Thursday, September 29, 2005

Essay Time

Someone recently asked why I don't blog that regularly anymore. The answer is simple: NO TIME LAH! :)

This same person also mentioned something about blogs not accurately reflecting its author's true character / personality. I totally agree. Many people can't reconcile my quiet nature with what they read on this website. And one writer who seemed nice turned out to be a real jerk. So... give and take, I guess.

Lots of hullabaloo over the blog-o-sphere lately, with lawsuits, editorials and online discussions. I was approached for some advice on a case that wasn't publicized in the media, and which is, let's just say, more "within the realm of my expertise".

Suffice to say, my sympathy lies entirely with the defendant, and I think some people use Google for totally WRONG ( and slightly stalker-ish ) reasons, yeesh.

Obviously, I have strong opinions about blogging, especially in the medical circle. I know many fellow doctors who partake in this worthy pastime, with most preferring to write under the cloak of anonymity. I, on the other hand, started out with a very small audience before gaining some measure of prominence, then went through a couple of, um, tumultuous phases when certain entries "didn't sit well" with certain people.

I was fortunate for various reasons, the most important of which include (1) very tolerant seniors, (2) a few key figures who fought tooth and nail for my right to vent, and (3) refraining from testing the boundaries of the freedom I've been afforded.

Like me, this other person was censured for speaking his/her mind on "a sensitive issue", but with one major difference: the involvement of an extremely irate "third party" who kicked up a huge fuss. I've read this person's entry ( before it was removed ), and heck, it isn't anything I haven't heard before in conversations over meals with many colleagues. The only problem is, the "third party" found the post, and well, you can imagine how THAT turned out.

There're bound to be left and right wing proponents, and I am no doubt a leftie. However, the blogger has to exercise his/her own discretion, especially when it concerns medical subjects. Life isn't always fair, but there're ways to protect yourself.

Don't let this episode get you down.

Training Opportunities

Prompted by the 26 September entry on this blog.

I like this quote: "Yong Loo Lin, we have a problem." :)

FYI, my first month of housemanship was absolute hell. And after 4 months caring for pint-sized patients, I went through another month of torture in Internal Medicine before finally getting the hang of things. ( This, despite doing a month-long elective in Emergency Medicine during which I familiarized myself with most staple ward procedures. )

Way back then, I'd already realized how inadequately my med school education had prepared me for life in the real world. You waltz through 5 years of endless lectures and tutorials, set a couple of IV plugs, do maybe one urinary catheterization if you're lucky, and wake up to an EXTREMELY UNPLEASANT reality on the first day of housemanship.

Ward rounds! Urgent scans! Blue letters! Discharge summaries! Endless bloods! Family updates! New admissions! More bloods and other changes!

In paeds medicine, I learnt how to do heel-pricks for serum bilirubin levels the day I switched wards and landed in Jaundice Land. Worse, I had to prick 10 to 15 heels every morning before rounds even began. Sometimes, my fellow HO and I did this together like a well-oiled machine, with one pushing and pulling the cots in and out of the assigned procedure room, the other all ready with the capillary tube and Lancet. Mastering the technique was another challenge, 'cos you can't just stick the baby and expect good blood flow. Nooo, you have to find just the right spot, prick the skin deep enough, then MILK with everything you've got. Done correctly, you can complete the entire task - including unwrapping, positioning, blood-taking then rewrapping - within a minute.

I rotated through paediatrics at least twice during my clinical years, with each posting lasting a couple of months. Now WHY didn't they ever teach us how to do this? Did they think med students weren't qualified to perform heel-pricks, and totally inexperienced new interns ARE?!

Other things I wish I'd been taught in med school:

1) how to clerk patients intelligently
- I didn't find out what "premorbid state" meant till my Internal Medicine rotation
- they tell you everything about typical angina, but nothing about "atypical chest pain"

2) how to handle difficult patients and their relatives
- I understand there's a recently added Communication module in the university curriculum, but trust me, simulations don't even come close when you're faced with an angry clan or a demented patient who refuses to hold still when you set his/her IV plug after s/he yanks it out for the 20th time.

