Smokey's BBQ

8/31/11

Every time I come to Smokey's BBQ (and it's been often these past few weeks), I can't help but stare at the wall. That's because hanging on the wall is a San Jose Sharks flag. The owner, Rob, is a Sharks fan from the Bay Area, too. In my head I'm taken back to San Jose, to the sports bar across from our old apartment. At Smokey's, it's easy to forget you're sitting in a restaurant in Joo Chiat.

The vibe at Smokey's is definitely different from anything else you'll find on the island, but the menu is what keeps us coming back. Jeff has fallen in love with Smokey's brisket, while I'm obsessed with the baby back ribs. Entrees aren't the only smoked items on the menu though. There's even a smoked IPA beer on tap! If you're looking for really delicious American food in Singapore and a good beer selection, your search ends here.
Sitting at the bar is perfect for watching sporting events (which are always on). Unfortunately, I don't think we'll be watching a lot of hockey here. Most games are live in the US during the morning in Singapore, and Smokey's is only open for dinner at the moment. This is probably a good thing, because Jeff and I would go broke if there was such a thing as hockey brunch.

Want to check Smokey's out for yourself? I recommend calling ahead for reservations as the place tends to fill up. You can even reserve seats at the bar. 

Tip: substitute hand cut fries instead of regular fries. Thank me later.

73 Joo Chiat Place
Singapore 427790
6345 6914

And don't forget to enter our Roomorama giveaway

Roomorama (and a giveaway!)

8/29/11

It's always fun to look back on our travels and reminisce about all the great destinations we've visited, especially since moving to Singapore. Sometimes we plan a lot for a trip, while other times we book plane tickets and hotel rooms at the very last minute. For the most part, our trips have been really great and full of memorable experiences. However, when we think back on our least-liked or most problematic travels, there seems to be one thing in common: our choice of hotels.

Where we stay is usually determined by several things: how last minute we planned our weekend getaway, our budget, or how close to a certain attraction or activity we'd like to stay. We try to use up hotel points where we can, but these are not always available and in some cases, just not reasonable. There have been a few times where I've wondered why I couldn't just rent someone's extra room out for a weekend instead of paying more than I'd like for a crappy hotel room.

So when Roomorama contacted me about their accommodation website, I was really stoked to learn about it. With more than 20,000 properties in over 420 destinations all over the world, Roomorama is a great resource if you're looking for short-term accommodations. Check out this quick video to see how it works:



Booking a place through Roomorama's website is easy and safe, and you can speak directly with your host. The accommodations are affordable, too. Whether you're traveling for business or for pleasure, staying at a Roomorama short-term rental is a great alternative to booking a hotel room. You get to experience your destination like a local. I'm already looking to use their site for a few upcoming trips.


And now for the giveaway! I've teamed up with Roomorama to give one lucky reader US$75 in Roomorama credit.

To enter, please follow jeffreyandflora.com either on twitterfacebook, or using Google Friend Connect. Then comment on this post and tell us the following: 

1. How you follow our blog and what name/handle you use.

2. If you win, where will you use your Roomorama credit? Bratislava? Ann Arbor? Helsinki? We're genuinely curious about where people will go!

Contest will close at midnight on Friday, 9 September 2011 (Singapore time). Winning entry will be chosen at random and announced the next day. Good luck!

This post was sponsored by Roomorama.com.

National Dog Walk 2011

8/24/11






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This past weekend, Singapore's National Dog Walk 2011 took place in East Coast Park. There were activities going on throughout the day such as ball-catching contests and agility trials. The highlight of the event was the National Dog Walk itself, which was a quick lap around the waterski lagoon. For the most part, people were really careful about their dogs in the heat. Water was available for pets (and humans) and a lot of owners tried to keep their dogs comfortable. Some people still made their dogs wear clothes in the 30+ degree heat, which is just cruel. Even the MC of the event had to make an announcement for all dog owners to remove their pets' clothing. The most commonly asked question of the day for us was "What breed are your dogs?" Stan and Joe also got their photos taken a lot. If anyone finds photos of them on the internet somewhere, please let me know. I've only found a photo of Little Joe hereI was pleasantly surprised to see so many dogs in one place. When I walked up to the registration desk, I was told that I was the 300th participant that day. Overall, the event was really fun and we left with tons of goodies for the dogs.* *The event was fun, but not for everyone in attendance. The next day, we read the sad news about a little Silky Terrier named Honey who was killed by a Rottweiler at the event. It sounds like it was sort of a freak accident, but terrible nonetheless. 

