A Travellerspoint blog


a few days in Singapore hanging with old mates Dian and Richie otherwise known as 'the perfect hosts'

sunny 30 °C
View Summer 2010 : Deserved liberation on Bushra's travel map.

My old uni friend Rich (banker, photographer and foodie orignally from Hull n London) and his lovely wifey Dian (art therapist, product designer, creative all rounder originally from London n Jakartha) played host(est)s with the most(est)s. They have been living in Sing since 2007.

Some background info.

Singapore as you probably already know is tiny and is an island country 'founded by Sir Stamford Raffles' (check out the photos) off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It only has a population of 5 million made up of Chinese, Malays, Indians, Caucasians, and Asians. There is the interesting culture called Peranakan.

"Peranakan and Baba-Nyonya (Chinese; pinyin: Bābā Niángrě; Hokkien: Bā-bā Niû-liá) are terms used for the descendants of late 15th and 16th-century Chinese immigrants to the Nusantara region during the Colonial era. It applies especially to the ethnic Chinese populations of the British Straits Settlements of Malaya and the Dutch-controlled island of Java and other locations, who have adopted partially or in full Nusantara customs to be somewhat assimilated into the local communities. They are the elites of Singapore, more loyal to the British than to China. Most have lived for generations along the straits of Malacca and not all intermarried with the local Malays. They are usually traders, the middleman of the British and the Chinese, or the Chinese and Malays, or vice versa. They almost always have the ability to speak two or more languages. In later generations, some lost the ability to speak Chinese as they became assimilated to the Malay Peninsulas' culture and started to speak Malay fluently as a first or second language.

While the term Peranakan is most commonly used among the ethnic Chinese for those of Chinese descent also known as Straits Chinese (named after the Straits Settlements), there are also other, comparatively small Peranakan communities, such as Indian Hindu Peranakans (Chitty), Indian Muslim Peranakans (Jawi Pekan) (Jawi being the Javanised Arabic script, and Eurasian Peranakans (Kristang = Christians). The group has parallels to the Cambodian Hokkien, who are descendents of Hoklo Chinese. They maintained their culture partially despite their native language gradually disappearing a few generations after settlement."

Also though everyone speaks Chinglish, as English is the first language, many are billingual. Most speak English and another language, most commonly Mandarin Chinese, Malay or Tamil. In fact in schools if you are of Chinese origin you have to take up Mandarin Chinese as your second language etc so similarly if you are of Indian origin, you have to learn Tamil - may be Hindi would be more useful ?

It's strategic location as a port has always meant it had a very high GDP and after independence in 1965 direct foreign investment and a state-led drive for industrialization based on plans by former Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Goh Keng Swee created a modern economy focused on industry, education and urban planning.

These days, Singapore is the fourth wealthiest country in the world in terms of GDP (PPP) per capita, and the twentieth wealthiest in terms of GDP (nominal) per capita. Despite Singapore's small size, it has the world's ninth largest foreign reserves. The Economist Intelligence Unit in its "Quality-Of-Life Index" ranks Singapore as having the best quality of life in Asia and eleventh overall in the world.**

The Cs are credit card, car, country club and condo. So quite materialistic in the outlook. Everyone with a good job seemed to have a nanny/maid. Everyone seemed to work super hard leaving little time to chill out.

Rich mentionned it is not overly democratic and power is passed through nepotism, however because the goverment have been responsible, they make long-term decisions to improve the country as they have been in power for so long and will be for so long.

It is a lovely country and last time I was here, it was literally a stop over from Oz to London. I remember we stayed in a lovely hotel (Ritz Carlton) on the Marina and I spent most of my time sleeping off the flight and getting used to the humidity of Sing. This time I was determined to scratch under the surface.

Rich n Dian organised dinners and drinks with their friends here, so it was great to get their opinion of Sing (check the photos for recommendations of great places to go to). Life clearly is fabulous but as one of their friends said "In Sing, you get complacent because everything is so easy compared to other parts of the world. You are in a bubble. It's like Disneyland."

Anyway, every day I took public transport getting into Orchard Rd and the like and walked around visiting galleries, did a 10k rainforest walk and other tourist attractions (check photos). Yes it is probably the easiest and safest place I have ever been to. The MRT/ train system was sooo good. When buying tickets, you just have to choose the station on a map that is touch sensitive and it takes a photo and shows you a picture of you pointing to the station while you are paying.