3) how to handle yourself
- we all know what bedside manners are, but no-one ever taught us what to say or how to say it. Breaking bad news, informing DIL, building rapport - I learnt it all ON THE JOB, FROM MY SENIORS, AFTER MAKING QUITE A FEW MISTAKES.

I wish I could talk more with the students who pass through my department, but there's never much time, and most of them shadow consultants rather than us registrars. But dinner with a fresh local HO the other night yielded disturbing insights.

"Oh yeah, we're SUPPOSED to spend a month carrying out official HO duties, but most of the time, the consultants just tell us to go to the library to study."

Sigh. Unacceptable.

Anyway, why don't I let you ponder that and move on to something less controversial.


The Cincinnati Pops

First time I've ever caught a concert 2 nights in a row, but the programme's completely different each evening and I just can't pass up the chance of hearing great film music played by such an illustrious group. Getting goosebumps just thinking about it. :)


A new blog set up by a new friend.

A VERY CEREBRAL new friend. :D

New TV Shows

The Amazing Race: Family Edition


Everyone spent the pilot 2-hour premiere running around the United States, and from what I can see of next week's trailer, the teams will be doing more of the same in the 2nd episode.

Don't feel like following up on this one.

Medical Investigation

New series on Starworld every Wednesday night at 9pm. Not too bad, but rather annoying at times.

The lead's bleached blond curls are distracting, his acting stiff and overdone.

There's WAY too much cell phone use.

Do they actually expect us to believe the paediatrician didn't consider the differential diagnosis of osteogenesis imperfecta in an infant with easy bruising and blue-tinged sclera?

They DC shock EVERYBODY, even when it's clearly asystole.

Suspected highly contagious disease, patients quarantined in an isolation ward, staff mostly clad in protective gear, and the lead saunters in WITHOUT A BLOODY MASK. Wow, he must've jabbed himself with prophylactic immuniglobulins or something.

Last Words

Seems I've unintentionally worked myself into a mildly agitated state, heh heh.

Let's end off with my views about the current "hot topic": service and the nasty Singaporean.

From a medical perspective, I'd just like to state, for the record, that the typical Singaporean patient is a real piece of work.

Impatient, demanding, confrontational, suspicious, neurotic, occasionally in serious denial, frequently rude, rarely appreciative.

Sales personnel are paid to be nice to the customer, but what about us doctors? Do patients care that we're exhausted, stressed and bogged down by numerous work commitments? Do they understand how overbooked the clinics are? How hard we're trying to clear the changes? How we can't discharge them RIGHT NOW because we're resuscitating someone, dammit?

There was a frightening emergence of the Singaporean Patient Who Bypasses Hospital Procedure And Submits Complaints Directly To A Very Receptive Newspaper Forum, but thank goodness we've put a stop to THAT.

More to follow ( including House quotes ) when I go on leave. 3 more days, 3 more days, 3 more days.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

An Unexpected Guest

Guess who it was.


Of course, I can't divulge medical details. However, I think it's okay to comment that he's a very nice chap, though the situation at that particular time wasn't exactly optimal for proper social interaction.

I failed to recognize him initially, but was quickly brought up to speed by a male nurse and the orthopaedic MO-on-call. Being the doctor in charge of him from arrival till admission afforded an interesting glimpse into an international sports celebrity's personality, and I was very impressed with his soft-spoken demeanour, lovely manners, and pretty high pain threshold.

His team doctor - a super-friendly cardiologist with grey hair and a great tan - was an absolute pleasure as well. A little high-strung at first ( and for good reason ) but once assured of his patient's stable condition, completely transformed into the quintessential Italiano with the easy humour and penchant for physical contact. I suspect he wanted to high-five me, but I just stuck to a normal handshake, following which I got a nice, err, pat on the head. ( I also suspect he was going to hug me, so the head-pat was a relief, haha. :))

It was fun meeting you both. Good luck for your next race!

House At The Emmys

Congratulations to David Shore, who picked up the award for Writing for a Drama Series. No-one deserved it more, and I finally found out what he looks like - late 40s maybe, grey-streaked hair, slight resemblance to Jon Lovitz.

