The original Liberty Port destination was Hong Kong. So I bought a ticket for Hong Kong. Luckily, I planned to be away for about three weeks, so when the port was moved to Singapore (farther west and thus farther into the future on the calendar), it was just a matter of having to buy ticket to Singapore. (Cheaper than buying a ticket from California to South Dakota.) And why not? It's not like I saw *everything* when I was there last. Although, since I did see quite a lot in 2009, I won't be in tourist-mode hyper-drive, and the visit will be more relaxed. Poor MB can get lots of hotel-and-sleeping-in-a-real-bed time. As much as he wants, maybe. So I will be in Hong Kong for a couple of days, and then I will fly to Singapore. And then I will fly to Bangkok (yep) and journey to wherever else I have time to visit in SE Asia (via bus, via plane? who knows?!?! modern infrastructure in SE Asia is the limit!), and then I will fly back to Hong Kong (maybe another day or two there if I missed out on anything a couple of week previous), and then I will fly home.
Also, I expect to see J-Dawg in Thailand. Yay!
...So that is my big news. I'm excited. This time I'm fairly certain my passport is in order.
While thinking about my upcoming trip, I reviewed a couple of the blog posts I wrote about the first Singapore experience. I was a much more prolific blogger back then, but I also happened to be extremely busy (with trips to Two Harbors, MN and South Dakota, then San Diego, and then the whole business with moving to California to be with my boyfriend and taking a Great Western Road Trip en route), and I never got around to writing much about Singapore. So I thought I'd post a bunch of photos of the trip. And then when I post more photos of Singapore II in a couple of months, we can all laugh about how much younger MB and I look a mere five years earlier, and it will be sooooo funny and totally not depressing at all.
This was our room. Even though it was after midnight when we arrived at the hotel, we still ran around the room, bouncing everywhere, playing music and drinking champagne. (At least, that's how I remember it.) When I went to take shower (international plane ride), MB insisted I take a glass of champagne with me. (Because...decadence?) Of course, I promptly dropped it in the shower. Glass went everywhere. Party time. The next morning, I woke up in a way I've never woken up, not up until then and not even five years later: my head was at the foot of the bed, under the covers, and my feet up by my pillow. I don't toss around much when I sleep, I don't sleep walk or talk in my sleep, either...this was seriously weird. At first I thought it was because I was on the other side of the world, but the I remembered that Singapore is still in the Northern Hemisphere, by one degree. So how did I get turned upside down?
When I stepped out of a cab into the Singapore midday sun for the first time, I was shocked by how oppressive and HOT it was. One degree above the Equator! So I had to do things to keep cool, like go on a boat ride, and tour an air-conditioned museum, and buy this grape pop in a mall.
Whoops I failed to take a photo of the herds of cattle roaming through the skyscrapers of Singapore in a vain attempt to traverse the Cavenagh Bridge.
We did stop in the Asian Civilisations Museum for an hour or two because it was being blasted on the inside by air conditioning. Luscious, wonderful air conditioning. The photo above is my photo of one of their photos on display, a recording of what the Singapore River used to look like: covered in houseboats and trades-boats. Before I arrived in the city, I thought I would find the old river culture intact, just like when I traveled to Chichen Itza and I thought I'd be able to climb the pyramids. Wrong on both accounts. My knowledge of the world is apparently derived from National Geographic magazines from the 1960s.
I love how even-handed the recounting of history is in the ACM. Here's a transcript of the display:
Clean Rivers Project
The Clean Rivers Project was initiated by the Ministry of Environment in October 1977. The $200-million scheme aimed to alleviate the pollution of the Singapore River and other waterways over ten years.
Apart from the physical challenge of cleaning up hundreds of tons of debris, there was the awkward job of changing the River's entire social, cultural and economic landscape. Seemingly overnight, long-time denizens of the Singapore River - lightermen, shopowners, food hawkers and residents - had to comply with new stringent regulations or leave their waterway.
