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Sentosa: All aboard the monorail for controlled fun

Big, bright, colourful Sentosa lettersYesterday, after dinner we decided to head from Sentosa for the free (according to the Lonely Planet) laser show on the (man made) beach. Sentosa is an island to the South of Singapore, which has various transport links, including a monorail, bus, cable car and walk way.

Sentosa’s Meaning

Sentosa means peace and tranquility in Malay. This name was chosen by the government during a rebranding exercise upon deciding the redevelop it into a holiday resort. The initial name had been discarded probably due to it’s meaning of Island of Death from Behind (Pulau Blakang Mati), which apparently points to a legend of someone who was murdered there behind a hill). Claire and I mused that this was and probably still is a popular location for the public execution of anyone contravening the many stringent rules and laws governing Singapore. Hey, who doesn’t love a public execution with a 37 metre Merlion shooting lasers from it’s eyes as a backdrop?

Sentosa by Monorail

Travelling South from Chinatown, we wanted to experience the cable car as yet another mode of transport on our travels, but at £10 each and a 30 minute journey, from which we would have to return almost immediately, we plumped for the £1.75 monorail. We hadn’t been on a monorail yet, so it all helped rack up our total vehicle variety count.

Watching Sentosa from the monorail it appeared to be crossed between a bad theme park with a scarcity of rides and Butlins. It’s the kind of place my brother and I would have begged our dad to take us as children, but as an adult I’m glad he never relented, taking us rafting in France instead. Even the Lonely Planet guide refers to it as plastic. Dashing from the monorail we could see the lasers behind the trees, though it transpired that this attraction was ticketed. The show had already begun, so we watched the lasers fire through the undergrowth and the fireworks top the trees for 5 minutes before the show concluded.

Claire has observed that Singapore seems to give you just enough information to get by on, but never enough that you could ever feel fully informed. Don’t let them know too much, Singapore! Hence, we weren’t aware of the requirement for a ticket to see 20 minutes of flashing lights.

Everyone loves a mime?

Discovering all other attractions were either too expensive or closed, we perched on some steps and watched a busker-come-children’s entertainer drag out a 10 minute set for c45minutes. During this time we witnessed the impact that limited free-thinking has had upon the citizens of Singapore as first a child and then her mother failed to grasp basic mimed instructions. While I appreciate not everyone loves a mime, why draw out the experience of interaction with one any longer than required? The entertainer threw in some casual racism and other more entertaining mannerisms and it was OK actually. We didn’t give him any money though.

Too much fun?

We explored the park under the illumination of many fairy lights, accompanied by some 50’s style swing music, which we danced, skipped and frolicked to, swinging around lamp posts, running up and jumping off steps and me proclaiming I’d ‘never felt so alive’ and ‘if you can’t dance at Sentosa, where can you dance?’ in a Disneyesque manner. This was my favourite part of the evening. It was like being a big kid and felt even more illicit due to the close guard of the ever present CCTV. Surely I was about the be shot by a government issue sniper at any moment for the sheer look of non-mandated glee on my face?

Thankfully not and we continued on to a more adult section of the parks, with chain bars and restaurants. If we’d eaten dinner in Chinatown, then this was Little America. I ran through a series of ankle high fountains and pretended I was in an 80’s music video in the mist surrounding the Universal Studios sign.

I’m sure Sentosa keeps the locals happy and amused, but it still felt a little sterile to me. It’s all so predictable. I had fun, but largely because I was messing about with Claire and not because of the amusements.

FYI Terra Mitica in Spain is much better!

Sentosa Candy TreesSentosa Merlion with laser eyes


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Singapore Slung

Currently nailing free peanuts and avoiding pigeons in Raffles Long Bar.

At S$26 (£13) for an average (average quality, not median price) Singapore Sling we thought we’d make the most of the nuts. Unfortunately, the pigeons have the same idea, minus the expensive beverages. The barmen seem indifferent about deterring the flying vermin. Claire, who is studying the map in search of cheap food options, sporadically hauls it over her head to shelter from flying rats and their threat of pooing. Seriously, wouldn’t bother with this place unless you’re on expenses or something.

However, Raffles is beautifully colonial in style with palm fans ineffectively wafting from the ceiling, a wooden spiral staircase and wicker furniture.

