Day 4. Fire in the Heart

Day 4. Fire in the Heart

Fourth day of eating and sweating in the island city-state of Singapore, as good a day as any other to visit our third ‘ethnic’ neighbourhood: Kampong Glam, a colourful Malaysian district (despite the fact that the first thing we saw when we got off the bus was a building embodying the style of Gotham’s Wayne Tower).

Parkview Square, Singapur
Parkview Square in Singapore. ♪ NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA BATMAN…♫ Photo by Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Parkview Square) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
We walked to the Masjid Sultan mosque, where the view was beautiful from outside but we weren’t allowed to enter because it was the middle of Ramadan and it’s not the time for receiving tourists…something inside me refused to accept that it was really Ramadan, as just at the doors of the mosque there sat a little market stall with sweet-smelling Muslim delicacies..I’d just finished breakfast and yet I still wanted to take a bite out of everything (except for the lamb, I’m not that crazy… yuck!). I don’t know if it’s due to my strength of will that’s more wicker than iron but I couldn’t believe that during a month in which you can’t try any food during the day they put a food stall in the door of your temple. Where I’m from we call that torture and in the rest of the world poor business strategy. Unless their plan was to stay there until sunset and make a fortune when the hungry practising Muslims that have been smelling all those delicacies for the entire day come with their jaws hanging open…

We’ll never know as we abandoned that street to take a little walk around the rest of the neighbourhood and towards the bus stop, a bus that would take us to the Esplanade or close, in reality to the doors of… surprise! A shopping centre!

Trudging up two floors we arrived at the conclusion that this wasn’t a good place for lunch, stemming from premises such as that the bathroom was more glamorous than a red carpet or that the restaurants had no menu but appeared in Trip Advisor followed by four dollar symbols. For those who don’t know already, $$$$ translates as, “Get lost, pleb, you can’t come in here with that scrawny wallet.” Come, pop over to the metro since in this walk of life we’ve no reason to be here…

A great decision, as soon as we descended to the metro we found ourselves faced by our favourite source of food: a hawker centre. I’m going to place a crazy bet and assure you that we ate chee chow cheong and tom yum kung.  Maybe the names aren’t completely correct but the thing is I noted it down in my mobile and… well, we’ll speak about that later. If I’m not wrong, tom yum is a slightly spicy Thai soup… more or less enough to enter in the rankings of “Singapore’s top ten spiciest foods“… I usually have a high tolerance for spice, but friends, spicy is one thing and another is that the skin starts to peel off your oesophagus… to make up for that, the Padang cake we had for dessert was sweet, delicious and spongy like a cloud if clouds were coloured like green puddles…

Once our stomachs had recharged we set forth once again towards the Esplanade theatre, which is a building shaped like a fruit, to be precise like a durian. That fruit so delicious that they don’t allow you to carry it on public transport because you’ll stink out the population and that they’ve decided is the best thing to represent their performing arts… hey, that was them, not me…

We sat inside the Durian to see a video that they projected onto a screen in the entrance (official excuse, the crude reality was that our feet were already smoking). The recording painted some involuntary brush-strokes of reality about Singaporean society: that these people work too much and that it’s difficult for the inhabitants to be recognized as such (not as inhabitants, you understand, but as Singaporeans) as being a mixture of cultures it’s not easy to identify a specific idiosyncrasy, belonging to the country. In fact, one of the participants of the video (a singer or composer) explained that his first tunes in Singlish (the dialect of English that they speak in Singapore) had been censored. Yes, censored, as in an somebody in authority in the country that says what you’re allowed to see and what you’re allowed to hear and what you can’t see or hear… it seems that they’ve softened on the topic a little in recent years but they still have a classification for forbidden (NAR or ‘Not allowed for all ratings’) to protect the population from dodgy things like being turned gay, which is probably what happens if you listen to Katy Perry saying that she kissed a girl and she liked it… It hasn’t happened to you or what? You haven’t noticed you feel more like queer sinners since that song came to light? Well that’s it, the Singaporeans were protected from that terrible moral harm…

