Owwwwwwwww!

16
Jun
2007

There comes a time in every man’s life, when we think about the meaning of life. About getting older. About dying. Today, for some reason, I thought about my 40th birthday coming up. And being in Bali, I thought about the beach. And I thought about…vanity.

Jeff was ever so encouraging, and the price was certainly right at only 9 dollars, so I went for a backwax for the first (and probably LAST) time in my life. OWWWWW!

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From bali

Bali Buffet!

16
Jun
2007

So far, I am loving the food in Bali. Having just arrived last night, my buddy Jeff (you remember him, from KL) came to pick me up at the airport with our driver, Made (pronounced mahdi). They wisked me away to our lovely hotel in Balinese style (the hotel, not the ride. See the pics.) and afterwards, we made our way to a simple but amazing meal of Nasi Padang.


From bali

 

What makes the world beautiful?

16
Jun
2007

This is the question posed at the endpoint of an exhibit entitled “Beauty in Asia“. I went to this exhibit at the lovely Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore. If you are ever in Singapore, this museum is definitely worth a visit. They have some stunning artifacts and great interactive exhibits that are wonderfully put together.

At the end of the exhibit, they ask this (somewhat) provocative question and offer some possible answers, encouraging the patrons to drop their ticket in one of the boxes to vote on the best answer. I almost dropped mine in the box that said “love”, but then hesitated. I kept my ticket in my back-pocket (for now) and walked out.

   

Singin’ in the rain Singapore

15
Jun
2007

Well, not singing actually, but it IS raining here. Not much yesterday though. I switched hotels to the slightly better (but still not recommendable) Tropical Hotel, still in Chinatown. At least they use real pillowcases here, and I slept much better last night.

Also I had dinner with a lovely couple who are friends of my friend Ruthbea’s friends. (how’s that for a tenuous connection?) They showed me all around Little India and we had a great South Indian meal and talked about what gives life meaning.

Here’s a few more odd things I have noticed in Singapore:

1. People are more precise about time here than in other parts of Asia I have been to. On no fewer than THREE occasions where I was to meet people somewhere here, the appointed time was 45 minutes past the hour. Not on the hour, not on the half hour. Interesting.

2. Music stations in cabs, shops, wherever ALL seem to be playing the songs I grew up with, mostly from my high school years. And really obscure things like Cory Hart’s “Never Surrender”. Go figure.

3. Food courts are not a dirty word here like they are in the US. You can actually eat very good food in them.

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From Singapore

Arcade evolution

14
Jun
2007

One thing I have noticed a lot in my travels over the past month is the predominance of bands of kids (preteen and teen) that populate internet access centers in the more expensive parts of Asia, obsessively involved in multi-user gaming (and multi-user screaming). I have so far noted their existence at multiple locations in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and now Singapore.  I have NOT noticed their existence in India, or Thailand (or mainland China for that matter), but perhaps this is just my good fortune or a lack of disposable income and time in these places for this demographic.

These groups are marked by several interesting features:

1. They become VERY wrapped up in their sport of choice, screaming and yelling at each other all the time. This has led me to realize that these internet centers can be thought of not only as “Libraries” (as i like to think of them) but also as “(Xtreme) Sports and Recreation centers”.

2. The coarse language of choice for these youngsters  is English. As they are winning or losing or noting some monster, alien, or blood stain on the screen, they routinely yell out to their fellows choice sayings such as “Got you, bitch motherfucker!”, “Fuck you!”, “Shit! Fuck!”, “Ass fuck, you bitch!” and many, many universal “Ooooohhhh!!”s. They then switch back to their native languages for (one assumes) more normal language about logistics or whose mom just called on the cell phone.

3. They seem to inhabit these places at all hours. I merely have the misfortune to be here during school holiday, I suppose.

4. The thing that has changed since I was a kid is the ascendancy of the Internet. This has had the effect of moving the  old arcades of my childhood into these Internet centers and cybercafes.

