Finally getting around to posting the last of the photos from
Sentosa, including a trip to the "Southernmost Point in
Asia." It won't stay that for long-- they're reclaiming
so much land from the sea, off the southwestern coast, that the
area there will extend further south than Sentosa! Just hope
global warming doesn't swamp it all...
August 30, 2005:
First, a couple of new Singapore observations:
Here are the Western retail places I see the most
New Zealand Ice Cream
Starbucks (all over the place)
McDonalds (what a surprise)
The Body Shop (everywhere!)
Addidas and Nike Stores
MPH Bookstores (???)
Speaking of food, I tried some Indonesian food yesterday.
Sop Ayam and Bagedel Udang. The Bagadel Udang was very
good-- sort of like a crabcake, but with prawns. Sop Ayam
is, of course, just chicken soup. But with giant chicken
bones in it!
|One more observation: I love the movie theater at
Suntec City. It is called the "ENG WA
here's the cool part: When the movie is about to start, in
the place where they have the theater chain's usual graphic (like
the AMC's dancing film guy, whom I loathe), this place has a big
graphic that comes up, reading, "THE ENG WA ORGANISATION,"
(British spelling, of course-- that makes it seem even more
odd), while the music is like something from a 1970s
blacksploitation film, or the original Starsky & Hutch.
"The Eng Wa Organisation" just cracks me up. It
feels like you're about to see a Bruce Lee movie, sponsored by the
Chinese mob. Very weird, but very cool.
The Fountain of Wealth at Suntec City,
the largest mall in Singapore--
and that is saying something,
here in the Land of a Thousand Malls!
Okay, on to the latest events:
On Thursday night, we visited Chinatown. Now, to me, having
a "Chinatown" in a city/country that is 75% ethnically
Chinese just seems.... well.... like having "Good Ole Boy
Town" in Mississippi (I say it with love!). But, as
with most things here in Singapore, it is (more or less) carefully
set up and laid out to be "authentic" while still being
very crowd-friendly (tourist friendly). (Some even complain
that Chinatown in Singapore is becoming too much like a sort of
"Disney" production-- but it wouldn't be Singapore
otherwise! Dirty? Smelly? Chaotic?? Not
here, baby! Clean and orderly is the name of the game!)
|The Chinatown subway station is new, modern, and beautiful, and
lets out into a long, winding, open-air walkway lined with shops
and kiosks of all sorts. Every kitschy Chinese item you
could imagine is there, a hundred times over, along with some very
nice antiques and other nice stuff, and various traditional
Chinese food, herbs, snacks, etc.
A generic shot of Chinatown shops.
Several tailor shops, too
(and, let me tell you, the tailors in their nice suits are the
most "hard-sell" pushy touts of all! One came out
to all but grab me, saying, "Right here, boss!" I
pointed to my little lady and said, "I'm following that boss
right now!" Ha. The tai-pan cannot buy a suit,
because the tai-tai is looking at purses!)
Saturday we went to the Chinese and Japanese
Gardens, clear at
the other end of Singapore from us (we are near the eastern end,
in the vicinity of the airport). After a very long train
ride out there, with rain all day, unfortunately, we discovered
the gardens were closed for the entire month of August, in
preparation for the upcoming Lantern Festival in September.
They did let us in, though, just to look around, and between the
"closed" status and the intermittent rain, we had very
few people to compete with to see everything--which was nice, in a
place with the second-highest population density on the
planet. See the photos for more on the gardens.
|After viewing the gardens, we were starving, not having thought
to stop for lunch beforehand. So we headed to Orchard Road,
to seek out the supposed Hard Rock Cafe-Singapore. We found
it, and had a giant plate of nachos (only nachos I've found here
so far) and a giant sampler appetizer plate. It was so nice
to have a massive and dangerously unhealthy dose of cheese
After that, a quick visit to the giant Japanese-owned
bookstore, Kinokuniya, at Ngee Ann
City. This store makes Barnes & Noble look like a
small-time operation. They have just about everything you
could look for, often in both US and British editions (very
different), plus whole sections of Japanese and Chinese
books. I picked up the next Aubrey/Maturin novel in the
beautiful British edition.
Ngee Ann City from the outside, at night.
The giant Japanese bookstore, which extends
forever back from this photo.
Pubs n' stuff
Last night (Sunday), we visited "George's," a small
pub located down the hill from here. There are a row of
three English-ish pubs there, actually, but I picked the one with
tables out on the patio and a bigscreen TV showing an English
Premiere League game (I believe it was Everton and someone).
