A rubbish zoo and a town with a ridiculously long name

Continuing the story of my Wales road trip with Piers, I want to talk about two places in particular.

First up is the Welsh Mountain Zoo, situated on the northernmost part of Wales atop a mountain, where I thought we could see spectacular views as well as animals.

Well, we didn’t quite, and this is why in a nutshell:

Half the animals couldn’t be found (enclosures/cages were empty), the ones present weren’t really interesting, and the supposed nice view was a letdown.


Welsh Mountain Zoo


Welsh Mountain Zoo view


There’s a rather blah view, which you can enjoy while you sit in a druid ring freezing your bum off.

What’s druid ring doing in a zoo, anyway?

It was inhumanly cold when we went that day, even though it was summertime (23 June). The wind was really strong, making it feel even colder. The moment we got there, I wanted to jump back into the car and drive away.

The only reason we didn’t was because we’d already paid £22 to get in.

Piers gallantly let me wear his sleeveless padded jacket over my autumn coat and, still, I froze, as the wind whipped hair into my eyes for sport.


Very windy


Very windy


I tried to enjoy the outing but I was honestly quite miserable the whole time. The only “fun” I had was when Piers and I repeatedly joked about how crap the zoo was.

Well, I suppose I did like seeing some of the animals. I mean, it wasn’t an impressive show by any stretch but I love animals anyway, so there was that.

Here’s a bunch of them:


Welsh mountain goats
Welsh mountain goats



Welsh mountain kid
Welsh mountain kid



Humboldt penguin



Ring-tailed lemur
Ring-tailed lemur



Brown bear
Brown bear



Cotton top tamarin
Cotton top tamarin



Backtrian camels
Backtrian camels



We had planned to spend three or four hours at the zoo, take some slow walks, enjoy the view, maybe have lunch, etc. But it was so miserable and disappointing that we left after an hour and a half.

We drove on to the town with the ridiculously long name.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (yep, that’s the town) is the longest town name in Europe and the second longest in the world.

The name is a Welsh sentence meaning “St. Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near the rapid whirlpool and the church of St. Tysilio with a red cave”.

Im. pres. sive. (Said with a brow-raising, dafuq did I just hear, look.)


Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch railway station house


Sidetrack: The record holder for longest place name in the world is Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu in New Zealand.

It means “The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one”.

W. o. a. h. If that is not trippy, I don’t know what is.

I think it’s nuts to name a place using a convuluted sentence. It’s a bloody sentence not a name. Next, people are gonna be naming their babies in sentences, why not?

Example: Baby girl whose mother, Anne, met her father, Bob, under the big dark grey bridge by the pretty daffodils where they fell in love and Bob immediately proposed marriage to Anne using a cheezel he just happened to have in his pocket, while fluffy white clouds stood in the beautiful blue sky as silent but approving witnesses.


And the baby's name is...


There, make that a person name using whatever foreign language you like. Because you’re allowed to join loads of words together to make one word, only in foreign languages.


Okay back to Llanfair…etc.

The story is that, in the 1800s, the construction of a new road and railway crossing turned the small rural settlement into an important commercial centre, attracting all sorts of tradesmen.

Around 1860, a committee was formed to help attract even more trade and tourism and a cobbler came up with the idea of making the town have, like, the longest name in the world. (Except they didn’t reckon for New Zealanders to beat them; they should have added a few more clauses to their sentence when they could.)

It bloody worked, anyway.


Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch Vovlo garage


The name is probably the only reason anyone even goes there anymore today. We didn’t find much to look at. Just unremarkable buildings and roads. A very average, very quiet town.

There are only a few small attractions in the area (2 bridges, an old toll house and a 27-metre tall column built in 1815 to pay tribute to some marquess who had lost a leg in battle), but we didn’t have time to do anything other than stop to take photos of the town name.


James Pringle Weaver


This (above) is the James Pringle Weaver visitor-centre-cum-shop. It’s the main stopping point for tourists. Inside, you can buy souvenirs such as record-breaking-size train tickets or get your passport or postcards marked with the famous Llanfairpwllgwyngyll stamp.

