Singapore May 2006 - January 2007
Quiet times in Singapore
So I spent another month in Singapore but there is not to much to write about. I spent too much time in the office and not enough exploring the city. I'm not in a travellers mood whatsoever. I explored the numerous shopping malls around town without buying anything. I cycled again but it's just too hot during the day, at least the days I choose. At night there is the occasional indiepop event and if not we just meet up for dinner and drinks. We celebrated my 'One Year on the road' on the 22nd, it really seems a long time ago that I left London. I also went to the night Safari with Regina and Jaspal, it's a big night time zoo with 900 nocturnal animals. I haven't been to a zoo for ages and I'm not a big fan, but this one was different and there are no cages either which is nice.
Cycling in Singapore
The 17th of June used a be a national holiday in West Germany, where we celebrated a political uproar in East Germany in 1953 and when the East Germans finally joined the west in 1990 they scrapped that holiday for the new Reunification day on October 3rd. Anyway I out and about today for the full day for the first time since I arrived in Singapore 3 weeks ago. I borrowed Kent's nice mountain bike and explore the island a bit. First I cycle along the east coast which is a long park like recreational area. The whole thing reminds me a bit of Chicago lake side with the skyscrapers in the south and the sea in the east as well as really fancy apartment high rises along the coast. On the other hand even though it gets hot in Chicago you don't get your palm trees there. There are many boats out on the sea, some days ago I was at the Microsoft offices which are on the 22nd floor in a building right on the waterfront and the view from up there was great, you could see the whole harbour with loads of big ships.
The roads are pretty empty on Saturdays except in the main shopping areas. Later in the day I finally get to Orchard road, which is the main shopping area of the city, loads of malls and big stores. I don't want to leave the bike unattended for too long but decide to come back here on a rainy day. Yesterday night after the usual Friday night after work drinks Kent I went to a gay bar to meet some business partners of his. It was nice place and we met a bunch of people and I could impress with my travel stories.
It's a long way back to Kent's house on the bike when it's hot like here. I have just enough time for a shower before Regina arrives, she is one of the local indiepop kids and has volunteered to take me out tonight. She grew up in this neighbourhood and shows me around some nice roads and even in to the local shopping mall where she hung out in the eighties. We end up in a nice local pub where we watch Portugal vs. Iran. Later we take a cab into town and meet with some other pop kids and then go an indie club where they play loud modern indie music, I know pretty much every band by name but haven't actually heard most of them. Drunk for the second night in a row we make it back to the east side.
Back at the office
No travelog entries for two weeks, that's because I'm not traveling anymore. Instead I'm hanging out at the offices of Media Concepts in China town in central Singapore. I'm using one of their nice PCs to work on the TweeNet administration system and read and learn about information technology. The main problem is the more I do and read the more things I discover that I want to do/learn as well. So time runs by very quickly and I don't even get around writing emails. The company is run by Kent, a guy from New Zealand and John from England. They employ six locals to work on several IT products in the hospitality industry. In exchange for letting me use their equipment I help them out with some things. I wrote some software to run on a PDA (those little hand held computers) to perform hotel reception tasks from anywhere in the hotel. This is just a basic demo and I'm not working for them proper and are not paid. But in turn they pay for most of my meals and drinks and I'm staying with Kent in his nice Chinese style house up north near the east coast of the Island. It's a big place (at least compared to my house in London) and he has a spare bedroom. We take taxis from and two work, so normally I don't spend much money during the day.
I hardly have been sightseeing around the city yet but I'm planning to get around a bit on Kent's bike this coming weekend.
Now that the world cup has started, the nights are busy too. Because of the time difference the matches are on here between 9p.m. and 3a.m. I haven't made a 3a.m. one yet thorugh. The opening game I watched with some indiepop friends in a pub and the first English game with Vernon at the huge showroom of Mercedes Benz which was nice because there was free beer and food. The games are not shown on free TV here, but most pubs and restaurants have TVs and show the games. Kent also has a huge plasma TV in his living room and has subscribed to the world cup channel, so we can watch it a home as well. There are some plans to go to Indonesia soon, but nothing has been finalized yet.
Writing Software in Singapore
After the clubbing on Saturday night, I kept a low profile and avoided the rain or the heat by staying at the hostel. There have 4 PCs downstairs at the common room which are free to use for up to 20 minutes. However even spending a whole day there is not problem as I help them with their little IT problems and because they are nice people anyway. I try to not block the PC in the evenings when many people want to check their email. So I've seen prices up to $4 for an hour or Internet access elsewhere. So I'm saving a lot and rather than $24 in the beginning I'm now paying $20 for the dorm bed. It's actually pretty quiet for a big dorm, so I guess I can stay here for a while. I know also have the admin password, which I failed to hack but then I just asked and they gave it to me, so I can do some software development work on those PCs. At noon I meet up with Vernon and he takes me to a friend of mine who own a small software company. The idea was that I would use their resources and in exchange would help them in some way. It's turns out they are a Java-Shop (this means they write software in a language called Java). There is the Java-world and the Microsoft-world, I live in the Microsoft world and most of my IT knowledge is specific to this, however there are always overlapping parts. The guys are nice and after some discussions we find a field where I can at least do some research and prototyping for this. This involves writing software for those hand held PDA devices and synchronize data with them and other computers. I will give it a try for some days and see how it goes, neither side can really loose anything. The offices are about a 15 minute walk from the hostel, in London that would be 8 minutes but here you have to wait at red lights and the red-phases are petty long.
