Singabore No More

I was seriously considering the title “Singapore’s Hotel Adventures” for this entry. I stayed at three different hotels (and one hostel) for four nights I was there. My luggage was creaking and wobbling by the time I reached my fourth hotel. Before my departure, I thought it would be an interesting material for a blog entry and indeed, it is.

The tiny ambitious country is one prime example of ‘what could have been’ when a determined government and citizens pour their energy to build and be the best of everything. South East Asian’s own Dubai, if you may. Broad and clean pavement where you can walk without being afraid of stepping on a hole, extraordinarily efficient public transport, impressive malls and shopping centers: everything the Indonesian wish their country could be. It is no surprise that Indonesian tourists are the main visitor of Singapore. It’s our playground to shop, transit, watch internationally acclaimed performances and lately, watching latest Hollywood movies banned in our country (long story deserved its own entry).

Five years has passed since my last visit and I feel it is time to check out Singabore, as how I fondly call her. Many have changed, of course. The new and much praised Terminal 3 at the most hospitable airport in the world, Changi. New builidings, new museums, new malls, new and projected MRT lines. It keeps on improving and amazed repeated visitors like me. Arriving at Changi was a luxury. Everything was so effortless and clear. Fifteen minutes from the moment you landed, you already can take your luggage and found your way out to the city.

I spent my first night in a hostel on Pinang St. Chosen because of its proximity to the hip Haji Lane, Kampong Glam, Bugis and Bras Basah. Aptly named The Superb Hub, the hostel only redeeming quality was the location. My private room was consisted of a locked window, a tiny bed and AC which I had to share with my neighbor since there’s not even a proper wall between us. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I could hear everything the guy next to me were doing (and vice versa). My “room” key was a lock and this is how I lock myself inside at night:

I spent my first day touring museums and Bras Basah complex, trying to score cheap books and serious culture. Singapore sure doesn’t disappoint. Five hours after I landed, I managed to watch an old animation film by Lotte Reiniger with live soundtrack from Icelandic band, Amiina; a contemporary art exhibition by talented South East Asian artists; and strolling through the chic Haji Lane. I slept with the original score of finger tapping on laptop, snoring, and late night check in complete with the owner’s explanation, barking dogs, drunken uncles and roaring scooter. Thank God for flu pills.

Second night was spent in a totally different way. If first day was yin, this time it was yang: Marina Bay Sands Hotel, the 24th floor. From no wall, I was flown into a bubble of luxury consisted of not one but two big screen TVs, my own vanity and walk in closet, Nespresso machine (!) and breath taking view of Singapore’s skyline. My brother joined me in this extravaganza and later, reluctantly to a special exhibition in the adjoining lotus like Art Science Museum. There were three amazing exhibitions at the same time going on: van Gogh Alive, Dali: Mind of a Genius and Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds. As van Gogh’s die-hard fan, the installation blew me away. Picture yourself being surrounded by high definition projections of van Gogh’s irises, starry nights, wheat fields and sunflowers, while the music of Vivaldi and other impressionistic composer plays on. It was like being lost in Akira Kurosawa’s short film I watched many years ago. If you are a big fan of Vincent van Gogh, I urge you to come and see it for yourself.

Dali’s exhibition was also presented extraordinarily and I learned a lot of surrealism in one hour I was there than any other time in my life. For the lover of ceramic and Chinese wares, the Tang treasure would be amazing to see. I know nothing about ceramic but it was very well curated, preserved and restored. To think that those objects was shipwrecked and was buried under the sea for centuries was unthinkable. To think that it was founded in the Indonesia’s sea territory then now owned and displayed in Singapore, even more unthinkable. For the sake of the artifacts, I’m relieved. God knows what would happen to them if they are in the incapable hands of corrupted Indonesian authority. However there’s one side of me, the museum buff, who screamed ‘why’.