5. With one exception (and mirroring my childhood) these gatherings are exclusively male. I have only seen one  girl among the various groups. To her credit(?) blow by blow, she cursed and screamed with the best of them.

Spendy Singapore

13
Jun
2007

It is PRICEY here. Not more than the US, but a reminder of why I am able to travel for so long in most parts of Asia (especially India) while I would be dead broke by now in my own country.

Some of my experiences and observations so far:

– It is spotlessly clean here. Sterile, almost.

– Chicken with rice. This deceptively simple sounding dish almost moved me to tears at lunch today. It was super extra delicious. I especially recommend the establishment just down from Hotel 81 Chinatown on New Bridge Road. It doesn’t look like much (just an almost basement level stall), but it was amazing. This dish consists of Chicken (exceedingly tender), ginger, chili sauce, cilantro, sweet thick soy sauce and, of course rice. Yum!

– As long as we are talking food, I had an amazing avocado shake today. That’s right.

– As long as we are talking hotels, DON’T stay at the Hotel81 Chinatown. It is clearly a love hotel, the rooms are the size of postage stamps, and most annoyingly of all, they use disposable pillowcases like on airplanes. These leave a waffle imprint on my face.

– I have seen some actually cool architecture here (but not much). Among the standouts: The National Museum and the Esplanade (that looks like a Durian).

– Speaking of buildings, there is a super weird new temple in Chinatown that claims to house the tooth of the Buddha.

– It is (of course) HOT and WET here. So what else is new.

– Was Stamford Raffles gay? It would sure appear that way to look at his statue.

– Did I mention how expensive it is here?


From Singapore

Strangers are just friends you haven’t met.

12
Jun
2007

Had a totally fab last couple of days in KL. On the bus back from Melaka, I met a sweet married couple Elif and Harry from London who are traveling for three months in Asia. We met later for dinner at the fabulous Bijan restaurant (which specializes in Malay cuisine). It was raining like crazy and although we made a valiant effort to wait out the rain over dinner, after three hours we made a run for it to the next bar a hundred meters down the street, getting thoroughly soaked (and giggling like crazy) in the process.

The very next day I made a new friend, Jeff (and a friend of his Way Cheng, who happens to run Bijan, what a crazy coincidence). We hung out all day, eating, taking in the sights, walking around.

It is amazing sometimes how easily you can click with some people. It also makes me remember that despite my ease with traveling solo, it is always wonderful to share experiences. Despite my blogging proclivities, I truly prefer dialogue to monologue.

Chinese and Dutch Tourists…

9
Jun
2007

…are everywhere here in Melaka, collecting pieces of their past. In the Dutch case, retracing their colonial adventures, and in the Chinese case, tracing a certain diaspora. The Dutch are mostly Dutch. The Chinese are a mix of Chinese Chinese and Malaysian ethnic Chinese.  James, the (ethnic Chinese btw) guy I had a fascinating conversation with a few days ago about Malaysian politics, told me bluntly that the Chinese are the Jews of Malaysia. What he meant was that they are viewed in much the same ways that Jews are in other countries. Hard working and industrious merchants who value education on the positive stereotype side. Money-grubbing people who have way too much influence and control over resources on the negative side. Every culture seems to need to fill this particular scape-goat niche. Every culture seems to need an enemy, real or imagined.

Anyway, on to Melaka. It has a wonderful feel to it, the mix of architectural influences here are quite something to see. Click on the pic below to go to the whole album.


From Melaka

Melaka Bound

9
Jun
2007

I am checked out of Number 8 and awaiting my taxi to Melaka (or Malacca, if you prefer). KL has been fantastic. It is an easy city to get lazy in and time just passes. Went out to a great bar last night called Frangipani, the music and the people were pretty happening. I could probably stay longer, but something compels me to take advantage of my time here and see more of the country. After Melaka, I will head to Singapore for a few days, then either Indonesia or back to Malaysia (but this time to Penang in the north).