Thursday, October 28, 2004
Monday, October 18, 2004
Days in Singapore
I just got back from a 9 day trip to Singapore. Exhausted still and my body is aching all over from the heavy loads of bags and the serious walking and climbing and jumping all over town.
If given a choice I wouldn't have gone to Singapore (because a vacation without a good beach is not worth it for me), but since my Sister has been stationed there for a couple of months, I thought, why not ? The apartment she's staying is too big for her anyway. It was my first time there and I was a bit excited and nervous.
My passport was only ready on the 5th of October and my ticket was on the 7th at 9.00 pm, by coach of course. It took me more than 10 hours to get to Johore Bahru first and then another half and hour to get to the other side to Singapore. I was freezing to death all the time I was on the coach. It was cold like crazy! The coach was supposed to take me to Beach Road which is quite far from Hougang, so said the driver and he suggested me to take a cab or a bus or MRT instead, at Woodland Old. And there I was among the whole bunch of Singaporeans (and Malaysians working in Sg) who were going to work, waiting for the bus to take me to the nearest MRT station in Woodland. Riding the bus I had the first glimpse of Singapore, the clean and beautifully painted blocks.
I reached my sister's apartment at about 11 am, and the time taken also included the breakfast I had at McDonalds below her apartment. The fully furnished and serviced apartment was beyond comfort and not bad at all. The pool was big and they have a sauna and a small gym. My holiday had just begun !
Singapore is like one huge city, the whole of the country is a city and like many other big cities in the world, you'll find people rushing here and there running for the bus and for the MRT especially during peak hours, before and after office hours. In between these two times, the MRT wont be that packed and you get to choose anywhere you like to sit on the bus. I love the double decker and would always sit in the front row of the upper deck, simply to get the view of the beautifully painted blocks. I took many photos of the blocks and the people too. My sister bought me the EZ Link Card which is very convenient when you go around on the bus and the MRT. You can just tap the card on the 'reader' and you're off to go anywhere your heart desire. During my stay there I've topped-up the card for about three times which was SGD10 for every top-up.
There's a shopping mall in every MRT stops and the utmost heaven for all shoppaholics would be the "Orchard Road". My sister and I spent the whole day at Orchard Road and we still didn't cover everything. We took the Saturday morning of MRT and reached the famous road at about 9 am and by the time we got back it was almost 10.30 pm. We went again for a new dress for my sis and this time we dropped by first at Dhoby Ghout's MRT station where "Plaza Singapura" is before we took a 5 minutes walk to one of the malls in Orchard Road.
All the times when my sister was at work, my days would start with a morning swim at the pool. The pool was quite big and as everybody's working, I had the pool all for myself. I would later catch a bus to the nearest MRT station, that is Yau Chu Kang and would venture the malls at every MRT stops. I had lunch with my sis and her colleague one day and later caught the MRT to Pasir Risk Park for a walk. I rented an in-line skate and had a breeze rolling around the park which was situated next to the beach. No, the beach was not meant for swimming, but its still a beach anyway.
Mingling around the Chinese Singaporean I observe one thing, there's no aura of resentment towards the Malays, the minority, a contradiction as to what happens in Malaysia. The Chinese there are more relaxed towards the Malays. They have nothing to hate about the Malays; they have the power and the economy is on their side. Unlike in Malaysia where you can feel and sense the resentment among both races. The Chinese here resent the fact that they Malays get all the privileges plus the political power and they always feel that they are second class citizens. But the Chinese here unlike the Malay Singaporeans have control of the economy power which is to the resentment of the Malays in Malaysia. The Chinese in Malaysia turn their resentment towards economy and the Malay Singaporeans turn their resentment towards religion. It is only by my own observation and it's a very general statement. I feel that the Malays in Singapore are relatively more religious than the Malays in Malaysia.
