in Moscow, I definitely felt pretty down. I didn't realise this till winter was over, but for some time, I just didn't feel like talking to anyone, or even replying emails, just felt very hermit-like. It doesn't help that winter in Moscow lasts as long as 7 months!

"Symptoms of the winter blues may include lethargy, lowered mood, problems sleeping, carbohydrate cravings and weight gain." I've definitely got all the symptoms now. While snow came later this year than last (around 3rd week of November), the days are already really short now. It doesn't get bright till past 9am and it starts to get dark by 3pm. By 4.30pm, it's almost like night.

I find myself climbing back to bed after seeing the boys off in the morning. And still feel pretty lethargic all day. There are of course ways to combat the winter blues, eg force yourself to go out, talk to friends, even UV light therapy. But when you're in the mood for hibernating, that's all you wanna do. You kind of start enjoying the blues, it's a really strange feeling.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Riveting read on financial crisis

An article that starts like this definitely warrants attention, and this proves to be a good read.

To this day, the willingness of a Wall Street investment bank to pay me hundreds of thousands of dollars to dispense investment advice to grownups remains a mystery to me. I was 24 years old, with no experience of, or particular interest in, guessing which stocks and bonds would rise and which would fall. The essential function of Wall Street is to allocate capital—to decide who should get it and who should not. Believe me when I tell you that I hadn’t the first clue.

Continued here.

While this may not bring you any closer to understanding the mechanics behind the subprime crisis, at least you now know many of Wall Street's fat cats are as clueless as you and I.

Some interesting bits:

In the two decades since then, I had been waiting for the end of Wall Street. The outrageous bonuses, the slender returns to shareholders, the never-ending scandals, the bursting of the internet bubble, the crisis following the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management: Over and over again, the big Wall Street investment banks would be, in some narrow way, discredited. Yet they just kept on growing, along with the sums of money that they doled out to 26-year-olds to perform tasks of no obvious social utility.

and this, something about Merrill Lynch (which Singapore's sovereign fund took a stake in), sigh...

“We just shorted Merrill Lynch,” Eisman told him.

“Why?” asked Hintz.

“We have a simple thesis,” Eisman explained. “There is going to be a calamity, and whenever there is a calamity, Merrill is there.” When it came time to bankrupt Orange County with bad advice, Merrill was there. When the internet went bust, Merrill was there. Way back in the 1980s, when the first bond trader was let off his leash and lost hundreds of millions of dollars, Merrill was there to take the hit. That was Eisman’s logic—the logic of Wall Street’s pecking order. Goldman Sachs was the big kid who ran the games in this neighborhood. Merrill Lynch was the little fat kid assigned the least pleasant roles, just happy to be a part of things. The game, as Eisman saw it, was Crack the Whip. He assumed Merrill Lynch had taken its assigned place at the end of the chain.

Read the article and tell me someone won't make a movie out of this some day.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Jolie good reminder

Angelina Jolie, in a latest interview she did together with Clint Eastwood, talked about what she saw in Sierra Leone and how it changed her.

" was just that I really understood a different depth of what takes place in our world and I understood it so quickly, and seeing little babies with their arms cut off, and how they cut all the women’s arms off so they couldn’t hold their baby. They cut all the men’s legs off so they couldn’t work in the field. And then how many places in the world were so similar, I never wake up worried about silly things anymore and my children are healthy and I can feed them. I’m very very grateful and I feel of use to something that is more important than just getting up and going about the day like I used to. So it changed me drastically."

Reading this reminds me again of how blessed we all are. All of us living our comfortable lives, surfing the internet, reading celebrity interviews...we are all so blessed.

Hmm, year-end melancholy? Winter blues? Maybe...but what Angelina said there, in bold above, is just that kick in the head I need in my life right now. God is telling me to get a grip. Off to sayang my sleeping boys now. Nite.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dimensional WOWS!

Sean's home today. I snapped at him earlier when he begged me to play monopoly. Shoo-ed him away, monopoly will take at least an hour! He can play that with Brian another day.

He spent the morning drawing, reading something and then working out how many factors different numbers had.

For the past hour, he's been watching this show we found. There's about another hour to go. Pretty interesting show, he kept going WOW at different parts of the show. Brian's gonna like the show too. Not that they'll understand most of it, but as long as it keeps them out of my hair for a couple of hours.

We found the show when Sean asked me to search for videos on Dimensions in Youtube.

Trailer on Youtube.

The show itself.

What the heck is Fire?

Sean: Is fire a type of plasma?

Me: Why?

Sean: Because fire is very hot and it can't be a gas because you can see it and you can't see gases.

Me: You mean you can't see gases?

Sean: Yeah, except steam.

Sean: So is fire gas or plasma? What is fire?

Before we get into what fire is, isn't neon a kind of gas, and we can see neon right?