Staying true to his amazing ability as a writer, he provided an equally witty acceptance speech, an excerpt of which includes the line "I want to acknowledge all the other people who've come into my life and made me miserable and cynical and angry because this character wouldn't be the same without them and they know who they are."

Pity about Hugh Laurie being bested by James Spader. In a perfect world, there'd be a tie ( 'cos I'm a fan of both actors ). Perhaps next year then.

And speaking of which, here're more quotes from last week's episode ( i.e. The One With The Nuns ):

House: I've been a doctor for years. Why do I have to keep assuring people I know
what I'm doing?

Dr. Robert Chase: I hate nuns.
House: Who doesn't?

Dr. Eric Foreman: I don't trust a man who won't admit he might be wrong.

Nun: Being a nun doesn't make you a saint.
House: Being a doctor doesn't make you a healer.

Dr. James Wilson: Sometimes patients die against all reason and sometimes patients
get well against all reason.
House: That's not true. We just don't know the reason.

The sarcasm isn't that prominent this time round, but it's my favourite episode so far, mainly because there're some truly beautiful, heartfelt discussions about God and the concept of faith.

Chase apparently has a checkered past - he went to seminary school but later dropped out. His conversations with the sick nun are extremely moving, like a gentle dance or a lilting duet, with arguments from opposing perspectives yet superbly accomplishing the difficult task of remaining neutral.

In our profession, religion is a sensitive issue. I've seen patients either lose or find their faith, and one never quite knows what each person hopes to get out of it.

It is yet another testament to Shore's writing genius that this episode struck the perfect balance without ever degenerating into corny preachiness.

Gotta love that House comment about the "sacred skunk of Joseph". Good thing I wasn't eating or drinking anything when that line was said. :D

Other Emmy Mentions

Donald Trump dressed as a hillbilly farmer, belting the theme to "Green Acres". What a hoot! But I do admire a man who's comfortable enough with his ( ahem ) softer side to make a fool of himself before billions of viewers. Bet he's quite pleased with the Emmy Idol title, heh heh. :)

Gary Dourdain from CSI ( Las Vegas ) was a pleasant surprise during another performance of the theme from "The Jeffersons". Wooo, all these actors are so multi-talented!

Tony Shalhoub picked up his 2nd award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. Looks like I'll just have to buy all the DVDs, 'cos local TV is never going to bring the latest season here.

And of course, James Spader was hilarious, with his self-deprecating jibes ( "all that sex and weirdness I did over the years" ). Don't know where the pudginess came from but hey, he's finally found his groove and I couldn't be more pleased.

More Interesting Blogs

Haven't scrolled through everything yet, but here're the links:

An intensivist?

The intensivist's friend, from what I can gather.


The September 12 issue of Time magazine, which features a special report on New Orleans, has a FANTASTIC article by Nancy Gibbs.


"Mother Nature behaved as everyone warned one day she would, but human nature never fails to surprise."

"...nurses hand-pumped the ventilators of dying patients after the generators and then the batteries failed, while outside the hospitals, snipers fired at ambulances, and invading looters with guns demanded that doctors turn over whatever drugs they had."

"When Dr. Greg Henderson, a pathologist turned field medic, arrived at the Convention Centre, he was the only doctor for 10,000 people.
"They're stacking the dead on the second floor," he told Time by phone. "People are having seizures in the hallway. People with open running sores, every imaginable disease and disorder, all kinds of psychiatric problems. We have poeple who haven't had dialysis in several days. I just closed the door on a man who ran out of medicine for his kidney transplant. Very soon his body is going to go into rejection."
Henderson went in with New Orleans police, and when people saw him in scrubs, they surged at him from every side. He tried to tend the sickest and the babies first.
He tried to get them settled and asked them to show him the sickest.
"And they lead me. It's not a subtle thing. It's generally the ones who are seizing on the floor."

The photos are devastating. Blocks of decimated wasteland alternating with images of entire houses submerged beneath murky waters. Bodies float beside a woman standing upon a highway. The worst of it? A shocking picture of the elderly infirm packed at a baggage claim area at the New Orleans Louis Armstrong airport, too stiff from contractures to even move themselves off the luggage belt.

