Monday, October 09, 2006

Finally, About Singapore

OK, I guess I've slacked off enough and should write a bit about my trip to Singapore before I completely forget what happened. All the photos are posted here: Singapore - October 2006

I arrived at a few minutes before 11:00 p.m. on Monday, October 2. I think about 50 other planes must have landed at the same time, because the immigration lines were packed! The whole room was filled with people of all sorts, and none of the lines seemed to be moving quickly. It took about 40 minutes from landing time to actually getting out the door, where David and Tona had been patiently waiting for me. I felt so bad about making them wait so long and told them to just drop me at the hotel and go home, but they wanted to eat first, so off we went. We stopped at a hawker center that was rather famous in Singapore, but David and Tona hadn't tried it. We munched down some good food and then headed for my hotel.

I'd chosen a place I found on the Internet, the Astro Hotel . The description made it sound quite charming, and I'd asked Lee Ying about the area of town, and she said it was OK. wasn't quite as charming as the website made it out to be, and I rode up in the elevator with a guy and his Vietnamese hooker, listening to him giving her instructions on just what she could do for him. Oh swell. However, it was cheap and it was quiet, so what the hell. During my short stay I killed a total of six cockroaches, but they were all little bitty things, not the monsters we have here in Taiwan, so I wasn't too upset. At a cost of $38US per night, I wasn't about to complain.

By the time I actually was in bed, it was after 1:00 a.m., and I was able to sleep in a bit on Tuesday. David and Tona were supposed to meet me for brunch around 10:30, but because there was a heavy rainstorm, David called to say they'd probably be a little late. My room had no window, so I was clueless about the weather. By the time I emerged to do some preliminary exploring, there was no rain, just wet pavement, and the heat was just awful. Singapore has only three seasons, you know: summer, hot summer, and so-hot-you-think-your-hair-will-melt summer. I believe I experienced hot summer this time.

I wandered around the Gelang Serai area a bit. It's the Malay part of town, and since it was the Malay Hari Raya Light-up Celebration, there was quite a bit of activity going on very close to the hotel. Most of it was at night, but there were some things open during the day. I picked a good time to visit Singapore, because it was also the Indian Deepavali (Festival of Lights) and the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival, and every part of town seemed to be lit up with beautiful lights in the evenings.

When David and Tona arrived, we went off to the pork rib soup place they'd taken me to in September. Damn, that stuff is so good! The do-it-yourself seasoning I'd bought was nearly as good. After we had our fill they dropped me off at the shopping center that has books, books, books. I was on a search for some books I'd seen on the last trip. I spent some time there, searching with no luck, then I walked down to Arab Street. It was fun wandering around there, looking at all the beautiful materials and the carpets, but I didn't buy anything. On the way back to the MRT station, I walked through a wholesale market area, where I bought a cheap coffee cup and a spoon, since the hotel had none. Then I stopped for some kaya toast and coffee to give my feet a rest. Um, I love kaya toast!

Walking from the MRT station to my hotel took me through the Malay bazaar, which had all sorts of stuff. It's a bit like the night markets in Taiwan, but not quite. Again, I didn't buy anything. I spent a little time at the hotel before heading off to meet Lilian in Chinatown for dinner. I got there early and walked all over the place looking for a bathroom, because the bathrooms in the Singapore MRT stations are not as easily found as those in Taiwan, and I'd assumed they, like Hong Kong, didn't have them. By the time Lilian showed up, I was pooped!

She took me to a hawker center that specialized in barbecued seafood, and I had stingray for the first time in my life. Oh my. It was so delicious, so tasty, such a shame it's not available here in Taiwan. We also had some clams and squid, and I had a Tiger Draft, which was twice as good because I was so hot and tired. After dinner we drove to Chinatown proper to look at all the lanterns. Sadly, I was too tired to have much enthusiasm, but we did walk around for quite awhile, chatting, and then Lilian kindly drove me back to the hotel, taking a detour through Little India so I could see all the lights (which weren't nearly as pretty during the day, when I went back).

On Wednesday I went alone to the Chinese Gardens in the morning. My friend Li Yan had told me they would be much prettier at night when the lanterns were lit, but I didn't really have any evenings free, so daytime would have to do. I didn't eat any breakfast, because I figured there'd be a place to eat there. Ha, wrong. The teashop was closed, only open at night. So, by the time I finished my two hours of walking, I was famished! I had some pineapple cakes that I was going to give Li Yan, but she never got them - I ate them. But I didn't eat the Kahlua cake I'd made for her, so I'm not such a bad person, right?

