by Larry Colen


The good news is that I finally tracked down swing dancing in Singapore. There are classes at the "Y", though they are on break for a few weeks. There is also swing dancing at a bar called Gatsby's, on Monday nights. I'll do my best to get there Monday. The other bit of good news is that I was able to get a flight home on Tuesday, so I'll have time to prepare for my traditional Dec. 25th Scotch tasting.

Last night Greg (the CEO of I-A) took me out to dinner with a couple of the other employees. We ate at a food court, I don't remember exactly which one. The main course was pepper crab, which is different from the chilli crab that I had two weeks previously. It was quite good. I'd say the sauce might have been better than the chilli crab, but the crab wasn't quite a good. I did manage to get a small, yet annoying cut on my thumb. In a feeble attempt at discretion, I'll only make a vague reference to pricking my thumb at the table.

By the time that we got back to the hotel, it was pretty late. Sometime after ten. I was trying to work up the energy to go out. It was mostly on principle, it being my last weekend here. Suppakorn, my roommate, opened a bottle of red wine and I got sucked into watching "When Harry met Sally" on the TV. I was dismayed that they cut most of the scene where she fakes an orgasm in the diner. I guess that the Malay's are as uptight as the Singaporeans.

I seem to be coming out from under this cold that I'm fighting. I still have a stuffy nose, but it's not as bad as it was yesterday. There have been several times during the day when I could actually breath through my nose.

The buffet breakfast at the hotel is not bad. But it's not really great either. It's kind of a hodgepodge of American and Asian breakfast foods, prepared by someone who I suspect doesn't understand either. The fresh fruit is usually quite good though. When I start living in an apartment, rather than a hotel here, I'm going to have to learn a lot more about the produce available here.

After breakfast I picked up my laundry, then headed over to the office to check on my email. One of my net.dance contacts here was in a show tonight where they were dancing swing. I hadn't received details on when and where and email was the only contact I had for her. As it turns out, she hadn't sent me mail and did eventually leave a message at my hotel room.

After the office, I went down to the Eunos MRT, there being MRT stations near several of my potential destinations. It turned out that there was a food court next to the MRT station, and I bought lunch at a Malay stall and ended up having a long discussion with Effendi, the owner. I didn't know what any of the dishes were, but the ingredients looked good so I just told his wife to make me something good and tell me how much it cost. She made me Mee Goreng, which translates to Fried noodles. Substitute noodles for rice in fried rice, using seafood rather than pork, and use seasonings similar to those in Laksah and you'd be close. Of course if you know what Laksah tastes like you also probably know what Malaysian Mee Goreng tastes like. I guess this is like telling a blind man that purple is like a combination of red and blue. If it's any help, the seasonings are not entirely unlike those in a red thai curry. Anyways, it was fairly spicy, and quite tasty.

We ended up talking for quite a while. I learned that if I'm ever in Paris, the Asian food in district 13 is very good. That, like Esperanto, the Malay language shared by all of the different groups was a fabricated language that does not "belong" to any one region. Unlike Esperanto it is 500 years old and there are a lot of people who speak it. Also, the syntactic structure of this language, and I've already forgotten the name, is very similar to English. The differences between Nonya and Malaysian cooking are subtle and mostly involve the use of pork. We discussed the way the current recession is affecting peoples lifestyles.

I went back to Mohamed Sultan Road tonight. I started out with dinner at Wong San's Eastside Sushi bar. I'm sure that part of the problem is that I still have the lingering tail end of a stuffy nose, which kind of makes one miss out on a lot of the subtleties, but I was quite underwhelmed by the sushi. It was a lot closer in style to the nigiri that I've gotten in Korean restaurants, with very thinly sliced fish. I had three orders, six pieces, of nigiri: Salmon, Unagi and something else. I ordered Hamachi, but they were out and the chef suggested something else. I didn't catch what it was. I had a bottle of E-33 cider with the sushi. It was an Auzzie cider, again with the stuffy nose I missed out on any subtleties that might have been there.

I was still peckish, went searching for more food, and ended up a couple doors down at a place called Redneck's on the corner of River Valley and Mohamed Sultan. I had the Louisiana ribs. They were quite good, and resonably spicy. The cornbread was tasty. The potato salad was fine, but unlike any potato salad that I've ever had.