Back to Bali

8/23/11



Have you ever read a travel guide cover to cover? I have. That's usually how I start planning our trips, by overloading on potential things to do, then whittling our agenda down based on time and cost restrictions, but still throwing in some alternative plans just in case something doesn't work out. 

I familiarize myself with the history of the place I'm visiting, what they're famous for, I pick a hotel close enough to where the action is and I make all the travel plans. I make sure we know of a few noteworthy restaurants to try and I always look out for markets and places to shop. I guess you can say I'm a planner when it comes to traveling. I like to make sure we get the most out of our little trips out of Singapore. 

Our trips are packed full of outings and adventure, but this is how we like it. Our last trip to Bali was the complete opposite, though. 

I booked our flights and Jeff booked the hotel--one of those nice places in Nusa Dua on the beach. And that was about all the planning that took place. I'm sure there were fun things to see and do nearby, but that wasn't the point of this trip. Instead of go, go, go, it was stop, stop, stop. We laid in beach chairs most of the weekend when we weren't eating or sleeping. (Okay, we swam and worked out a bit, too.) 

This trip made me realize that getting the most out of our vacations doesn't necessarily mean we have to fill our days with as much activity as possible. Sometimes, it's okay to leave the travel guide at home and just take it slow. 

By the way, I was interviewed over at Jill's blog battered suitcases talking about life abroad. You can read the interview here.

Stan and Joe are featured on Happy Bark Days today, too. Read my interview about them here.

One Year Later

8/18/11














A year ago, Singapore was new and foreign to me. It's been a whole year (a year and some days actually...I've been too lazy to post sooner) since I first arrived at Changi Airport in the middle of the night with our two dogs and a few suitcases. Looking back, our time abroad has definitely been a great experience full of memories that we'll revisit for many years to come.

Singapore is a really easy country to acclimate to, but not having any set expectations on what life abroad would be like has helped make the move a lot better. We've adapted to the way of life here quite well. There are some things I miss, like wearing coats, drinking California wines (and not going broke), and having dozens of Mexican restaurants to choose from, but you learn to deal. It's a valuable skill to have when you live in a foreign country.

Something else that's valuable to have: friends. Jeff was the only person I knew when I got here, but now I have several great people I can call when I need some company. It's easy to forget where I am in the world sometimes when I'm hanging out with fun people and having a good time. A majority of the folks we've met in Singapore were found through the blog. Who knew this little blog would be so handy? To all you folks that have come into our lives, thank you. You're awesome. You know who you are.

I remember waking up to a few "What am I doing here?" moments in our apartment a year ago. It took a while for me to even recognize my own bedroom in the mornings. Nothing was familiar to me then, but I don't feel that way anymore. For now, Singapore is home.

Penang Hill

8/10/11



























It has been a while since I've felt goosebumps on my skin from cold weather, but that's exactly what happened when I got to the top of Penang Hill. The temperature at the top of Bukit Bendera, as it is also called, is notably cooler than down below. Even though I'm constantly going in and out of air conditioned buildings, there is nothing quite like being surprised by naturally cold air on bare arms and legs.

To get to the top of Penang Hill, you'll need to buy a ticket for the funicular rail service. The recently acquired rail cars, which were made in Switzerland, fit up to 100 passengers and take only a few minutes to ascend 2,007 meters (about 1.24 miles). With the previous train cars the ride up or down the hill took 30 minutes, and passengers had to stop halfway to switch cars.

Once you're at the top, you can enjoy panoramic views of Penang and beyond. There are a few places to eat, including David Brown's Restaurant, where Jeff and I had tea. Also at the top of the hill are a mosque and temple, as well as a small hotel and hawker center. Several vendors at the top and bottom of the hill sell souvenirs and snacks.

For more information on Penang Hill, visit this website.

Protestant Cemetery, Penang

Most people get a little creeped out when they walk by a cemetery at night. I get excited at the thought. Old cemeteries interest me because of the stories one can learn from them. These peaceful places of rest for the dead are full of history and provide a glimpse of those who once lived or traveled nearby.

While walking back to our hotel one night in Penang, we passed the Protestant Cemetery on Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah. The gate was locked, so we had to come back the next day to check it out.

The Protestant Cemetery is the final resting place of many prominent people in Penang's history, including Francis Light, the founder of the British colony of Penang and its capital, George Town. For a really cool 360 degree look at the cemetery from in front of Light's tomb, go here.

