SINGAPORE - 2001
FRI NOV 9
Here I am in humid, sunny Singapore aka the Lion City.
I had a great flight, thoroughly enjoyed the superb supper before attempting to
watch the in-flight movie but my eyelids kept snapping shut so I gave up and
assumed the fetal position (was lucky enough to have a vacant seat next to me)
to catch forty winks. Some twenty winks later, the aroma of hot croissants and
brewing coffee wafted to my still very much alert nostrils which sent a wake-up
call to my brain. Stayed awake after breakfast of croissants, scrambled eggs,
sausage, hash brown, OJ, fresh fruit salad and piping hot coffee. In all, I
enjoyed a total of 2 hours' sleep out of the past 32 hours. No qualms about
wolfing down the airline food as Gulf Air only serve "Halal" food.
Arrived in Singapore at sparrow's
fart (6.20am local time) and sailed
through customs because I looked innocent.
I recognized my brother by his glorious head of silver hair and he recognized
me by my excited waving routine.
Spent several minutes convincing him we should take a cab back to his place
instead of getting on the local bus with my rather large suitcase to save
S$9.80 (about US$5). He spent the rest of the morning (and the best part of my
visit!) lamenting my extravagance. While he went to the money-changer for me
(just so I wouldn't get ripped off), I was given a generous loan, the key to
his apartment and long detailed instructions on how to find my way back from
the shopping centre after I'm done "looking around".
So what did I do on my first day
here? Well, I went and got a hair perm! After which, I wandered around the
various food courts and sampled a few of the oft-remembered local fare.
Hunger and greed appeased, I sauntered back to the apartment blocks and
realized I should have paid more attention to instructions given earlier on.
We're talking about cloned apartment blocks here with no great distinguishing
features - a jungle of concrete apartment buildings interspaced with lovely
tropical landscaped areas. I smugly patted myself on the back as clever me at
least remembered the address...
Found the block ok... yes, I
recognized the elevators, two of them, side by side. Woohoo!!! Went into
elevator A, pushed button with "9" on it, elevator stopped, Oz waltzed out,
skipped down two flight of stairs and, uh-oh! The numbers on the doors didn't
look at all familiar! Released frustration by growling to myself before trying
plan B. I must have taken the wrong elevator! Yes, that was the problem.
Easy-peasy - re-traced steps back to the ground floor, got into Elevator B this
time and no problem. Up the elevator went, with Oz humming merrily to herself,
got out of the 9th floor, raced down two flight of stairs and... Bloody hell!
Same problem, same non-matching numbers on doors... By this stage, urgency had
made friends with panic - time was ticking away and I was supposed to be
already home to let my brother into his own house as he had given his keys to
me!!! Visions of being thrown out of his house started to float across my mind,
along with a touch of self-pity, too. Poor, poor pitiful me...
Back I went to the ground floor - maybe there are another couple of elevators
that service the different flat numbers? Hurriedly walked the whole length of
the block, no luck. So I was back in square one. Okay, steady on, old girl -
Think! Think, you silly old cow! Up again I went, (elevator B) and then it came
to me in a blinding flash - I remembered walking along a corridor with my
brother earlier on BEFORE we went down a couple of flights of stairs! What a
relief that was - that no one had gone around with a bunch of gold numbers and
changed them all over the place as revenge for something I did or didn't do!
Whew! In answer to a couple of possible questions - yes, I made it back before
my brother's return and yes, I had visited at this same address but it was some
six years or more ago. I think it's due to sleep deficiency!
SAT NOV 10
By nine o'clock this morning, after
a good night's sleep, I was all dressed and ready to rock and roll... I headed
off into the city via bus and the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) train. I thought I
may as well do some more "touristy" stuff - shopping, eating and a bit of
sightseeing before meeting my niece in town after work at lunchtime. You can
bet your boots, I will most likely be doing an excellent job of getting
hopelessly lost several times this morning, despite the fact that my niece had
armed me with not only the map of the city and the local bus guide but also,
written instructions on public transportation, stops and destinations, her
contact number and so forth. I set off, confident that I would be strong enough
to resist the temptation to shop extravagantly but alas I failed miserably. By
the end of the day, I had myself convinced that my M.O.T.H. (Man Of The House,
aka hubby) would probably tell me not to bother coming home to him after
learning of the damage I had done to my credit card. Oh woe is me!
SUN NOV 11
I gathered up enough
courage to confess to my MOTH this morning and the sweet
darling man actually forgave me for my insane spending spree. He had guessed my
purchases as, "Diamonds? Lap-top? Gold?" and I could swear I heard an audible
gasp over the Internet when I guiltily replied in the affirmative to all three!
