17 October 2008
The trouble with sailing, is that when you finally arrive somewhere, you have to spend much of your precious shore time fixing the boat. There are many things you can’t do properly at sea, especially when you need parts or expertise. Have now got our electric problems sorted, and our refrigeration issues fixed, but it’s meant we haven’t spent as much time sight-seeing as we’d have liked. This morning, just when we were admiring the minus double digits on the freezer thermometer, the compressor blew up and all the gas escaped. New compressor next morning, and another 24 hours of vacuum-extracting the residual gas, drying it all out and then several hours pumping the new stuff in again. (That saying about sailing equating to standing under a cold shower in a raincoat and tearing up 100 dollar bills keeps coming to mind…)
It’s a bit scary coming into a strange port and needing to find a good tradesman. However Richard Howe, the insurance company’s yacht surveyor, (a former ship’s captain and a solo circumnavigator himself) put us onto a terrific bloke called Alan, an ex-pat Geordie with a mesmerising northern accent. He worked like a Trojan and sorted out all our electrical and refrigeration problems over a few days, in between hopping around a few of the other boats.
The one thing people really rave about in Singapore is the food. You can eat out anywhere from $3 for a meal to an astronomical figure, and be just as satisfied I think! Its position at the crossroads of many cultures has given it a rich mine of inspiration when it comes to food. The variety and specialisation seems endless – Singaporean, Malaysian, Nonya, Thai, Hakka, Cantonese, Hainan, Korean, Indonesian, Sarawak, Indian (pick your area), Arab, just to name a few - or you can settle for ‘chicken chop, fries, fried egg and baked beans’ if you’re really homesick. Homesick for exactly where, I’m not sure… Of course there’s Maccas and KFC and the usual suspects for junk food, and the recently environmentally-outed Starbucks but who wants to eat like a pauper when it’s cheaper and better to dine like a sultan.
The architecture is stunning. Modern high rises, fanciful wedding cakes and austere towers, side by side with old buildings that must have escaped the ravages of WW2. One dark brooding, decorated building really caught our fancy. It looked straight out of 1920s New York,even though it was obviously new. Our taxi driver told us that it was locally known as the ‘Batman building’ because it reminded everyone of Gotham City:
‘See those four statues at the top of the building, each holding a crystal ball? Yes? Now look across the street over there. See the two very tall, sharp buildings?’
We could indeed see two very modern towers with acute corners, like knife edges, facing the Gotham City edifice.
‘It is very bad feng shui to have sharp objects pointing at you, so they had to deflect the bad energy,’ said the driver. ‘So they put up the statues holding the round balls.’
We visited Orchard Road a few times, once for shopping and the rest for business. A trip to Little India for dinner one evening was a pleasant step back. As we negotiated our way along narrow uneven footpaths dodging henna sellers and stalls and shop owners trying to drag you in off the streets, I realised I felt very comfortable and in familiar surroundings. It was just like Indonesia, only without the rubbish and the smells!