A Layover in Singapore

The flight to Singapore left at 10pm, and arrived 12 flight hours plus 7 time zones later, at 5pm Monday. We slept for a few hours on the plane, thanks to the miracles of modern medicine. We got to our hotel in Little India, and ate at Mustard, a good Punjabi/Bengali place nearby. Mustard is common to the Punjab and Bengal; otherwise it’s an odd combination. It’s hot here at the equator — I’m happy to unzip the long legs from my travel pants, probably for the rest of the trip, because I’m tired of stepping on them. Singapore is like Las Vegas: hot outside, freezing inside, and there are casinos, even a Sands.

Tuesday we went sightseeing in Singapore. The town reminds me of an airport; everything is pretty safe, culturally. The signs are in Malay, English, Tamil, and Chinese, which is a lot of people not to offend. Little India, where our hotel is located, is also multicultural: there are clubs nearby which don’t quiet down until after 1 AM, and there is a mosque right outside the window with a bizarrely huge number of minarets and a call to prayer at 5:30 AM. So much for sleeping. The hotel explicitly refuses to guarantee the rooms are quiet.

It’s possible that some negativity seeps into the Chinese, Malay, and Tamil signs; but the English words are pretty upbeat. No mention of torture, which is largely how the peace is maintained. Filial Piety is big. Not speaking the language is a good way to look on the bright side. Dennis was miffed at the anti-intellectualism of the artists talking to his mom in the park the day after the party — well, they wouldn’t call it anti-intellectualism, they would call Dennis anti-intellectual because he doesn’t know about, I don’t know, Fluxus. But he knows their CRTs won’t give them cancer. Don’t know about the backscatter. I miss the whole debate. Keep smiling, Irmengarde. (Where is that line from? Google says, “No results found for ‘keep smiling, irmengarde’.”)

Anyway, the highlight of the day was Haw Par Villa, an idiosyncratic artwork along the lines of Desert Christ done by the wealthy inventor of Tiger Balm. It is a few hectares of ferroconcrete figures dating from the 1930’s, illustrating the Buddhist and Confucian virtues, as they apply to multinational corporate exporters. There is a great emphasis on obedience, but also a place in Hell for usurers. When the industrialists face down the bankers, they are surprised to find that they aren’t as in favor of the free market as they thought.

After that we went to the Philatelic Museum and the Singapore Art Museum, both of which had exhibits from Thailand. It is always instructive to see how many different ways the thematic challenges of modern art can play out. Dinner at the food court underneath the ferris wheel. Gelato afterwards: Singapore is not Florence.

We have to figure out something to do this afternoon before we leave on our next overnight flight to Port Douglas via Cairns via Brisbane. We’re not much for ferris wheels, or ziplines, or shopping. I suppose that leaves trying to find some more interesting food.