Saturday, October 07, 2006


The pics:1. Evening view of Singapore, 2. Kampong Glam (Muslim quarter), 3. Indian temple in China Town, 4. Magic Carpet by Xu Bing, 5. Lotus with Chinese Calligraphy

We spent a whole week in Singapore, staying at the place of a good friend of mine (whom I had met when studying in China ages ago!). Some people just stay a couple of days in Singapore, and then go on somewhere else (Bali, for example), but we actually enjoy spending some time at one place, to soak it up and appreciate the little details you might miss on a shorter visit.

Things we enjoyed (in NO particular order):

- How orderly and efficient everything is! I hear some residents get tired of that, they even call it boring, but we had no problem at all finding all the appropriate indications at the appropriate places, being able to use public transport with zero fuzz, having easy access to information about whatever we thought of doing, etc. etc. So what if you have to pay a fine of some thousand Singapore dollars if you bring a smelly durian (a fruit typical of this area, with a VERY strong rot-like smell) into the subway! LOL

- The Night Safari! The Singapore Zoo is open at night, and I loved walking the trails in semidarkness, getting surprised by HUGE flying squirrels (honest, HUGE), and having our trail blocked by a bat hanging from a branch. A bat with a wingspan of 1.5 metres or so, mind you. I loved it. My habib didn't quite fancy the squirrels or the bat, especially since we were so close to them, but that sort of made it more fun for me (I'm evil).

- Swimming with dolphins: We spent about an hour training with pink dolphins. First time in our life we ever touched one! It's so weird looking at them in the eye, and realising this is another intelligent mammal. And playing with them is loads of fun!

- Nightlife: NO complaints here. NONE.

- Xu Bing! This is a Chinese artist who does amazing things involving Chinese characters and things that LOOK like Chinese characters. We had seen "Book of Heaven" in Hong Kong, and now we got to see "Magic Carpet". A whole carpet, maybe 5m x 5m, filled with "Chinese characters" which, when looked up close, reveal themselves as actual English words whose letters have been modified and placed to resemble Chinese characters! wicked! you have to see it to understand it. It was Singapore's Biennale, and we got to see a number of interesting works of art besides Xu Bing's. For example, at the Kuan Im Temple there was this big stone recipient with lotuses, and the stems and leaves had Chinese characters engraved on them! Check out the pic!

- Food, glorious food, Indian, Malay, Chinese, fusion...

- And more art: there was a special exhibition of Japanese Noh theatre! Having been in Japan and seen a full Noh performance, we were more than ready to appreciate this exhibition. I have to tell you, the way the exhibition was presented... the lighting, the way things were placed, they really took their time to put on display some select works of art and make them look even more incredible than they were. When you see how some museums in other countries treat their most important cultural treasures...

- And malls of every size, one of which includes what has become one of our favourite bookstores: Kinokuniya! Books in English on whatever you want and need. We went at least 3 times, and bought enough to get us into trouble at the airport when checking in to fly back to Beijing...

We had a fantastic time. Singapore for just 2-3 days? No way, at least a week.