And after my little rant about censorship, I’ll continue with the story… with us feeling a little more intellectual we went to see what the theatre had to offer. Well, it offered, as you’d expect…a shopping centre…apart from the occasional performance (at the end of the day it was a theatre) and a great disappointment…

On going up to the second floor I noticed that I wasn’t carrying my mobile, that little device that I had in my hand some five minutes before and that already wasn’t where it should be… we returned to the place where we’d rested and… tada! My week-and-a-half old mobile had disappeared. And the magic trick wasn’t reversible: it never appeared again. We searched, retracing our steps, we spoke with customer service and lost and found, I cried with rage in some beautiful gardens… but to no avail. My poor Moto G had passed to other hands, maybe more careful than mine… Wherever you are, I hope that they spoil you and give you the best backgrounds… ay… (Translator’s note: I’ve kept this ay in Spanish as it seems a very fitting sigh.)

Instead of letting a little incident worth 200 Euros ruin our day (believe me that it wasn’t easy), we decided to go to the Gardens by the Bay, one of Singapore’s main courses. We arrived at night (which is normal when it’s past six in the evening…) but despite the darkness or more precisely due to it the place was impressive: an enormous garden-jungle with different areas and types of plants and some gigantic structures of light that vaguely resembled palm trees, because why would you plant normal palm trees when you can have metallic mega palm trees. Very much in the spirit of Singapore, I’m going to make it big and impressive even if that serves no purpose (literal translation: the donkey must be big, even if it doesn’t walk. Quite spectacular and I felt essential to share with you). The only bad thing about arriving at that time is that one of the things that I had most dreamt of seeing,  the cloud forest, was closed…

Cloud Forest, Singapur
Cloud Forest. Reasons to return to Singapore: To see this and recover my mobile… Photo By Basile Morin [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons
I imagine the decision making process when constructing that thing must have gone something like this:

  • Official: Well look Mr. Mayor, I think everything is already as big and impressive as it could be.
  • Lord Mayor (Or president, I don’t know what they’re called in these city-states, in the last one I visited what they had was a Pope): But the thing is that our Malaysian neighbours have some enormous waterfalls and we don’t…
  • Official: The thing is that cities can’t have giant waterfalls, Lord Mayor…
  • Lord Mayor: Oh, no? Well, we’ll have them! We’ll construct a building and inside the building, a forest and in the forest will be a waterfall and it will be the biggest indoor waterfall in the world!
  • The official, squeezing his cap and sweating from stress: But Mr. Presi- (the official was also confused about the title), the thing is that you can’t have inside a building…
  • Lord Mayor: Waterfall, I said!

And from there the forest to the clouds. The bad thing was that we missed that, but the good thing was that we arrived at the time of the music and light show in the electronic palm trees (I’ve said it: little light bulbs are unimaginably exciting to these people). Muy bonito, (Nieves uses the Catalan here, ‘Molt bonic’, although she’s not Catalan) but it seems that they still feel short of light shows because in July they’re inaugurating another light show in the zoo…

We spent the rest of the night before returning home in those gardens, in the light of the palm trees and having dinner in a hawker centre that was nearby, where I finally decided to try the famous Milo, a very popular drink in Singapore. It looks like a Yazoo and it isn’t bad but it’s not the ideal drink to accompany a Pakistani Parata with a ‘mild’ curry, of the sort that only disintegrates two or three taste buds per spoon…

From there to the bus and home. In this city my ability to decide the shortest route comes in very handy, developed through years of temporary working, because it’s clear that Google hasn’t taken many buses in Singapore and it told us to walk for fifteen minutes to take a bus that took us to the stop where we had to take the bus home… a stop that was five minutes walking from our original position… Pardon me, Mr. Maps? I went to sleep feeling very proud: there are people that know how to sing, paint, write, dance… and there are also people that feel vainglorious because they know how to read a bus map…

Creative Commons License AttributionRepublish
0

Leave a Reply

×

You are free to:

 

License

Creative Commons License AttributionCreative Commons Attribution
Day 4. Fire in the Heart