We’re hungry though, so heading for Chinatown as I’m craving satay.



Sleeper Train to Singapore

23:03 5th Sept

Just boarded train for Singapore after 24 hours in Malaysia. We’ve seen Merdeka Square, Chinatown (Julan Petling), Little India, Central Market and finished with the Petronas Towers (the tallest twin towers in the world at 452m. Seems like a unfortunate boast, plus the tallest building in the world is almost twice their height – BOOM! It’s in Dubai; where else?). We were both a little giddy from the altitude though (387m, floor 86) and we were probably quite annoying to other tourists, with Claire demanding elaborate shots and me mimicking King King on the scaled down model if the top of the second tower (or maybe the first, they seem identical).

23:43 5th Sept

I have just velcroed up my curtains & am whipping off my bra. I refuse to sleep in my bra. That’s for girls who fear their breasts will go saggy. Mine will never sag!

My arms however…
I hadn’t really realised the impact regular exercise had on my body until I abandoned it for two weeks. For some reason I’m running a 10k the day after I return, which seems like a foolish idea, but I’m looking forward I getting back in to training with a gentle 5k jog on Saturday when I return. 10k I’m not so sure about, but I’ve done it on the treadmill so I should be OK outdoors, in the morning (I’m an evening runner) with little to no exercise in the preceding fortnight. Bring on the 20k in 6weeks!

What have I done?

00:41 6th Sept
Just discovered (rather wide) train door open on way back from loo. One ill-timed jolt could have resulted in me falling fatally from the carriage. It’s mercilessly hot in here though so I left it wide open and prayed Claire stayed where she was in the top bunk.

00:49am 6th Sept

I am so, so warm and sticky! Will I sleep at all before we arrive in Singapore?

00:55 6th Sept

Had I been asleep, I wouldn’t be now as the train jolts in to it’s next stop with such ferocity. Hope no one was standing by the open door!

10:00 6th Sept

Just paid S$20 to get in to our hotel room early after a 2 hr trek across town on public transport (I wanted to get a cab, the current situation between me and Claire is a little frosty).

Don’t bother with the sleeper train from KL to Singapore. It’s not worth attempting to save the extra day. The day trains are quicker anyway. Lesson learned.

BTW I’m posting from my WordPress iPhone app. Neat, huh?

[Sorry for any errors caused by iPhone usage]




Now I’ve discovered a reliable WiFi connection, thank you Chinatown 2 Hotel, and my stomach has settled down as well as my sunburn turning bronze, I really think I could get used to this travelling lark long term.

Yes, I’m a little uncertain about the water here and I’m think the K Pop addiction Claire and I have developed may wear off, but we’re pretty good at haggling now, eating cheap street food, as opposed to refuelling in the decadent surroundings of The Breeze at The Dome (where Hangover 2 was filmed) in Bangkok, where the food was average, and repacking our stuff every couple of nights.

However, the dream job I want where I can work from wherever I want to in the world, helping SMEs with Social Media, still eludes me, so it’s homeward bound in a few days.

I have holiday plans for next year all sorted though, so I’m pretty pumped about planning all that.


Street Food: Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Claire was pretty insistent that we try some street food this evening and as money is running low it seems like a sensible option economically.

The first place we stopped had vats of oily liquids bubbling away and only a limited choice of menu options, all of which included some sort of unspecified sliced fish. I turned up my nose. Then we thought we’d found a food court, but it turned out to be a shopping centre consisting mainly of phone shops, a McDonalds and some kind of budget TGI Friday’s called Kenny Rogers. Kenny’s didn’t appeal, but then we happened upon Johnny’s Stall when back on the road. So here we are eating rice and noodles with chilli sauce for about £1 and it’s actually pretty good. I could murder a beer though.

We also found on our street side table some banana leaf packages wrapped in newspaper. Intrigue got the better of us and we tentatively opened one to reveal a pile of rice topped with some sort of dark chilli jam with a boiled egg and small fish nestled next to it. We were informed it was coconut rice. It was not. It seemed like regular sticky rice. Claire demolished it. She’s fussy about the contents of her McDonald’s cheeseburger, but she’ll eat obscure packets of rice that have been sitting around for an unspecified amount of time.

We continued to watch with awe as the woman at the hot plate created a roti containing banana and Milo. Roti for breakfast maybe?