I started pubbing at (I think it was called) Club Satay. They were playing decent alternativeish rock, rather than the disco at most of the other clubs that were populated by the young crowd. It was interesting to note that all the staff I saw working there were very cute girls in their early twenties. I had my minimum two drinks, watched the crowds and some extreme sport videos on the tube and went looking for someplace where there was dancing.

I ended up at Madame Wong's. There was a pretty long queue to get in, and it was only about 9:30 or 10:00. As I suspected, waiting on line was a better chance to meet and talk with people than in a noisy bar. I chatted a bit while we were waiting with four college guys. Three of them from NUS, one is going to school in Vancouver BC. When it started to rain, all of a sudden the queue started moving a lot faster, like an order of magnitude faster. This made me suspiscious that they deliberately restrict the inflow, to make the bar seem more desireable. I doubt that it is at all necessary, Madame Wong's definitely seems to be THE hot spot at the moment. The place was absolutely packed, and people were actually dancing. Or doing the best approximation that they could. Most of the dancers were actually standing on benches on the sides of the room, at the back, near the DJ.

I honestly can't really compare the club scene with the states, because I rarely go to clubs or discos. When I do, it's usually to see a band, or to go dancing, usually swing. I will say that the crowd at these bars seems remarkably tame. Only a few people sported any visible body art, and most of that was fairly tame, at least by Bay Area standards. Most of the music seems to be disco rather than so called alternative. For the moment, I will defer my rant about what happens to alternative music when it becomes mainstream. If there is a club in town that plays alternative, house, goth or industrial I haven't found it. From what I've seen so far, I'd almost be more surprised to find one than to find out that there aren't any. The local entertainment paper does mention at least one club which plays house. Even so, as far as pop culture goes, I'm getting the strong suspiscion that Singapore is on the trailing edge.

Just like home alert. The supplement to I-S, the local entertainment paper has both "Life in Hell", and Rob Brezsny.

After spending some time dancing, and watching in Madame Wong's I wandered back to Club Satay. Things had picked up in there and the scene was a lot closer to that of M. Wong's than when I had left. I hung out for a song or two, but had grown tired of dancing by myself. A loud bar, where I don't know anyone, and there isn't room to really dance, is the sort of venue where all of my shyness works against me and I have a hard time meeting people. I walked down to Clarke Quay and returned to the Crazy Elephant. The same Blues Trio as last week was playing and they are truly awesome. If these guys ever put out a CD, I'm buying one.

As an automotive enthusiast, I am really beginning to appreciate how isolated we are in America. Under the guise of safety and pollution regulations, the American market is "protected" from an incredible diversity of cars. Most of these are small, inexpensive cars ideally suited for urban environments. Some are from companies that don't even have a presence in the States, such as Seat, and others are models that simply aren't offered. When I returned to Club Satay tonight, a woman drove up in an extremely cute Honda 2-seat convertible. I believe it was mid engined and I suspect that the motor was about 1 litre in displacement. It seemed like the modern equivalent of a Frogeye Sprite. It seemed incredibly easy to park, and I doubt that it was much longer than many SUVs are wide.

I also saw a Citroen today. I was moderately disappointed in that the styling was darn near pedestrian. Every Citroen I've seen until now made a statement. Usually that statement was "I was designed by a Frenchman who does not care how ugly other people consider his work". But, at least they said something, unlike the bland indistinguishable masses of sanitized, designed by committee jellybean cars on the road today. If I hadn't noticed the chevron emblem on it, I would have never suspected that it was French, much less a Citroen.

Another thing I've noticed about Singapore traffic, and I've even heard this discussed on the radio, is the way that people completely ignore an ambulance caught in traffic behind them. An ambulance could be stuck in traffic, with lights and siren going full tilt boogie, and people don't even make an attempt to pull over and let it past.

Plumbing is different here. First of all, there are almost no water fountains around. I think that there might be some in East Coast park, and possibly on Sentosa, but they are very rare. I'd expect to find them in MRT stations, Malls, office buildings, etc. But they just don't seem to be around.

One place that I haven't worked very hard to explore beyond my own cultural bias is the bathroom. With a large portion of the population Indian and/or Muslim most of the bathrooms have stalls that rather than having toilets have what is basically a hole in the floor. In theory this is no problem. In practice, it just gives guys one more opportunity to exhibit what poor aim that they have.

Last modified 01/23/98

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