Moscow, Russia. Red Square

Don’t think I have posted these pictures here before. They are on Facebook for sure, but it’s much easier to load them there directly, than to resize and then post them on the blog. Yes, I may love writing but having to include pictures in posts are tedious for a lazy bum like me. That’s why I say, I am dispassionate like that.

In November, for work reasons I had to make a trip to Moscow. Russia isn’t one of the easiest places to visit, and especially because I was there on a business trip, I had to request for some approval and invitation letters before I could apply for the visa. Yes, it is one of those places that Singaporeans still need a visa for entry, even if you are visiting as a tourist. The process was rather long drawn out because I needed the company there to sign some letters and get the approval from their local immigration authorities, before that can be mailed to me so that the originals can be used for the application at the Russian Embassy in Singapore. The entire thing took about 2-3 weeks so you can just imagine. I was a little nervous about the trip because I had heard so much about how strict laws there seem to be, and also the lack of English in this huge city with people infamous for being unfriendly. Maybe unfriendly isn’t the right word, more like serious and unsmiling.

Anyway, I had the great opportunity to do a bit of sightseeing when I arrived on a cold Sunday morning. Even in mid-November, it was already getting cold, with temperatures hovering just above zero, and for someone like me, that is considerably freezing. I always try to do some sightseeing in cities that I travel to but sometimes, like in Istanbul, it isn’t always possible.

But anyway, this was what I had always wanted to see in Moscow, the St. Basil’s Cathedral at the Red Square.

moscow_2From the pictures that I had seen online, I always thought this was a very huge structure. I mean it isn’t tiny like how I was a little disappointed when I saw the Mona Lisa in the Lourve, but it wasn’t as huge as I had imagined it to be. In the above picture, you see the humans in the foreground so you can get an idea of its size, but I had really thought monumental proportions of this place, for some reason. Still, it was really worth braving the freezing temperatures and potential dangers in taking the Moscow subway to this place. At some point, the clouds cleared a little for which I was so thankful for because it helped make the air less cold, if it was possible, and also helped to highlight the colours of the cathedral in the photo.

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Along the way to the Red Square, I passed by the Kremlin, various buildings of it.moscow_4

 

Then there was the state museum. I love how, even in most parts of the city where the buildings reflected the general mood of the weather in those few days I was there, i.e. gloomy and grey, these buildings adopt such bright and strong colours in their exterior facade. It’s like these are the important buildings, so yes they have to be differentiated from the rest of the grey unimportant dwellings, my own wild conjecture. Yet there still seem to be some sort of a commonality among them, I can’t really put my finger on it.moscow_5As short of this trip was, I was glad I took those few hours to venture to the Red Square, and maybe one of these days if I have the chance, I will return as a tourist for a better visit. Probably in nicer, warmer weather. I can’t imagine if I had to make the trip this month, I’d probably just choose to hibernate in the hotel whole day long when I don’t need to be working in the office.

Gingerbread Man!

I am really not that fond of gingerbread, despite that the Indian Teh Halia (ginger tea) is one beverage that I like to a certain extent. I don’t dislike it but it isn’t something that ranks extremely high on my “like-to-eat” list yet each year I never fail to buy at least one gingerbread man. I bought a couple from Starbucks during the Christmas preview in Singapore, and gave them to two of my friends, since there were two in the pack. After that, I haven’t gotten anymore of them because I didn’t really want to eat them. It is always a weird thought that I have, thinking how masochistic it is, to break off the limbs one by one, devouring the bread that actually bears a smiling face. But I still decided to buy one when I walked into a Starbucks store in Moscow one afternoon. It was a rather large piece, and costly as well, hmm, well things in Moscow are generally pricey, and by far I think it is the most expensive Starbucks I have ever stepped foot into.

I didn’t eat it right away but popped it into my bag, and by the time I called it a day at work and went back to the hotel room, this was what happened to Gingy, the name given affectionately to all gingerbread men, after some movie I watched. This sight that greeted me truly made me upset. I don’t know why, but I have a propensity to get upset at really trivial things, and at the same time, very small things can lift my mood miraculously. I guess maybe this is what some people would term as extreme mood swings, but with external factors that can tip the balance so easily.

Monday is over. It passed alright, but just that inside I wasn’t feeling that great. Yet… it shall stay there. It is hard to find a confidante sometimes, not that I think I can’t find people to talk to who will keep what I tell them to themselves, but rather, talking requires chemistry too. Not everyone can be a good listener, or a good partner to talk to. This I should know, since I love talking so much and have talked my fair share all these years. Maybe it is time to stop. I am so tired.

one more month to Christmas!

This was the first picture I took when I arrived in Moscow 2 Sundays ago. It has been a week since I have been back, and time is just zipping by so crazily fast, but somehow it feels like a long time has passed. I touched down on early Saturday morning while most of our tropical sunny isle was still snoozing in their dreams, but what a long day that was.

Anyway, the part about travelling that I really enjoy is seeing the nice scenery there, and of course experiencing the good part of the cities. I can certainly do without the nasty experiences, but sometimes these are also part and parcel of travelling. Great scenery is definitely not exclusive to foreign lands but we just take for granted what we have in Singapore most of the times, or often times, we are just too caught up with our lives and rushing along with everyone else in the city that we lose sight of what we could have taken a short time to appreciate.

