The Sling of Sing’

by Ant Stone on May 14, 2008

in Singapore

A Dutchman turned up from Delhi. The American? He flew, to Kathmandu. The Korean chap went home. A Danish fellow flew to Kuala Lumpar. A German girl chose train, then chose Bangkok. A trinity of Taiwanese picked Melbourne. An Irishman and his Deutschland girlfriend popped up to Penang. The Englishwoman? Chose Malacca. An Indian guy stayed, and got himself a job. The Canadian chose Borneo. The Swedish fellow took a flight to Denver. An American, he came to study. A pair of English cared for Cairns. A Norwegian pounced over to Phnom Peng. The Singaporean girl stayed home. A man from Finland fled for Sydney. A Frenchman landed from Chennai. A twain of Danes, they’re undecided. A Swedish girl is waiting for a friend. A Polish couple just did Perth. The quartet of Japanese, I couldn’t quite comprehend. The English lad? He said he’s headed for Hanoi. Singapore is a place that no tourist stops for long, but when you do, you start to see the real Singapore Sling. Not the infamous cherry brandy cocktail, but the one hurling tourists all over the world.

I’ve been in the same bed, in the same street, in the same city for over two weeks now. I came for rejuvenation. To shed my ten month chrysalis and sprout new wings. I’ve shaved with alarming regularity – twice. I’ve done laundry in a machine – once. Not for the first time, I got a cold and not for the last time, I got incredibly drunk. Singapore is a city that inspires me for the very fact that I feel I’ve seen it all before – in India and China, and also in London and New York. There are few things unique to The Lion City of south Asia other than it’s paradoxical location. It’s a city where small children suck from fat straws and gorgeous women glide by branded street cafes. A city where escalators take the strain and the doors of the MRT (underground) double up as mirrors for the veins of vain. It’s far from utopia but being a successful city and a country all in one, it’s a prosperous blueprint. It reeks of ‘prevention rather than cure’ and for me – and I suspect the same for many backpackers – it’s a gulp of fresh air before submerging back into the other world, it’s alter ego, the sweet stench and chaotic calm of less-fortunate Asia.

I’ve stacked up on shiny new things, slung out shabby old stuff and with a bit of luck I’ve persuaded the nation of incredible islands, Indonesia, to grant me a 60 day visa. ‘What?! Indonesia? That’s south! What about Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and all that gang, Ant?’ It’s OK my child, fear not. My decision was partly whim, partly logic. The monsoon, that loathed season of rain is due to tip it’s load on Thailand and this would leave me cornered in the playgrounds of southeast Asia where my heart would beat from the historical truths of persecuted populations while my head would pound from Beer Lao and droves of western tourists. I will clarify, I am western and I am a tourist but right now I prefer the adventure offered by the 17,500 islands, unjustly devoid of tourists due to the misdemeanors of Man and Mother Nature but teaming with orang-utans, volcanoes, Komodo dragons, jungles, surfing, diving, birds of paradise, things that go bump in the night and buses that go thump in the day. I do plan on visiting mainland southeast Asia at some time, and given that I was forced by the no-onward-flight-no-visa rule of Indonesia, I’ll be briefly returning to Singapore in July and then, who knows. Unless. Ahem. I achieve my plan to snare a crewing position aboard a Darwin-destined yacht.

On a somber note, my words are with you but my thoughts are with the victims – suffering now and those who will suffer consequentially in the future – of the Burmese cyclone and the Chinese earthquake. I know from conversations with victims of the 2004 tsunami that the Burmese, especially, will find solace in their deep faith, that even after the aid (domestic or foreign) dries up and their neighbour’s home is rebuilt, that they will continue to ask questions. The Chinese, with the wily eyes of the world already on them, have another Olympian task ahead. China is a nation scarred by disasters of nature and marred by disasters of mankind, but beneath the rubble there is a torch of light that will prove more powerful than the one just descended from Everest; The torch of Mankind, an affection that goes beyond politics and borders, and will lead their compatriots to their feet. In contrast the Burmese, led by a stubborn dictatorship will barely know the eyes of the world are on them. The average Burmese boy finds the edge of the world just passed the next village. It’s a country of cloistered choirboys who mostly never dream of faraway cathedrals, even though we hear their stoic song. In both tragedies, beliefs will lead, conspiracies will follow, some will forgivably never forget while inherently, some will never remember.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Nomadic Matt May 18, 2008 at 8:28 pm

There was a book called (aptly) “the backpacker” that talks about the same thing. When the characters are in singapore, they lament how no one stays and how everyone misses out.

I’d also head to indo. the weather is far better this time of year…wait until after the monsoon to go to the rest of SEA

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