According to the answer to Question No97 here; fire is NOT plasma.
According to the discussion here, fire IS plasma...sigh...

Fire is the result of breaking bonds in carbon based molecules through the addition of heat energy. This reaction releases energy in the form of heat and light.

When Brian gets back from school, I'll get him to check the links out and see if he understands better than I do. Hopefully, he is able to explain better to his didi.

Keeping Sean home today, just because.

Universe and Time

Sean: Before the universe was created, there was no time for it to emerge from, so how did it emerge without any time?

Me: You mean without the universe, time doesn't exist?

Sean: Yes.


There's a discussion on universe and time
here, but all I got from there is no one really knows the answer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

All I get (and need) is Love

Last evening, Sean saw the dinner I cooked for him, and he does what he always does when it's something he loves, he went, "I LOVE YOU MUMMY!" (other times, he goes Yucks!, and sometimes sobs saying he isn't able to eat the food).

He went on to say, "Mummy, you do ALL the work and ALL you get is Love. I think you should get more than that."

:) Ahhh, FINALLY! After ALL this time, someone verbalises appreciation for er, ALL the work I do! Makes ALL my hard work worth while...hehe...

But Sean darling, as The Beatles' song goes, All you need is if all I get is Love...that's good enough for me sweetheart, that's good enough for me...

Tokyo Day 7: Last post, finally! YAHOOOO!!!!

Gosh, this blogging on my Tokyo tour was becoming like an albatross around my neck. I so wanted to get it done but just couldn't keep the momentum going. I've had other distractions along the way.

But I'm glad I got it done, and I hope I haven't bored too many of you too much. Holidays are about memories, aren't they? My friend Li Ping's husband has something wise to say about holidays, You are paying for the creation of memories! That's why that family finds every excuse to go on holidays every other quarter! :) So, while it was stressful at times, with petty arguments about who should ask for directions, walking aimlessly, getting lost, arguing about what to eat, dealing with squabbling siblings...when we look back, we laugh about all that, it wasn't then, but it is now very funny. So the memories are all wonderful and now I have them all online!

This is Sean entertaining us while we waited at the hotel lobby for our pick-up. It's from My Fair Lady, pardon the language at the end, but it is part of the lyrics.

Without your pulling it, the tide comes in
Without your twirling it, the earth can spin
Without your pushing them, the clouds roll by
If they can do without you, ducky, so can I
I shall not feel alone without you
I can stand on my own without you
So go back in your shell
I can do bloody well
Without you...

One more time without clearing of throat, but with eyes bent on tracking the red light on my Canon ixus!

The plastic toys he's playing with at the end of the second video (the clip is cut short on some playbacks, not sure why this happens) are giveaways from his kiddy lunch at Royal Host. It's a yellow tortoise (his favourite thing in the world) and a pink spade.

Day 7 Tokyo: Last lunch in Tokyo

We got back to Hilton hotel in time for lunch. All week he acts like a clown when I wanted to take pictures, then on this last day he insists on taking a picture here, at the Shinjuku bus stop where Hilton's shuttle picks guests up and drops them off. We were here practically every day.

I had one final food recommendation to check out. In Asakusa, I had found the tempura not quite satisfying, so wanted Eddie to try this tempura restaurant recommended by my friend Noriko, it's called Tsunahachi, and one of its branches is located right at the basement floor of Hilton.

Aaah, this is more like it. The set lunches are pretty reasonable. Can't remember how much now, but really worth it.

Batter was light and taste was great, not overwhelming.

Mine came with sashimi.

Some deep-fried tempura shrimp thingy.

Only Eddie and I ate, cos the boys had had McD after breakfast at the ryokan. But after our tempura lunch, there was still time before our airport limousine bus pick-up, which was 3pm. So we hopped over to Royal Host, where the boys again enjoyed their pseudo-western lunch...yucks.

Tokyo Day 7: Exploring Enoshima

If you're holidaying in Tokyo, I'd highly recommend that you do a day trip to Enoshima. The island is quite pretty and very easily navigated. There isn't a need to stay overnight like we did, and you can combine this with a visit to Daibutsu in Kamakura. Just leave for Enoshima in the morning, and you can explore the island in a day, easily: "Enoshima, the symbol of Shonan, has a lighthouse and botanical gardens, and many other attractions including an aquarium."

A few posts ago, there was a bluish-green torii gate that greeted us once we got to Enoshima island. After that torii gate is the quaint shopping street with lots of souvenir shops and really nice restaurants, we regretted not having our lunch here. Iwamotoro ryokan is on this street.

We come to this red torii gate at the end of the shopping street, and climbing up the stairs, you can start exploring more of Enoshima. "Getting on the Enoshima "Esca" (short for escalator) is the fast track to reaching the peak of Enoshima it takes you there in 5 minutes -or you could take the more scenic route along the "holy road" up to the top." We did the walk, but only midway through.