The last few weeks, apart from the one week that I was freezing in Moscow, forgoing exercise of any kind because I felt so lethargic that I only wanted to eat and sleep all the time, I had been putting in many hours of yoga practice. I think it helps that now I have found another yoga enthusiast friend. Years ago when I was just introduced to yoga, I got really into the practice because I had a friend whom I would attend classes with all the time, so much so that many called us fanatics because we could go for yoga everyday. It isn’t so much as being a fanatic, because actually doctors would recommend that daily exercise is good for us, but perhaps when we started prioritising yoga over other social activities, people around us started to give us such tags, in a derogatory manner. I don’t get why people tend to always get ultra defensive and negative when they realise that someone else is deciding to embark on a healthy lifestyle; it is like they feel obligated to feel guilty, for whatsoever reasons, and they retaliate by turning nasty with snide remarks. Ok, not everyone behaves this way but I have heard my fair share of bad comments, and sometimes even I am guilty of such acts.

Back to my yoga practice. My friend and I don’t attend the same classes because we have different preferences, but we talk about it, along with other stuff of course, and maybe in way, she motivates me to be more regular in practice. It really feels great, and she encouraged me to get reacquainted with hot yoga too, which I was really grateful for. Some years ago, I could attend hot yoga classes on a daily basis, but after stopping for a while due to work, I couldn’t really get back into the hot studio without getting over-dehydrated, causing me to black out and suffer from waves of nausea. That was enough to put me off the hot studio and since then I have never stepped back into it. Until last week when I plucked up the courage again to enter the studio, and boy was it awesome. I had almost forgotten how good it feels after a session of hot yoga, despite that after an hour of sweating I stink like anything and my entire being is so ready to collapse.

My friend has amazing ability when it comes to exercising because she is so motivated that probably it rubbed off on me slightly. These are probably the angels that I meet in my life, to help me along the way when I stumble, although for this particular friend, she also has an uncanny ability to antagonise me immensely on some occasions. We aren’t really close friends and I have little expectations of her so maybe that is what makes things work. Maybe that is what makes friendships work for me, because the moment I start to develop expectations of people, the whole deal just seems to go awry. Things should just stay simple and we won’t have so many problems, or I won’t have all those unhappy moments because of what my supposed close friends did or did not.

It is exactly a month to Christmas, and I already have this dread in me, that I do not want the year to end so soon. I love year-ends, and I really don’t want it to be over so quickly. It has been a long way from January through to October, 10 long months, to reach November, why has this month passed so quickly? As it goes, December will also be gone rather quickly because of things that will take place in this month. Sigh.

Thought of planning a trip to celebrate 2013, excuse, to just have a getaway to somewhere with weather that would remind me more of Christmas, and initially we settled on Hong Kong, amongst the other choices of Taipei and Seoul. But it is just too mad expensive to fly somewhere for a few days, pay exorbitant airfares and hotel room rates, so I think the plan is off. Maybe Hong Kong will still happen, but slightly later, because someone offered to put me up! Or so I think, maybe it was misinterpreted by me, but anyhow I would look forward to visiting Hong Kong again because another friend volunteered to show me some cool places when I visit!

never stop

Hello from cold, cold Moscow! Arrived yesterday morning to a freezing -7 degrees Celsius and even though the sun was shining for a good part of the daylight hours, I couldn’t feel my fingers after a while of trying to take pictures with the phone. I was being cautious and didn’t want to risk the camera since I was more or less on my own out and about yesterday and I was lazy to add another piece of weight in my already-too heavy bag.

Moscow is a mixture when it comes to buildings, there is a lot of grey that makes me wonder about its communistic past but yet they seem to be a nation that glorifies its religion. A lot of churches I see with their onion-shaped roofs are the best-looking buildings around. I can’t exactly say they blend well with one another but they still had a general consistency. Maybe the cold was just making my head spin in all sorts of directions. I don’t know if I’m a magnet for trouble but while out, I was walking along a crowded street on my sightseeing expedition and some man (probably in his 40s or so) who was walking past suddenly grabbed my arm. It was a rather strong grasp that shocked me but I just shook his hand off and continued on my way. He didn’t follow of course which was fortunate because I doubt anyone around would help, despite it being a crowded place full of locals and tourists.

Moscow isn’t a friendly place, people or place. Russians are not fond of smiling and the place itself is not friendly for people who don’t know Russian, with the exception of a very small area in the vicinity of the Kremlin. I had a hard time finding my way about the metro to locate the correct exit to the Kremlin, and most people I tried to ask couldn’t speak, nor understand, English.

Nevertheless I finally found my way and it was worth it just to see the Kremlin and the St. Basil’s cathedral, which I thought was much smaller than expected. I didn’t stay long outside though since it was so cold. One thing about their metro stations, they were all very deeply-set because the escalators leading to and from them were the longest I have ever been on. Ok maybe the ones in Langham Place in Hong Kong are also long but these were amazing and it made me think how deep they had to dig and why they had to be so.

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No snow here though. It snowed before I came but now it’s just rain and that makes it even colder. I’m still playing with the condensing breaths (or whatever you call them) when I’m out and when I talk or exhale, visible mists would form. It’s silly but it’s fun. And it’s making me wish that I could spend Christmas in this kind of temperatures. Found a Starbucks this afternoon and was going to bask in the Christmassy mood by getting myself a toffee nut latte but at more than S$9 for a tall-sized cup, I thought otherwise. At least not when I’m taking away and having to drink it within the confines of the dreary office meeting room that has not a single window!