When I get home I will have to convince him that a diet of bread and water for
the next six months will be good for both of us. After the arrival of my son
and his lady (They had arrived from Melbourne on the Saturday morning flight
and stayed in the city area.), we sat down to a delicious breakfast of
Indonesian "lontong" (compressed rice cubes served in spicy coconut sauce with
vegetables, boiled egg and sambal) and Indian roti served with lamb curry. We
then jumped on a bus and headed off to Changi Village (my old haunt) and
terrorized the shopkeepers there for the afternoon's entertainment. One of the
shop-owners must be psychic as he had only recently sold his store and gone
into hiding for fear of my bargaining ability. The rest put on a pretty good
act at being pleased to see me again and one of them even tried to get my son
pissed on Anchor, the local beer!
Some goods and money exchanged hands and a hearty lunch was had at the food
court before my son and his lady went sightseeing. I decided to go to Chinatown
with my niece for a bit more shopping before heading back to my brother's place
armed with enough local fare to feed an entire army. By now, the heat and
humidity have taken their toll on me - my legs look like a pair of elephants'
trunks (minus wrinkles, though) and my fingers would have delighted a lesbian
partner if I am that way inclined!!!
MON NOV 12
started off quietly enough (quiet because I was `home alone') until the phone
call from the young `uns, namely my
son and his lady. That brief conversation
resulted in me getting changed in record time to get to town within the hour.
After our rendezvous at the MRT Dhoby Ghaut Station, we sallied forth on foot
to Chinatown (so I could have another 'look around'), getting side-tracked only
twice to duck briefly into the air-conditioned surrounds of a couple of
boutiques to cool down. I must admit that S$50 is a hefty price to pay for 10
minutes of cooling time but we took turns doing so - in my case I was allowed
to walk out of a store with a pair of knickerbockers! Bonus!!! We saw a fair
bit during the walk, stopping briefly to watch the changing of the guards
outside the President's residence, Istana Negara ("Istana' - a Malay word
meaning 'palace';'Negara" meaning 'nation'), gawking at the elaborate
light-catchers strung out over the tree-lined avenues, and so on.
We then decided we had fart-arsed long enough and reached a unanimous decision
to hail a cab for Chinatown - synonymous with food and all things Chinese. We
did a quick lap of a couple of the shopping complexes, bought several
knick-knacks (absolutely useless, of course) and soon after became fixated with
the idea of lunch. By this time, I was practically salivating at the thought of
enjoying a bowl of beef noodle soup as I remember it at an old favourite eating
place of mine - Boat Quay... but first, we must take a few photos of the famous
Sri Marianam Hindu Temple, right in the middle of Chinatown.
We hurriedly did the tourist thing before "hoofing it" to the excellent eating
stalls at Boat Quay, along the Singapore River where the food was good and
cheap (just the way I like it).
Getting there involved many, many intervals of
"ducking into air-conditioned shops" to either admire the items that were
exhibited, for icy-cold drinks or to use the toilets. In many cases, we were
allowed to leave with clothing items, souvenirs and such. We eventually made it
to Boat Quay - but to my utter dismay (and disappointment), the whole area had
been transformed into cafes and restaurants with International themes -
Italian, French and so forth, with menu prices that made my eyes bug out. Oh
well, there goes lunch... "No cause for alarm, Mumzy!" my son sang out, "we'll
just go to where we eat most every night." (We are a stone's throw from where
he and his love are staying). With renewed energy, we marched on, again
stopping here and there to give money to total strangers in air-conditioned
stores just to cool down our sweat-drenched bodies while they generously gave
us stuff to take away with us.
To cut an already long story a few sentences shorter, we got to Robertson Quay
(or was it Clarke Quay?) only to be told they don't serve diners until after
5pm! With bellies growling angrily by now, we lashed out by taking a cab to our
next stop - the Sun Tech Complex in the hopes of appeasing our angry belly
worms there. At last, after satisfying our thirst and hunger, we did a quick
lap of the stores there before checking out the Fountain of Wealth. Picture if
you will, three shopping-bags-laden presumably sane human beings, sticking one
hand out over the gushing fountain while walking around it three times. I just
hope that our wet pants, hands, shoes and several equally drenched shopping
bags mean that our wishes will come true some day soon. At least this exercise
cooled us down somewhat... We then parted company with plans to meet tomorrow
afternoon at the jewelery store. Yes, I am still doing my share in boosting
this island's economy... for a few more days anyway.