Thomas Leonowens is also buried at this cemetery. Most people seem to be more familiar with his young widow, Anna. After her husband's death, Anna was employed as a teacher by Mongkut, the King of Siam. She was hired to teach "his 39 wives and concubines and 82 children a modern Western education on scientific secular lines." Anna wrote about her experience in the royal court, which was later turned into a play and movie called The King and I

Sir Stamford Raffles' brother-in-law, Quintin Thompson, is buried here as well (Jeff wondered if they're related). His tomb marker has been placed on a wall which separates the Protestant Cemetery from the Catholic Cemetery in the adjacent lot; several tomb markers were placed on the wall because they fell off the tombs and couldn't be correctly matched up again.

According to the Find a Grave website (yes, there is such a thing), there are 338 known graves in the cemetery. People from all walks of life are buried here, a testament to the diverse population that helped shape Penang into the town it is today. 

FAQ: Exporting Dogs to Singapore

8/3/11

I get emails regularly from people asking me questions about moving to Singapore with their dogs. I don't mind answering them at all, but I figured a FAQ post might be in order.

If you're here looking for information on exporting dogs to Singapore and still have some questions after reading this post, please don't hesitate to send me an email or leave your question in the comments section. I am more than happy to help!
The dudes, at home in Singapore.












Q: How hard is it to find housing that is dog-friendly?
A: When Jeff arrived and started house-hunting, he told the property agent that we had two dogs and needed a dog-friendly place to live. This might be more difficult if you're house-hunting on your own. With an agent, it wasn't that hard to find a dog-friendly place. In fact I'd say it's probably harder to settle on a place you like over finding one that takes pets. Our landlord had us pay a pet deposit, which is what we expected.

I recommend finding a place that either has room for your dog to run about and go potty, or somewhere near a park or the beach. In our case, we settled on a place near East Coast Park and are extremely happy with our decision. 

Q: Did you hire a pet relocation company to help with the export process?
A: Yes, we hired Pet Movers to help us with the importation of our dogs into Singapore. 

Q: How much did pet relocation services cost?
A: At the time of our move (August 2010), we paid SGD2,457.22. This included 10 days of quarantine in an air-conditioned kennel, dog licensing, import handling and documentation for both dogs, overtime for our late arrival into Singapore, transportation, daily exercise, and import permits. That's not including what I spent in the US for four months of vet visits, vaccines, rabies tests, air transportation and two dog kennels.

This total was for two dogs; if you've got one dog you can expect to pay about half of this.

Q: How did your dogs do on the journey to Singapore?
A: The dogs did remarkably well. When the pet agent picked them up at the airport, he said they were wagging their tails and sniffing around. I feared Little Joe would be a bit more traumatized by the whole ordeal, but he was fine. 

If your dog isn't used to a dog crate, I recommend gradually introducing them to the crate and getting them used to spending time in it. I started by assembling the crates and leaving them around the house so the dogs could smell them and be comfortable around them. Eventually I trained the dogs to climb in when I said "crate." Then I got them used to being inside the crate with the door closed; I started with short periods of a few minutes until they were comfortable sleeping in their crates overnight. I think this was really beneficial for them because at least they felt their crate was familiar, despite all the new noises and smells of planes and airports.
Stanley (and Joe in the background) sleeping.

























Q: Did you ever feel your dogs were in danger, or in perilous conditions?
A: Not really. The only time I was a little concerned is when I switched flights at Narita Airport. I asked someone at the gate if my dogs were on board and they said yes, so I was really relieved after that. 

Q: Which airline did you use to fly your dogs? 
A: I flew from SFO to SIN on United Airlines. Pet Movers recommends KLM or Lufthansa, as they have flights that arrive to Singapore during the day, but their flights from San Francisco were also about 10 hours longer for me than flights on United. Because my flight arrived at midnight, I had to pay our pet agent extra to be there and pick up our dogs. 

Not all airlines accept dogs on long haul flights, and not all airlines accept all kinds of dogs. I highly recommend flying a direct flight if at all possible. 

Q: What are the visiting hours like at the quarantine station?
A: Visiting hours are from 4 to 6 pm Monday through Friday, 2 to 6 pm on Saturday, and closed on Sunday. There are fenced yards you can reserve so your dog can exercise, but these can only be reserved for 15 minute appointments and you must book these in advance. Check out the AVA's website for more info.