Even Disneyland has tarnished bits, so the crappy things I saw were the truck loads of foreign nationals - mostly Indian and Bangladesh who live and work under deplorable conditions within construction. Rich said that when he was mountain biking through this rainforest with his friend, part of it had been flattenned they cycled past a tiny encampment with a hose for washing facilities. Dian also mentionned there are some really really rough social project areas like any other city.

All the same, I am so glad I spent a few days here staying with mates.

Thanks Dian and Richie again for putting me up and taking me out and look forward to seeing you in London very soon.

Posted by Bushra 22:35 Archived in Singapore Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

aunty SAM

Singapore Art Museum

View Summer 2010 : Deserved liberation on Bushra's travel map.

Aunty and Uncle is a respectful but endearing way to address an older person. So you may say to your taxi driver, "Just over there Uncle" or to the drinks lady "Aunty, AUNTEEEEEE...another one please."

I don't think a whiney baby voice is obligatory for maximum impact.

So I got the bus 77 from Holland Road flyover to Bras Baha Road which is off the southern bit of the shopping haven of Orchard Rd. I had a yummy regular latter sing $5.40 at The Coffee Bean, wrote some panic musings about 'what is going to become of my life when I am back in the UK".

I noticed that there were quite a lot of white people in suits and shock horror a black person in singapore - I over heard him speaking ..sounded like east london; a trendy spikey hair-cut student typing into his mac (terrible posture back all stooped over and screen reflection on his glasses reflection on his screen on his glasses etc) and one two very well groomed sing locals.

On the SAM website http://www.singaporeartmuseum.sg, is states :

"To date, SAM has amassed the world’s largest public collection of modern and contemporary Southeast Asian artworks with a growing component in international contemporary art.

...The museum building was particulalry impressive. It was originally St Joseph’s Institution (SJI), a Catholic boys’ school, run by La Salle Brothers. In 1855, the cornerstone was laid by its founder, Father Jean-Marie Beurel."

Quite a lot of the gallery rooms were closed temporarily which was a mild irritation but I got over that once I stumbled upon some of the amazing exhibits.

Ground Floor Exhibition

"In Life of Imitation, Ming Wong re-visits the context of the Golden Age of Singapore cinema in the 1950s and 60s; an era of nation building, economic struggle and rapid modernisation.

Inspired by the rich legacy, Wong re-reads “national cinema” constructed through language, role-playing and identity, by re-interpreting films that are familiar to audiences spanning two generations, and which engage with performative notions of mis-casting and parroting. The first is a compendium of works by P. Ramlee, the wunderkind of Malay cinema. The second is the Hollywood melodrama Imitation of Life (1959) by Douglas Sirk about a black mother and her “white” daughter. The third is Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000) with actress Maggie Cheung rehearsing a scene where she confronts her spouse‘s infidelity.

Through these video interventions, the viewer is presented with questions relating to roots, hybrid and the politics of becoming. The exhibition also unveils cinema posters by Singapore’s last surviving billboard painter; rare screen memorabilia of a private collector; and documentaries by film-maker Sherman Ong. The Singapore Art Museum re-stages this award-winning exhibition with a new design and additional exhibits."

Douglas Sirk's Imitiation of Life (1959) is such an emotional film anyway especially for the time, and then to use it as a basis to address racial identity 50 years with such empathy and innovation makes me feel warm at its genius but equally sad at its relevance today.

Basically the artist recreated parts of the movie, by casting 3 male actors from the main ethnic groups in Singapore (Chinese, Malay and Indian) who take turns to play a black mother and her mixed-race daughter, Sarah Jane. "I'M SOMEBODY ELSE...I'M WHITE. WHITE ! WHITE ! " with Malaya translation emblazenned on one of the mock posters. Absolute genius.

Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000) had particular poignancy for me. One of my best buddies Ehpriya who has been living in Thailand and Viet Nam for over a decade now had recommended it to me. And I watched it frame by frame, salivating over its stylistic paradise as research for my graduate catwalk collection at London College of Fashion in 08 - which I called 'Trunk - for adventure and reflection: post-colonial shabby chic' (http://www.bushra.biz/ click catwalk). Memories (-:

This time, a Caucasian actress plays both of the star-crossed lovers, Mrs So and Mr Chow, and speaks the lines in Cantonese by repeating after Ming Wong's off-camera cues. This mock film is called "Love for the Mood" and termed a 'rehearsal of a rehearsal'.

