Saturday, August 14, 2010

Singapore to Jakarta and back

I'm writing this on my iPod touchscreen in the Singapore airport, so we'll see how long I can type before I get sick of it. That's how it'll be between now and when I get my netbook back on the 25th. Sorry. I was planning to catch an overnight train into Kuala Lumpur tonight, but I didn't feel like taking out more Singapore dollars, schlepping to the train station, and spending the night on a train, so I dropped by the AirAsia desk and booked a flight out instead. We leave in about an hour.

So I guess I last posted from E-Ching's house Tuesday morning. Monday night I flew as far as Singapore with the CLS group (or what was left of it), But instead of gettng on the next flight up to Tokyo I grabbed my bags, and left. E-Ching's house is beautiful by any standards, and particularly so since it had all the things I'd been missing: real showers with hot water, fast Internet, even AC. Singapore's not a large country, but it was a whirlwind two days trying to pack it all in. The family has a driver, which certainly helped. My first impression of Singapore was that it reminded me of Florida - it's so much cleaner than Malang, more modern, more smoothly functioning. The first thing that hit me was the complete lack of both motorbikes and potholes on the roads. In the daylight I'd cmpare it more to Manhattan, if Manhattan only had the financial district and Curry Hill, less trash, and more palm trees. It's new, it's clean, it's tropical, and it's hugely diverse - roughly 5 million people and four official languages: English, Malay, Chinese, and Tamil. I got there the night of National Day, the Singaporean Fourth of July, so there were flags everywhere and government posters: "Fly our flag, live our dream." What elsewhere might be propaganda here just sounded like advertising.

On Tuesday we saw a government housing development - roughly 80% of Singaporeans live in one - then lnch at a hawker center and the afternoon at the zoo. The Singapore zoo is pretty famous, and rightly so. They're big on fenceless enclosures, so the only thong between you and, say, the tigers is a big ditch. Rather disconcerting at times, especially right before the feeding when they're looking hungry. Lots of free-range monkeys too. I stepped in orangutan poop. Ew. The only drawback was the weather, which we found out later was about 37* celsius, roughly 100* F, and humid as anything. I really was spoiled by Malang's cool mountain air. That night was a dinner party thrown by E-Chng's parents for the new neighbors, with some fantastic roast chicken and the first wine I'd had since May. Mmm.

Wednesday we went to Chinatown and the heritage museum there, then lunch at an even bigger hawker center downtown. Calvin Trillin, as usual, was right: the food in Singapore is pretty spectacular. Plus with the hawker centers you can eat what you lie and not worry about getting typhoid or dysentary or whatever like in Indonesia. There was a sudden downpour while we poked around Raffles Hotel - a British colonial relic if I ever saw one. Then we drove to Little India, where I bought a camping backpack for the rest of my trip and we snacked on banana parathas, a local specialty, and chai. I had barely enough time back at E-Ching's house afterwards to change into non-sweaty clothes and start printing my travel itineraries before I headed out again, this time to meet E-Ching's brother, who works as a playwright/blogger/etc in Singapore. He gave me a walking tour of the arts district, then we saw December Rains, Singapore's first Mandarin musical. Thank god for subtitles. It was just a melodramatic and over the top as you'd expect a Chinese musical to be, but fun regardless. I got home and crashed around 1.

Thursday morning I flew into Jakarta and met up with Jenny, a friend from CLS, but my typing fnger's getting tired so you'll have to wait to hear about it. Maybe on the train to Gemas tomorrow. We'll see.

Saturday morning

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