Friday, March 28, 2014

Singapore: Street Scenes

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I arrived in "Singers" in mid-february, and the Chinese New Year celebration was still going on.

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The neighborhood I stayed in is called "Geylang", and it is a red-light district,not as polished and spiffed up as, say, the Marina or Raffles area, but my hotel was convenient to the subway, it was clean, the air-con and hot water worked, and I felt completely safe.

The Hotel:

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The Neighborhood:

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I'm not sure what that last picture is all about, but around this particular corner, several people set up shop blanket every day selling ... pills, whether sexual aids or energy boosters or what.

Anyway, speaking of the subway:

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The subway is excellent; I noticed that there are quite a lot of big-bellied men here, and I also noticed that the seats are significantly wider than in Seoul--correlation, and possibly causation.

Due to history, there is an interesting cross of roads and place names here. A major street called Eu Tong Sen is met by Smith Str and Neil Rd, Church Str and Temple Str; subway stations like Mountbatten and Marymount rub shoulders with Toa Payoh and Potong Pasir. But no one except the most reprehensible bigot would see a stop called Joo Koon and thereafter refer to it as Sammy Davis Station in his head.

Haji Str:
This is a nice little spot off Beach Str (where NOX, dining in the dark was located) with a cool vibe and some nice little bistros, some of which I sat at to enjoy the breeze after dinner.

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Later that night: "I found a place on the main drag away from Haji Lane, operated by Bertie, an ethnic Chinese gent with stories to tell. 7 Tigers there cost $S46.00. We were joined by Norwegians named Paul and Roger who are winding down their Asian tour of HK, Thailand and China with Singapore. They are staying at the Marina Bay Sands. Interesting, far-ranging conversation, including Michael Fay from the Singaporean POV. (Were there really effigies of Singapore's PM burnt in America at that time? I don't remember it). Taxi ride was S$7.00."

Final Thoughts:
* Singaporeans are happy with their Nanny State: the government provides housing blocks at extremely subsidized prices, live in it for five years, pay your rent and taxes, it becomes yours--you can sell it if you like, and make a good profit (but then you have to find new lodging). Roads overcrowded? Complain to the government and they introduce an electronic toll system on busy roads during high traffic times to discourage their use. Worry about water quality? The government will introduce strong fines for the kind of littering that filters trash into the reservoir. They act as though they're doing everyone a favor by simply being good government--adding bus lines, resurfacing roads, etc. At the same time, they're nearly as willing a Seoul government to bulldoze traditional spots in the name of progress. It has to be said, though, that Singapore scores low on the corruption scale, it is pretty clean approaching its fiftieth year.
* Tiger may be the national local beer, but there is a distinct preference for Carlsberg, at least around Geylang.
* The people are more polite than friendly--at least comared to what you are likely to see in the Philippines or Thailand. English isn't what you hear people speaking, either, even though it's the official language.
* I was surprised by the number of people that were surprised I would go to Singapore on vacation. It's small, It's boring, There's nothing to see and do ... Well, I hope to have put that to rest--there's certainly enough to do for four or five days. No beach, though, so it was on to Thailand for 12 days of sun and surf. In addition to several landmarks/places of interest, Singapore offers amazing food, different culture and cool people.
* Characters: --Sonny (sp), native Singaporean of Chinese extraction, retired bus driver who's now a cabbie. Drinks Guinness, good English but hasn't traveled. Age 66.
-- John, claims to be a Singaporean who lived in Australia for 17 years, but seems Aboriginal. Said he's a musician at the Hyatt three days a week, complained about Filipina girl bands moving in on his jobs. They show their "knickers" and charge half-price. He kept trying to sell me a camera and bumming $10 off me. I bought him some beer instead, which is the correct thing to do with panhandlers--give them cash, they'll just spend it on food or something.
-- Joe, aerospace engineer based in Shanghai, who spends months at a time in hotels in various outposts. Lived in san Diego for several years, perfect English.
-- Lisa, the Carlsberg girl at my local, who came to sxpect a tip (tipping is not done here, really), in exchange for which she was quite friendly with me.
-- But for every John, there was one like the lady who, upon seeing my despair that a vending machine (F&N) wouldn't take my bill, put some coins in so the thirsty tourist could get a drink--and all she would accept was my thanks.

Well, thanks again, anonymous lady! And thank you, Singapore, for a good time!


Lynn said...


Tuttle said...

That wasn't too much, was it? People are so sensitive these days!