We enjoyed a nice pitcher of Tiger Beer (snagged a Tiger Beer
coaster, too!) and baskets of black pepper chicken nuggets (with a
spicy pepper jelly sauce) and enough potato wedges to sink a
battleship. Stumbling home, I reflected that not having a
car can be a good thing, sometimes! (See
new Pub and Beach photos here.)
August 8, 2005:
Went to the Singapore Zoo and did the Night Safari
on Sunday, and then today I went to Siloso Beach. See
the highlights here.
August 6, 2005:
Saturday was "Sentosa Island" day. I've been
looking forward to going out there ever since I first heard of
this little tiny island off the southern tip of Singapore's main
island, where there are beaches and amusements of various
sorts. I saved it for Saturday, probably just out of habit--
no reason for me not to go on, say, Tuesday morning or
something. And I think I probably will go back then!
Of course, I happened to pick the hottest and sunniest day since
the day I got here, to be hiking around outdoors, while the last
few days have been cooler and overcast and I've been in malls and
underground tunnels most of the time.
Everything in Singapore has a mall connected to it. No,
seriously. Going to a restaurant? They're all in the
mall. Going to a subway station? Probably a mall
connected to it. Going to the mall itself? Two more
malls are probably connected to it. Going to the post
office? Mall connected to it. Yes, the post office has
a mall and food court. It's crazy. This country's
slogan should be something like, "I'MALL Over
Singapore!" or "Come One, Come
And not only that, but everything is connected by a covered
walkway or underground tunnel. From the bus stop to the
subway station to the train to the next station to the MALL to the
MALL NEXT DOOR to the Esplanade arts center/concert hall-- I did
all that yesterday and NEVER WENT OUTDOORS ONCE.
Okay, enough of that--it's not even a complaint, it's
cool. But it's just weird. GO
HERE to look at the PHOTOS I took on my trip out to
Sentosa Island today.
August 3, 2005:
Over the past three days, I have taken the MRT (subway) to
various parts of Orchard Road, the area where many of the big
shopping malls and restaurants are. I've also figured out
how to use the bus system, so I won't have to walk so
Yesterday I visited Ngee Ann City and Wheelock Place, two big
malls with huge bookstores. I even found US books I haven't
been able to find in Atlanta! They tend to have both the US
and British covers of many books, and they're pretty
different. For example, the art on the front of the Harry
Potter books is quite different, and they have a more
"adult" version of the cover for people who don't want
to carry around the cartoonish cover version. (Not that I'm
carrying either of them around.)
The day before yesterday, I explored the area around Dhoby Gaut
station, including Plaza Singapura and Park Mall-- both heavy on
furniture stores, for some reason.
Today I think I'll head down to the CBD (central business
district) and see the statue of Stamford Raffles, the British
founder of the city, and the big buildings and so forth down
National Day is coming up on Monday, so it will be good to see
the area before it gets taken over by flags and crowds and parades
and so forth.
Some observations about Singapore, after several days of
getting around through the city:
Everything is very orderly and very clean. There are
street signs everywhere, telling you where to cross, not to
jaywalk, etc. Streets are very clearly marked. If I
can find my way around after only a couple of days, anyone
can. The buses run often and are very nice (and
air-conditioned! Hallelujah! I saw a book in one of
the stores entitled "Singapore: the Air-Conditioned
Going into Pizza Hut or McDonalds is like going into the
Ritz-Carlton in the US. You are greeted immediately by the
manager or host, and they all-but-order for you. They are
very very friendly, but in a sort of fake way, like they partly
want to be and partly are being paid to be-- but that's a far cry
from most US fast food places, where most of the teenage employees
couldn't care less about you, the customer. (Most of the
workers at fast food places I've been so far have been adults, and
very dedicated.) It is a mixture of dedication,
competitiveness, and sense of duty or obligation, I think.
Competition in the sense that they don't want to seem like their
restaurant or store is not as dedicated, nice, clean, and
generally as good as (or better than) the others.
There is an overwhelming sense from the people here of having
things orderly. I watched the security guard at the
apartment front gate writing everything down as we chatted, and
meanwhile compulsively organizing the few items on his
A funny thing at Pizza Hut, where I ate lunch yesterday.
Their menu lists a personal pizza as for one person, and the
"regular 10 inch" as for 2-3 people. Riiiiight.
They had a lunch menu, but all the pizzas came with soup. No
thanks. So I ordered a "regular" and ate the whole
thing, then ordered dessert. I wonder what they thought?
