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Sunday 22nd August - Singapore
By Claire
Monday, 23rd August 2004 04:35

We went of an iPod hunt today: a couple of English lads had one last night and pointed us in the direcction of the shop selling them. We arrived about half an hour before it opened, but all the other stall-holders were trying to get us to buy things from them, offering better and better deals and promising to halve any other price. To avoid them, we sat outside in the shade and Mikey told me what happens in the book I'm trying to read without getting cross with, which saved me a couple of days of reading, especially as I'd guessed the ending after the first 50 pages. Unfortunately the iPod shop only had the big, expensive ones, and we wanted the small, cheaper ones, so we went away empty-handed.

Seeing as the MRT was so nice yesterday, we used it again to get to Chinatown. There was a sign on the wall saying no Eating/Drinking, No Smoking, No Littering and No Durian Fruits. Chinatown was very busy, hundreds of umbrella-shaded shopfronts all selling Chinese crafts, waving gold plastic cats and a variety of clothing. Mikey was dragged by the arm into numerous shops by tailors offering to make him suits and I found a nice long skirt to wear for dinner tomorrow night. There was a massive Hindu temple at the end of the street, but I felt uncomfortable going in with bare shoulders, so we'll return on Tuesday. A lot of people dressed in beautiful sarees came out holding plastic-wrapped fruit baskets and statues.

Further down the road was a Chinese temple full of carved dragons and gold-leafed woodwork. Right in front of it was an ancient-looking building of white plaster and tall towers, which looked great in front of all the blue glass high-rise tower blocks next door. The streets were gorgeous, all the houses were painted in pastel colours and had large arched windows and bright shutters. We found a small cafe on a side street ate too much Chinese food again, this time making less mess with chopsticks because I didn't have soup. Haven't got the hang of which plate to put what on yet, but I don't think anyone minded too much. Mikey went to pay and spent twenty minutes discussing Singapore's Olympic hopes with the manager (he hoped the table-tennis player wouldn't win because she was still Chinese at heart and he didn't think Singapore should buy their athletes from other countries) while the waitress just giggled at me. A lot.

Although it was only a few streets away, we took the MRT to Fort Canning because it was cooler. Fort Canning used to be the military base in Singapore, but is now really just a botanical garden and some pretty walks. It is also the place that my grandparents used to live, although the house isn't there now. There was a weird siren blaring out when we got to the park, but after a while I realised it was just millions of crickets all doing their thing in unison. It was very, very loud. At the top of the steps was a building called the Battle Box which was an underground headquarters for the British Army and is now a museum. We took the tour, which was not only lovely and cool but also very interesting. There were wax models of all the guys involved in Singapore's surrender to the Japanese on 15th February 1942 and some of them moved, which was a bit disconcerting, although their eyes were most scary. The guy who showed us around told us about the ghosts in the tunnels and how he has to say prayers there every night when he closes it up, to keep the spirits away. He also told me that there were no houses up here in 1947 because as soon as the war ended the place became a park, but we went to look anyway.

Following Uncle Bob's directions, we found the old lighthouse and the view over River Valley Road, which is they area in which they would have lived. It's a beautiful spot and had a great view of the town below. We walked around a bit more and then took the underground back to the hostel. Little India station was packed, and there were hundreds and hundreds of young Indian guys sitting or standing around on the grass outside the station.

We spent an hour or so at the hostel, cooling off and checking mail, and then went out to Little India to see what happens there on a Sunday night. The streets were completely packed with people, all young Indian men, and they were all either standing around in groups or sitting on the pavements chatting. It was strange, the sound of thousands of people talking quietly, no-one shouting and no-one pushing or bumping into anyone else. Mikey and I navigated through the crowds without touching a single other person. I'm no sure what everyone was doing, but I think there must have been about twnty to thirty thosand men (and three women) out this evening.

We stopped for supper in a food court and studiously avoided the chicken feet soups or pigs organ stews and Mikey chose a very nice chicken and black pepper dish, and I tried the stripy puple jelly triangles that look so sweet and tempting. It wasn't, unfortunately, and it was sort of like aspic with a slight coconut flavour. There's still the green striped one and the yellow one to try though! I had a plate of fruit and half of Mikey's supper. I tried to find a durian fruit to taste, but the only guy selling them (in cake form) had packs of ten and I wasn't brave enough to buy ten of them. There's still time, though.

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