Arriving in Malaysia

So, I’m travelling again, sort of. It’s only for a fortnight and I wish I’d written all along, but I’ll trying and catch you up in my glorious ad-hoc style. I am typing this on my iPhone and have simultaneously rammed myself in the stomach with my trolley. If the handle is not depressed the brakes come on. The handle momentarily was not depressed

We’ve just landed in Malaysia, myself  and Claire, my current travel buddy of choice and have elected to save 25RM (£5) on waiting 20mins for a taxi in the budget queue, rather than plumping for the executive queue. It’s another reminder that although we come from a comparably affluent country and earn decent money, we haven’t quite made it yet financially. Kuala Lumpur has it’s own unique and not greatly pleasant smell, not unlike many of the other places we have visited.
We’ve just lost an hour flying in from Koh Samui, Thailand, so now it’s 18:30 on 4th Sept.
We’re only here for c24hrs before heading for the sparkling pavements of Singapore.
I’ll try and keep you informed.

Twitter 101: A beginners guide to Twitter

Twitter Baby BirdsSo you’re interested in Twitter? (FYI – this is kind of a long post, so I hope you have your scrolling finger warmed-up)

What is Twitter?

A lot of people tell me they don’t get Twitter. In it’s simplest terms, Twitter is a micro-blogging site. This means that each entry on Twitter, which is known as a tweet, is micro in size, in fact it can only be 140 characters long.

Some stats

(All statistics come from the UK Social Media Statistics, August 2012, eConsultancy
  • There are 10 million Twitter users in the UK
  • 17% of small businesses use Twitter to attract new customers
  • O2 is the top brand for Twitter mentions in the UK
  • 13% of UK consumers check Twitter on a daily basis, 3% of which don’t even have their own Twitter account
  • 24% of active Twitter users report using Twitter to do business

So, you know, it’s kind of popular and kind of a big deal. I’m not telling you you have to ‘do’ Twitter, but maybe have a little play

What is Twitter used for?

So much stuff! Most people I come across just think it’s for status updates like on Facebook, but limited in length. THIS IS NOT TRUE! These people aren’t using Twitter to it’s full potential and I totally understand why they don’t see the point in it, if this is what they believe to be it’s only application.

I’ve used Twitter for the following

  • Asking questions (and getting answers)
  • Finding service providers
  • Finding articles
  • Catching up with friends
  • Telling people when I’ve written a new blog post
  • Running competitions
  • Getting news
  • Commenting on TV shows (and reading other people’s comments)
  • Giving advice
  • Complaining about poor service
  • Shouting about awesome service
  • Communicating with customers
  • Apologising and receiving apologies
  • Building personal and work relationships
  • Identifying trends
  • Following trends
  • Commenting on trends
  • Flirting (tsk!)

Where should I start with Twitter?

You don’t need to have a Twitter account to explore Twitter, but the fact that you’re here makes me think you might want one.

You’ll need to start at Twitter.com and register, but that’s pretty simple, similar to how you would sign up to any other website.

Twitter sign in page 2012

Choose your username wisely. Firstly, if you want people to mention you, comment on your tweets or (old style*) retweet you, you have to bear in mind that your username will use up some of their 140 characters. Therefore the shorter the username the more characters people have remaining to respond to you.

Selecting Twitter Username

Also, think about who you’re going to be responding to on Twitter. You might well be keeping this handle for some time to come, so make sure it’s not offensive and suitable for all audiences.

You will be able to change the name that comes up on your Twitter account (mine is ‘Jo Darby) but it’s harder, though not impossible to change your username (mine being ‘Pose83′).

You should also check the Social Media policy of your employer, if you have one, as they might have restrictions on what you can and can’t put in your Twitter name.

If you work in Social Media, Marketing or Human Resources, you might also want to ensure that there is a Social Media Policy in place for the company you work for. I’ll write more about this, but eConsultancy have a good template for you to work from.

Your Twitter Page

You can customise your Twitter page if you want to. Mine isn’t heavily customised, but I have profile image and a bio.

From your Twitter page (www.twitter.com/[username]), when you are logged in, you can click edit your profile in the top right-hand corner and you’ll get this screen.

