A Travellerspoint blog

Singapore

Singapore Sights

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This is my last entry for Singapore; obviously I left a little time ago but am running somewhat behind, but I'll get there. There's a map somewhere on this site I have plotted the points I hit post-Singapore.

This entry is really just a random collection of photos I took while in Singapore; I didn't carry a camera around very often, plus I tended to follow the same path between the hostel, work, food but in the last few days I was better about carrying the camera and discovered something about Singapore; it is really quite small, at least the central city. This is a shot I took while waiting for the Singapore Sling mentioned in the last post:

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This is how Singapore was looking by the time I'd finished:
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It was a pretty special place to hang out; I could imagine myself becoming a regular if I stayed longer in Singapore. Poor old Dunedin has NOTHING like it - maybe we should take over the top of the Forsyth Barr building and turn it into a bar?

After having my Singapore Sling, I experimented with taking a night shot (it means standing very still, as I keep failing to carry the tripod):
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then took off down a street I'd not been down before and within a couple of blocks found myself at the Marina.
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There were a fair few people promenading and, for entertainment, Singapore's National Hand bell Choir (about to go on a world tour, I understand):
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I took quite a few photos but my ability to stand still was a little lacking, so I'll keep them for my own enjoment.

The next day, my last day, I'd done all I could do at NUS so thought I'd change scene and work in the National Library of Singapore. It offers some pretty decent views, sufficient to keep one from working (these are all taken from inside the library, at the level on which I was working)!!
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Finally, a building I had often walked past and admired:
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There is nothing anywhere to say what function the building serves, so finally I went inside and found a noticeboard - it is La Salle College of the Arts.

Posted by NZBarry 07:34 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Singapore Food

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Singapore has to be one of the most fantastic places to go for food - it ranges from the very fancy to the humble foodcourt, with everything in between. About the only thing I never found was a good coffee; the best I found was the day I dozed on the bus going to work and missed my stop, only to find there was an entire Bukit Timah shopping centre one stop away from the University, which had an Italian cafe with OK coffee.

I did visit lots of food courts with a view to picking my favourite, and have three contenders. First up is the Kopitiam near the beginning of Orchard Road,
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the place I probably visited the most, because it was the place I first visited when I arrived in Singapore the first time, plus it was close, I think it stays open 24/7, has cheap beer and it has this: DSC_0154.jpg

The next I stumbled into when I went walking randomly the day I found it was a holiday so couldn't work - the Clark Quay Kopitiam gets points simply for the view:
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But loses because it does not sell beer and I didn't really go for the food:
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My winner is the place I remember most fondly from last time, a place I was convinced was going to be wrecked in the revamp, but has come out looking very good and with great food, the Raffles Shopping Food Court:
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I didn't only eat in foodcourts: I had such a great lunch, probably the best chicken curry I've ever had, at the Rendezvous Hotel
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that I went back for their buffet dinner (and failed to take a camera). I think I pretty much ate an entire steamed sea bass (so called, I believe, because it is the same size as a bass guitar) along with a rather tasty duck curry, among other stuff.

Of course, you can't go to Singapore and not have at least one Singapore Sling.
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Tastes rather like marzipan. THE place to go is of course Raffles (the Hotel, not the foodcourt) but I decided I wanted a place with a view (top floor of this, about where the light is:
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- 70 floors up).

My final experience of Singapore was rather a surprise; I was flying out of the newest terminal at Changi, and thought it was a bit lacking, until I discovered Brewerkz, who make a fine India Pale Ale but, more interestingly
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have installed a brewery in the airport. Damn expensive beer, but it didn't stop me having two.

Posted by NZBarry 12:52 Archived in Singapore Tagged food Comments (0)

National Museum of Singapore

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The National Museum is a grand building
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although it looks fairly puny in this shot
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It was established by Sir Stamford Raffles himself as a library and musuem, but its interior has been dramatically updated since his day - lots of glass and steel. I spent the better part of Sunday wandering around. First stop was Robert Wilson's "Voom" exhibit, one that did very little for me. It was a sequence of what looked like still digital images on large TV screens; close attention revealed slight movements, even a very slight narrative in some cases (maybe all, I couldn't be bothered waiting). So, one of these showed Brad Pitt holding a gun, just standing there. After I don't know how long, he lifts the gun and fires (revealing it to be a water pistol). There's about a dozen of these, none impressive. I did score a photo of Steve Buscemi chewing, with a large carcase in front of him (he may be chewing a mouthful of it, who knows?):
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(sorry about the flash - I hadn't worked out how to turn it off at that stage, damn flash new cameras!).

