TARDIS Travels: The Aquarium

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Hello. Blogging from Singapore again. How are things? My sister, Tricia, just graduated and Dad decided to take us all on a holiday in Bali. We’re flying out tonight. But first, we went to Singapore, our sort of home base (or base camp?). We’ve been here since the night of the 28th last week. Jika’s with us so it’s a crowd of seven. It’s fun! I like touring her around, sort of. It’s like re-experiencing things with a fresh pair of eyes.

We just stayed at home from Friday to Saturday and went to the Tampines mall on Saturday afternoon. Yesterday, we went to the new aquarium at Sentosa Island.

It’s the most fantastic aquarium I’ve ever seen in my life. I think it’s inspiring.

Anyway, we’re about to leave for Bali now. I’ll try to update as much as I can. Oh, by the way, I’m starting this new thing, taking a photograph of my TARDIS in new, interesting locations. It’s gonna be a nice way to travel and remember the places I’ve been to.

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Christmas at Singapore 12.27

The 27th was supposed to be a museum run. The day started late, as it always does when we’re here in Singapore for a holiday. We took the bus from the condo to Tampines station at midday then rode the train to Bugis station where we went to Bugis village again, this time accompanied by Mom and Peter. Mom had a fun time shopping and she doesn’t do this often, so it’s nice to see her happy just shopping. Patrick and I shopped a bit, too, but for chocolates and some snacks to bring home.

It was already 2:30 pm before we finished shopping, then we took Mom back to the station to see her off then we went on our way to the Red Dot Traffic building to take, we decided, our annual pictures of us with its red walls as our background. After that, we went to that lovely bookstore called Littered With Books. We didn’t buy anything, we just looked around and that’s when I had the idea that if I considered one day to live in Singapore and work there, I’d like to work there. But I have my reservations. One does not simply go into these things without much consideration.

After that, we went off and looked for the Singapore Art Museum. We got lost. We forgot the way and some of the old features in the area changed because of new stations and construction work. We found the museum after much walking and deliberation but after inquiring about the museum fee (we forgot again), we had to decline because one ticket to tour the whole museum is $10. The siblings don’t have enough money and I only have enough money to buy a new instax film for later. So went out again to look for the Fuji film store, which we found. The cool guy who was manning the store is still there and he’s offering some pretty cool deals with cameras and such and we have to decline again and just bought what we came for. We promised that we’ll come back and next summer and that we’ll recommend him to our friends. I think we just managed to make a sort of friend in there, even though we didn’t understand half of what he’s saying.

After we said our goodbyes, we went home.

Christmas at Singapore 12.26

The day after Christmas is an example of those days in your travels when you plan something out and discover a pleasant surprise in the middle. Tricia and I planned to just go to the National Library of Singapore, the most awesome library I’ve ever had the pleasure of walking into, read (naturally), and do some work, Tricia on her thesis and me on my short story, which promises not to be short at all.

But after reaching Bugis via train, we discovered the flea market that our friends have been telling us about, Bugis Village. We didn’t notice this before as we went to the Library from another direction, which was City Hall. Pleased at our discovery, we decided to go back here after our library time.

And so our library time passed, and trust me when I say this, I wished that it could’ve been longer. The amount and variety of wonderful books is overwhelming. I know I could just study there and educate myself. I could do as Ray Bradbury did when he first wrote Fahrenheit 451. He stayed in the library and wrote his story on a typewriter, every now and then going off to find a book, read, and then go back to his typewriter, and write.

But I didn’t do much of that. All I did was remove a chunk of text that didn’t work, write a few bits, take down notes, look at the art books Tricia got for inspiration and next thing we know, it was 2:30. We had a large bag of food with us, courtesy of Mom. It was enough for 3 people and it was heavy. We didn’t want to spend on food that day.

After that, we went to Bugis village and just shopped. The products were cheap and there were good street food (which we didn’t buy until the next day, when we went back the next day). We went home relatively early and we didn’t know if we’re richer or poorer. We have less money but more stuff. So I guess both, or maybe nothing changed, after all, we just exchanged bits of paper and metal with stuff we like.