Edit profile page on Twitter

I would advise you to add a profile photo. It’s only going to appear small in most instances, so you want something bold, a logo or a head shot perhaps. Get rid of the generic egg that appears ASAP. A lot of people will pretty much ignore you if you have that egg in situ. It makes you appear to lack credibility.

As for your bio, try and make it short and snappy and again, you might want to check you employers policy on declaring that you work for them, especially if you’re going to be commenting on things to do with work or the industry you work in. In my bio is states who I work for and that all opinions are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of the company I’m employed by.

OK, you’re pretty much set up to getting tweeting now. But wait! You should probably investigate a little further before you jump right in.

Snooping around

Who you choose to follow on Twitter really depends on why you’re there, but Twitter will aim to help you find people and trends that you’re interested in. Oh, and to follow people, you just hit the follow button. Simple, huh?


Twitter have a handy little discover button at the top of the screen that you can click. This will suggest who to follow and show you stories tailored to you. Might be worth hitting that.


Within Twitter on the left hand side you will regularly see a box displaying trending topics. This can be altered to show country or globally (and dependent on availability, by city too). This will show you what everyone else is talking about. Click on one of the trends and you can see all the messages within it. This might also give you a few more ideas for people you want to follow.


Just search for some people or search terms in the search box at the top of the page. Some interesting stuff might pop up.

Off site

A lot of brands, celebrities and people will promote their Twitter accounts through their other Social Media channels or through their websites. Look out for the Twitter icon

What does this symbols mean?

You’ll see a lot of these things


The symbol is called a ‘hash,’ though I’ve heard it called a ‘gate’ too. It’s previously been used to denote a number, but this once under-used little symbol has really come in to it’s own with the advent of Twitter.

The hash is now put in front of a word or phrase to create what is known as a hashtag, for example #London2012. Hashtags are primarily used to group and sort information to make it easier to find.  For example, if you were making a comment about an athlete at the London 2012 Olympics, you might append the tweet with #London2012 (note, no spaces) or #GoldMedal. They are added by the tweeter though, so their is no guarantee of their reliability. The benefit of this is that anyone searching for this hashtag will see your comment and you could potentially use an established hashtag to help promote your message.

They are no longer just confined to Twitter. In the modern vernacular they are appended to pretty much anything.

Be careful which hashtags you jump on though. There have been some incidents of people using hashtags surrounding negative or upsetting news stories and getting really shot down for doing so. The most recent incident I’m aware of was after the Aurora shootings at the showing of the Dark Knight Rises where a fashion company saw fit to do this.

Celeb Boutique Aurora Tweet

It pretty much went viral for all the wrong reasons

The difference between old style and new style retweets

I actually only discovered the difference between old style and new style retweets quite recently, but as I mentioned it above, I thought I better let you know which is which. An old style retweet is how people used to retweet in the olden days. Someone would copy and paste a tweet by someone else and put the author’s username in front of it for example this is an old style retweet I posted of my friend, Gemma’s post. I felt the world needed this tip.

Old style retweet

I manually typed Gemma’s username and then copied and pasted the tweet. Had her tweet filled the maximum 140 characters, the tweet would have been cut short by 14 characters (tweet minus her username and the @ symbol).

The new style retweet means that the tweet can be retweeted in it’s entirety without losing characters to the username. There is an icon on Twitter (and other tweet management systems) that allows you to retweet. It looks like this.

New style retweet

You click expand, which you can see in the lower tweet and then you have the option to retweet and if you press that, you’ll get something that looks like this.

How a retweet appears

It’ll show this in both yours and the person that you retweeted’s Twitterfeed.

We’re probably getting a little advance with the retweets, so I think we’ll leave the lesson there.

Next up, Twitter management tools. These will help you manage your Twitter feeds and make them more meaningful and easier to digest.


#Fail Friday: Hell Pizza New Zealand

Hell Pizza ConfessionalOh dear, it’s Friday and I’ve found a pretty epic fail. I only saw it because I love Social Media and I love New Zealand, so naturally I follow Social Media NZ on Facebook. I’ve seen this on a couple of places on the internet, but I’m surprised it hasn’t become more prevalent.

