Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Singapore-lah Part 2

This is the continuum of my previous post ‘Singapore-lah Part-1’ which can be found here.  Since the post got tremendous amount of support by readers, I will continue my story.

"Singapore Skyline" by Adzrin Mansor

Some say that travel is about discovering new sights and places, understanding cultures, trying out new tastes or just having a good time. But, we can also rediscover ourselves in another point of view. This is what I did while having dinner at the Newton Food Centre. It is a complex of uniformly arranged food stalls wrapping a sea of plastic dining tables. The place was cleverly designed to resemble the Colonial Malay houses and the unroofed dining area replicates the courtyards of the old Baba-Nyona homes. As I walked into the area and picked my seat, several stall owners rushed from their respective stalls to usher us to our seats, while babbling some examples of a wide variety of South East Asian delicacies to trigger our taste buds. Instead of separating table areas for each stall, hungry customers can sit anywhere and order food from any stall that offers the dish that his taste buds are screaming for. Chinese delicacy stalls are the obvious majority here. As I ordered my food I noticed that not a single stall sells the exact same dish, every stall compliments each other, completing what’s missing from another stall. So I ordered some Singaporean Nasi Ayam from one stall and a refreshing glass of sugar cane juice from another. Either way, a customer would bring income for not only one stall. This sharing method is a common practice among Chinese businessmen, sharing their opportunities with their Chinese counterparts. At the end of this paragraph I will be frank, I was jabbering about the Chinese business culture thingy because the food was not as tasty as I expected! Aargh! This is the time when I discovered how I really appreciate the Tom Yam food stalls in Gombak.

"Newton Food Centre" by Adzrin Mansor
While we are still in the topic of food, there was a time when we were eating at Vivo City near Sentosa Island, we ordered for a plate of seafood fried rice but it ended up having more chili than rice. Seriously, it is so hot it is not even edible. I could not help myself from imagining the cook who might just had a terrible argument with his wife a few moments before. Then while frying our seafood fried rice his eyes might be red, full with anger while pouring chili constantly into his cooking and saying 'ambik kau, ambik kau...' So for tourist who might want to experience the crossroads of Asia, come to Singapore to try the fusion of Asian cultures. But as a Malaysian I think my country's cuisine suits my tongue best...

Not really far from the city is Singapore Discovery Centre, which is a state-of-the-art museum plus an army museum. The army base tour was probably the highlight of the trip to the museum as we were taken on a mini-bus ride along the streets of the military base. Taking pictures in the base is strictly forbidden so I kept my camera away during the tour. The base was cleverly planned to look like a university campus but instead of students immersing their heads in books, the view is replaced with soldiers exercising in perfect order. The academic atmosphere of the campus is replaced with tense patriotism. The main gate is another story, it is heavily guarded by soldiers hanging a Singaporean made SAR-21 assault rifle which has the capabilities almost similar to the famous Russian made AK-47. I also found out that the Singaporean army had close ties with the Israeli army and their relationship can be traced back at the early years of Singaporean nationhood. No wonder the relationship between Tun Dr Mahathir and Mr Lee Kwan Yew is like cats and dogs. Besides that, the Singaporean goverment made it compulsory for all 18 years old male citizens to train with the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) for the period of two years. The conscription is called 'National Service' and it is made compulsory so that these men can be backup soldiers and use a rifle in times of need. I still remember a friend's joke, "know why Singaporean toilets are so clean? - the men are trained to aim properly..."

The sky was dark as grey clouds hovers above me, shielding me from the scorching tropical sun. We have limited time left in Singapore so we decided to hang out around the city center. The last time I visited Singapore was in 2005 where I stayed Orchard Hotel situated at the famous shopping street of Orchard Road. But this time, I could not even recognize the place, it is completely revamped to that extent. The avenue is lined with major shopping complexes selling stuff ranging from fashion items to food. Talking about food, I found a wonderful little eatery in the middle of Orchard Road selling original Padang style cooking. The sirap bandung they made was fabulous. This small and hidden stall saved my good impression on good food in Singapore. The place is also visited by locals. While eating with the locals, I’d always thought that Singaporeans talk Sing-lish like Phua Chu Kang, which the usage of English words with Malay grammar, for example, “Where got? You lah, simple sentence also cannot do. You old already…” But to my surprise, that type of language is nowhere to be heard. The Malays speak pure Malay, the Chinese spoke pure Mandarin and Indians spoke pure Tamil. I am not sure what happened myself.

"Marina Bay Sands Evening View" by Adzrin Mansor

Marina Bay Sands is too beautiful, I cannot help myself from posting another picture of it. As I wander the streets of Downtown Singapore, the city's Colonial heritage mixes well with the modern skyline. The Singapore Harbour is situated at a river mouth, and the tall skylines lines up along the shores. I could not help to notice the cleanliness of the city while browsing through its never ending sidewalk and parks. The city’s strict laws to maintain high standard of cleanliness is world renowned and sometimes ridiculed by other countries. I could remember the concrete pavements of Los Angeles that can be mistaken as a Dalmatian’s fur, clean grey concrete with black spots of old, dried chewing gum. Chewing gums is forbidden in Singapore, and other acts of uncleanliness can make you end up with a fine. I can still remember the words of the founder and former Singaporean President, Mr. Lee Kwan Yew. He told about the time when he saw a large difference in the cleanliness of a lease apartment with a freehold apartment. The freehold apartment was sparkling clean as it is owned by the people who live in it, the owners take good care of it as it is theirs. Singapore too is owned by the people and the people took great care of it. This is what I call patriotism. The strict fines were the only way to embed this idea of patriotism into the minds of immigrant workers that is now forms the majority of the society in Singapore. Malaysia also suffers the same problems of hygiene as there are still too many Malaysians who still couldn’t leave their lowlife practices, like wearing shoes in the house, spraying urine all over the toilet bowl, not flushing the toilet and the likes. Those strict laws were effective to discipline them into a modern citizen of a fast developing city with high living standards.

"Taxi ride" by Adzrin Mansor
When its time to leave for home, again we boarded the Aeroline bus from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. This time, the bus is surprisingly quiet and comfortable, no more tsunamis this time. The trip makes me really tired and I found myself sleeping for the whole journey, waking up at Ampang. The thing about Singapore is, it is a very small country indeed, about 45km wide but their development rate exceeds its neighbouring countries, boasting a high income per capita than other countries. Travelling is more than just a 'field-trip', we can learn so much by just paying attention to small details during our time on foreign soil. A verdict on whether Singapore is a recommended travel destination, of course, it is a beautiful and interesting city, we also have so much to learn from the Singaporeans. Follow the spirit of "Can-lah"...

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