We came home and then Dad picked all of the family up to have dinner with a few of his officemates and friends in Singapore at a seafood place by the east coast of Singapore. We ate so much and many of them we haven’t tasted before, like a type of bamboo shellfish, a strange type of fish, lobster fruit salad, spider crabs (?) cooked three different ways, some veggies, and a sea cucumber stew which tasted okay but knowing that it was sea cucumber made me uncomfortable. After the dinner, which was a cheerful one on a large round table with a lazy susan, we went to look at the sea and hear the waves break and take a few pictures. Then we went home.

Christmas at Singapore 12.25

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I wasn’t able to blog last Christmas day (and the last two days) because it was the most tiring Christmas day in my life (plus the days after that up intil last night). And even if I wasn’t tired, the internet was down in our place for some odd reason.

It was an amazing day out, though. First, we went to church (typical, expected, normal, and uninteresting for a person with my beliefs) then we had lunch at Tampines mall again. I got a spicy bowl of ra myeon from a Korean joint. It’s filling and good enough for two people. Then we got sidetracked into buying jeans. This one’s important and I’m lucky that I decided to get new jeans back then.

After that, we’re on our way to the Gardens by the Bay, a complex of high-tech gardens that I’m sure will be the stuff of legends  in the future. It’s an architectural marvel and the world agrees (it was named World Building of the Year at the World Architecture Festival 2012). I can say it’s a stunning feat for mankind and I’m honored to be alive to see it.

It’s a little like an Ark but for plants. That’s one of the glaring holes in the Noah’s Ark stories. They never kept any plants, which would be a highly idiotic thing to do if the whole world is inundated by floods. They’d have no food left…except the animals in the ship’s hold. But I digress.

The Gardens by the Bay are composed of two enormous greenhouses, one wide but short, the other narrow but tall, and giant “trees” which aren’t really trees but steel structures in the shape of alien-looking trees (or trees that survived since the face of the Earth first saw trees) which provide scaffolding for various vines and aerial plants. The wider greenhouse houses various plants from every continent in the planet (except Antarctica). There was an impressive collection of cacti accompanied by, oddly enough, crystals for decoration. There were hundred-year old olive trees, some pines, oak trees, a hundred kinds of flowers, and more things that I can’t name or haven’t seen before, like a plant that has a thin white sort of fur, probably used for storing moisture.

Upon entering the greenhouses, the first thing you’ll notice is the cold damp air within, followed by the expanse of the greenhouse and the number of plants and trees you can see. It was an amazing sight, a veritable ark of flora that ensures the various species’ sur vival against the enroaching might of civilization. Words and pictures don’t do it justice.

The narrower greenhouse was another surprise. Upon entering, the first thing that will greet you are the sounds of water falling and crashing from a great height, and then you see it, the reason why this greenhouse is taller than the other: a manmade waterfall coming from the top of, at first glance, a great tall hill of rock, coated with a wide variety of plants. Upon close inspection, this steep “hill” is a layer of rock wrapped around a staircase that leads to the top, from which a walkway snakes in and around the hill. There are holes in the behind the waterfall so you can see people milling about behind it. The air is colder here and there’s a nice fine spray of water even several yards from the falls. We walked to the top of the falls and made our way around the walkway, getting cold feet once we found ourselves looking over a great height from the walk way (it was supported by steel cables and foundations so we’re safe, but the sides of the walkway are, hopefully, strong steel net that you can see through). Stand still and you’ll feel it vibrate or wobble.

Once we reached the ground floor, there was an exhibition of stalagmites and stalactites which, while impressive, aren’t cool for me. I imagined a cave somewhere with ugly stumps in the place of the majestic cave pillars. There were also raw amethysts (still in their cold rock bubbles). That was impressive, too. Although I don’t get why people put coins on its small ledges and crevices.