Hell Pizza New Zealand, where Hell Pizza originated, has a weekly competition where you can confess your secrets and the best one each week wins a pizza or something…

Anyway, the one that won last week was pretty special. Please switch off now if you’re easily offended or possibly a little harder to offend. Here it is…

I once was at this party and saw this utter wanker, he passed out so I stuck a mask on and stuck my cock and balls in to his mouth until he woke up. To this day he still doesn’t know who it was, and gets shit for it all the time.

In true Social Media style, the subsequent comments ranged from congratulatory to appalled (you can read them all here), but while this thread was self moderating, a comment from Hell Pizza really was required as they were essentially highlighting and condoning sexual assault as was pointed out by more than one commentor.

Some time later Hell Pizza then posted this response (source: Jezebel)

Hey everyone, tonight we posted a fan’s confession seeing it in the spirit of a prank between mates. Once we understood that offence had been taken and saw the bad light the post could be seen in we removed it, and we apologise to those offended. Lesson learned.

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that it’ difficult to see the good light in this particular ‘prank’ and, indeed, the publication of it. This weak apology was not enough to silence many of the offended, of which there were many.

Ultimately, a more sincere apology was posted with the promise to donate 10,000NZD (£5,144) to the Wellington Rape Crisis charity, with a further commitment to match all donations made before the end of the month. This gesture came on the back of suggestions made on Facebook.

While this incident showed a massive error in judgement from the Community Manager, I think they eventually handled this in an appropriate manner. This has clearly cost them financially, but will raised awareness of unacceptable conduct and sexual abuse, plus the Wellington Rape Crisis charity, which will hopefully remain funded, as it is currently struggling. It has also raised awareness of Hell Pizza, which is branching out to become an international brand. I’m not suggesting this was a planned stunt, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this also benefits the brand ultimately.

You can make a donation to Wellington Rape Crisis here.

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My car got broken in to!

Broken in to Renault Clio Car

I know I should be posting a Twitter cheatsheet today, but my life kind of got in the way. Sorry, it’s coming soon!

For all you that moan about how bloggers just write about how fabulously glossy and lustrous their life is, my car got broken in to. So there, my life sucks as hard as everyone else’s! Although, actually it doesn’t.

Yes, my car got broken in to and I’m a little sad that they stole my mix CDs, my broken iTrip and a coat I bought from eBay for a tenner. I’m OK about the £75 excess on my insurance to replace the broken glass, because Autoglass gave me a free windscreen last week and the man from RAC fixed my tyre valve for free, I’m not happy about the additional expenditure for the bent window seal, but you know, I’ll be OK and here’s why:

  • When it happened, I was most likely in the pub with my buddies or asleep – two things I’d rather be doing than breaking in to cars
  • I have a replacement coat, CDs and I need a new iTrip
  • I am fortunate enough to be able to absorb the cost of repairs. I’d rather be buying shoes, but I won’t go hungry
  • I am fortunate enough that I have never been desperate enough to resort to crime
  • I am super lucky that I have friends that will drop everything to come and be practical for me when I’m upset that my car’s been broken in to
  • I am also pretty smug that I recognise my taste in music is so unappealing that the net result for the person who robbed my car has probably actually resulted in a negative

It’s not an optimal situation. I’m not so fairies and rainbows that I can look at this and think ‘awesome, shiny new window and less stuff to have to cart around in my car,’ but I’m not going to lose sleep or feel sad about it. I am a strong believer that as long as everyone’s healthy and alive, everything else can be sorted out. I also believe it’s not what happens to you in life that you should be judged by, but how you deal with it.

I’ve spent this evening drinking cava, eating cheeseballs and watching a programme about gypsies. I wonder if the people that smashed my windows spent it listening to the Pretty In Pink soundtrack. Fingers crossed!

FYI My deadlock works a charm, hence the two broken windows, not just one!


This week the follow has happened

  • My mum joined Twitter (and my boss started following her) – She’s @MissDigwell btw!
  • Some people freaked out over a tweet, one tweet, that had no retweets and no replies
  • My lovely librarian friend, Tash, asked me how to get started on Twitter for her library

So for all the above reasons, I’ve decided I need to help people better understand Twitter. If you’ve got it down, awesome. But I hear people moan a fair bit about how they don’t ‘get’ Twitter and I hate explaining it when I’m not in front of a computer.

“I said TweetDECK not twee.. oh, forget it!”

I’m going to have you tweeting like a pro in no time or at least have you feel more comfortable about it. Keep tuned.