I also like how all the American food places include variations
using local ingredients. They had a Singapore Pizza with
various peppers and "chicken ham." Burger King had
a Whopper with some kind of Malay pepper sauce and vegetables on
I've tried a couple of more indigenous dishes so far, but it's
taking some getting used to. And the portions are so
small. And napkins are at a premium! If you order
anything, anywhere, you get ONE napkin. Lord help you if you
should need another. And you get exactly TWO ketchup packets
at every fast food place, and then only if you ask (they make a
big production out of pulling TWO packets out of the drawer and
presenting them to you on a tray or with both hands). I
don't know what they'd do if I asked for another.
This is all understandable, given their situation here
(everything is imported and more expensive, and there's not really
anywhere to dispose of the garbage on this island). But it
is sort of disconcerting. Not a problem at all, and sort of
Arrival, July 30, 2005:
Okay, here are some details for those interested in my trip to Singapore.
Wed., after finishing packing, throwing everything else away, and
turning in my apt. keys, and then eating dinner at Pig n' Chik with
Bobby and wishing him farewell, I realized I was homeless in downtown
Atlanta, at 8 pm, with my flight not leaving till after 8 am on
Thursday! Naturally, I headed for Barnes & Noble. It's what I do.
Three hours later, they're closing, so I head on down to the airport
to turn in my rental car. By the time their courtesy van delivers me
to the terminal, it's midnight, and I have "only" eight hours to kill
before my flight.
Three hours of pushing around a cart holding all my big suitcases
while searching in vain for a place to sit-- man, Hartsfield-Jackson
really IS the busiest airport in the world! Then, an hour of sitting.
Then, at 4 am, the American Airlines counter opens, and I reduce
myself to just two bags to carry around. They direct me to the
security line, which has not opened yet. I am first, waiting.
An hour later-- 5 am-- with a HUGE long line behind me-- they tell us
this line will not be opening. We are to go to the main security
area, at the other end of the building. So I go from being first in
line to being last. Yay. Plus, the plane I was scheduled for is
three hours late, so I will miss my connecting flight. But they
squeeze me onto the 6 am flight that is leaving at 9 am (ha). It is
good to be early.
9 am: Flight to Dallas. Uneventful. Finally get in some sleep.
Noon: arrive in Dallas, see a Cowboys football memorabilia store, and
not much else. Board the plane for Tokyo.
1 pm: Fly out to Tokyo. This is the best flight of the trip. No
clouds at all between Dallas and Seattle. I have a window seat on the
777 and can see everything the whole way. Rocky Mts, a couple of the
smaller salt lakes in Utah, Seattle area, etc. Beautiful. (Yes, the
flight path was a perfect upside-down "U" from Dallas, over Denver,
Salt Lake City, Seattle, British Columbia, along Vancouver Island, the
coast of Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, the edge of Kamchatka, the
Kuriles, and then finally down to Japan from due north. We were over
land almost the entire time. No wide-open Pacific Ocean ever.
Two good meals served on this flight. Very nice.
Tokyo-Narita Airport... interesting. Nice airport. Statuesque
Japanese flight attendants everywhere, sharply dressed. I figure out
how to make a call here by 1) figuring out how much it costs in Yen,
2) Changing 10 US dollars to 1000 Yen, 3) Trading in the yen for a
calling card, 4) figuring out how to work the payphone with only
Japanese instructions. But I did it! My biggest accomplishment so
far. And this with almost no sleep in two days.
Now comes the worst part of the trip-- the flight from Tokyo to Changi
Airport in Singapore.
I was so sleepy by this point, I slept through a couple of beverage
services and almost missed a meal. And a small Indian girl in the
seat behind me caterwauled most of the trip (9 hours), while kicking
my seat back. I kept glaring at her, but it did little good. Hard to
sleep through that, but finally I did.
Arrival at Changi Airport at midnight local time--
for me. I traded in a wad of cash (there went the TV, Luna!) for
Singapore dollars. We took a cab home, and after a more-than-30-hour
journey of both good and bad, here I am, in our three-story townhouse
in Flamingo Valley.
Since arriving, I have slept a lot, and we've been to the local
shopping centers and to the subway station to get me acquainted. Now
's at work and I'm enjoying unemployment for as long as it
lasts-- hopefully not too long!
Singapore is beautiful. But, man, it's humid. I thought I knew
humid, having lived in Alabama and in Washington, DC. But this tops
There are McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and KFC just down the road, so I'll be
hoofing it down there in a bit. Then to Orchard Road where the nice
malls and shops are.
All that remains is settling in, learning the neighborhood, and getting hired!