Monday, July 27, 2009

Singapore Sling

Today we left behind the swath of wild that is Borneo to head to the ultra modern Singapore.  Our flight to Singapore brought us through Kuching, Malaysia, where we were treated to an unexpected cultural treat.  Apparently, the ruler of Sabah (Northern Borneo) was on our flight, and when we disembarked our flight, we were afforded a glimpse of the Malaysian royal treatment.  There was a long red carpet spread out and beyond eyesight.  Droves of men and women in traditional Kuching dress were there to greet the ruler with drums, flowers, and song.  The ruler of Sabah was visiting Kuching for a summit between Malay leaders and royalty.  It was the most cultural layover ever.

Our arrival in Singapore came without incident.  The airport is very sterile and very large with the character of a sultan's shopping mall.  We are so used to hitting the ground running that we dropped our bags off in our airport hotel, headed straight for the subway station, and then just sort of shrugged our shoulders and stared at the subway map without any idea of where to go.  With no guide, we decided to go with our intuition.  We chose to buy a ticket to a stop that was an intersection of lines, and one that sounded official.  The "Raffles Place" stop became our destination, which just happened to be right in the middle of everything, with the sky grabbing buildings and a bunch of historical sites just steps away.  Singapore on a Sunday is very quiet and, of course, very clean.  Singapore has a reputation of being one of the cleanest cities in the world, with huge fines for littering, a ban on public gum chewing (and the selling of most types of gum), and other similar rules.  We were determined to find a dirty street, and after some sleuthing, we did.  I included a picture below of the horrific mess.  Funny thing, about 30 seconds after we saw the litter and garbage, we saw a woman with a broom cleaning up the mess.

We ate lunch at an English pub on the waterfront called The Penny Black.  They had a 2 for 1 lunch offer and, after realizing how expensive Singapore is, it was a welcome deal.  We both purchased lunch, and then blindsided by disappointment when the bill came.  We had to use a citibank card to receive the discount.  A citibank card that we did not possess.  We quietly bitched amongst ourselves and moved on.  That is sort of how we feel about Singapore, the whole process of buying lunch and being screwed by the fine print is a perfect metaphor for Singapore.  It is a very western, beautiful, and modern city, but you pay for it.  I dislike Singapore for the same reason that I cannot stand London, and that is because its prices defy rational economics.  Whenever I feel that a market price is far beyond what is necessary and reasonable for what a general basket of goods should cost, I feel that it incites unhealthy general economic reactions.  I will actually just stop right now, because I am sure none of you want to hear about my opinions on what I call binge and purge economics.  We were at a restaurant where a small bottle of Fiji water cost 14 Singapore dollars (about 10 US).  That is so stupid that we could never logically like a city that produces such an environment.  

After our lunch, we walked around Singapore.  We took in a cricket game and watched rich old men playing what appeared to be a bocce ball type of arrangement.  It was a relaxing Singaporean afternoon, and after felling a little parched, we stopped by Raffles Hotel.  Raffles Hotel is an institution in Singapore.  The Singapore Sling was invented there, and it a very famous and esteemed hotel that has had a lot of personalities come through its doors.  We hit up the bar where the sling was invented, and ordered two.  The long bar in the Raffles Hotel has a strange mix of old world pomp and what seemed like southern hospitality.  It felt like Georgia or something.  They supplied complimentary peanuts on each table and the floor was covered with discarded husks.  It was definitely a welcome environment from a place that we were initially worried would be too upscale for our tattered clothing.   We played "The Price is Right," trying to figure out how much the drinks would cost.  I guessed 14 Singapore dollars.  Kristin guessed 17. The Singapore Slings were 25 Singapore dollars apiece. I think that is like 18 USD.  They were very tasty beverages, but not that good.  Imagine buying a round for 8 people, yeah, not fun.

We were approached by a Buddhist asking for demanding donations.  He slapped bracelets on our wrists, and a good luck prayer paper in my pocket.  We figured we could get him off of our back for 1 dollar.  I mean, we both want all gods to find us as generous as possible, but Singapore had already broken us financially.  I gave him a dollar coin, and he asked for 50!  He showed us his sheet of donations, filled with 50 and 100 dollar donations and signatures. Hilariously, they all appeared to be in the same writing, presumably filled in by him to dupe dumb rubes.  We laughed and told him that we were poor.  He let us keep our bracelets.  But, something was still amiss.  On his sheet, I was filling in what I wished for (in writing) on his sheet, my choices being happiness or peace.  When he found out that we were a couple of brokes, he interrupted my writing, and sent us away.  As we walked off, I realized that I had not wished for happiness or peace, but instead just "Hap."  I have no idea what that means.

The Kuching Mall welcoming procession for rulers

An ornate headdress with a hornbill beak

The red carpet

What do you thing they are talking about?

Secrets among princesses

An annoying photographer

Our room in Singapore

I want to tell you about our tech, check out the pod charger, essential
for any traveler.  You only have to plug it in in one place and it charges
a bunch of devices.  It is called a callpod.  Here, it is charging 2 iphones,
a shuffle, a nintendo ds, and a psp.  Yeah, I brought two game systems.

The best underwater camera I have ever used, and I have used 3

Taking most of the pictures with this, the best "going away to Asia"
present a grandson could ever get

Happy Birthday Singapore!

Very clean

Some guy asked us if we wanted a pic, we
said yes.  This is the picture.

A good luck bird

Check out the clashing architectural styles, reminiscent of London

I saw this guy walking around, looking suspicious, so I put on the
zoom lens.

Whoa, man, nice neck.  What you see in there?

In a flash, lunch, who says you cant eat for cheap in Singapore?

Our quest for trash was getting warmer

Trash, on the street, in Singapore

Some large buildings

Some older looking colonial stuff on the water

Lots of crabs everywhere for eats

The waterfront

Probably our last self timer of the trip

Lots of plants and flowers are throughout the city, very pretty

Look who thinks she is too cool doing the "asian peace pose"

A statue

Singapore city hall

The front of the hall

A cricket pitch

We could not figure it out, seems like a fun game though

Raffles shopping arcade

Raffles Hotel


The Singapore sling

The Long Bar where the sling was invented

A nice fountain

A strange tree

There is an extreme prevalence of health
warnings in Asia, especially regarding H1N1.
We have had to fill out forms on every plane
in case of necessary quarantine.  This is a health
A Dali sculpture


  1. Justin and Kristen,
    I love your pictures-what a great education for the rest of us reading your blog.
    Love you,
    Aunt Julie and Jared

  2. She thinks she's cool but she's really not.....not.. C u guys tomorrow

  3. What a rich experience you 2 had on your monhs excursion. I so enjoyed the blog filled with learning and excitement. Justin, your writing style kept me on the edge of my seat at tims. I will miss the daily ready, but will in no way take the place of hugging your necks. Love you both. Gram

  4. Hey! I chanced upon your blog through some tech blog about the canon powershot D10. Your underwater shots are really awesome! Gotta love the couple shot underwater! And I think I might be going to get that camera because of your photo outcomes! Anyway, I'm a Singaporean and I feel very stifled by the education system here (as well as the breeding of "elitism" here) so I will most probably be going to study in the UK soon! There are nice and cheap places here, you really should have made some local friends so they could bring you around. I agree that there are many overpriced restaurants even the locals don't patronise. Those places are usually for rich western foreigners. Haha. And always read the fine prints! Anyway, great blog you have there!