View from the temple at the top of the stairs.

Washing your hands and even the insides of your mouth is part of the ritual before visiting the temples.

We walked through this ring 3 times in a certain loop, not sure what the significance of the loop order was.

A couple making their prayer request.

Wishing tree?

Sean thinks, "One day, I'll be doing this outside Mann's Chinese Theatre." :)

A rare sight, boys hand-in-hand exploring the island and actually getting along. Yes, it was a good day.

Enoshima island is surrounded by Sagami Bay.

This picture was taken when we had reached the other side of the island. I think this overlooks the Pacific Ocean.

If we had walked on, there is actually a cave to explore,"Enoshima Cave was created over some 6,000 years, eaten away by the ripping tide and the passing of time. Despite it's mysterious untouched atmosphere, the cave has a walking path, so negotiating the cave is easy and safe. From the path that leads outside there is a stirring view of the seascape." But we were pretty tired from the hike, and it was time to leave for Tokyo...well, not that it was really time lah, but we wanted to get to Tokyo for lunch.

Went back down, browsed around at the shopping street.

This cracker snack deep fried in sesame oil I think, is really popular.

This is flattened cuttlefish...crunchy and quite yummy.

Poor octopus/cuttlefish.

And it was time to say goodbye to Enoshima. This is Katase-Enoshima train station, modelled after a Japanese palace apparently. The boys had McD before we left for Tokyo. Eddie and I shared a really delicious spicy chicken burger.

Enoshima is less well-known than its popular big brother Kamakura, but maybe it's me, I much prefer quaint little places to commercialised touristy spots. So I liked Enoshima a lot more than Kamakura. Would definitely try to come back for a day trip if I'm ever in Tokyo, there are lots more to explore in Enoshima. This article, titled Enoshima: Kamakura's better half, says it all.

Day 7 Tokyo: Ryokan experience - Part 2

This is the view from our room in the morning. It's a bit blur with my Canon ixus (my DSLR ran out of battery the previous day!) but you can make out Mount Fuji in this picture. Not much of a snow-peak, maybe in a couple more months. On clearer days, the view should be much better.

Japanese holiday-makers going kayaking really early in the day. was coldddd!

There's an in-house museum on the ground floor of Iwamotoro ryokan, with 700-year old antiques.

I think this is a map of Enoshima island drawn long, long ago.

Time for breakfast, traditional Japanese breakfast, I like! Cos there's rice :)

Clams in my miso soup...

And oyster in my cawanmushi...I could eat traditional Japanese all my life!

After breakfast, we packed up, left our luggage with the front desk and explored Enoshima a bit. Bye bye Iwamotoro, thanks, we had a good time.

Day 6 Tokyo: Ryokan experience - Part 1

So I was the one who insisted on staying in a ryokan. Eddie did say that ryokans are more fun when it's a company function and there are loads of people around. He was kind of right. We felt a bit lost after dinner, no tv to watch, well, there was a small one but it was all Japanese shows, no internet, Brian's Nintendo DS ran out of battery and he forgot his it was quite a change of pace for us.

Anyway, back to our ryokan experience. Before dinner, we headed for the hot baths. Unlike in Hakone, there is no onsen here, just hot baths, difference being onsens hot water comes from natural hot springs (note to self: save up for ryokan plus onsen in Hakone next). There are two baths in this ryokan, the Roman bath and the cave bath. Same gender only...the baths are open 24 hours, and there is a schedule for men and women to use the different baths at different times of the day.

The Roman bath was really small. I didn't really like this one. This was the one that the boys and Eddie went to first. You need to rinse yourself thoroughly before going in. But what happened was after Eddie stripped the boys and himself, before he could do anything, Sean had jumped into the bath.

This is Sean right after his Roman bath. Looks mighty refreshed.

The cave bath was much bigger and I felt hotter. I liked this bath. The boys and Eddie went the next morning and Brian said Sean's body turned all red after a while. I saw no website saying this, but my Japanese friend Minako mentioned that the emperor himself (not sure if it's the current one) has stayed in Iwamotoro; she found this info in a Japanese website.

All refreshed after our baths, we waited for the main attraction, our dinner! And here's the spread. Little plates of traditional Japanese delicacies, Enoshima-style. Loved it.

Eddie and Brian refused to eat the snail-like dish. When you pick it out, it looks like this! Eeeyewww, you say? Delicious, I say! I ate all 3 of them, 2 courtesy of the 2 Leong chickens. Actually, I wasn't sure if I was supposed to eat the curled intestine-looking part but didn't carelah, just whack the whole thing, that part tasted a bit bitter, but still shiok. When I got back to Moscow, I asked Minako if I was eating it right -- she said only the pros would eat those bits! :) I guess only the pros...and gluttons like me.