There was another floor down and here they put together a database, presented in comprehensible graphics, of the Earth’s  status. Precipitation levels, temperature, weather, foliage level, etc. Each infographic changes, presenting info from a certain time in the past up the present and, in some, a certain point in the future. It was like an inverted pyramid. Go deeper below the hill and from it, you can see the world. Or at least the various states of the world.

There was another room which shows us how the whole garden works. Here we found out that even the shapes of the greenhouses have a practical use, which collects moisture and water. There’s a part of the garden that collectes rain water and moisture which it then uses to water the plants and make certain parts of the garden cool and at a stable temperature. There’s another part of the Gardens that uses biomass (biodegradable materials) as fuel for the engines that power the whole complex. The biomass are sourced from outside and inside. Even the giant trees have solar panels on topto help power the Gardens.

In another room, there’s a presentation of the state of the Earth from 2010 to 2100, showing how much the Earth and its inhabitants would change if the world temperature rises by 5 degrees. It’s not a pretty picture and from here you get an idea why the Gardens were built. It is both a reminder and a warning, and perhaps an inspiration for further solutions.

Next, we went to the giant trees where two of them have elevator shafts running through them which will take you to a suspension bridge between the two trees. There was a line for the elevator on one tree, none on the other (it was the exit). After a few minutes, we were up. It’s no Eiffel Tower but it’s breathtaking and more thrilling. We walked down the bridge and from it, you can see the city for miles. You can also see through the floor. Stand still and you can feel the bridge sway and vibrate. After a few minutes and several pictures, we went to the exit elevator.

By this point, our feet are already aching for rest. My little accident gave them time to rest, though. After seeing a wide lawn, which we saw as an opportunity to sit down, there we went and, excited, tried to sit. I was the first and it took me a second to notice, already too late, that it was wet. My black pants were muddied a light brown color like shit. This is where my new pants come in.

Changing my pants took a while and this gave the family a bit of time to rest. We then went to Marina Bay Sands to eat. The food here are way overpriced, probably the high rent. We swore never to eat here again unless we can comfortable afford it.

After dinner, we looked for the store we found last summer which sells some sort of fruit liquor and one thing that caught my taste buds is the limoncello. I was helped by a large young woman, probably the daughter of the old couple we met several months back. After the purchase, we went on our way home. The travel was quite long and our feet have definitely reached their limits.

We reached home around 9:30 pm or so (I really didn’t notice anymore). At the end of the road, Christmas came to me in the form of taking off my socks, settling into bed, and burying myself under the comforter.

Christmas at Singapore 12.24

Today was spent looking for gifts for Mom and Dad with Tricia and Patrick. We woke up quite late and rode the bus at around 10:15 am. It was already 11 am when we arrived at City Hall station. Most of the time was spent looking, comparing prices, getting disappointed, grumbling, getting distracted, buying things for ourselves, and not buying the gifts we intended to buy at the outset. Singapore is almost a network of malls and it would be unSingaporean, it seems, to not shop.

I bought three items for myself, a red bow tie, red suspenders, and black trousers (pricey ones, I must admit; I’m not a very strategic spender or product hunter). Tricia bought a lot for herself, and Patrick bought a few stuff as well. I don’t know how to spend my money, to tell the truth. I’m not much of a shopper and I find that the whole activity is uninteresting on paper. We ate spicy things. It rained while we ate.

It’s nice to ride the train here again. Nice train, nice stations. They’re convenient and accommodating and not too grimy. They’re exponentially better than what I have to put up with every day at the MRT in Manila.

Bus rides are nice here, too. They’re not the kind that will throw you out the window every time the driver steps on the break. They’re not the kind that zooms around like a small car, flitting in between other vehicles and cutting every car it sees and making a mess of things on the road, like holding up traffic on four different roads. They know their place and that is as it should be.

Although I miss some of the convenience that malls and other stores in Manila offer (like 7-11s; pharmacies, toy stores, book stores, and card stores in every mall), I generally don’t miss Manila. It has caused me pain and grief and general sickness. There are more parts of it that I don’t like than the parts of it that I like and need. In this place, it’s the opposite.