A serious bubble bath time, lounging at Singapore’s hijacked version of Bali’s KUDETA on the 57th floor, a deep undisturbed sleep and rush buffet breakfast later, we moved to the next accommodation Singapore was willing to offer and we could afford, an aging quiet hotel on Killiney Road, Orchard Grand Court. I had a love hate thing with Orchard Road. I love to shop there but I hate the fact that I barely can afford the things they sell. Luckily during my trip, Singapore is in the frenzy of the annual grandest sale. Needless to say, almost everybody I met on Orchard Road was Indonesian. You wouldn’t believe they’re from a poor developing country if you see the way they shop. That family with baby sitter queing in front of Gucci, yes definitely Indonesian. A bunch of well dressed and BlackBerry-ing young girls walking slowly. Yup, another Indonesian. In fact, Orchard Road is the shopping Mecca for Indonesian and thousand of them went there periodically for devout pilgrimage.

A special mention need to be make for the quiet and calmly tucked restaurants on Killiney Rd. Honestly, after my brief but memorable food trip to Penang, all the food I ate in Singapore was tasteless rubber. Then I found Killiney Kopitiam with their creation of buttery kaya toast and black coffee, which they’ve proudly have made since 1919. Few shops from there, I ate one of the best chicken rice I’ve ever eaten in my life. To think that such simple and no fuzz places have been operating there for years and so close to the touristy Orchard Road was just lovely. Indeed, most of their customers are locals and office workers.

Then to our fourth and last hotel, the 81 Dickson. There must be at least a hundred of 81 hotel chains all over Singapore, funded by ‘underworld money’ as our taxi driver cheekily said. Many are located in the infamous red district, Geylang. They’re as cheap as you can get in the inhospitably priced accommodation of Singapore. The room was small, clean and got all you need for just a sleep. The reason I chose this particular chain was its close distance to the infamous 24 hours shopping destination, Mustafa Center and Little India, which I’ve never been before. I’ve always been fascinated by Indian culture and Incredible India was my dream destination, so I was hoping Little India, a tiny world of India outside India, will cure me from the angst. And yes, I love Singapore’s Little India. The whiff of jasmine flower chains, fragrant basmati rice, and the crazy amount of musky incense smokes drifted out from each and every shop, the Bollywood songs and the colorful salwar kamiz and saris the women wears. I know it was nothing like India but such a sweet introduction it was. We ended the night by catching the last bus to Clarke Quay since my testosterone ridden brother was dying to see the “oo” in Hooters. Yes, it was a privilege to be able to walk anywhere, everywhere. In fact, walking in Singapore deserved to be recognized as its own destination.

Yet for some reason, line by Thoreau keeps popping in my mind: “City life. Millions of people being lonesome together”. I noticed the cold distance and lack of interaction amongst the people there. There was no spontaneity, gaiety, whatever you call it. Those small unimportant human contacts and meaningful encounters to magically color your day was absent. It was purely, strictly business. I would think twice about living there but I wouldn’t even think if somebody asks me to go there again. For now, Bali will do just fine.


2 komentar:

Ksatrio Wojo Ireng said...

Interestingly put on how you review S'pore. I wonder where would you visit next... some place far in Africa perhaps?.. we should go together then...

SapiMalas said...

I'm done for this year I'm afraid. Africa is my dream destination but I'll need to work harder to afford it. Have you been there? Care to share?

 

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Hello! I’m Eve Tedja

I have been a professional writer for four years.


During that time, I have worked as a permanent contributor for Let’s eat! Magazine, Hello Bali, epicure, and published my articles in several other magazines like Venture, Panorama, Bravacasa, and Bali & Beyond.


Words, sentences, stories... these are my passion. I love to take new challenges in writing for various format and media. I create contents for websites, blogs, and communication materials. I’ve also worked as a copywriter, translator, coffee book editor, social media coordinator, media consultant, and even writing for a specialty coffee packaging.


Interior design, travel, environment, culinary, culture, history, and social issues are some of the themes that I have worked with in the past. I love getting involves with individuals, companies, organizations, and communities with stories to tell.


I am available for assignment worldwide. Reach me at eve(dot)tedja(at)gmail(dot)com.

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