Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Travel Diary Part One- Singapore

As promised I will endeavour to write a travel diary. I will try make it vaguely interesting but it will of course be as self-indulgent as the next with an embarassingly elementary appreciation of the exotic and neglible historical/political analysis.... I'll try not to do a 'we did x then did y', rather give you a snapshot with plenty of pics.

Anyhow, we arrived in hot and steamy Singpore to stay with Richard, one of Chris' oldest and dearest friends. It was really hot the whole time we were there, even after the frequent thunderous teeming storms which left you drenched and feeling like a sauna.

This is where we were staying, Richard's apartment:

My impressions of Singapore.... It is an extremely Westernised country with english in effect the predominate language. In some respects I felt quite guilty about that, but as my knowledge of Chinese is zilch it was great to be able to read street signs and order food and such. Singapore is oddly clean with my social conventions and laws about not eating and drinking in most public spaces (besides cafes and the like). This place is seriously CLEAN with minimal litter. There seemed to be an element of social control with an implicit suggestion that complying was easier than to not do so. For example, we lunched in this simply massive food hall:
Think of it as a central food court with side streets shooting off in different directions, never seen anything like it. It provides an interesting example of social control with regard to seating. In Australia it is common practice to reserve seats for others by sitting at a table and indicating verbally to others that you are saving those seats. In Singapore by comparison, seats are reserved by placing a packet of tissues on the spot you desire then leaving to buy your lunch. It's the tissue rule-no one will take your seat or indeed move your tissues! In oz, such an appropriate would be unsuccessful, you'd firstly have your tissues used by someone else and your seat taken!
(Incidentally the vast majority of places we ate at didn't supply napkins or serviettes, hence the popularity of tissues!).

More about the food though, in short the food was fabulous! Here's a pic of me eating ...Ridiculously cheap with eastern and indian influences....Singapore is an interesting mix of middle eastern, indian and chinese cultures with a large smattering of English and Oz ex pats. There is not really an 'authenitic' cuisine per se. Perhaps it is more apparent in the drinks, 'Monster Milo' and 'Lime Juice concoctions are as popular as Root Beer and Iced Tea. Folks didn't seem to be coffee drinks (our coffee tasting limited to Starbucks type incarnations) which explained the huge consumption of Red Bull and V energy drinks. We had some amazing meals, such as steam boats and noodle broths, curries and roti breads. Richard is bilingual and kindly requested 'No MSG' for me as required. One evening we even went to a bizarre Russian restuarant where they'd run out of most of the main specialities including blintzes and all the staff were Indian!

There's clearly still a two-tier class system as this advertisement attests:

We went to some fabulous art exhibitions and a fashion exhibition about women's fashion in Singapore in the 1950's and beyond. We also saw some ancient art in a library which had a wing of University of Las Vegas ( I kid you not) next to it. I also adored the toy museum, loving all things retro (how could you not love a muesum that sold cocktails!?).

... One of our oddest experiences was attending the Clinic Bar, all decked out to resemble a hospita. Cocktails were served in drinks and you sit in either a wheelchair or hospital bedl:

Here's some arty shots:

Tiling at a monatry-Chris was convinced it was the same tiles as a pub he used to frequent with his dad as a small child, but reconsidered that they my be the tiling of Les Carter's floor.

Singapore is something of a shopping mecca it would seem. I endeavoured to find a sundress but as most shops were English they stocked winter attire. I did however by some trainers but after they hurt my feet I haven't worn them since. It was odd shopping as everytime Chris and I went into a shop the shop keepers would defer to Chris. Even if I had the money to pay for something in my hand! Guess feminism has not been so impressive...

Possibly my favourite experience was the Butterfly Park and Insection Kingdom
in Sentosa. We travelled there by cable car and I loved spending time with the birds and butterflies and looking at the native flowers and plants. (The insects were kinda piss weak-I prefer the exhibit in the Melbourne Museum).

We were sorry to leave Singapore but most excited about the next step in our travels...