Li Yan and I met at 1:00 and she took me to her university for lunch. We ate with some of her friends, including a guy from Shanghai. The food was very inexpensive (I must say here that I actually didn't pay for any of the food I'd eaten so far, because everyone kept insisting on treating me) and there was far too much of it (I got ma po tofu). After lunch we went to the library so I could check my e-mail, then browsed the campus bookstore for awhile. Then Li Yan suggested we go to Haw Par Villa, built by the same guy who had built Hong Kong's Tiger Balm Gardens. She said that although it wasn't as popular as it had been in the past, it was still an interesting place to see and wouldn't be crowded. Sounded fine to me! So, we took a bus (believe it or not, Singapore actually has some non air-conditioned buses, so strange in such a hot climate) and spent about an hour walking around the Villa.

After that Li Yan took me to SunTec City Mall, because there was a used bookstore there. It's a very interesting store. You can choose to just rent the books or to buy them. Each book has two prices listed, and the older books are cheaper than the newer ones. For example, you might pay $15S for the book, but if you bring it back to the shop, they will give you back $12.50S. They had tons of stuff, and I bought quite a few of the books on my list. We walked around the mall a little bit, but my feet were starting to complain, so we didn't stay long.

I had plans to meet up with Angela and Taka for dinner, and Li Yan was going with her family. The two of us went back to my hotel so I could pick up the stuff I'd brought for A & T, and Li Yan's father picked us up and drove me to the place I was meeting my friends. Traffic was bad, so I was about a half hour later than I'd planned on being. Taka and Angela were waiting for me, and we just went to the food court at the mall for dinner. I decided on the chicken rice, since it's soooo good. After dinner we just wandered around in the mall, talking. Neither of them had the time to go with me to Little India, and I was pretty tired from all the walking I'd done anyway, so I just went back to the hotel, arriving around 10:00 or so. I watched a little TV, because there were a couple of interesting Chinese TV series on, then went to sleep.

I spent most of Thursday riding the MRT all over creation, searching out the used book exhibitions in the hope of finding the rest of the books I wanted. No luck, sad to say, although I did find a couple others that were cheap, so it wasn't a wasted day. Lee Ying had hoped to get a half day off to spend with me, but she was unable to, so we made plans to meet for dinner. However, Li Yan wanted to hang out again, so she and I made the trip to Little India. It wasn't quite as exciting as I'd hoped it would be, but I think the heat and my tiredness probably had something to do with my lack of enjoyment.

We met up with Lee Ying at 7:00, and Vynson also joined us. After a discussion about what to eat, we decided on pizza and proceeded to the restaurant. As luck would have it, they had a special on, two pizzas for the price of one - cool! We had a lovely dinner, laughing and talking, mostly about Wu Bai, of course. Vynson told the story of how he came to be the "Singapore Wu Bai" and had us all laughing. After dinner, Lee Ying, Li Yan, and I took a cab back to my hotel so I could get the cake and books I'd brought for Lee Ying, and I spend another evening watching Chinese TV series before falling asleep.

Friday it was up early to pack and then a short cab ride to the airport. I had another chicken rice meal there and then wandered around the shops, stopping at one of the free Internet stations to check my mail.

My flight was on time, but I had the misfortune of being seated next to a couple and their little girl, maybe two or three years old. That kid was incredibly annoying. I was in the aisle seat, and it was the very first row, so there was a lot of leg room. This meant said child could walk back and forth, which she did, frequently, grabbing onto my legs, stepping on my feet, keeping me from napping. The flight attendant didn't help, because she was just encouraging her to keep walking over to her. And then some little boy from the other side of the plane kept coming over to check out the little girl, so I had both of them annoying me. Grrrrrr. After the umpteenth time of being awakened, I guess the mother finally noticed my exasperated sigh and offered to change her window seat for my aisle seat. That was a bit better - until we started our descent. Then the kid began screaming at the top of her lungs, because she didn't want to wear the seatbelt. She kept it up, non-stop, until we were on the ground. I hate kids.

Uneventful bus ride/MRT trip back home, and as I walked from the station to my house, I was treated to the wonderful smells of everyone outside barbecuing, because it was Mid Autumn Festival, and that's what one does in Taiwan on Mid Autumn Festival. It smelled so good, but all I had to eat when I got home was a bagel I'd purchased in Singapore. Wah! Poor me, no BBQ this year.

Many thanks to my Singapore friends for making my visit so nice! I hope you'll be visiting me in Taiwan soon so I can return the favor :)


aetherwellen said...

Great pics! I love the photos from the bonsai garden.

Ranger Steve said...

Sounds like you had a great time! Please tell me that the guy with the Vietnamese hooker was speaking Chinese and merely assumed that you could not understand him and his, um, business demands of her....

velvet said...

Hallo! =)

er... It's been a long time since I updated myself on your blog, but luckily, you haven't been updating too much yourself. haha

I hope you enjoyed your trip to Singapore. If everything works out fine, I promise I'll come visit in the next 2 years! *keeps fingers crossed*