19-Sep-2007

Azhagiya Singapore

Ok. I knew the Singaporeans were obsessed with method and order. However when I looked out of my flight and saw rows upon rows of trees in neat lines and whorls, I was shocked. Heck! They surely can’t have organised woodlands.

Luckily the Asian aggression and penchant for disorder lay just below the veneer. My cabbies for the trip proved it. The first one had no clue how to reach my hotel and finally put me down outside the convention center of the hotel. The one who took me to Mustafa turned right sharply from the left lane making me get all woozy. Go, guy go.

Mustafa’s bright interiors cleared up my head though. I think the store is an ultimate test of whether you are a true shopper or not. When I saw the rows and rows of cosmetics, electronics, watches, gadgets all stocked closely together, my heart leapt up somewhat like Wordsworth’s when he beheld a rainbow in the sky. I plunged right into the crowd and snaked my way into the digital camera counter and began my crusade. This is in stark contrast to my sister who warned me to stay away from Mustafa if I wanted to keep my sanity intact. The store clearly divides the populace into candidates for shopaholics anonymous and the losers.

Shopping expeditions to other malls revealed that Singapore is a fairly expensive place and frankly India has pretty much everything (smug grin) now. So no point paying for excess baggage and a twisted back hauling an unwieldy large suitcase off the baggage carousel.

I had made a list of places to visit, which is a fairly easy task considering the Singapore tourism website is very comprehensive and given that the island itself is very small and there are not too many things to see. The Night Safari turned out to be a very surreal experience. Credit must be given for creating a very natural habitat for the animals. However, riding in a tram past a tiger ripping apart its dinner, is not exactly a natural experience. Neither is standing on the other side of a glass wall of a sleeping cheetah or patting pythons and posing for a snap. It was almost like being in the cast of Jurassic Park or Jumanji. In contrast, the trip to the Underwater World in Sentosa was excellent. Given that the closest I have come to sea creatures is on my dinner table, I found it entirely pleasant having the various fishes, crabs, sharks and whales in neat titled cages lined up on the walls. I hired an audio tour guide MP3 (Best 5 bucks spent during my stay) and slowly wandered around the exhibits listening to the evolution, history and peculiarities of each creature. The decorative sea crabs that stick bits of sponge and plants to its body were hilarious. The Japanese giant spider crab, the size of a small beanbag was terrifying. And I swear as I stood on the travelator and watched the fishes in the glass ceiling above, a stingray followed me for half the distance with accusing eyes.

Singapore’s most interesting creatures will however have to be its Chinese women. They are all petite, with clear skin and straight hair and dress everyday like they are off to attend the most important event of their lives. And what shoes they wear! Gorgeous, slim, strappy, heeled specimens that deserve not to touch the ground. Perched on these impractical footwear they walk the long distances in the malls and the MRT. My friend told me that one of the nation’s main health concerns is stress fractures and knee problems from which these women suffer. Not at all unexpected.

The one unexpected incident that did happen to me was the earthquake in Indonesia. On the third day after my arrival, I woke up and headed into the wash armed with newspapers. The front-page headlines informed me about a huge earthquake in Indonesia and assured me that tremors had been felt in Singapore. Suddenly, I could feel the tremors. I assumed it was a mere hallucination caused on account of the newspaper article and general morning grogginess. Unfortunately, the tremors continued. Changing into more respectable clothes lest I had to run down was the work of a moment. Then peering out of the window of my 34th floor room, I noticed no one seemed to be running. Then worried I would fall out and die if my window glass cracked, I leapt back a bit and opened my room door and checked for tremor-proof activities. Nada. By then, the tremors had stopped. Later on I found out that there had indeed been some vibrations.

During the weekend, I stayed with friends who were kind enough to take me for a long walk pointing out the important sights and sounds of Singapore (Merlion, Raffles quay, Boat quay, Parliament building) and fed me well. In five days I had seen quite a bit and was feeling claustrophobic from being on such a small island. My body clock was still grappling with the challenge of the 2.5 hours time difference and when I got into the plane back, I slept like a baby.

It was a good visit but certainly not what I would rate as must see. Combining Singapore with some other South East Asian country would probably be a better idea.
p.s. The post title is taken from the slogan used to advertise Singapore when I was a kid and used to enthrall me with the wonderous possibilities in the country.

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