So in an addendum to my previous post, I have recently uncovered the identity of my newest roommate. He is not a large bug; he is a newt. I believe he eats ants, a number of which are present in my room as well. For a moment there, I also had a flying ant. It, however, is now deceased. I would post a picture of the newt, but he (I don’t know why I always assume reptilian/amphibious animals are male) is a quick little bugger and rather more shy than my roommate back home (whom I adore). That about sums it up for Mr. Newt. On to the rest of this entry . . .
Yesterday, Will and I decided to do the hardcore get-to-know-Singapore bit, on foot. (Darn these ants are distracting . . . sorry.) After a fabulous dim sum lunch, dim sum being one of my favorite things in the world, with NUS students, we set out on our adventure. From the hotel where the group had lunch, we went a little ways and stumbled upon the historic Raffles Hotel. This majestic white hotel is famous for its turbaned doorman and for its reputation as the birthplace of the Singapore Sling. They had a really interesting museum showing the evolution of the hotel from its early days as the province of the British colonial elite to its current status as a historic landmark. My favorite picture was of the British colonial families posing on the lawn. Somehow, even in a tropical environment, they managed to look stodgy . . . ahem . . . proper. Leave it to the British.
Our next stop after the Raffles Hotel was Little India. This and China Town are probably two of my favorite places in Singapore, although I keep finding new ones everyday so the list may grow a little. After exploring a temple swamped by Japanese tourists and getting a shop owner to explain some Hindi music to us, we decided to sit in a little food shop to watch the locals walk by. Everyone who goes to Little India on a weekday tends to remark on the same thing: the relative absence of women in Little India. This absence isn’t as noticeable on the weekends, but even then there are a whole lot fewer women than men. This seems especially strange given that many of the shops in Little India sell traditional Indian saris and other feminine clothing. After talking it over among ourselves and the group at large, the most popular theory was that the majority of the population of Little India is comprised of migrant workers who leave their families back home. On the weekends, some of the wives may come to visit their husbands working in Singapore, but for the most part the area is just home to Indian men.
We sat in the food shop for a while and then, when we felt rested enough, started on a thorough exploration of Little India. Little India as a geographic area actually is pretty small. Without realizing it we ended up wandering outside of Little India a good ways. In the process, we stumbled upon a Chinese flea market in the shadow of one of the government housing projects. Walking through the flea market was quite an experience. A lot of the merchandise included things that had seen better days and some of the merchandise seemed like it might have been liberated from its former owners without their knowledge. Despite the questionable origins of some of the merchandise, the market was really bustling. Even more amazing was that the market was taking place on streets that hadn’t been closed to traffic. In the midst of the crowd, the occasional Mercedes or Honda would gradually work its way through.
After realizing that the Chinese flea market wasn’t where it was supposed to be or rather where we thought it was supposed to be, we decided to reconsult our map. On the map, it looked as if we were close enough to walk to Fort Canning Park. So that’s what we decided to do. After walking a ways, we soon came to the realization that the map had understated the distance. We decided to press on, however. During our march to the Fort, we came across a number of really interesting sights including a store that sold Chinese antiques and the National Library of Singapore. One of the books on the national recommended reading list is The Kite Runner. Because of this, in July, Singapore is going to host its very own kite festival along with actual kite runners. If you haven’t read the book, you won’t understand just how cool this is. But take my word for it, it’s pretty cool.
We kept on walking for a ways and passed more churches than I believe there are in Charlotte. All of them looked a lot like St. Andrew’s Cathedral (which Will and I visited, by the way), only in miniature. Finally, we made it to Fort Canning Park which we subsequently realized is just one big, rather pretty, hill. After wandering around the park a bit, we stumbled on to a small festival for families where a live band was singing such all time hits as “Take Me Home Tonight.” It was a really pleasant scene and someone must have been handing out picnic blankets because everyone had the same green checkered theme going on. We stayed there for a little while before working our way to Clarke Quay. The restaurants there aren’t your cheap hawker fare, but it was delicious just the same. After getting full on northern Indian food, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it back the dorms. But we did and I don’t really remember much after that. All I can say is that after yesterday, if it’s in Singapore we’ve probably walked to it.