Next door was a much more interesting exhibition; photography of Taiwanese Chang Chien Chi who is concerned with the twinned notions of alienation and connection - the exhibit was called Doubleness, and had three sequences of photos. The first started with a couple of images of faces - to show how the Chinese read faces (by the location of moles) to discover character. [As a weird aside, I'm reading Orhan Pamuk's Black Book and a major part of that is about the history of face reading, where various parts of the face contain letters which can be read.] Anyway, the point of the mole reading is that the Taiwanese use these as the basis of arranging marriages between Taiwanese men and Vietnamese woman, around 80,000 per year. There were more than a hundred photos showing participants in the process; starting with the marriage guidance each "couple" is given, then he shows the auditioning (a bit backwards, I know) progressing through them submitting their documents for approval and on to the wedding itself. All of these wedding photos have the same backgrounds - it is later revealed that there are heaps of couples all lined up at the same table, being married simultaneously. The whole process starts on about the Tuesday and finishes on the Friday, with about a 10% failure rate. Not bad, when the whole thing looks like a shopping trip.

A second sequence was simply of men chained together in pairs; there is a monastery/asylum in Taiwan to which problem men (drug addicts, drunks, the mentally unwell) are sent. There they are simply chained to a more stable man - the only time they are not chained is when they sleep. No-one is ever released, so it is not really about rehabilitation; families simply pay to get rid of a problem. Once there, the guys are put to work - the place is also a huge chicken farm. Then his third sequence was about Taiwanese guys who head off to America to make a better life for their families.

The biggest part of the museum was devoted to a history of Singapore; this was suprisingly lame, as it was very short on artefacts, mainly a bunch of photos but with an interesting audio commentary so you could work out what was going on.

The other component was four themed sections (fashion, film, photography and food). I found the food section fascinating - videos showing how some of the classic Singaporean meals are made, the migration patterns that produced them, a few artefacts (such as the kind of cart used as a mobile kitchen) and then a room devoted to the ingredients and utensils
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Posted by NZBarry 15:49 Archived in Singapore Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Singapore Art Museum

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So, I had a bit of time spare in the weekend and a desire to do something other than stay curled up in my nicely air-conditioned (albeit tiny) hotel room watching reruns of McGyver and High Chapparel (I know, they were very tempting!). In my wanders to get food, I'd seen both the Singapore Art Museum
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and the National Museum of Singapore, and they both appealed.

The Art Museum had three collections on the go: one (the first I saw) I hated. It was the Daimler Art Collection, which is a bunch of modernist paintings (it also included the Andy Warhol "Cars" group of works (about which the New York Times said when reviewing it in 1988 there was a lot of filler and that it was hard not to feel embarrassed for the Guggenheim in exhibiting it)). If I quote some of the description of one group of works, it might become clear why I hated it:

"the pictorial elements, detached from any narrative or illustrative context, should mean only themselves, and should be simple, precise and controllable..."

And then there was a mention of "Zero Art", which is supposed to be minimalist and defy interpretation; the

"viewer was supposed to observe and appreciate the minimal object for its own qualities without deriving any additional meaning from the work."

So there were a few photos I kind of liked,DSC_01392.jpg and a couple of Warhol's car pictures - the video on endless loop of a Mercedes driving up, three women getting out and unloading a whole bunch of shoes from the boot and then bundling one of the women in; not so much. Really,
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these chairs could have just as easily been an exhibit!

Then I went to the APAD exhibition, which was of contemporary and slightly older (back to the 1950's) art by Malays. No pictures, sadly; I was busted by a security guard as I was about to take a shot. He was very nice about it and proved to be a very amiable and helpful fellow. This exhibition I liked a lot; clearly representational, rather than zero, art, with lots of colour and images of local life and icons. One particularly cute and suggestive painting was called "Tea With Mr M" where someone was sitting down to drink tea with a single M&M (with a Nike swipe just in case we missed the point).