Cavite is different. Cavite’s okay. It’s home.

People back home are generally rude, mistrustful, and have a lack of common niceties and good etiquette. (Hmm perhaps that’s just Manila. When commuting.) But I understand. More people are poor, and a lot of people will do anything to survive. It has caused crime and suffering and pain and people should be more careful about other people. They live in discomfort and they have learned to harden themselves to other people. Niceties and politeness are often forgotten because some people have grown in harsh environments. They did not need it, or have grown with parents who aren’t good role models to their children. Some children didn’t have parents at all. People will do anything to survive.

People here have grown in comfort. The economy’s good. The government supports them. There is discipline. People are nice to you and the majority abides the law. This is also a melting pot of various cultures so more often than not, people have difficulty understanding one another. I have that difficulty. I don’t really get why some people kept talking even when it’s clear to both parties that they don’t really understand one another. Maybe they just like hearing themselves talk.

People are nice here. They live in comfort, their wages are okay. Maybe they aren’t really worried and all that because they can go through the day just fine without thinking about how bad their neighborhood is or that they just want to survive the following week. And that attitude accumulates and creates a certain kind of trust in the system and the community. The system and the network/construct/community looks after them, they just have to abide the law, and they have no problem with that. The law is strict. Only a few would dare break them and suffer the consequence. Why would they break it anyway? It’s sensible. You don’t have to be in a hurry in the worst ways possible. You follow the rules, the government will leave you alone.

Back home, the authority is something to fear even when you’re doing nothing wrong because almost always, they’ll find a way to fuck with you so that they could have your money, get their bit of entertainment, and maybe have their chance to vent by doing something nasty like beat you up. Almost nobody trusts the authorities. The media and word of mouth made sure of that, too. Almost everybody has been a victim of the authorities’ efforts to make a quick buck on you. And if they didn’t like you at all, they’ll hurt you until you say “please stop” or they will just kill you outright. Who trusts the police?

This is the law of the land: every man or woman for him/herself. Any sense of community is merely a facade to serve their own purposes. There could be nicer communities somewhere, true enough. But they’re quite outside my realm of experience.

People back home will humor you, though. People here seem snobbish and intimidating. I guess. And since everybody’s from a different culture, it’s hard to take it easy on what you’re gonna say and most of it is gonna be lost in translation anyway.

People back home form closer relationships easier, I think. We’re a sentimental, romantic lot. Sometimes too sentimental to the point of over-cheesiness. Or clinginess.

People here don’t seem the type that like any physical contact. Or some comfort in each other. I don’t know.

But that’s just me. I’m just a visitor. And I can’t speak for everyone from where I come from. I seem to have contradicted myself over the course of my rambling. That’s the thing: I don’t know. I don’t know where I belong. My head is in the clouds and I don’t know where home is, actually. I wanna keep looking and explore places I haven’t been to. But then I don’t know where my life is headed either. I just feel the need to put a small piece of a small part of the world into my head. To help me grow perhaps? Maybe if I traveled more, I’ll know where I’m headed. It will keep me driven somehow.

Oh what am I talking about. Maybe this is a sort of “out of place” or “out of home” sickness. That confusion of now knowing where to go or belong. I’ll try exploring my mind instead. I remember Alan Moore placing so much importance in the power of one’s imagination and I thought I should follow that more often. I’ve imagined so much but I don’t know how to use it. I don’t have the practicalities of a writer nor the street smarts to make it. I should write more fiction. The things that happen in mind are more interesting than real life things that happen in days like this.

I shall return to those fictions soon.

*end of rambling*

Christmas at Singapore 12.23

We arrived here yesterday at 6:30 pm in Singapore Airlines which, so far, is the best flight I’ve had ever had. They’ve got good FREE food, comfortable seats, nice ambient interiors with a bit more elbow room, and lots of good entertainment to keep you distracted. That’s the main thing about airlines. The best airlines have the best distractions: the latest movies from every genre in a variety of languages and cultures (They even have art house films!), the latest TV shows, music (I immediately went to the jazz section and found that it was still filled with good music as music gods intended it to), and, perhaps the coolest of all, Nintendo games. I played Pokemon Silver for most of the time I wasn’t eating or reading. Apart from that, I just listened to my jazz.