Q: How did you get your dogs a 10-day quarantine as opposed to a 30-day quarantine?
A: There are different checklists you can use in preparation for moving your dogs to Singapore. You can read more about that on my post about the checklists here
Little Joe. The nose knows.

























Q: What was your experience like with the AVA (Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority)?
A: Very good. I was told that the folks working there are either veterinarians or trained to work with animals. They answered all my questions, knew my dogs by name, and were generally very friendly.

The quarantine facility itself is really far away (in Sembawang). It is a very clean facility. You can choose to put your dogs in an air-conditioned kennel or not. Every time I was there (which was everyday of the dogs' 10-day quarantine) the dogs' kennel was clean and their water bowls were full. 

Q: How are your dogs coping with the hot weather?
A: Surprisingly well. I have taken to cutting their hair rather short, but the only one that seems to mind is me. I've noticed they drink a lot more water than they used to so I leave a few water bowls out for them. 

I recommend avoiding midday walks if at all possible. Morning and afternoon walks when the heat is less brutal are better. I try to avoid walking my dogs on sidewalks or streets too, since these surfaces can burn their feet.

Q: Are there places for your dogs to go outside?
A: That depends on where you live. Our apartment complex has two "pet lavatories" for dogs to use; I think this is common in some of the larger private apartment buildings. I prefer walking the dogs along the grassy areas next to the sidewalk on our street when they need to go potty. 

There are many green areas in Singapore to take your dogs to, but dogs must be leashed at all times except for in dog parks. 

Q: Do dog parks exist in Singapore?
A: Yes, they do. I have yet to make it to any of them because I'm pretty content living close to East Coast Park, though. Here are a few links to dog parks and dog-friendly places in Singapore:

My boys.

























Q: Since you don't have a car, how do you transport your dogs?
A: I've been pretty lucky so far about not having to stress out about transportation for my dogs. Our vet is a 15 minute walk away, the beach is nearby, and the dogs' boarding kennel comes and picks them up when we travel. However, I realize this might not be the case for everyone.

You can arrange for a pet taxi service to pick you and your dogs up and chauffeur you around. I have used Pet Mobile before and they are pretty convenient and their prices are reasonable.

I've never tried booking an actual taxi, but a fellow dog owner told me she usually hires a cab in advance and specifies she will have a dog with her. By booking in advance, you should guarantee that your cab driver is comfortable with a dog in the backseat.*

*UPDATE: I recently called the Comfort DelGro taxi booking center to book a cab when I had to take Stanley to the emergency room. I asked for a cab that would take my 10kg dog. I waited a few minutes longer than the usual taxi booking, but finally a dog-friendly cab showed up. It was really easy and I didn't have to pay extra. Not sure it would work with large dogs, but it's worth a try!

Q: Do you have any tips to make the relocation easier for pets?
A: Our dogs had a predictable routine of walks, feeding, play time and bed time in the US that I kept pretty much the same here in Singapore. I think this really helped them adjust. I also got them used to being crated, and I brought with me some of their old toys and treats so had something familiar waiting for them when they came home from quarantine.

I really think visiting them regularly in quarantine is important. Daily, if possible. This way they realize you haven't abandoned them, and the new smells and sounds won't be completely unfamiliar to them if you show up every once in a while.

And finally, give your dog some extra attention. Traveling to Singapore is one hell of a journey! 

George Town, Penang

8/2/11






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"Where are you from?" the cab driver asked, looking us over through his rear view mirror.
"I work in Singapore," Jeff said.
"Oh, Singapore is a beautiful country," the cabbie said. "Penang today is what Singapore was like twenty years ago."

If the cabbie's statement is true, then Singapore has come a very long way in the past two decades. Penang is gritty, polluted and at times hectic. The city was given UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2008, which means the core and buffer heritage zones of George Town are to be preserved from further development. In these zones you'll find rows and rows of old shophouses in various states, some immaculately preserved while others are practically condemned.

The city center is small; we covered most of George Town's core heritage zone on foot in a day. You can also hire a trishaw to take you anywhere. There are lots of places to eat; we grazed on hawker food throughout the day as we wandered around. We found a few areas that were developed for tourists and travelers such as Upper Penang Road and the Red Garden Night Market, but for the most part it felt as though we were trespassing through locals only neighborhoods. The people of George Town seem to go on with their days whether there are tourists around or not. It's an easy and relaxing place to visit for a quick weekend trip.
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