And this is how you say Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch:


(If you can’t see the audio embed, click here.)


In Welsh, the letter w is read like a double o (w = oo). That’s easy. The hardest thing to say is probably the “ll”, which is pronounced like a “chl”, although not a hard or even soft c but more like an airy version of it (a bit like Darth Vader breathing).


Llanfair PG railway station


The actual railway station sign helps visitors pronounce the name by breaking the word into chunks, but it can’t explain the double ls.

Anyway, that was a mildly interesting diversion on the way to our next destination, Caernarfon, which was about 15 minutes’ drive away.

I don’t really want to think or talk about this town anymore after today because every time I do, I compulsively try to pronounce the name over and over to get it right and I end up with a sore tongue, an irritated throat and a brain threatening to implode on itself if I don’t stop.

So, it’s over to you now.

The sky is bluer on the other side

No words can describe what an amazing day I had on Tuesday. But I’ll try.

It’s just that, some things you have to experience yourself.

A friend was just telling me how beautiful and romantic and awesome Paris is and all I was capable of thinking was, “Aww, that’s nice.” But I’m sure my heart didn’t well up with awe the way his probably did when he was there experiencing it in person.

But I guess that’s life. We try to experience some and we imagine the rest.

Anyway, my companion for the day, my mystery date, was a Singaporean girl who’s studying in London now. Let’s call her Limin because, well, that’s her name! lol.


Limin and Sheylara


We’ve never met, online or offline, but she reads my blog and, last week, dropped me a note saying she wouldn’t mind making the two-hour trip to Bournemouth to meet up with me and catch the sights around here.

I’m so glad she did because she’s really sweet and I really enjoyed getting lost with her in a place neither of us are quite familiar with. We got along really well and seem to have a lot in common. That’s always nice, isn’t it?

It was very sunny on Tuesday, the sky a rich, deep blue so that everything in town sparkled. It was a great day for being outdoors.


Some park


I know what I had said about grey skies in England being perfect, and I still think that. But the blue sky here is another realm of amazing. I stopped being in the England of my imagination and got transported to a mysterious magical kingdom.

Okay it’s kind of like this. Gloomy, cloudy skies feed my artistic soul and inspire in me all kinds of emotions that make me feel in touch with my inner self and with nature. Sunny, blue skies make me feel like a bubble of sunshine wanting to burst out to share joy and cheer and communion with my fellow human beings.

So, either one is good for me.

(Well, there is also the fact that I usually try to avoid the sun because I hate getting a tan. The Singapore sun, especially, is brutal. So grey skies hold a special appeal for me in that regard.)


Our day started at 11 am when I met Limin at the train station. She had brought me a gift, fresh-baked cookies from London. What a sweetie-pie!


Sheylara and cookies!


Around her neck slung a Nikon which she had just acquired and was eager to practise on. NATURALLY, I BECAME HER GUINEA PIG.

She was enthusiastically going, “Oh, stand there!” the entire day. But when I offered to take over her camera so she could be in the photos, too, she kept declining. That explains why you’ll see many photos of me and few of her.

But thanks to her obsessive photo-taking, I have a lot more photos to fill this post with!

Our first stop of the day was Castlepoint Shopping Centre at the edge of Bournemouth, which we had to get to by bus from the train station. It’s not a mall like we’re used to, but more like a long row of giant shophouses surrounding a huge car park.


Castlepoint Shopping Centre


Castlepoint Shopping Centre


Castlepoint Shopping Centre


The weather was good. Cool, slightly windy. I was even able to remove my jacket after a bit of walking around. Perfect shopping weather.

I bought some stuff at H&M and Next and decided that we shouldn’t spend all of this nice day shopping, so we took a bus right back to Bournemouth Town Centre. Limin wanted to have lunch by the beach!

But before that, we walked back to the apartment to drop off our shopping. There’s a very small park between the town centre and Piers’ apartment. I find it really delightful walking through it, even during grey days.