Like everyone else witnessing this incomprehensible disaster, the question of how something of this magnitude can occur in a country as wealthy and medically advanced as the United States demands an answer. And President Bush better make it a good one ( he hasn't succeeded so far ).

All I can say is, I hope Singapore won't suffer the same fate one day.

Waxing Lyrical About A Naked Dude

Click on the above title for really cool pics. :)

I didn't leave much time for this entry, so will truncate this a bit.

There aren't many things worth gawking at in Italy ( coming from a cultural illiterate, that is ). But Michelangelo's David definitely ranks high on my list of gawk-worthy sights.

Housed within a very nondescript-looking gallery ( i.e. the Galeria dell'Academia ) in Firenze, Florence, large groups of students and tourists milled around outside the teeny tiny entrance for almost a half hour before we were ushered in just after lunch.

You walk through a few rooms of artwork ( paintings, sculptures and such ) before coming face to face with the actual masterpiece. I guarantee you'll find your jaw dropping despite all efforts of resistance, with an accompanying exclamation of "Whoa".

Photography is strictly forbidden ( you won't feel like tempting the hostile guards, believe me ), so I can't post anything from my personal collection. In short, the statue is GORGEOUS, HUGE, and POSITIVELY CREEPY WHERE ANATOMICAL ACCURACY IS CONCERNED.

And no, I'm not talking about the, um, you-know-what. ( Please, give me some credit! :))

The structure is approximately 20 feet tall, a very pale cream colour ( after undergoing major restoration last year ), and reverently placed under a dome-shaped skylight, hence lending it an almost otherworldly quality.

The silence is palpable as you near the exhibit. Footsteps lighten, paces slow, and everyone's face is uniformly upturned.

The contours are smooth, the proportions perfect. David's head of curls are thick and layered, his posture relaxed, almost flirtatious even.

Doctors should stick around for a while and soak in the clearly protruding right sternomastoid ( yes, it's right there! ), not to mention those branching veins in his right hand and forearm.

Our guide even made a tongue-in-cheek comment about how many women think David's best side is his posterior ( sorry about the pun, heh ).

My opinion? I'd pick his right profile any day.

Don't miss it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

You're Welcome

'Cos I know you're going to say "Thank you." :)

Found yet another blog worth reading, with the appropriate link put up on my side.

I just find it funny that:

1) Local doctors seem to complain a lot.
2) Singlish makes the entries so much more entertaining ( now why didn't I ever think of that!? )
3) More of us are making the effort to write about our work. Which is definitely a good thing, but for whom exactly, I'll let you decide.

All I can say is, I think I should retire soon and let the new ( ??young ) ones take over. :)

Oh Wait, One More

Found it among the site referrals to my blog.

Returning the favour, and with a salute to your terrific writing.

I could ask you to lighten up a little, but where would be the fun in that? A local Dr. Gregory House in the making, yay. ;)

Did You Know?

1. Oh yes, I failed to mention that I've started a new blog, where I really let loose with my opinions about my patients and The Profession. Of course, I can't possibly let anyone know where it is. Sad, though necessary. But ooooohhhhhhh, the catharsis! :D

2. Real quote

Unreasonable patient: Wah, I waited 20 minutes to see you!

Consultant: Really? I've waited 20 years to see you .

My thanks to an ex-JC mate who provided this tidbit during our friends' recent wedding dinner.

And I even managed to guess the consultant's name correctly - on the first try some more, heh heh.

Something David Shore from "House, MD" may be interested in? :)

3. A certain local paper has been "advised" on its habit of printing complaint letters before the respective hospitals have a chance to investigate and reply.

So I'm telling you now that if this happens again, IT ISN'T SUPPOSED TO, and presumably this means some drastic measures are warranted.

4. According to a lawyer friend, IDIOTS WHO IMPLICATE THE WRONG HOSPITAL IN MEDICAL MISMANAGEMENT CLAIMS ( especially in a medium as public as say, The Forum Page ) CAN BE SLAPPED WITH LIBEL SUITS.