Going into the third (Korean Contemporary Art) I was blown away by a picture simply called "Pencil 3" (by Hong Kyoung Tock). For a start, it was huge, covering an entire wall. It was comprised simply of pencils and pens, millions of them, very bright but at points merging into one another and at others creating patterns. This is a smaller version:
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He also did something called Library 3, with lots and lots of books piled up, again very bright and clean, but with some macabre touches: animal skulls lurking in amongs the books, headless mannequins and a kind of shrine covered in toys. All quite disturbing. Here's another from his library sequence:
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Then there was something done by Lee Lee Nam: he took a very classical image, such as a wee shack on an island in a river, digitalised it and then displayed it on a big screen TV. But then you'd notice subtle and very slow movements - waves rippling, a boatman punting by, a light going on. I was entranced. The third thing that got me were a few apparently simple images of people in ordinary life; when I got closer, I saw that they were blocks several centimetres deep, and the images of the people had actually been carved or moulded into the blocks: they effect was that as you walked past, you'd swear they were turning to look at you.

During my wander through, I was accosted twice by people wanting to survey me, both funny in their own way. The guy had a set of questions, but decided he could fil my answers in for me, that everything was good or very good. The woman was much more thorough, I think we talked for more than half an hour. About twenty minutes in, she realised her recorder was not, in fact recording: "no matter, I'll do a rough version iof what you've said". Some of her questions were odd, such as "If Singapore Art Museum was a person, what sort of person would they be? Would you talk to this person?" Answer: "An older person, male I think, a great respecter of tradition but open to new things, might even wear some bling and manage to look gracious with it."

SAM was about all I could cope with, so instead of hitting the Museum, I took a wander through Fort Canning Park,
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which unfortunately no longer has a fort, just its gate.

Posted by NZBarry 07:58 Archived in Singapore Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Back To Singapore

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I was sitting in the outdoor eating area in KL, drinking my frozen beer, and it occured to me that I didn't really want to leave. I won't say that I was having a good time, as I was working pretty hard, but I was feeling pretty contented and happy which is a good place to be. But earlier in the week, I'd ventured down to KL Sentral Stesen and bought myself a train ticket, so I kind of had to go. I was a little shocked when buying the ticket, as the person behind the counter seemed to be asking my age in order to find out if I qualified for an old person's discount. I was even more shocked a few minutes later. I was sitting up on the second floor, dining on what I normally eat when in foreign climes (donuts and oversweet orange juice) when I saw a train. Not so unusual, in a train station, to be sure, but this one was above my head and seemed to be right in the station concourse. Turns out it was one of KL's suburban Light Rail Network trains.

So the train ride back was pretty uneventful, with little variation in the scenery, just a few stops for the various towns. I checked out the dining car (pitiful) so stuck my nose in my book: Orhan Pamuk's Black Book. It is quite a bit more readible than the other of his I read (Snow) and seems to have a definite plot (a fellow comes home to find his wife has left him so goes in search of her (very Murakami)) but takes lots of detours on the way.

I need not have rushed back: I went out to the University on Monday and was more than a little confused to find the coffee shop shut, although there were people sitting at the tables outside. Then I discovered that the Faculty doors were locked; it was not till I got to the library that I learnt that it was a public holiday, Hari Raya Haji (i.e. to mark the Muslim pilgrims to Mecca). I had no idea Singapore would be officially closed for it (not that the shops noticed, it seemed to be business as usual for them). Since then, my week wasn't exactly the subject for a thrilling travel narrative: I worked hard and very productively, I wandered around in the evening and then used the free internet at the hostel to organise the next stages of the trip (I've even scored a free return bus trip, between Birmingham and London). I've hardly said a word to anyone since I got back, but again it has been a pretty good week.

Tuesday I did get to go to the movies at the National Museum of Singapore, part of their World Cinema series. This one was a Scandinavian black and white film made in 1966 called Hunger in which this fellow has no money (we never learn why) and is desperate to make some, but honourably: he tries pawning anything he can, and is trying to make his way by writing. But such is his pride that when he buys a candle and is given change for money he never hands over, he gives it away. An odd wee film, but curiously compelling. Friday I made the mistake of going down Orchard Road for my dinner; absolute hordes of people, and all of the half decent looking places to eat had long queues of people wating to get in. Not my idea of fun at all.

Posted by NZBarry 06:02 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

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