Pulled In Many Directions

Not-so-daily rambings about my life and my thoughts

Saturday, January 29, 2005

My Trip to Singapore!

OK, as promised, I am going to put some pics up here not really detailing my stay in Singapore, but showing it, anyways. This is going to be one chatty entry, so you might want to fix yourself a snack if you read till the end.

Short review for the impatient: I really liked it there. This had to have been one of the best vacations I have had in a long time. I had earlier gone to Bangkok on a tour package, stayed in my own room, and wound up feeling rushed and lonely for most of it.

In Singapore, I stayed at a hostel, met a lot of cool people, at least to chat with and do the touristy stuff with.

This is Hai (as in "Hello") who is part owner of the hostel I stayed at, The Inn Crowd. If you ever travel to Singapore and want to live in a hostel environment (ha ha ha) then let me know and I'll hook you up with the details on how to get in touch with him. Hostels are great as they will have tours set up in the evening to do stuff and it's so hard to stay on your own in one of them. You always have the chance to meet someone new and talk about where you've been and where you're going.

The hostel kitten, named Pete, in one of his rare dull moments. The cat never starves for attention.

These are two of the people I met and hung out with: Nadya, who is a kindy teacher from Indonesia and Paul from London, who left his job to backpack for three months in the Pacific. Oh, and Marie from Estonia is peeking into the photo as well.

I could only have breakfast at the hostel, so was left to my own devices in foraging for food. I had so much good stuff. I wish I had thought to take pictures of most of it. I had chicken rice, which is chicken, basically flavored with soy sauce and baked and chicken flavored rice and soup and cucumbers. Really really good. I also ate chicken satay twice. Chicken satay is chicken grilled kebab style served with a somewhat spicy peanut sauce you dip the sticks into. The other time I had it, it came with rice pressed into cubes, and served in a woven banana leaf basket. The banana leaves kind of flavored the rice and that was really quite good as well. And I ate some Chinese food as well.

And, mainly because it was featured in my students' English book when one of the main characters told his friend about his dad's trip to Singapore, I had to see the Merlion statue. One of the people I met traveling kept calling it the "Mer-lee-on" statue as a joke.

Apparently, the story of the Merlion comes from one of the earliest visitors to the island seeing some kind of creature which he mistook for a lion. He named the land he saw Singa pura (which meant in Sanskrit "lion city".)

One of the more interesting (and probably grotesque things as well) I saw was the celebration of Thaipussam, a Hindi holy day, where devotees are cleansed of their past sins by pretty much impaling themselves with hooks and arrow like objects and then parading down the street. Some even carry heavy, ornate statues to represent the sins they have been burdened with. The festival lasts for about one full day, starting and ending around midnight, and is held during a full moon.

I didn't know quite what to expect when I was planning my trip to Singapore. I had heard about Singapore's many laws and regulations, remembered the story of Michael Fay, and wondered just how Orwellian my stay would be. They have laws against jaywalking and littering, which to me sound a bit extreme, but are just common sense. You shouldn't ruin the beauty of a city by littering and you shouldn't ruin the beauty of yourself by walking in front of an SUV.

But then they get into weirder territory, where the potential for a fine exists for those who "dare" to change in front of an open window (and possibly get fined for public indecency if the person who sees you is offended) and stranger still, laws that make engaging in oral sex a crime, if it's not then followed by having sex. I mean, really Singapore! Who cares?

One of the many "Singaporean" notices advising people to act a certain way. No fine for flicking water on the floor is stated, but I just thought the tone of the poster was fairly Big Brother "advising" people on how they should behave in the bathroom.

While it's been joked that Singapore is a fine city (Get it? Fine? Ha ha ha! OK then...) Singapore is a great city, very cosmopolitan, and made vibrant by all the different kinds of people who live there: Malays, Chinese, Indians, and expats (mainly from Britain). I'm not sure if I would want to live there, but I think I'll definitely pass through it again on my way to Malaysia or Australia the next time around.