5. Blogging about your patients and being as vague about it as possible offers no protection whatsoever.

Someone learnt this lesson the hard way recently, and I certainly hope he's holding up okay. But fret not - just start a new blog, pretend to be from some Western country, and everything will be fine. :)

Klazz Brothers & Cuban Percussion - Esplanade Theatre, September 12 2005

This is the 2nd time I've watched their show, mainly because I wanted to bring my mom along. Turned out to be one terrific evening!

I'm extremely pleased they changed venue on their return trip to Singapore, picking this beautiful concert hall instead of the cultural centre at NUS. You can't truly enjoy jazz in a bloody lecture theatre, for crying out loud. The Esplanade, on the other hand, offers great acoustics, grand surroundings, and if I'm not mistaken, tends to attract a different crowd ( ie. one that's a lot more cosmopolitan and hence, much more enthusiastic about jazz ).

[ I mentioned the Esplanade to one of the group members last year. Wonder if that made a difference? :) ]

The first half was a little slow, as expected ( happened previously as well ). But the 2nd hour ROCKED!

Repertoire comprised mainly tracks from the Classic Meets Cuba album, with a cool reworking of The Girl From Ipanema from the follow-up Jazz Meets Cuba record. There were also new pieces in the form of Mozart's Turkish March and a wonderful cover of the Charlie Chaplin composition, Smile.

The stage was as sparse as you can possibly get - just a black curtain as the backdrop, with instruments evenly laid out across the available space. Save the cute outfit co-ordination ( white tuxedos ), these guys have few gimmicks to show off, and let their music and talent do most of the talking.

Well, bassist Kilian Forster filled in most of the gaps with his witty chatter, but otherwise, it was just good jazz / classics / salsa all the way. Pianist Tobias ( Kilian's brother ) is clearly the crowd favourite, with his amazing precision and breath-taking solo of an original Prelude No. 1 ( retitled Ballad No. 1 this year, I notice ).

Everyone lapped up drummer Tim Hahn's instructions on using the "egg-shaker" thingy ( there's a proper name for it, but I have no idea what the heck that is ), with 2 women gamely sashaying along with the Cubans during the finale - one of them even obliged with her own solo performance!

What really made the night an enjoyable one is the audience, the audience, the audience. They were obviously all ready to let their hair down and boogie, and by the end of the concert, every single person was on his / her feet, whooping and whistling and applauding with hands high in the air.

I don't think the guys expected such a warm welcome, and they looked immensely moved by the unbelievable response.

I've got their newest CD, Symphonic Salsa, playing on the car stereo. It's got some excellent tracks in there, including their takes on Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite and Johann Strauss' Blue Danube. Production isn't perfect ( piano and strings could be louder ), but it's definitely good stuff. Hopefully, they'll come back for a 3rd show next year ( when they release their next album, Mozart Meets Cuba ). Perhaps a portion of the SSO can keep them company, especially on those awesome trumpet bits.

Italian Trip Entry

Will be postponed for now. Yes, I'm STILL tired. And the rest of this week is probably going to kill me. Anyhow, I plan to write about Michelangelo's Statue of David next. In a word: WOW.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

This Guy Is Good

Really Good

His latest entry on running SOCs ( Specialist Outpatient Clinics ) had me in stitches.

Don't be fooled by the Ah-Beng / Brudder-Gang Singlish. He's got some spot-on insights about the local healthcare system and writes about the medical profession in a witty, satirical and highly intelligent manner.

I'm a big fan. :)

House Episode 4

Dr. James Wilson: I'm just amazed you're actually in the same room with the patient [ i.e. a neonate ].

House: People don't bug me till they get teeth.

House: Radiologists ALWAYS over-read babies' x-rays, especially if they're asked to rule out a pathology.

Hospital administrator to House: If you would see a shrink I'd pay for it myself. The hospital would hold a bake sale, for God's sake.

Dr. Allison Cameron: It's easier to die than to watch someone die.

House: The most successful marriages are based on lies.

House: This is out fault - doctors over-prescribing antibiotics. We bred these babies. Now they're grown up with body piercings and a lot of anger.

Patient: Thank you so much! I gotta get you a gift or something!

House: [ smiles ] Sometimes the best gift is The Gift Of Never Seeing You Again.