There were many other notable works within the gallery.

For me the most arresting were in the exhibition "Seeing the Kites Again" by Wu Guanzhong (more info http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=5154608) who had passed away in June 2010.

"These works are centred around his home in the South of China, his childhood, as well as the villages and towns he has been to. His interest in life and his attention to ordinary scenes, infuse his art with an aesthetic quality that demonstrates a return to simplicity."

His style was similar to impressionist painters. In this exhibition he used water colour and oils to depict traditional scenes. Wu strongly believed "Art could only be created from an innocent and selfless mind and could only germinate in one's own soil."

Posted by Bushra 19:36 Archived in Singapore Tagged events Comments (0)

Singapore Airlines A380

herculean,blimp, brobdingnagian, colossal, cyclopean, elephantine, enormous, gargantuan, giant, huge, immense, jumbo, mammoth, massive, monster, monstrous, prodigious, stupendous, super-colossal, titan, tremendous, vast, whopping

sunny 20 °C
View Summer 2010 : Deserved liberation on Bushra's travel map.

The '8' in A380 reflects the cross-section double decker/ 1 fat lady of the passenger area. I won't get to see the spectacular Edese Doret V-VIP area not this time anyway, but may be someday.


Actual flight
It was one of the nicest economy flight experiences with some well thoughout designs, for instance, a cup holder which is not stuck to the tray and a seat adjustment where the whole seat (the bum bit as well the back bit shifts together, drawings to follow). The plane was also quieter than other planes, the downside of that was that you could hear all the screaming babies all the louder.

The other sign of customer centric and service orientated design included :
- relatively soothing muted colour pallette
- professional menu distributed within economy
- hot towels to wipe hands and face
- constant cleaning up of rubbish
- mouthwash in the toilet
- full length mirror in the toilet

And the plane food was definately above average - again it seemed well thought out. I had my trusty Tobasco to dowse away any blandness.

Incidentally the following website is a great for suitably lowering expectations and preparing yourself for mealtimes on planes :


And idea going forward, why can't we buy a survival kit for the actual plane journey ?? it could include condiments and even a replacement nutritious meal pack which is perfect for long hauls, a memory stick with the top 10 books, rejuvenating creams etc. Just everything you would need for a journey for longer than 5 hrs.

Also have a family only part of the plane which is sound proof.

My mate Shumi from London also added the following comments :

Emirates is the best airline I've flown with. I like the fact they have 100 recent films to watch as well as hundreds of others. You can start watching as soon as you get into your seat, so there's no waiting for other passengers to stop faffing around and the plane to take off. On one flight, because of various delays. I managed to watch an entire film before we had taken off! The little touches are also great: menus and choice of food.

Posted by Bushra 09:33 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

1 rucksack and 1 hand bag

packing light for 6 weeks of travelling

sunny 20 °C
View Summer 2010 : Deserved liberation on Bushra's travel map.

Packing is always tricky.

The problem with my husband and I... we love everything. We love streetfood and we love the fancy restaurants, we love the shacks and also the posh hotels. We love everything and we love diversity. We want to experience everything and anything less would be 2-dimensional.

And I also love clothes and shoes.

So what's the problem ?

Well we have a travel policy, initially enforced by my highly practical husband, but I have grown to appreciate this.

Whatever the length of the trip, we only carry hand luggage. Yes that's one rucksack and one handbag.

To be fair, the only issue this has ever caused, was for instance, at heathrow airport coming back from a 2 mth south american holiday, police thought we must be drug dealers.

There are some essentials I literally cannot do without - sketchpad/journal, toiletries, a big camera, laptop, iphone, tonnes of wires and chargers, a snorkle and mask, travellers trousers, knickers, vest tops, 3 pairs of shoes- sequinned fit flops - absolutely love them for general day to day, proper trainers for the gym and hikes, wedge sandals for more sophisticated nights out. And 4 books which I have been meaning to read all year.

The temperatures should range from hot to very bloody hot, so that makes it a bit easier. Though our 3 days in Easter Island will be freezing.

What else to take !!?? a few dresses, some leggings and now my bag won't zip up.

Posted by Bushra 04:15 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged preparation Comments (0)

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