Thursday, 9 December 2010

Singapore - The first hawker centre

Hello everyone!

When I left Korea, the temperature was a little bit higher than 30. Conversely, my destination, Singapore, was hovering just below 30. One is in Celsius, the other in Fahrenheit. I'll leave it for you to decide which ones match.

Needless to say, it was damn hot when I got off the plane at Changi International Airport, even though it was just before 10pm. I'm staying with a Singaporean - a friend from university called Jason. So whilst I've been to this city-state before with my parents, I was guaranteed a different experience. Jason has a rather good job - he is the Americas Directorate for the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Basically, he has a job that most who undertook my major in Manchester would happily kill for. Which makes it all the stranger that he majored in Geology...

The consequences of this job are that he is an incredibly busy, incredibly stressed young man. And, of course, that he had to work on the Friday. So after a long-overdue sleep, I was left to my own devices to explore until he was free at 7pm. He and his delightful mother compiled a list of activities for me to accomplish, which in turn would give me the more local experience of this diverse metropolis.

Jason's mother is wonderful. She made me a Singaporean breakfast - a pork floss sandwich. I don't normally eat too much when I'm in travel mode, but I have a feeling that this adventure may be a bit fatter for me. Fully charged, I set about walking around the city, and saw a part of Singapore that tourists are not supposed to see. I ended up walking through sewage under a bridge - my justification here is that the walkway, well, isn't finished - and came across a load of migrant workers, who all looked ill and exhausted, sleeping on blocks of wood or in hammocks.

This was one of many things I saw that I wasn't expecting. Another was the sheer volume of Christmas decorations. I had forgotten that it was the season to be jolly as I was busy sweating in the humidity. Decorations are everywhere. Even the famous Raffles Hotel has been spoiled somewhat by having bright red wreaths hanging in the famous lawn area. I haven't really given much consideration to Christmas - that will change when I get home, I'm sure.

Although being slightly disturbed by the mass of white people and the volume of English being spoken, I still feel far away from home. The weather is important here, obviously, but I am actually having a little difficulty understanding people. The accent is so strange, and locals speak so fast, so that it actually can be a challenge. It was bizarre that I felt more at home in Chinatown, where it was more common to hear Cantonese, than I was in the malls of Orchard Road. Going home is going to be weird. It would be worse if I was heading straight home, though.

When I mentioned the weather, I talked in a positive tone. I forgot to mention that it is rainy season. Luckily I was close to my destination - the Peranakan Museum, which is an interesting look at the people who are closest to being indigenous in Singapore - when the darkening skies unleashed themselves.

The rain had relented whilst I chatted to a Malay girl in a bookstore - she had picked up a Korea travel book, and if that isn't a conversation opener for me then I may as well give up on life - so I went to the Botanical Gardens, conveniently close to Jason's top-secret office. Which is guarded by men with little guns, apparently.

He took me to a hawker centre. think food stalls, but about fifty of them. All selling delicious food. On the cheap. And you mix and match, and create a meal. I've never had stingray before. I can see why Steve Irwin died for one (come on, enough time has passed to make jokes now). It was divine.

All of the food was, actually. Big fan of the satay - I'm sure more of that will be munched on in Malaysia itself. That's for tomorrow - an evening flight to Kota Kinabalu, and a new country. Well, the Borneo part of it anyway. Welcome to the jungle!

Love you all


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