Sunday, December 07, 2008

In Singapore, KL

I never got a chance to publish my comments and pictures on Wilhelmsfeld, Germany, and now, another "backlog". Of course no one is obliged to blog about their travels, but still ... We were in Singapore two nights. Ought to have been three, but my husband was stranded in Bangkok as a consequence of the airport being held for over a week by the "yellow shirt" protesters. Highlight of the visit was a tour, conducted by Elizabeth Lee, of a well-appointed public library located in a shopping mall on Choa Chu Kang! First library I ever saw in a shopping area was in Helsinki in 2001; I didn't realize until last Saturday that Singapore and other countries have had this feature for some time.

Visiting a foreign place, new or old, I'd prefer to stay away from the obvious tourist traps and try to see life as the locals do. Eat the same food, use the same public transpo. It's always a treat to be invited to a private home...

We stayed at one of the Hotel 81s, this on Joo Chiat Road, which I suspect is as red and as lighted a red light district as Singapore can ever have. More experienced travellers, correct me please. THe beautiful young bar girls spoke Thai and looked almost preppy...

Today, a five hour Aeroline bus ride to Kuala Lumpur, where the steward invited us to use the first level lounge. He was wearing blue contact lenses! Interesting. The bus stopped less than a kilometer from the Petronas Towers, and I looked up in disbelief as we drove past in the taxi. My husband promise we would go there tomorrow, but warned me that we could climb only as high as the bridge that connects them. The twin towers of the World Trade Center had looked much taller when I saw them, but then of course I had been just nine years of age at the time.

Our hotel is on Jalan Petaling, in Chinatown. The street is closed to traffic, sort of like Escolta once had been, I suppose, and part of it is roofed over and is a night market now. It is lined with stalls, all selling fake designer goods. Paradise. Not for me, but for various friends in Denmark who have asked for knockoffs of YSL and D and G. No export overruns in this section, but on our way from the bus terminal, we passed a huge establishment called The Reject Store -- "Never pay full price," or something like that. If I could only find my way back to that ...

We had dinner at a shopping mall close to Jalan Petaling that looked almost like Farmers' in Cubao. The poster boy of Europe seems to be David Beckham: he's everywhere. Tagalog seemed to be spoken in corners here and there, and there was an LBC and another Filipino establishment on the top floor. Next to our hotel is a place offering various massages and a trendy new service that I first heard of from David TK Wong fellow Mulaika Hijjas: the fish pedicure. One's feet are immersed in a tank, and then nibbled at by a certain finny species that has a predilection for dead skin cells and similar goodies.

On Tuesday, we will be hosted by the writer Baha Zain (current president of the Writers' Association of Malaysia)... looking forward to that. And in Penang, by the writer Muhammad Haji Salleh.