The air here is so cool and refreshing, the birds chirp so delightfully in the trees and there’s just so much space and greenery (even though half the trees are bare and flowers aren’t in bloom during winter) it makes your spirit feel light.

But yesterday was nuts. The sun was out, the birds came out of hiding, and people were walking everywhere.


Little park


Little park


Little park


Little park


In the apartment, we took more photos. I think Limin is in love with her camera or something. Or else she’s, like, trying to document every single second of her life.

Or maybe because she was so delighted with Piers’ apartment. I think she likes it as much as I do!


Piers' apartment


Piers' apartment


After the quick stop home, we had to walk through another park, a much bigger one this time, to get to the beach.

So so lovely the sun was. We bumped into an elderly English couple who had come to Bournemouth for a few days to, I dunno, sightsee or something.

We helped each other take photos and had a nice chat about the weather and stuff like where we came from and what we were doing in Bournemouth. I really enjoyed that. I kind of miss this from when I was in Australia, the way strangers would just stop in the streets to have a chat.


Another park


Another park


Then, we came to the pier. Before we even hit sand and water, Limin and I were dazzled. The sun and sky were most amazing. I’ve never felt so buoyant about, well, the sun and sky, in my life. It was like stepping right into a photo postcard.


Another park


The beach was even more dazzling. Despite the chilly wind (it was actually painful to take my hands out of my pockets and expose them to the cold), I fell in love with the place instantly. Despite somewhat freezing, I wanted to stay there for as long as I could.

The sun was literally glaring into our eyes as we walked down the beach so I had to wear my sunnies. Limin didn’t bring hers. She was so funny, saying, “I NEVER EXPECTED THERE TO BE SUN!!”

Apparently, you will hardly ever see any sun in London during winter. (Or does that extend to other seasons, too? I don’t know.) She was ill-prepared.

It was just unbelievable, the sky a pretty shade of cerulean, the fluffy white clouds, the unbelievably soft, fine sand, gentle waves crashing at the shore, the sea almost blue and sparkling in the sun.

I asked Limin, “Do we ever get skies like this in Singapore?”

She said, “No.”

“Why not?” I demanded. “Why not?! Don’t we all share the same sky?”

“Well,” she said, “The sky is always bluer on the other side.”

Wise words.

Many people were out enjoying the weather, having picnics on the sand, or strolling along the coast or playing frisbee with dogs. You wonder why they don’t have to be at work. The mood was uplifting.

Okay, my words can’t do justice. So, photos!


Bournemouth Beach


Bournemouth Beach


Bournemouth Beach


Bournemouth Beach


Bournemouth Beach


Bournemouth Beach


Bournemouth Beach


Bournemouth Beach


Bournemouth Beach


Bournemouth Beach


Bournemouth Beach


Bournemouth Beach


Bournemouth Beach


Well, that’s the lot!

We had a ridiculously expensive lunch at Aruba, the restaurant overlooking the beach.

Limin had ribs while I had fish and chips.

Piers had told me that he doesn’t really like fish and chips because the bones annoy him. And, I was like, “Fish and chips got bones meh?” (But in slightly different words since I try not to speak Singlish with ang mohs.)

Well, the fish and chips I had at Aruba was my first in England and YES THERE WERE BONES IN IT. I had to keep picking them out my mouth. I’m scared to try anymore now.

It wasn’t too tasty, either. It was beer-battered. I guess I prefer normal batter.

Okay, I’ll give the normal ones in town one more try before I come to a firm conclusion.

The ribs were awesome, though. So very tender and juicy with soft yummy fats around the cartilage. They were also gigantic, so Limin heaped a too-generous portion of her food onto my plate.


Bournemouth Beach


Bournemouth Beach


Bournemouth Beach


Comparing my giant fries with Limin’s normal-sized ones, it was very funny.

Our bill came up to £31. Well, £34 (S$70) after adding the obligatory tip. Crazy, right! We only had two mains and two normal drinks!