Besides IT all I've done so far in Singapore is eating. Before I came here I was down to below 80 Kg, (my max. weight in London was around 95). So by sitting in front of a PC all day and eat a lot I will soon be back there soon. The food here is great, there are tons of Chinese restaurants here in China town, but also many places with Malay and India food. I've read about the Hawker stalls and they are really nice indeed. Compared to other things eating at these food stalls is pretty cheap too.
The last night of the Cafe Cosmo
I sleep in a bit and have the free 'breakfast' at the hostel, a coffee and two slices of toast. I check the Straits Times, the local newspaper for jobs and places to stay, then do some online research into the same topics. For lunch I meet up with Vernon and he shows me around the colonial district with some old British buildings but also new skyscrapers of all the major banks. We also check out the Esplanade, a new impressive arts and culture complex on the waterfront which looks like the spiky durian fruit. We then check out some record shops but I have to come back later to have a proper look at their stock. I have a break in the afternoon before meeting up with Alfred at 7, we first go to see some local bands in the old parliament building, very dreampop but quite decent. Then he shows me an interesting Hindu temple and we have great food at one of the famous Hawker centers in Chinatown, where we also meet Vernon and his wife. Then over to the Cafe Cosmo, the meeting place for the Singapore popkids for the last year. This is the last night because as usual in the indiepop world it doesn't pay to run a club or label. There are 10 different DJs spinning tonight and I meet several pop I know from email or the Singapore mailing list 'Peekaboo'. Most of the time we sit outside, drinking beer and talking but when Vernon is spinning classes indiepop tunes everyone is on the small dance floor. Later on Alfred and a few other guys decide to move onto a proper club and come along in a BMW.
Any review of the Singapore club scene should begin with Zouk. This hugely popular club, which has been compared with some of the best in Europe, plays mainly House music to a mostly young crowd. Zouk's music is spun by its seven resident DJs, while regular live acts from visiting artistes - such as Galliano, Chemical Brothers, Heart and Kylie Minogue -- are an added draw.
So this is not a place where I would usually hang out. For the first hour we stay outside having drinks and later one of the guys gets us all into the main club for free. I guess me wearing sandals they wouldn't have let me in on my own anyway. They play high energy dance stuff, I'm not sure exactly what it is but it's loud and I'm a bit drunk and I dance for the next hour and really enjoy myself. I should do this more often. After that we have some Indian food somewhere. I got back to the hostel at 6:30 a.m. which is a new record for going to bed on this trip (but only because I didn't go out when I was in Berlin).
From Melaka to Singapore
By local bus to the bus station out of town and then onto another local bus to a Tampin 40KM away. Here is the closest railway station to Melaka. I have about 45 minutes before the train leaves to Singapore and have my last Nasi Goreng in Malaysia for breakfast. It would have been much simpler and cheaper to take a bus directly from Melaka to Singapore but I wanted to arrive in Singapore by train. Originally I wanted to go from London to Singapore by train only, but that didn't work anyway because in some parts of China and Cambodia there are no trains, so I had to take buses. I'm in the superior class which means the second class in Malaysia but it is certainly superior to second classes on most European railways. There is a TV at each end of the coach and they show movies like Harry Potter 5. The ride is uneventful and I can still just sit there and watch the palm tree forests going by. On the Malay side of the border they just come through the train and stamp your passport, on the Singapore side we have to get off the train and go through an airport style immigration process. Arriving in Singapore Keppel road station means that the Eurasian rail part of my trip comes to an end. From here on it's boat or flying. It's a small station but then there is only one line going out from Singapore into Malaysia and there are only 4 trains leaving every day. Chinatown is not far and as I don't have any money yet, I decide to walk. On the way I get 500 Singapore dollars from an ATM, it turns out the best comparison currency is neither pound, Euro or US dollar but the good old German mark which is pretty much one to one with the local dollar. Immediately it becomes apparent how expensive things are here. The first hostel I check is full but after hearing that I want to stay 46 days in the country the friendly guy at the reception has some suggestions about renting apartments, he also recommends another hostel closer to the center. So I walk down to the Summer Tavern which is nice and new, but a bed in a 20 bed dorm still costs 24 Singapore dollars. It's air conditioned and basic breakfast and Internet are free. Around seven I meet up with my old friend Alfred who I used to write to back in the late 80s. We also spend a week together in the UK around the Sarah 100 weekend in August 1995, but I hadn't seen him since, great guy. We go for dinner and Vernon popkid and his wife arrive. Later at the local indiepop hangout, the Cafe Cosmo Simon and his wife are also there. I know Vernon and Simon through the indiepop online community and met them both on their visits to London in recent years. Unfortunately the Cosmo is closing down this weekend and this is the last chance for me to be there. Tonight two local bands are playing and there are okay, but I don't have to buy their releases. I get introduced to several over people most of them know me through www.twee.net. We have several beers and talk about traveling and of course indiepop