Friday, March 24, 2006

Ramblin Rose

Rose & I Relaxing in Bintan, Indonesia

2006 marks the 10th year that I have known my friend Rose. We both worked at the same company a decade ago, which was my first job after university. She has witnessed my entry into the business world and has always been a trusted friend throughout the years. The company where we worked had its share of characters, but thankfully I took away a few good learning experiences, but most importantly I made two life-long friends there in Rose and her husband Kevin. Kevin is a great guy and is also someone I can always count on. Kevin, Rose, and I were all single when we worked at the company together and we shared in numerous inside jokes and the mocking of our hopeless co-workers. Kevin was no match for Rose's charm and the two of them are now married with two young boys who keep their parents on their toes.

When Rose found out I was moving to Singapore, she immediately put the gears in motion to come out and visit. I have never seen anyone invest in so much advance planning for a trip, yet she eventually made it out to visit after a year and a half of saving, planning, and driving everyone else mad with her story of how she was going to go to Singapore. Kevin was selfless enough to encourage Rose to visit after seeing how much a trip like this would mean to her.

The first stop on Rose's Asian Adventure after arriving to Singapore was to hop the ferry to Bintan in Indonesia. It didn't take her long to assume the position most suitable for a beach weekend. As the sun slowly set and day turned into night, what better thing to do within your own little island paradise then to drink a Pina Colada from a carved pineapple complete with tiny umbrellas.

Two relaxing days in Bintan slipped away as quickly as the changing tides, yet Rose was left with a delightful taste of island getaway life. As we left our little bungalows (above), Rose could reflect on her experiences: Enjoying fresh seafood on a pier-front restaurant, taking a stroll along the soft sand beach, indulging in an afternoon massage, or even coming into a close encounter with a massive lizard. She surely found Bintan to be one of her new favorite spots.

Rose and I share the opinion that one's friends say a lot about you as an individual and your character. I have always appreciated Rose's opinions because firstly, I know she will always have one and secondly will never be afraid to share it. Rose has never been bashful, but as expected she stepped right in-synch with my small group of friends here in Singapore. She will surely return home to Oregon and use this photo with my friends, James and Eric, to make all the office girls jealous.

Singapore wouldn't be Singapore without chili Crab. All good hosts know that their out-of-town guests must experience this local delicacy, and I was no exception. We went down to Jumbo Seafood located in Clark Quay along the banks of the Singapore River to take part in the nightly feast of crustaceans. Rose was now ready for a full weekend in Singapore and catch some of the city's most notable landmarks.

The Botanical Garden is a must-see stop in Singapore and Rose was enamored with the place. I am not sure if it had something to do with Rose's name but she definitely had an affinity for flowers. I was usually the one playing the role of Tour Guide, but on our trip to the Botanical Garden it felt like Rose was dragging me around for a change.

Many who read these pages know that I am passionate about wakeboarding and seek to hit the waters every free weekend that I can muster. Well, Rose's trip was about introducing her to my world in Singapore, so wakeboarding was definitely in the cards. Rose did quite well on her first time wakeboarding and her patented smile never left her face... even when she was drinking salt water!

From the islands of Bintan and Singapore, Rose's final stop was to the enchanting Kingdom of Thailand. Touching down in Bangkok in the late afternoon provided us just enough time to check into our hotel rooms and then head out for a colorful evening at night. Bangkok is an amazing city with spicy cuisine, beautiful temples and some of the friendliest people in Asia, but at night the city takes on a whole new look. From atop of the State Tower is the bar called Sirocco which has one of the best views of Bangkok at night. Perched upon one of Bangkok's tallest buildings, you can gaze across the entire city and see this fanatic place laid out beneath you while you sip on cocktails.

By day, Rose was able to take in the Royal Palace and the numerous numbers of Thai cultural and religious symbols and artifacts. After several hours walking around the palace, it was time to relax and have an authentic Thai Massage at Wat Po, where there is a famous Thai Massage School that allows visitors to take part in the relaxing arts.

From Wat Po, we walked to the banks of the Chao Phraya River to catch a water taxi across to Wat Arun, which is one of the most unique temples in Thailand with its entire facade made with pieces of broken china arranged into fanciful mosaics. While perched upon Wat Arun, one can see the river which is teeming with energy and life as it is one of the main thoroughfares through the city for both commerce and tourists alike.

One of the great things about Thailand is its diversity of geography and activities that one can enjoy. After spending a few days in Bangkok, Rose and I headed to the beach-side town of Hua Hin, which is about a 3-hour car ride from Bangkok. This is a much more subdued place than the famous capital city, but the slower pace is much appreciated as you relax on the beach, sample wonderful local dishes, or watch life pass in front of you. Aside from beach enjoyment, Hua Hin is filled with cultural appreciation opportunities, whether that be viewing religious temples or taking in the breath-taking landscape that includes the nearby mountains of Burma.

Now Rose would be the first to admit that she is not one of the most graceful people, so I knew I was putting her through a tough test when we decided to go hiking along the mountain streams outside of Hua Hin. Hiking along the trees and vines of this tropical rain forest presented no real challenges, however the water-soaked rocks along the river itself proved to be Rose's literal down-fall. The photo (above) captures Rose just milli-seconds after she told me it was amazing that she hadn't fallen yet. As I heard the splash of water and the uproar of laughter from Rose, I snapped this photo which says it all. Needless to say, Rose's slip-up provided a great opportunity to cool off and enjoy the refreshing waters of the stream.

As Rose's trip came to a close it was wonderful to see a great and close friend see and explore new places right in front of me. It was also a unique experience for me to import a little of my background into my current world, as Rose proved to be a wonderful addition to my new world here in Asia. It was a beautiful thing to watch two of my worlds come together in a seamless fashion, and I am definitely sure Rose enjoyed the journey as well.