TUE NOV 13
Again, I was left to do my own thing
so I found my way into town and window-shopped for the best part of the late
morning until it was time to rendezvous with son & co. at the jeweller's at
3pm. Even though I was one of many, many other Chinese women going about their
business along busy Orchard Road, I stood out from the rest, as I was the only
one wearing a bucket around my neck! This little trick served a dual purpose -
for ease of recognition for those who may have known me from when I was here
last and wish to renew the acquaintance, and also to catch the steady stream of
drool, especially when gawking at the fabulously designed array of jewellery in
the stores. Since my earlier "sins", I have indeed strengthened my resolve and
I managed to resist the temptation to purchase more baubles. I have no wish to
invoke any ill feelings in my darling MOTH towards me. After all, he can only
love me so much. I arrived half
an hour early at my jeweller's (yes she's now MY jeweller) and we passed some
time away sipping tea, eating snacks and chatting like old friends - we Asians
are a very friendly race. :-) My son and his lady arrived right on 3pm - with
my son looking like death warmed up. He looked and felt dreadful - I think the
shopping, walking, eating, more shopping, more walking, etc that we did the day
before in the extreme heat had taken their toll on him. So obviously, hopes of
doing more shopping together went out the window... We parted company in
Orchard Road - they went back to their hotel room to rest while I went on
shopping to at least buy SOMETHING. I hate coming `home' empty-handed so I
bought a printer for my niece! I only lost my way three times today, (that's
pretty darn good for me) - I think I am starting to get the hang of moving
around on this island republic.
WED NOV 14
As today is a public holiday, we 'kidnapped' my niece and headed off to Sentosa
Island and did the tourist bit. Between the four of us, we managed to find our
way to the island 'a la local', i.e. via MRT train and bus. Got there in the
nick of time to catch the pink dolphins at show time. The show was quite well
organized with audience participation and all that jazz. My son's lady was all
excited at the prospect of petting the dolphins for the princely sum of S$5 but
her ardor died a sudden death when she heard that she would have to get in the
water past her waist! We then continued on our walk sharing the walkway with
monkeys and peacocks, much to the delight of the camera-toting tourists. Like
sheep going through the de-ticking dipping process, we joined the queue to get
on the monorail. The scenery was okay, especially for those who were turned on
by tropical jungle settings and a quick downpour of tropical rain as well.
Hopped off that, picked our way in between the raindrops and cast a cursory
glance at the orchids near the entrance of the garden and much to the relief of
the young `uns, I decided against the complete walkabout around the garden. In
gratitude, my son and heir captured a 360` video clip of the garden just so I
can view it in my own time when I get back to Australia. When the worms started
growling to be fed, we made a beeline to the food court where the prices far
exceeded the quality of the food on offer.
Hunger and thirst appeased, we continued on our bumbling way to the underground
oceanarium where we managed to provide some form of visual entertainment to the
exotic marine life while we gazed in awe at their magnificence. After that, we
did other tourist stuff while clicking our cameras like trigger-happy Rambos
wherever we went. Merrily, we found our way by going down a couple of hundred
stairs, to get a better view of the gigantic statue of the Merlion, the symbol
of Singapore. Wouldn't you know it? By the time we turned around to find our
way back up, the bloody stairs had multiplied themselves into at least a
thousand!!! By the time I made my way back to the top, I could hardly breathe.
It made me feel kind-a smug though, that the young `uns were breathing pretty
heavy too and not because they were feeling amorous either. It's hard to
imagine anyone wanting to get up close and personal when we were all sweating
We decided to lash out and splurge on a cable car ride back to mainland
Singapore - BIG MISTAKE! It was all fine and dandy until we got off at the Mt
Faber terminal - not a single taxi to be seen and it would have been a mighty
long walk down the mountain to get back to the main road. Luckily, we were not
the only bozos around; a Canadian couple was in the same predicament. While we
were considering our options, lo and behold - who should step out of the
shadows but a Chinese Samaritan! He offered us all a ride in his
air-conditioned Mercedes van back to town. We could have been wrong but we had
a sneaky suspicion that it wasn't the first time he had performed this service.
We willingly parted company with S$10 just so we didn't have to spend the night
there. It turned out to be a most interesting ride to town indeed and I am
pretty sure he is the principal of the Tourist Promotion School, moonlighting
on his days off as a chauffeur-cum-food advisor-cum-tourist
guide-cum-everyone's favorite uncle. He certainly had the gift of the gab.
From the city we found our way to the famous Newton Circus where we met up with
my brother and after a less than satisfying dinner, we unanimously agreed that
the Food Centre had been glorified way too much. I guess if we had a feed of
seafood in mind it may well have been a different rating but nonetheless, we
were disappointed in the eating experience there. We couldn't say that "Uncle
Lee" hadn't warn us about it all, though - we should have heeded his advice and
eaten at the Old Market Place instead. We parted company at the MRT train
station nearby, as Son and his lady were due to fly back to Australia the next
evening. They were lamenting the fact that there weren't enough days to eat all
that they had wanted to in beautiful Singapore - the food-lovers' paradise!
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