Limin insisted on buying me lunch and wouldn’t hear of my protests. We argued a bit over who’s host. I claimed I was hosting and so should pay cos she came to Bournemouth to visit me. She claimed she was the host because I came to England where she’s been staying for almost three years.

Anyway, she won because I wasn’t assertive enough. I need to learn how to assert myself more in times like this. Seriously!

But, anyway, it was very nice of her, and I felt really bad after doing a conversion and realised how much our lunch cost in Singapore dollars.

After our lunch and stroll at the beach, we only had time left to take a quick walk to the famous St. Stephen’s Church, built in 1880.


St. Stephen's Church


St. Stephen's Church


So beautiful.

There wasn’t much we could do there except take a few photos. It was closed and no one was there, although the main gate was open so we could walk inside and admire the surroundings.

And then we had to get back.

Piers’ apartment is between the church and the train station, so we went back to the apartment to rest for a bit before walking to the train station for Limin to catch the 6 pm train home.



So, I’ve been thinking about it. It’s really inconceivable to me that people actually live in a place like Bournemouth. How do they deal with so much beauty in their lives?

Bournemouth is a resort, a place where people go for a holiday, leaving all worries at home. So, if you live here, where do you go for your holidays?? Boggles my mind.

But that’s an ironic question considering that I’m here only because Piers and his parents (born and bred in Bournemouth – okay I’m not sure about his parents but Piers was) are gone off elsewhere in the world on their separate holidays.

Goodness knows why they need to go away for holidays when they’ve already got a holiday at their doorstep.

Okay, guess I’m just being silly.

I’ll leave you now with the photos and be back with loads more in days to come.

Lure your foreign friends to Singapore


Last night, I was ranting to a friend about the sorry state of Singapore’s entertainment industry.

He asked me whether I thought I was in a position to change that. The first response that crossed my mind was “yes, I’m a little drop of water, but every drop of water makes the mighty ocean”.

But as I thought further, my answer became “no”. I realised that my drop of water is, in effect, being rejected by the ocean. And if I’m not even in the ocean, how am I supposed to change anything?

Kind of depressing, so I thought I should think about something happier, instead.

Something I can do to make a difference.

And that something is Project Postcard. It’s the latest initiative by Singapore Tourism Board to promote tourism.

You see, I think all Singaporeans should help promote tourism. Tourism helps our economy, which in turn helps us!

So, to play my part and make a difference, I’m blogging about it! I want more foreigners to visit Singapore! More visitors means more happy retailers, which means increased advertising budgets, which means more modelling jobs for me! Haha!

Speaking of which, here’s a bit of trivia: My very first modelling job was for a Haw Par Villa brochure, eons ago. Hahaha. I can’t stop laughing thinking about my early modelling days.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Besides blogging about this, I’m also sending e-cards to my foreign friends. That’s a lot of difference I’m making, ok?!

Of course, the fact that there are prizes up for grabs for both senders and recepients has nothing to do with it! Really!

I wouldn’t mind getting all that, though! ;)

The process is quite fun, actually. You get to select an avatar and dress it up (although the selection is a bit limited).

Then choose a postcard design and type a message!

Easy, and very cool!

Here’s another one I made.

And now, a special offer!

I’m offering to send an e-card to anyone who wants one! Woohoo! That is, anyone who doesn’t live in Singapore. Otherwise, it wouldn’t make sense, would it?

Just let me know you want one in the comments. And make sure the e-mail address you type is valid!

Offer good till 30 November, 2007.

Oh, yes.

Physical postcards are also available. And they’re free! With pre-paid postage! If that isn’t a good deal, I don’t know what is. There are eight different designs and this is one of them:

I wonder where they found this pair of loving steps. So nice!

Physical postcards can be found at Guardian, SingPost, McCafe, foreign clubs/schools/embassies, hotels and attractions, Singapore Visitor Centres and ZoCard free card racks.

Well, I think it’s a great project. To find out more, zip over to the Project Postcard website!