Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Tuesday, 06 August 2002

I'm back from Singapore.

My colleague and I were pretty busy right up until 4:00 PM on Friday, because we had arranged an extra testing session with one of the companies we'd tested with the first day. The organizers started pulling up the power cables and internet connections about noon and were standing there ready to pull the cables up from our table just as soon as we finished.

Friday evening we went to Sentosa Island, which seems to be the place Singaporese people go for holidays and day trips. It is quite close to Singapore itself, just a few hundred meters offshore, close enough to be connected by cable car.

If you skip the tourist attractions and just go for the beaches, resorts, or golf courses, it's probably fine. But the package we bought included (in addition to the cable car ride), a visit to the butterfly house and to the Images of Singapore museum.

As the son of naturalists, I kind of enjoyed the butterfly house from an entomological point of view. Really, though, it seemed to have been aimed at nine-year-olds. It was full of little cutsie things, like pedestals shaped like insects to hold up platters of cut fruit for the butterflies to eat.

The museum was a series of life-size dioramas of scenes from Singapore history, such as the signing of the original treaty that established it as a British outpost, the surrender to the Japanese in 1942, and the surrender by the Japanese in 1945. It had kind of a modern American flavor in the way it celebrated Singapore's ethnic diversity. But, frankly, I learned rather more about Singapore's history that I really need to know.

The big attraction, and the reason we went in the evening, is the musical fountains. The fountains can be synchronized to the music, and they project movies and lasers on the water. My colleague (who was the one who wanted to go) slept through most of the performance.

Saturday was our big day for tourist stuff.

I particularly wanted to go to Raffles Hotel because of Somerset Maugham and the other writers who have stayed there. It's a neat place, designed for a tropical climate with a sort of interior courtyard garden inside an arcade of shops that wraps around three sides of the old Raffels hotel building. There's a museum with memorabilia of the history of the place. I was a bit disappointed with how little there was about Maugham in the museum.

Then we went to Little India. The main street, Serangoon Road, went something like this: goldsmith, goldsmith, sari shop, goldsmith, goldsmith, sari shop, goldsmith, goldsmith, temple, t-shirt shop, goldsmith, goldsmith, Indian grocery, goldsmith, goldsmith.

I was struck by the signs of poverty in that area (the innumerable goldsmith shops notwithstanding), especially so since the parts of Singapore I'd seen up until then (tourist areas and business areas) were all quite prosperous. But in that district there were people who looked to have suffered from malnutrition at some point in their life and who had never received modern dental care.

Our plan was to go next to Chinatown, which we did, but we paused in our travels to ride one of the subway trains (which becomes an elevated train outside the city center) out to the end of the line and back. Singapore is a very small place. That subway ride took us just about the length of Singapore in around twenty minutes.

We stopped in an art gallery in Chinatown. It was really interesting work, clearly in the tradition of Chinese art, but also drawing on Impressionism and other western influences. There were several pieces that I liked, but the art was all over S$1000, a bit pricy for me.

Altogether we got a good bit of walking in, a good bit of it under the noon-day tropical sun. My tan, pale though it is, seems to have protected me from a burn, except for my forehead (and probably the top of my head as well, but I couldn't see it). That's what comes of wearing a hat all the rest of the time, I guess.

After Chinatown I headed back to the hotel. The other place my colleague wanted to go was a seafood restaurant, which had no interest for me. And, I was getting kind of hot and tired.

I lazed about the rest of the day, went to bed early, and got up early for the very long Sunday heading back home.

I lost some weight in Singapore, mainly because the jet lag destroyed my appetite by dinnertime. The lunches were catered by the event, and they were good enough, but I ended up not eating very much for lunch, either. So I made breakfast my main meal of the day, which worked fine as the hotel had an excellent breakfast buffet.

Jet lag since coming back home hasn't been nearly as bad, perhaps just because I never really adjusted to Singapore. I went to bed at a usual time, slept until I woke up (Monday at 7:00 and today at 6:30), and have felt about as awake as I usually feel.

I haven't written much lately. Time to get back to it.


Philip Brewer's Writing Progress homepage