30 January 2009

Caged Animals

Craziness to report. 

Firstly the opression of Singapore. Natalia has tried to explain to me in the past few years how much she has broken out of the mould of Singapore (admittedly she is zany by most people's standards) but I didn't really get it until now.  As she tells me, people are Singapore's resources, rather than farming or mining etc, so the way the government manages those resources is Control and strong discouragement (read capital punishment!) of independence or disobedience. It's everywhere you go - apartment blocks all painted the same, railings along the footpath to prevent you crossing the road except at designated places, voiceovers at the train station telling you to hold the handrail on the escalator, signs saying No Waiting, No Loitering, No Standing, No Smoking, No Running or Playing, even signs that have a picture of someone getting shot by an army man for No Entry.... and so on. Even after being here a few days I was feeling a bit constrained and needing to rebel in some small way. 

It all culminated in a very very surreal moment at the Zouk nightclub on Mambo night this week. Mambo night is where they play very bad pop music remixed for clubs and everybody dances along by miming each word of every song. It is very very bizarre because there are dancing platforms full of people all dressed the same, guys and girls separated, all doing the exact same dance moves for the whole song. They have such specific gestures for each word, it's like another language. For instance the mime for Dancing Queen is boogie with pointed fingers, then putting a crown on your own head. No moving of feet or wiggling to the beat permitted. "I just died in your arms tonight" involves a hanging gesture! Right. So my surreal moment was when everybody was miming along like a pile of drag queens to "It's My Life" by bon jovi and Natalia and I tried to get up on one of these platforms for a dance. A security guard suddenly appeared next to us and informed us that only 3 people could be on this platform at a time, and I looked around and saw all these people who looked the same and dressed the same, all doing the same mime gestures to a song about paving your own path, independence, doing things your own way.... argh. It was just too much!! Luckily, after a while, one of the other girls got down and Natalia and I could both get up and do free style dancing with our shakers, wiggling our butts like crazy things! What a moment of rebellion! We expected one of the many security guards lining the walls to drag us down at any second...

I checked out the Singapore Zoo and night safari yesterday. Fantastic! I was very excited about endearing critters such as pygmy hippos, otters, tapirs, guanacos, badgers, pangolins.... eeeeeep!! Also, I saw a SLOTH omg... and made friends with some Giant Flying Squirrels which are possibly the most hilarious critters I have ever seen. I will have to tell my boss that we need some at Lorna Glen. No photos of them as it was too dark, unfortunately.

Today Natalia and I went to one of 2 of Singapore's reserves. She didn't even know it existed so it was particularly exciting. We saw some huuuge water monitors in the mangroves, Varanus salvator. About the size of a big perentie. There was much excitement and attempts to catch them. 

Also I booked a very cheap flight to Phuket for the next week. Despite what I said above, Singapore is nice, and clean, and easy to navigate... but there's not a whole heap to do (and also i picked up a 2nd hand thailand lonely planet book for $4 :)!! how exciting. I might have to leave some of my crap behind at a backpackers or something though. No need for thermals and ski goggles in Phuket!!


27 January 2009

Chinese New Year

Hey Peeps,

Criticism of lack of posts noted. In my defense, the only internet I have had the last few days has been in the "member's lounge" of the flash hotel we stayed at in KL, under the watchful eyes of hotel staff who ejected me fairly quickly due to scruffy appearance and cheese thievery.

We're back in Singapore at Natalia's dad's place after a couple of fun filled days in Malaysia. Well they were fun filled for me - Natalia was on the family "leash" and spent most of the time stuffing her face with grandmas and aunts etc. We would both come back to the hotel at pre-arranged times, Natalia in a nice dress, heels, makeup, me in sweaty fishermans skirt, birks and singlet. She would bitch about how bloated she was from eating constantly and I'd tell her of the $2 meal I had on the street watching the world go by. I crammed a fair bit in our 48 hours in KL, there was plenty more I would like to have done but of course there were time constraints and also the odd thing I didn't feel comfortable as a single female whitey. Not much, but longer distances and the odd small and dodgy market that I would have preferred a buddy.

So in my time in KL I went to many many shops and noticed that all the clothes were designed for people much smaller (and more feminine) than myself. But that's ok, as the weak dollar has made things not that much cheaper there anyway. At first I was intimidated by the street sellers hassling me to buy/eat/look etc but by the end I had fun bantering with them... "a pink watch? what do you take me for, a little girl? Ha!" they they would scramble to find something else and I'd dash off. I swanned around in our very luxurious hotel and managed to sneak into the 'members lounge' a few times to use internet and eat nibblies (free cheese!!) that they always had out. I visited the KL bird park which was good but not amazing - birds were good but the place they were in was not quite up to our high animal facility sort of standards. Went on the monorail, walked and walked, watched a Chinese NY lion dance, had taxi drivers try to rip me off until you call their bluff, all the usual tourist things.

Before Australia day I scoped out a whole bunch of places that might serve as potentials for pub celebrations. This was challenging due to the fact that it was chinese new year public holidays and everything was closed, and also the bars tended to serve as places where small women with padded bras picked up old fat white men or places where people went for quiet and expensive drinks. Not so much music and free flowing cheap beer. Nonetheless I wore my Australian flag for 2 days straight trying to find other aussies to celebrate with and only came across TWO, can you believe it. But they were there for work and staying out of town so no luck. We ended up just having wine in our hotel room (insert complaints about overeating here) and tiger beers on a humid and food filled street with people everywhere... lovely :) Of course we covered ourselves in AU flag tattoos, flag sarong and took our shakers out with us. Ended the night with some poor sods massaging our feet for a few bucks at 2am. Somehow that didn't sit right with me but apparently it's the done thing.

Today on the way home I was honorary whitey at Natalia's grandma's lunch... second whitey ever to be invited there after Natalia's mum. Not even long term boyfriends have been there. Big responsibility! Fortunately I can pretend to be charming and apparently my name is easy to pronounce. Also the universal language of food appreciation goes down well and is something I am good at :)

Traffic was absolutely mad on the way back in to Singapore, all 4 lanes of the 1km bridge were crawling to the passport checks, not helped by buses which squoze (thanks, Karl P) through the emergency lanes almost wiping off car mirrors. eeeek!

Next few days I will be in Singapore checking a few things out, Natalia's here till Sun, then I might try to spend a few days in Bangkok before Japan (there's only so much to see in Singapore).

Hope you all had lovely Australia Days,
Judy xx

Photos here; http://picasaweb.google.com/judy.dunlop/TravelPhotosJanuary?feat=directlink

21 January 2009


Jan 24-Feb 9: Singapore/Malaysia

Feb 9- Mar 5: Japan

Mar 5: Los Angeles

Mar 6 - Apr 20: Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica

Apr 21 - 25: London

Apr 26: Singapore- PERTH