A month into its first season run, you may have noticed a few inconsistencies here and there, which may or may not bother you depending on your threshold.

For example, House's team of residents appear to be experts in everything, from neonatal intensive care to anaesthesia to infectious diseases, performing procedures that run the gamut from Swan-Ganz catheterization to surgical airways and bone marrow aspirations.

They even do lab work!

Err, okaaay. Kinda like CSI where the team members comb crime scenes, process evidence, interrogate suspects and even literally chase them down.

Plus, both shows love to advertise the ( completely inaccurate ) fact that DNA analysis takes less than a day.

Oh well, I can live with it. :)


My 2 days off couldn't have come at a better time.

Spent Friday nursing a horrible cold - sadly, I've developed a paranoid habit of popping antibiotics if I don't recover by Day 3. Am feeling better today, but Saturday afternoon will be taken up by an EBM workshop, during which I will probably have to leave the room every half hour to blow my nose.

Another shift on Sunday. Help.

Straw Poll

Posted something on The Lingual Nerve.

Have always been curious about this, so if you've got an opinion, please voice it.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Jazz Highlight

The Klazz Brothers are back!

Major scramble for tickets ( thank goodness I'm off next Monday ). No major press publicity, so I stumbled across the ad in the August issue of FIRST magazine early this morning ( I can never quite catch up with my reading ).

Most of the better seats have already been snapped up. Gotta admit it's a huge leap in terms of venue, considering the fact that they last performed at the NUS Cultural Centre in 2004 ( a place that sorely lacks that oomph! factor ). The Esplanade Theatre is an excellent choice, and I hope audiences will respond enthusiastically.

If you've got the evening off, do drop by for a night of great classics mixed with hot Cuban beats. :)


To 2 JC mates who ( FINALLY! ) tied the knot last weekend.

Making their entrance to a tongue-in-cheek choice of song ( ie. At Last - heh heh ), the dinner was a beautiful affair, with the groom giving a hilarious speech, and the bride looking absolutely gorgeous ( though she swears NEVER to wear evening gowns ever again ).

Our table comprised the usual JC gang - a mixture of professions including military, medical, law, engineering and educational. Predictions for the next nuptials were rampant - with me being dragged into the ring, of course - though the main contender won hands down. You can deny it all you want, my friend, but if a woman wants to get hitched, Resistance Is Futile *evil laugh*. :D

It was really great meeting up again ( think the last time was almost a year ago ). What a wonderful bunch of people. :)

New Blood!

Watch for the new SMA News editorial board lineup, with a couple of new members boasting excellent credentials despite their junior status. All I can say is, it's a relief for us "seniors" to unload a bit, and have new slaves to exploit.

Just kidding. :)

Sunday, September 04, 2005

View From Gondola Posted by Picasa

The Grand Canal Posted by Picasa

The Quadri Cafe Posted by Picasa

St. Mark's Square  Posted by Picasa
Comic Relief - Please...

The past week has been bad. And I mean BAD. I wish I could talk about it, but I'm actually trying to forget, so maybe it's better that I don't.

Just a sincere apology to my poor MOs and nurses, who've been approaching me a lot recently for opinions and such. Don't mind the rainclouds hanging over my head. It isn't your fault. Hopefully, this'll blow over very soon.

Ah yes, the comic relief.

From House! ( where else? )

House: So what's wrong with her?
Dr. Allison Cameron ( one of the 3 senior residents on his team ): Him.
House: Him. Her. Does it matter? Does anyone think it's a testicular problem?

Dr. Cameron: Men should grow up.
House: And dogs should stop licking themselves.

Dr. James Wilson: That smugness of yours really is an attractive quality.
House: Thank you. It's either that or get my hair highlighted. Smugness is easier to maintain.

House: No, there is NOT a think line between love and hate. There is, in fact, a Great Wall of China with armed sentries posted every 20 feet between love and hate.

House: I've been a doctor for 20 years. You're not going to surprise me.
Patient: Um, it's an MP3 player. [ ie. stuck up his butt ]
House: ( looking pensive ) Hmm. Is it because of the size? The shape? Or is it the pounding bass line?