The removal of the lighters
On 31 August 1983, the last 300 twakow (lighters) on the Singapore River were piloted out to new berths in Pasir Panjang. The removal of these key elements of the riverscape brought its history as as a trade waterway to an end.
Their absence only accentuated the Singapore River's new silence and stillness. People felt the loss keenly: the boats and the Singapore River had formed a natural whole, their fortunes intrinsically linked. They were, as one lighterman put it, like the scales on the 'belly of the carp', the auspicious nickname for the crescent formed by Boat Quay. Remove the scales, and the fish would die.
In 1987, the Clean Rivers Project ended on a resoundingly successful note. Its success was commemorated by a mass swim in the Singapore River. The old waterway was officially clean.
But the River had lost more than dirt and debris: the tide of change had also washed away its thriving, vibrant history as a trade waterway. By comparison, its newly-cleaned water now also appeared characterless and sterile.
Here is a view of the historic Cavenagh Bridge, taken during the aforementioned riverboat tour. The ACM was not kidding about the sterility and quietude of the river. It was still pretty, though.
The Merlion! The halfway point (at which the boat turns around and heads back to the origin point) of our riverboat tour was the Merlion, a representation of the "national personification" of Singapore. The lion part comes from the name Singapore, "Singa" for lion.
Another view of the Merlion, with Singapore's famous cluster of downtown skyscrapers in the background, and the historic Fullerton Hotel on the right.
Here we are at the end of the tour! There were only two other riders - a man and his son. We drank Tiger beers during the ride (that MB hid for the photo). I think someone was selling them next to the ticket stand for the tour.
Room service, at one point. I was craving satay and a Coke, and MB was craving more Tiger beers. They cost a *fortune* at the hotel.
Dinner at one of the restaurants in the hotel. MB kept ordering champagne for us because he had no idea how expensive it would be to move me to California in a couple of months. It was cute of him, though.
Awwww... We were so teeny and adorable back then!
On one of the days, I insisted that we walk through Little India. Turns out, I *adore* Little India.
Hindu statues. I tried not to be too touristy with my camera (as far as a white, wide-eyed, Western woman can attempt to not be too touristy in the Little India section of a SE Asian city), because Little India is just people living their lives. Except for a few trinket shops, there wasn't a commercialized section dedicated to hawking watered-down representations of Little India to the gullible masses.
This is a "five foot way" in Little India. Many of the streets in this quarter are built this way, with five feet of depth from the first floor overhanging the ground-floor, providing shade and cover for the sidewalk.
An offering. (This is common - we saw offerings everywhere. I promise this wasn't just someone's unattended lunch.)
Another scenic five foot way.
As we were wandering further away from the main Little India thoroughfare, it suddenly started to rain, and we didn't happen to be in a five foot way. So we decided to duck into a quiet restaurant for what the menu advertised as "traditional Singaporean fare." (Looks like I'm drinking a Coke again. I can't explain it - I don't drink pop in my everyday life, but I craved Coca Cola most of the time I was in Singapore.) Regrets: That we didn't eat at an Indian restaurant?! Also: That I didn't note what kind of traditional Singaporean fare we snacked on. Luckily, I am getting another chance to do such things!
Later on the agenda: Singapore Slings (because duh) in the Long Bar at the historic Raffles Hotel, the originator of the Singapore Sling.
Fun Fact: Singapore Slings taste like cough syrup. Historic, colonial cough syrup!
Historic, colonial fans in the Long Bar.
(This was before MB had fully cultivated his "MB loves" expression. He wasn't used to my constant camera-ing yet, and he was in love, aw.)
Here is the Civilian War Memorial in Singapore. During the WWII, the British lost Singapore (a British colony at the time) to the Imperial Japanese Army, after the Battle of Singapore. Horrors ensued, which I will only link, because they are sad. The four pillars represent the four ethnic peoples of Singapore.
