I *heart* Singapore!
Singapore Travel Blog› entry 3 of 13 › view all entries
Well today started with a loud beep, a startled gasp and then a quick 'room service!' I flung my top half up to see beyond the wall between me and the door only to greet the poor woman with a groggy, eyes-half-closed, Medusa-haired grunt, which she either accurately translated as a 'no' or desperately ran away from in fear! I gave credit for this incredible sleep to my amazing bed AND the highly effective block out curtains until I realised that I don't actually have a window! I always thought sleeping outdoors in my swag was the best night sleep on offer but as it happens the best sleep will come when you are in an element-free cell!
After over eating at a European-style buffet breakfast (complete with Australian Beerenberg Honey - beers n burgers; sounds Aussie enough to me!) and indulging in a hot bath I got my day started at about midday. I wasn't in any rush as it was a public holiday so not much would be open anyway. It was time to explore Little India, which is such an amazing place. So different to the sterility you expect to see in SIN. There are colourful mosques; shrines that
are filled with bright red ornaments, fluoro pink flowers and big mandarines surrounded by the smoke and scent of incense as offerings to the Gods for Chinese New year; people meander with no evident purpose or deadline; and the
sounds of beeping horns and Indian music fill the air. Also, the men. Aaaaaaaaaall of the men! Seriously, for every hundred men I see I would be lucky to see one women. And no children now I think of it. It's really strange. The main streets are a little different but in the backstreets and alley ways it's just men.
I had my first truly authentic experience as I was wandering around and it really made me feel like a local! I stepped into the street without looking, was beeped at by an oncoming truck and DIDN'T die!!! When I was being shuttled from Changi to the Moon it had felt so good when we came off the highways and into the back streets and the driver maintained his speed and simply used his horn to not hit anyone. It had felt so good because I wasn't expecting any kind of chaos in Singapore so when I then became one of the people being beeped at it felt like I had slipped into the realm of Little India and noone would have known that I was an outsider! I will say that it is a fine art to walk along
seeing nothing but the colour of the shops around you, smelling nothing but the food wafting through the air and hearing nothing but the music emitting from places unseen all the while NOT being hit by a car, stampeded by pedestrians or breaking your neck on the uneven path beneath your feet! Yet I managed to pull it off :D Aside from my skin colour though you could definitely tell I was foreign because each time my trance was broken by the intrusive sound of a horn my feet would pick up into a quick trot and my right hand would rise in a courtesy wave!
As I continued to not be hit, stampeded or tripped over I would let the colour guide me. If it was colourful or eyecatching then I would turn down that road and follow it, asking unsuspecting locals for explanations as they walked past. This explorative strategy served me well when I heard the sounds of drums and saw men loading a big red dragon head into the back of a truck at the end of an alley. I followed the alley down and at the adjacent street, down to the left were the drummers standing outside the shop. I went to do the touristy thing and take photos of the drummers but quickly realised there were two Silver dragons dancing around inside. The space they were in was tiny and they were throwing themselves up and all over the place in their dance taking up the whole space. When the music stopped and the dragons left I hung around to see what I could learn. Needless to say when I stepped inside the shop straight after the dragons left it didn't occur to me to look at the floor in case they had somehow magically placed a display of mandarine pieces on the floor in the last split second. Unfortunately that is what happened and I almost stepped on them! The woman, Sharon, who ran the joint almost crash tackled me to the floor preventing the ignorant tourist from squashing her offering to her God!!! Oops :s Anyway, all was quickly forgiven as I asked her questions about what was going on. She told me lots of things most of which I didn't understand; her English was good but accent very thick. Not sure why but mandarines are everywhere for the new year. Trees of them outside building entrances, pieces and full fruits sitting on the shrines. What I did manage to get a grasp of was that one of their shrines was to wish the spirits in Hell a Happy New Year! They also do depossessions every Saturday night so they gave me their business card saying I was always welcome because I had taken the time to ask questions! They said they are healers and that their joint is a temple but it really just looked like a seamstress shop or something. I didn't get it but if I'm ever back here on Saturday, they can be sure to see me ;)
One other, more decorative tradition for CNY is plastic flowers. You see bunches of them, particularly fluoro pink ones on the shrines but also o CNYE everyone was walking around with more tasteful stemmy ones that people put in
urns at teir front doors. I aasked a girl in the street on my first night what everyone was doing with them. She said they take them home and tie ribbons around tem for decoratio. They can have them in their houses for up to 15 days
into the new year.
Anyway, I eventually made my way by train to Clarke Quay. It could be Darling Harbour or Southbank but you would probably find more Asians in these places! Haha, nah it's not that bad for the most part but you will find certain
restaurants predominantly full of expats. Restaurants line the Singapore River and it is suuuper expensive and Burger King sells beer! So weird. I took a really shit River boat cruise along the Singapore River, which rivals the Brisbane River for colour, you know, like you've added a few tablespoons of peanut butter and cream to your morning coffee!
It was a pretty drizzly afternoon and it was getting late so I decided to head to China Town for dinner. I headed off without a map, which means that I never made it to China Town! What it did mean was that I got to walk all the way home through an area that I had thought I wouldn't get to see. A shopping district that was alive but barely by big-city standards due to the public holiday. I had wanted to walk all the way from China Town to Little India and this was on
the way though being a shopping district it was certainly not a place I was going to go out of my way to play in.
I made it back to Little India and found myself a hole-in-the wall spot to eat. At least it felt that way for all of the weaving I did through the backstreets to get there! Actually it was located on the corner of a main road! But the
manager was really nice to me despite it being so busy that there was actually no space for me to eat my meal. So I ordered the Butter Chicken, which sounds lame but a sizzling hotplate of food had been served near me and I literally
choked on the fumes from the chilli so I figured best to stick with a dish I know will be mild. And at least then I could compare it with that at home. That plan failed because I'm not a fussy eater and can't remember the flavour or
rate of satisfaction of every butter chicken I've ever eaten. Anywho, not important. So I'm waiting for my takeaway butter chicken and cheesy naan then I start paying attention to their takeaway vessels. Not a container like back
home. They serve the meat and sauce in a plastic bag very much like what you would take home having just bought a gold fish! I felt like I should be throwing a ball at a target for the meal, not handing over cash! It was so funny! I had wished that there were grassy areas in Little India so me and my little curry-fish could go for a picnic by night. Imagine my surprise when no sooner had I thought this thought that I look up across the road and see my first grassy area in Little India! Unfortunately it had rained all afternoon so I couldn't sit on it and instead settled for a piece of concrete above a foot and a half deep gutter. I tried to eat my food with a spoon but ended up defaulting to my hands.
I hadn't really interacted with many people in Little India. I never felt unsafe even in the side streets at night, it was just that everyone was in their own world. Generally everytime I looked up there would be at least one old man staring at me but other than that I moved around unnoticed, which I kind of liked actually. But as I sat there negotiating my bag of sauce and 3 little pieces of chicken (on the bone! Never had my butter chicken like that) a man approached me. He'd been standing around on his phone for ages and when he was done he told me that he was talking to his family in Pakistan. He was in SIN on business as he exports bed sheets. After a bit of idle chit chat and me thinking how nice it was that he was practicing his English on me, he points to his hotel and invites me up! Well I never! I said in a very strong voice 'definitely not, no!' He gestured as if 'are you sure?' Me: 'That is a bad offer, a very bad offer! Have a lovely night. Goodbye!' Haha! Then as I got up my damn thong fell into the gutter below me and I shrieked for fear it would float away in the water but I managed to retrieve it and a handful of my dignity without too much trouble and walked away!
I *heart* Singapore! X!