Day 3 – Shopzilla

Day 3 – Shopzilla

As had become habitual, the stay started with coffee and Scottish jam on toast, something that grates on me a little due to being 11,000km from its origin, what the devil is that jam doing here, far away from its family and friends. Well maybe the thing is that it’s not as far from its community as I thought… mainly because we ended the morning in a Scottish café in the gardens of the Christian Cathedral of St Andrews (patron saint of Scotland) with Fergus driving a tooth into a steak pie (one of the, er, delicacies of Scottish gastronomy: a pie made with steak).

I’m repeating myself, I know, but the mix of cultures in this mini-country is impressive. Because between mouthful and Scottish mouthful we spent the morning in the neighbourhood of Little India. As here they don’t stress themselves too much with names, well, you know what’s coming… a little India in the middle of Singapore. With its little shops and incredible fruits (whose names I noted down but I don’t dare decipher my writing… Translator’s note: I’ll try but first I’ll finish warming up with the Dead Sea Scrolls.), fish and meat, coloured spices, sumptuous Indian suits (I almost ended up with one too sexy to wear to a wedding!), accessories and, of course, the star attraction of the holiday… food and drink stalls!

It’s not possible to put into words, nor even images, the richness of the smells, the sounds of the day-to-day hustle and bustle mixed with the comings and goings of distracted tourists, the vibrant colouring inundating everything, fabrics, temples, buildings and, of course… the flavours! It’s still a mystery to me how I haven’t returned from these holidays rolling… but hey, it’s not my fault, it’s that of popular wisdom, which says ‘when in Rome’ and I never stopped seeing people eating and drinking. It was all done in the name of integration, the only reason why thirty minutes after breakfast we were guzzling down a Pakistani iced coffee and a strawberry lassi. If memory serves, those are strawberry milkshakes with sugary yoghurt and the flavour… as I’ve said, indescribable.

After looking around the streets of Little India and making yet another acquisition in the little market, we went to the bus stop to go to the Museum of Asian Civilisations (it we went walking we’d run the danger of turning into steam… I guess that’s the reason there’s so much humidity, because people melt and later evaporate due to not taking the bus with its air conditioning…). There three little guys came up to me with their schoolwork, a survey about my impressions of Little India. And I’m still not very sure why, the survey ended up with a photo with them, so my big sweaty face is now making its way around some Sinagporean high school  (Translator’s suggestion: They probably wanted to tell their friends they’d seen a person from a strange, far-away land… i.e. Spain). My fifteen minutes of fame, oh yeah.

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Nope, that’s not me with the guys. It’s a photo of some local craftsmanship, nothing more.

The bus left us around the museum and our plan was to eat in this area, so we decided to explore the surrounding shopping centres but when you see that the cheapest thing they sell is a Cartier, well, you end up eating in a Scottish church…

On arrival at the museum we thought for a while about whether or not to enter because it cost £10 each and we didn’t have any idea what we were going to find in there. But fortunately we decided to enter… we went there in the evening and we were short of evening (Note: there is less ambiguity between evening and night in Spanish. It was very much not night-time when we left) because it seems the workers sometimes have to close and go home to their families and rest and such-like (although I get the feeling that the idea of rest from work isn’t an idea that holds much sway in Singapore…).

Spanning from the goods recovered from the shipwreck of a Chinese merchant vessel in the time of the Tang dynasty to the story of the legendary city of Angkor (pedantic translator’s note: strictly speaking I think it translates as mythical city but, well, there was really an Angkor and I’ll be damned if I’ll cast the poor fellows into oblivion…), passing through dramatic artwork, furniture, parchments, sculptures, elements of different religions, etc, the numerous rooms of this museum travelled through epochs and civilisations of the Asian continent.

When they threw us (literally) out of there we again went for dinner at the shopping centre we went to on the first night because it was more or less close and because we remembered having seen a ton of food places that looked really good… well, in the end we surrendered, but not before having passed through some fourteen escalators, an infinity of posters saying ‘now you are in the yellow zone’ and shops in the red zone, posters of ‘now you are in the blue zone and shops in the yellow zone and posters of ‘now you are in the red zone’ and another twenty-five escalators. We ended up assuming we’d imagined those food places (the classic collective hallucination) and we sat ourselves down in a Thai restaurant, the Omnon Thai – Massaman Chicken Curry, Pad Thai, lemonade with lemongrass and bundung, a bubble-gum pink drink so delicious that simply smelling it causes your glucose levels to shoot up and whose full recipe consists of mixing condensed milk with rose syrup. That the primary health problem in Singapore is diabetes now holds no mystery… of course with so many little coloured juices I came back with sugar withdrawal symptoms (the literal translation here would be ‘an important monkey of sugar’)… yup, in the end it’d be healthier to eat chocolate…

After the dinner, Fergus returned to his friend’s house to justify taking his Playstation controller with us 11,000km and I was left wandering around the nightlife of Clarke Quay, which seemed like almost all of the world’s nightlife: pubs, music, happy people and a heap of public relations… however, being Singapore, the area was obviously surrounded by shopping centres and covered with an ostentatious ceiling of lights. What seems cool to these people is not normal…

lights
What a smooth transition…can’t tell when the gif restarts…

On the way home I passed Fort Canning, which is the law of minimal effort made park, the quintessence of the Biblical sin of sloth, the genius of human beings put to the service of saving calories. An escalator. To go up the microscopic little hill of a bloody park they installed an escalator. Well, it’ll take years of therapy to get over that one…

(Nieves’ note: someone whose first language is not English thought that canning and caning were the same word until a wise translator took her out of her mistake. That confusion might explain the following disconnect).

Of course, for the ignorant ones in life like yours truly that don’t know what this caning thing is, prepare yourself for a blow. Caning is a widespread punishment practiced to this day in Singapore as a complement to prison and… how would I describe it?

caning
Imagine an officer holding (and using) a cane. Now you understand the low levels of crime in the country.

These Singaporeans are so tender… so sophisticated and advanced with some things and so “we’ve never heard about this thing you call human rights and we practice caning and capital punishment for homosexuals” with others… in the end, I imagine that these things can happen easily in one party democracies…

From Fort Canning I went to Harbour Front, because with that name and my acute map reading skills it was clear that that metro stop should come out at the port. Error. If you’ve been paying attention to the other entries you’ll know where it came out. Bingo! A shopping centre! Vivo City. I assure you that they didn’t chose the name city lightly… what a monstrous place… and when I finally managed to get out of there it gave way to another shopping centre which was joined to it without any opportunity to step into the real world… A couple of times I arrived to an underground carpark and another couple of times to uncrossable roads, but a port? No way! To mitigate my distress faced with the thought of spending the rest of my days in a shopping centre (those fears started to be a constant on the journey) I asked for an ice-cream in the only place that remained open. What an adventurer, lost in a shopping centre eating a green cone from McDonald’s. At least it had a green cone (I had my doubts if it was edible… I hope it was because not even the sweet crumbs remained from the body of the crime…).

Somehow I managed to find my way back to the entrance of the metro and return to our (borrowed) home to have dark nightmares reflecting my new condition of shoppingcentrephobia.

 

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Day 3 – Shopzilla