Amanda, with downtown Singapore and the Merlion, and The Fullerton in the background
Coercing MB into a couples' selfie, above. He had to report back to the ship after this day, and I had another day in Singapore on my own, before flying out myself. (The embarrassing reason for my abbreviated visit to Singapore is discussed in the link above that refers to my passport being in order.)
And here's the other day in Singapore! This is Orchard Road, a huge thoroughfare filled with giant, multi-level malls - on every block. That's right. Not a mall. Not "a couple malls." A mall on every block. There are other significant buildings - I remember passing the Royal Thai Embassy. But the malls made the biggest impression. And the trees. Those massive trees! I gaped at the trees, wondering if they'd been planted when the road was constructed (they must have, since they are uniform to the road), which couldn't have been too long ago, in tree-time, as Singapore was a mere fishing village in the mid-19th century. (That the British snagged for its valuable location in trade purposes.) And had the trees grown so large, so fast, because the natural state of this part of the earth is "jungle?"
These photos are just highlights. After wandering, stunned, down Orchard Road (and buying a few things, what the hell why not), I found a subway station (subway as in USian underground train) and figured out how to "work" the fare and the riding of the train. I took it to Fort Canning, the mound of land that forms a large park in the middle of the city. Here is an escalator one can use to travel into the park.
But before exploring the park, I decided to hit up a couple of museums. No need to choose between the Singapore Art Museum and the National Singapore Museum when you can go to both! And they were both pretty great. SAM features a respectable collection of modern art (including the heart-emblazoned tanks in this post). The National Singapore Museum contains a thorough history of everything about Singapore, ever. It was extremely interesting (apologies for the vague superlatives), actually, and I again admired the even-handed recounting of uglier details, such as the sad history of prostitution in the city, which was illustrated with an interactive display, including models of humans in replica shacks, and recorded voices telling these women's stories. However, the second museum was so thorough, I wasn't able to look at absolutely everything, and still catch some daylight for Fort Canning.
Fort Canning is for lovers. (I'm not going to post more Fort Canning shots. It's a park with trees and grass, fashioned on a large hill. You get it. Pretty though.)
Oh, I guess this self-portrait is in Fort Canning. The sun wasn't working with me, but there I am! City in the background.
These are statues featuring Singa, The Courtesy Lion! I looooooved Singa The Courtesy Lion. He was everywhere. He was adopted as part of the "Singapore Kindness Movement," which I also love. The Singapore Kindness Movement! Doesn't that sound wonderful? And a little culty? It's not a cult, though, it's a non-profit that was started by government officials. And what are the goals? To influence people to be gracious, kind and considerate to each other. That's so...lovely! I love it so much.
Alas, alas!!! While looking up Singa The Courtesty Lion again for this post, I discovered some alarming information. Singa The Courtesy Lion QUIT. Seriously! He resigned. From his resignation letter:
I suppose it's about time. After all, I've been doing this for over 30 years - first, as the Courtesy Lion, and more recently, as your mascot for kindness. I'm just too tired to continue facing an increasingly angry and disagreeable society.WHAT. Whoa! I hope everything is okay and that people still care about being kind! Singa said it's time for the mascot to step aside and for real people to step up. This all sounds sensible, but I'm a believer in the power of symbols. Why not have kindness statues everywhere reminding people to just BE NICE to each other? Hmph. Maybe people are just annoyed with them.
I'm not, though! Singa resigned last year, but I hope I still see him when I visit.
ANYWAY. After Fort Canning, I walked through the city toward Chinatown. Here is a cool photo of spiral staircases in the backs of buildings.
Chinatown was packed with the usual tourist trinkets, fish mongers, lights and colorful paper and cloths. When I'd toured the whole business, I hit a street filled with hawker stalls for more satay - which was infinitely better than the hotel satay, so much so that I was quite surprised - and more Coke.
It was my last night in town.
And there ya go. Singapore recounted, a mere five years after the trip!