The best airlines have the best distractions to keep you from flipping through the pages of in-flight magazines and newspapers over and over again; from fidgeting and staring at everyone especially the pretty flight attendants, from thinking that it’s the most horrible experience of your life to other people ever, which will make the airline lose passengers, then money, then employees, then jet fuel money, and then the planes themselves, until they’re left with a few people who wanted to have a business which deals with getting people to and from places through the sky.

This is what people miss, I think. Or maybe this is just my inexperience talking. This is my third time flying in between countries and flying never ceases to amaze me. Sure, it doesn’t hold my attention for long when it’s just cruising comfortable across the sky, but the noticeable changes in speed, direction, and altitude (and the things that pass by the window) makes me wonder at this strange phenomenon. People are built to walk on land, after all. I wonder if I’d lost that sense of wonder. Maybe not. I hope not.

Anyway, we landed on Singapore at around 6:30, December 22, at Terminal 3 of Changi Airport which is a fine terminal indeed, unlike the one we’ve left, NAIA Terminal 1. (If you’re going through this particular terminal, make sure you don’t eat here. They’ve got bad food with strangely inflated prices that are four to five times more expensive than what it’s usually worth outside the airport.)

December 22 is also Mom’s birthday so after meeting up with Dad, we had a fancy dinner at one of those fancy restaurants in the airport. No cake (or rice), but it was one good dinner. After that, we took a taxi to Dad’s condo, unpacked, and settled in comfortably to that old familiar fragrant smell that we’ve known and come to love and went to bed.

***

That was yesterday.

Today was spent trying to get used to the local culture again. At least that’s what it felt like for me.

This morning, we spent most of it eating breakfast, relaxing, taking it easy, then panicking while we prepared to leave the house because we were worried that we’ll get left behind by the bus, which we were. So we took two cabs (all six of us can’t fit in one cab, of course) to where we’re going, which was a church in Tampines town. I normally don’t attend mass but the family was complete and it’s hard to go against the parents in this situation since we’re in a different place (and it was hot outside, but then it was too cold inside, too, but that’s better than being hot and alone outside, I guess).

After that, we had lunch. There’s a certain smell about Singapore that is very much like itself. It’s the smell of the local food, I think.

Then, we took a train to the airport so Mom and Dad could pick up a piece of luggage that we’ve left the night before, Dad’s guitar. We only realized this when we got to Dad’s condo, and all of us forgot that we have a guitar with us. After all that shebang, we went back to Tampines mall to look around and try to shop while Dad went back to the condo to leave the guitar there so we could shop a bit. I wasn’t able to buy anything except a nice cup of almond-flavored soya (thing) that I shared with Tricia and Patrick. The others bought things. Then Dad arrived and we went to another mall complex to buy some electronic things and a vacuum cleaner for our house back in the Philippines. This is a relief. It’s much easier to clean with this than a broom.

We went grocery shopping after, bought some take away food, then went home.

***

A lot of the places here are airconditioned. The malls. The church. Our room. In those places, I miss your hugs. I wasn’t too worried that I don’t get to talk to you a lot. I’m in a different country, not even in the same landmass. It’s bound to happen. I’m more worried about you having to sulk because I’m gone for a week. I understand, but sulking doesn’t help. We’ve gone through worse. Let’s try to enjoy Christmas despite being apart for the most of it.

Singapore: Day 15 (April 10)

We didn’t do anything today. Just ate and did some chores. Slept a bit. when dad got home, we had a feast: tuna sashimi, more cooked fish, pork and broccoli (courtesy of Patrick this time), shrimps, and chocolate. And a bottle of beer. Then we packed our things and weighed them for tomorrow. Most of the night was spent watching The Big Bang Theory. Well mostly the siblings. Two and a half weeks in Singapore went by fast.