One Malay taxi driver told me that the Malays in Singapore are oppressed because everything is controlled by 'them' the Chinese. I said to him "What didn't kill you, would make you stronger". The Malays in Singapore must be strong spiritually and physically just like the Chinese in Malaysia. But as almost all Malay Singaporeans are Muslims, it is actually one big advantage that they must never take for granted. The religion should be their source of strength hence my statement that they are more religious is not a matter of choice, they have to. It is sad because many young Malays in Malaysia take for granted of what they have here. They do not have to worry even if they don't get good results in their exams because eventually the government would somehow help them and get the jobs for them, unlike their counterparts, the Chinese and Indians where the quota for them to enter university is still not enough to cater their intake, even when strings of As are attached. Maybe what the taxi driver said is true "The spoilt Malays in Malaysia should be thrown here to Singapore, so they will learn a lesson or two".
As obvious as it looks, the populations of Singapore are mostly Chinese. The only time I saw many Malays was when I went to Geylang. As Ramadhan was nearing at that time, they had some sort of celebration to welcome the fasting month. There were beautiful lights everywhere and the place was crowded. We were there checking the curtains for Mom for the Hari Raya. I didn't know much about curtains and all, but I can bet that any moms would be crazy shopping there as the things they have there are all beautiful. It is still cheap even if the prices are converted to Malaysian Ringgit.
Talking about curtains, I must never omit to mention this one shop "Spotlight". Its from Australia and the material and all are from that country. My sister went crazy after discovering the shop as there are so many things to choose from. There was a sale at that time and my sister got a beautiful cloth for curtains for only SGD1.99 when the actual price was SGD8 something. You can find Spotlight somewhere in Tempinese on the basement next to Swensons and one at Plaza Singapura.
If you're a Malaysian, never try convert the SGD to MYR before you attempt to buy anything because you will end up buying nothing. The SGD is stronger than MYR. For SGD1 the MYR was about 2.38 ( at the time I was there ). So, a plate of "nasi goreng" (fried rice) there cost me about MYR10 ! Almost all fast food outlets in Singapore are Halal and you don't have to worry finding a Muslim stall in every food court, because it seems that they have some sort of requirement that every food court must at least have one stall for Muslims. There's one food court which are all Halal in Simei. I cant recall the name of the place, but its just next to Simei MRT station. You can have Chinese and Western foods and even Japanese which are all Halal.
I managed to experience the first two days of Ramadhan there in Singapore. On the first day I went to Bugis and found a nice big mosque, the Sultan Mosque. I had my 'solat' there and later visited the Ramadhan Bazaar next to the mosque. And while I was there I saw the biggest and ugliest curry puff, compared to the small and nicely trimmed curled on the side of Mak Pah's curry puffs. The crowd at the bazaar was not as big as the ones we have here in Malaysia. Again, the Malays there after all are minority. There were two blocks of shophouses near the mosque which were occupied by the Muslims. I saw a number of Muslims mingling around the bazaar and a few restaurants they have there, waiting for the breakfast. I bought a 'kebab' from the bazaar and got myself a light coke from the mamak shop before I went and had my breakfast somewhere near the Bugis MRT station. The moment I stepped out of the blocks and the Mosque area, the Malays are out of sight too. Maybe its breakfast time and they are all at home.
I wish I had more time and money to discover all of Singapore. Nine days were actually long enough, but I was so laid back and didn't make enough attempt to have a good adventure. Perhaps it was because of my notion, that a vacation must have a good beach. I forgot that I should take advantage of finding the soul of the country I was visiting instead of thinking that it's all about shopping, because for me and for most, Singapore is all about shopping. But the irony of it all is that I don't fancy shopping at all in the first place. I should have gone out of that thinking. I should have been me and be more adventurous. Maybe, insya Allah, my next trip to other countries wouldn't be the same.
Oh.. I cant wait to discover Jakarta !!!
cK: If you want to 'nganga' (hang around doing nothing) there, you might as well do it here in Alor Setar