Pulpology: Mark & Sonia's Intercontinental Absurdities!


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08 November 2008
The best of times, the worst of times

Ahhhhhh, travel. It tests you. And just when you think you're ready to pack it all in, the travel gods surprise you with a happy ending.

Long story short (you're shocked, I know) we were supposed to leave Singapore today, and travel to Malacca, Malaysia, for a cooking class and some couchsurfing. Sounds like fun, yes? But although the folks at FernLoft had said they'd booked us two bus tickets - OOPS! - it turns out the bus was oversold and we had no way of getting off the island. We tried all morning to remedy this, but as luck would have it, Singapore is not so much a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants travel destination. There was just no way to get to Malacca in time for the class. So when Sam, the Fern Loft manager, arrived around 11am, we were just about at our wit's end and had given up on all attempts to leave town that day. I'd tried in vain to book both bus and train tickets online, to no avail, and happily agreed to let him book us two slots on tomorrow's 9am bus to Kuala Lumpur, where we could catch our onward flight to Bangkok. (Savvy readers will no doubt be waving the red flag at this point... Hey! These are the people who screwed up your reservation and prevented you from leaving on time today! You're going to let them try again??? Hellllooooo?!?!?) After about three hours of trying to manage this on our own, we were more than glad to abdicate responsibility.

Friends and neighbors, what's that I smell coming down the pike? Could it be a big fat *Lesson Learned*?? You'll just have to wait till tomorrow's spellbinding entry to find out, because we have more fun pursuits to pursue! Singapore awaits!

burning incense on Temple StreetThe remainder of that hot, humid day was a jaunty blur of splendid Buddhist-Islamic-Hindu temples, tasty eateries of every imaginable ilk, and the wackiest flea market we'd ever seen. Mark and I wandered through Temple Street, Chinatown, Little India, Little Arabia, and some neighborhoods not spec'd out by the likes of Lonely Planet. Singapore has the bad rap of being strict, rigid, orderly, sterile. While this is often true (witness the spotless men's room at the airport), we discovered parts of town with plenty of personality. At a colorful and chaotic ceremony at the Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple, we stood in silent awe as scantily-clad priests chanted, musicians squonked out some traditional beats, and the faithful lined up for blessings and dipped into red paint for dots on their foreheads. As the only whiteys in the joint, we stood to the side, tried to make ourselves as unobtrusive as possible, and hoped we weren't disrespecting any particularly angry or wrathful gods. Next door, at Kwan Im Tong Hood Che Buddhist Temple, throngs of worshippers knelt in prayer in the center, burning incense and shaking containers with sticks, or walked clockwise around the perimeter and past the enormous gold altar at the front. On the same street, several other denominations were represented -- church, mosque, and of course the almighty dollar, with myriad shops and vendors providing flowers, incense, and snacks.

bizarre bazaarOn the periphery of Little Arabia, we had a great adventure trying to order lunch at Singapore Zam Zam (which, to be fair, *is* listed in LP, although we didn't discover this till the end of the day), a place with all the ambiance of a busy truckstop diner but with the most gorgeous chicken murtabak you could ever hope for. En route to Little India we passed the hugest, most random flea market. It seemed to stretch on for miles, through a park and neighboring side streets, spilling off sidewalks and into alleyways. For sale was just about everything imaginable... old shoes, dusty ancient electronics, all manner of pirated DVDs, clothing, stuffed animals, odd knickknacks. Super bizarre bazaar.

too cool for school at Fashion BarAfter a refreshing mango lassi and an even more refreshing shower back at the hostel -- this town is a sauna! -- we recharged with a power nap, and emerged around 11pm. For convenience sake, we headed back down to Clarke Quay, the very touristy French Quarter/Georgetown -ish section by the river packed with bars and restaurants. We took a quick peek at Pyramisa, a purportedly "authentic Arabian and Middle Eastern fusion" bar & restaurant with bellydancers. The place was cavernous, empty, and throbbingly loud. No thanks. Searching for some late-night grub, we finally found a tapas place that happened to be across from one of the many chi-chi nightclubs. It was a great place to grab a front row seat to the ensuing drama, as club kids and ladyboys sashayed by, preening and primping and trying to out-fabulous each other. Our friendly waiter Gary provided color commentary. The highlight of the evening was watching one particularly dramalicious drunk girl get wheeled away in a wheelchair from nearby medically-themed "Clinic" bar. Hello, kitty!

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