*Day 80: National Day '08
Trip Start May 20, 2008
77Trip End Aug 19, 2008
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Where I stayed
Service World Hostel
Characterless as this squeaky clean city might be in parts, it felt refreshing to be back in "civilization" for a day or two. A quick hop & a giggle from ultramodern Changi Airport lead us to the Chinatown MRT station, local stop for our hostel. The hostel's location adjacent to the main pagoda and a hawker center (food court) was incredible, the hostel itself not so much. Two simple rooms packed to the teeth with bunk beds made up its entirety and promised a claustrophobic if cozy night. Sub par hostels are usually redeemed if they have nice owners and such was this one. Andy was his name, a short 60 year old Chinese guy who remembered your name and wouldn't stop trying to get to know you. He'd waddle around in an over sized Hawaiian shirt with only a pair of boxers for pants and could be mistaken for Donald Duck if only his silhouette was visible. His becoming the only person I can remember meeting to use the word "auspicious" in casual conversation sealed Andy's place in my heart. What a magical human being...
We walked across town in hopes of finding the unofficial intercity bus station, where we'd theoretically buy tickets for the overnight Singapore>South Thailand direct bus tomorrow night. Mayhem (by low Singapore standards) from the National Day festival starting 6h later lead us astray for a bit but the endeavor was successful. The bus depot was funnily the only spot in the city with any discernible genuine character, being packed full of working class Indians, Malays & Thais shopping in respective dedicated-ethnicity supermarkets. It was a gritty 70's style place reeking of cigarette smoke, with (GoGo?) bars taking up every foot of floorspace not occupied by food stalls or supermarkets. If not for the aforementioned fireworks, we would've stayed here all evening people watching. Fireworks time it nearly was though so we took the train back over to the Parliament area and followed the crowds.
A massive concert-type event was taking place in the main park here where hundreds of families had gathered to celebrate Singapore's birthday. In America this would've been a nutty carnival with donkey rides, BBQs, hotdog stands and football fan types chugging Budweisers. Here it was a cordoned-off section of locals who had paid to get into said section, all given color coordinated paddles to wave in the air at specific points and masses of less privileged people lounging around the grass field outside. On the loudspeaker was an MC who would incessantly beg people not to leave the field and announce the odd playing of a historical documentary now and then on the screen. His sole function was the nonstop enforcement precise formation schedule for the people holding color-coded paddles. At 6:17pm, it was "make the Singapore flag!" time. Ten minutes later, the Singapore flag waving! Later, the most stunning Singapore flag formation with your assigned glowsticks! He would go si lent fora bit, people would start having a good time, and then it was like "Okay play time is over, we must make a new shape for the video!" Or rather one of the singularly great quotes of the trip:
"Okee, okee... We make one formation now. Everybody get to your formations... okee okee... Ready? Now! INFLAME. YOUR. PADDLE-PODS!" (thick Chinese accent)
Several historical documentaries about the island's history were projected on the park's screen throughout this overly organized pseudo-mayhem. After paddle-pod inflammation #M087BNX42, the Prime Minister visited some other more central celebration elsewhere in the city and was treated with a National Anthem rendition from us. The MC launched the singalong and... very few people seemed to be singing. A CD track was played to compensate, followed by an airshow of awesomeness. The fighter jets made hair raising weaves in and out of the Downtown skyline before flying an array of fake near-collisions. Some well timed if tinsy fireworks added to the theatricality. Jeff & I joked that the fireworks were tiny because Singapore sold its supply to Beijing for the Olympics. In hopes of getting a better view, we mistakingly followed people onto a largely cordoned-off bridge and found ourselves in an impossible clusterfrak of a mob that took twenty minutes to find our way back out of. It wasn't worth the effort but made for a good story.
Back at the hostel, we met the rest of our roomies all of whom were American or British (sole German not withstanding.) I suddenly caught a glimpse of someone familiar in the corner of my eye:
"Owh moiy Gyod! How ah yah??? I con't believe you'uh heya!"
It was Anna, the Congolese-Australian from my very first day in Singapore way back when! She had just come back from her trip to Japan and by some freakish coincidence wound up at the same hostel on the same night as us. After a mass group dinner out in the Chinatown market, she joined up with the two of us on a theoretical clubbing outing.
All three club targets were along Clarke Quay, a tacky-as-hell riverside shopping strip and nightlife hub of Singaporean youth. The entire population under 26 are hipsters. Every single last one of them. We surveyed the entrance to the primary target club and found it to be booming, but figured some pregaming was needed due to budgetary concerns as Singapore is a nearly Western priced city. Beer was boughtat the nearest 7-11, though not after waiting for the rest of the youth population to carry out our idea as well and form a line far longer than a convenience store should be worth. We sat down beside the waterfront, opened the cans, and thus started such an epic philosophical discussion between Anna & I that any chance to club was entirely squandered. Jeff grew increasingly silent during this convo because as I found out later, he really really wanted to go clubbing already. Sorry Jeff :-/ A rare instance of the shoulder-nudging system failing.
3am struck, the night ended, and Donald Duck who was for some reason still awake bidded us a goodnight.
Food Poisonings: None
Bug Repellent Supply: In the Yellow
Travel Weariness: Cured by Singapore's Comfort
Countdown to Full Moon Party: T-1 Week