And the kicker...

House: What would you want - a doctor who holds your hand while you die, or a doctor who ignores you while you get better? I guess it would particularly suck to have a doctor who ignores you while you die.

We have a winner, people! "House, MD" is now officially my favourite medical TV series of all time. Move over, Jeffrey Geiger. :)

Something Else To Look Forward To

My profuse thanks to M, who generously booked the Michael Buble concert tickets for me with her HSBC credit card ( due to priority booking issues, and sadly, I don't have an account with this particular bank ).

After sending out a HUGE number of harried SOS-SMS's, I hit the jackpot when M replied, and couldn't believe it when she managed to secure 4TH ROW SEATS for me, woohoo!

By the way, Mikey's one of the main reasons I decided to stay put in Singapore instead of going ahead with a trip to the ACEP conference in the US. The others being, of course, terrorist threats, a hurricane named Katrina, and the fact that I'm in need of a vacation from my last vacation. Thank goodness for Y's inside scoop. :)

I'm still taking leave in October, but mostly for lazing around, going on long overdue dinner dates, and visiting the Night Safari.

Looking forward to it. :)

Italian Trip Post #5


Don't expect lengthy narratives about its cultural history. I usually spend my time daydreaming or snapping pictures while the guide drones on about dead people and old pieces of art.

In a nutshell:

1. It's a pretty nice place, with a novelty that lasts all of maybe 15 minutes ( depending on the individual ).
2. It's insanely expensive.
3. It smells.

But to be fair:

1. It has a rather magical quality at night.
2. St. Mark's Square is absolutely breath-taking ( also post-sunset hours ).
3. The speeding water taxi rides to and from Burano Island were quite exciting.

This is one place that looks a lot better on film than in reality. From "Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade" to "Only You" to "The Italian Job", I've always had this idea that Venice is one heck of a lovely spot - romantic, clean, enchanting.

In truth, it's so crowded you can't even walk ( the Square being chosen as the meeting point of EVERY single tour group in the vicinity ), the weather is ( yet again ) unforgiving, and the gondola ride an eye-opening horror ( one of my companions, an Indonesian lad, was totally disgusted, heh heh ).

The saving grace? Certainly our Venice By Night tour, which I will always remember fondly. We set off along the Grand Canal via water taxi, standing on an open deck as we made our way to the Square, passing scores of beautiful monuments including a hotel Lord Byron used to favour, and a church where Vivaldi reportedly composed his Four Seasons masterpiece.

Upon arrival at our destination, we were ushered to choice seats at one of the many cafes scattered all along the Square, where we were offered a selection of either gelato or champagne, and a chance to savour excellent music played by a number of ensembles.

Ours preferred Broadway and Andrew Lloyd Webber pieces, which didn't sit that well with me ( hey, I didn't come to Venice to hear THIS! ), so my mom and I sneaked over to the establishment next door - the Quadri Cafe, featuring an all-male string quintet with a repertoire comprising Vivaldi and Nessun Dorma. As the Italians would say: Perfecto! :)

Would've liked to hang with the jazz band round the corner, but our time at the cafe was short, and before long, we had to head back. Crazy air-conditioner in our hotel room was below freezing temperature. Didn't sleep very well that night.

The next day was spent browsing in and around St. Mark's Square. Arriving early at 8am provided a nice view of the area just before the inevitable mobs showed up. And boy does it get congested! I admit it's a lovely place, but I got a nagging headache after a while, and went to hide out in a nearby McDonald's ( which we found without a map, hah! ). Feeding the pigeons dredged up memories from a similar experience in London's Trafalgar Square way back in 1994 ( weather in London was much nicer, though ).

A ride on the gondola was stuffed somewhere in between, and I made the mistake of NOT taking Dramamine before hopping on. Water was choppy, sun was scorching, and the smell - a mixture of algae and raw sewage - was almost unbearable at times. Some of the other people in our tour group loved it, but my companions and I were completely disillusioned by the end of the trip.

A late lunch/dinner at the much quieter Burano Island ( though a bit too sleepy for my taste ), and our time in Venice was over.

An interesting interlude, but also a tad overrated.