Sunday, November 9, 2008

Changeapore

After I visited Singapore 11 years ago (!), I wrote that I would probably never return to this place. And right I was, because Singapore of today is not at all like what it was back then!

Not only have people bought themselves new cell phones, they have also gained a LOT of weight! Several times I've been sitting at the metro here and thought that the person next to me must have fallen asleep, when it turned out that they were simply so obese that they snore even when awake. Have you seen "The March of the Penguin"? You know, the movie where masses of penguins come waddling across the ice, walking from the coast where they have become fat by eating fish, while others had to stay on the ice and hatch the new batch of chicks? Well, the sidewalks in Singapore look much like that.

It struck me when I and the Singaporeans were about to walk across the street when the green man said so. Last time I visited I was very much impressed by the efficiency of the local walkers. Now they have forgotten everything about walking in a big city. They slowly amble along,seemingly at random, with no coordinated direction or pace. When the two groups meet in the middle of a road that needs to be crossed, it often ends in disaster. People crash into each other, and some will fall over, onto their back, unable to regain a standing position. Sometimes cranes have to be brought in to remedy the situation. It's a sad sight. The Burger King here sells four storey Whoppers. Now, if that's not a sign of a nation in decline, I don't know what is.

Oh, and that whole thing with waiting for a green man before you cross the street? That was something that people took seriously eleven years ago. Snipers on the rooftops would kill of anyone that walked on red back then. So people waited for the green man, even when the nearest car was somewhere on the other side of India. Now? They just walk if they feel like it. I have seen no police around to convince people to do otherwise, and there are no more signs around warning about ginormous fines for offences like that. A sad development, in deed.

But there's one street that is easy and safe to walk across. Not to brag, but I believe that the street where my hotel is located hosts the best prostitutes in all of Singapore. I can't tell by looking at THEM (they all look the same to me, try your luck at AllLookSame.com if you think you can do any better), but the constant still-standing traffic, consisting mainly of single, sad-looking men, tells me everything I need to know. They are there 24 hours a day.

There are lots of 24 hour things around. For instance 24 hour suits. At first I thought they might be good hotel rooms for prostitutes. They're not. That will be 3 hour suits. 24 hour suits are really cheep clothes for business men. By the looks of them, 24 hours is not how long it takes to make them, but how long they will last before they fall apart. But hey, they're cheap!

Did I mention that people in Singapore are poor walkers? They slowly glide down the sidewalks, often stopping completely, forcing me to walk straight into them. The only way they can get going again is by pushing a button inside their nostrils. It's true! Or maybe not, but the fact of the matter is that people here pick their noses a lot, particularly while walking outside. Which reminds me of a joke I heard recently: My wife said that picking nose is disgusting, so now I have to do it myself. Oh well, enough of that.

I've been to many strange sights during the last three days, but the National Museum of Art brought the weirdest experience. I was really sweaty and foul-smelling after a long day of walking, and had planned to just pop by the museum on my way back to the hotel. It turned out that there was an official reception there, because a new exhibition of Korean artists was opening. The ambassador of Korea greeted me eagerly and pulled me over to a table where he told me to help myself to some grilled pig testicles and a large ration of butterfly larvae that had not yet suffered their deaths. Apart from that there were lots of nice things to look at there, some of them wearing cocktail dresses.

Anyway, there's lots more to tell about Singapore. I may tell you later, but now I'm going to the hotel to pack, and tomorrow morning I'm off to Perth, Australia!
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