I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Singapore of six pints

Ouch. My feet hurt. I'm in an afternoon break having spent a long time walking around this morning and it was hard work. My feet and legs feel like they've done a lot of work, like I've been walking on sand instead of concrete or something. Anyway it's too windy out there atm to go where I wanted to go next so I thought I'd write a little bit about Singapore -- but, damn it, I've still yet more things to say about Hong Kong. Like about the streets being paved with women.

No, really, they are. If you can call the paved walkways that mean you don't need to go to street level in the area near Hong Kong/Central stations "streets", anyway. I read about it beforehand, or maybe saw it on the destination guide on the flight from Perth, but either way I wasn't quite prepared for what I saw. Basically hordes of women, proper masses and masses of them, go and have picnics or coffee mornings or whatever, in groups on the streets. They turn up in the morning, get their pitch, put down a blanket or something else to sit on, get out their knitting or cards or coffee or hampers or books or whatever it is they're going to do with their time. And there's a lot of that time, because I saw loads of women around in the morning on the Monday, and even bloody more in the evening. They were dissipating come the time I headed off back to the hotel but sheesh, it was mental. I saw maybe 2 fellas amongst the whole crowds, and it was really quite strange. Here, this bloke goes on about it too.

Pub philosophy. Them Australians in the bar on Saturday had made me wonder if the general gist is the same the world over. It certainly seems to ring true. What I mean is, the basic path through topics that groups of (typically) blokes go through when engaged in a long session on the sauce. The steps seemed to be:

  1. the matter at hand (inexplicable penalty miss/decision to use Jimmy Anderson in the last over/etc)
  2. the metaphysical or boundaries of science (the unseeableness of God, the edges of the universe, time travel)
  3. global (world politics, religion, war-torn regions and how to sort them out)
  4. personal (my wife doesn't understand me, i hate my job, i love you you're my best mate)
Is it always like this? I think it might be... not necessarily every step might be present, but I think the order is correct. Hmm. Or maybe I'm just talking bollocks.

I made a note about the above in my phone to remind me to write about it. I also made a note saying "Component is unaware of bug (football errors)" which I'm not at liberty to explain, 'cos I was very drunk when I typed it and now can't quite work out what I meant. It sounds like some insight about software engineering and how it might be analogous in some way to the Liverpool -vs- Bolton game I was "watching" at the time, I guess.

Is that it for Hong Kong? Who knows. I'll come back to it if I have to. But on Tuesday morning I left Hong Kong, having got myself booked on an airport shuttle bus at some ungodly hour, 7am or summat. It was a very nice coach, well airconned and with big comfy leather seats, and I was the only person on it. Until we stopped off at about 4 other hotels and it ended up full, bah. Got to the airport, checked in, went to the lounge. Now I know I was flying early, but still, I'm on holiday and would have appreciated a drink. Didn't get one because the bar wasn't open until 1pm. 1pm! If I'd been flying at 1pm I'd have been a bit pissed off at not being able to get a lager at 11am/midday.

The flight was my first on Cathay Pacific for this holiday. Being Hong Kong based I look forward to flying with them because they show some Hong Kong/Asian cinema, which means I can get a fix of violent-revenge gangster/fighting films. This time around there were about 4 films I wanted to watch (not all Asian) which was going to prove a challenge on a 3h40m flight. In fact there was a danger that watching anything was going to prove a challenge, because my video screen was nearly fucked. See, when I checked in they'd told me there was only one window seat available, did I want that? I said yes, and got given a boarding pass for 11A. On the plane I discovered that 11A might as well be called 1A -- it's the first row, not just in business class but on the whole plane (for this A340 or whatever it was). Result. I also discovered that the screen wasn't working, because they told me this. They also said that the flight wasn't full so I could move seats if it stayed not working (apparently "it might work soon, they're trying to fix it") but not to a window seat, obviously. Fuckin' bah.

During pre-flight preparations, taxi, take-off and the stuff they force you to sit through (UNICEF guff, duty free guide etc) the screen was fucked. Loads of flickering, or even just white noise. Grr. Seatbelt light went off and I was just about to ask for a change of seat when they flicked on the in-flight entertainment system (audio+video on demand on Cathay, hurrah) and the screen worked. Phew. Good.

Can't remember what the food was or what I had to drink. Didn't make any notes for some reason, nor take any photos. Probably because I had someone sat next to me. Oh, I remember, it's also because they took my bag and shoved it in the overhead lockers because there's no underseat storage, and I hadn't taken the notebook out. Ah well. What I do remember is only managing to fit one film in, the one starring Andy Lau. It's called A Fighter's Blues and if you don't want to know what happens because you're thinking of watching it I have two bits of advice. First, don't watch it, it's shit. Second, don't read the next few paragraphs because I'm going to spoil the fucking lot of it.


Now I chose to watch this film primarily because of Andy Lau. I've seen a few other films of his and they've been good. Like House Of Flying Daggers, Hard Boiled 2, God Of Gamblers, Moon Warriors, Legend of Drunken Master ... but in the same way as Jet Li can make a bad film, by 'eck so can Lau.

It's a shame, because the plot had so much going for it. Upon release from prison for killing someone, a boxer discovers he's got a kid he didn't know about and is about to turn 14 or so. He wrestles with his emotions yadda yadda yadda, tries to bond while, crucially, attempting to extricate himself from his past. It's that sort of thing that generally means a film's going to be large: the past won't allow them to stop being violent until they embark upon a last mission which normally involves beating fuck out of hundreds of people and killing the mighty end of level boss.

Not so in A Fighter's Blues! No, not at all. In this film he boxes a bit, has a romance with a journalist, goes to jail, loses contact, comes out, discovers journo is dead but bore him a kid who is in an orphanage in Thailand. He journeys there, has the typical heart-rendering conversations/etc with his daughter ("YOU'RE NOT MY FATHER! YOU'RE NOTHING TO ME! I HATE YOU!", ... "I LOVE YOU DADDY!", ... ) and takes her to a boxing fight. This, of course, is in the same venue as his last fight (which he threw for money) and features a fantastic young boxer managed by the manager of, of course, the bloke against who that fight was. Who also happened to be the bloke he killed and went to jail for murdering.

So this is a bit odd. The people out for revenge are the bad guys. Except, um, they're not bad or out for revenge. They ask him to leave and not come back, but he says he wants to fight the latest top guy, this amazing guy 10 or 15 years younger than him. He wants to fight fairly rather than throw it. They eventually agree, Lau gathers an old contact or two and goes off on the best training regime available: a montage. Even Rocky had a montage, so at this point I'm thinking, right, he's going to fucking batter the guy and finally win the unconditional love of his daughter and the respect of the people he wronged and he'll do it by having 25 minutes of ace fight scenes.

No. Turns out, not at all. Round 1, he gets battered. Round 2, he gets fucking battered some more. Round 3, he takes even more of a beating. But there's no Rocky or shitloads-of-other-films-style ending coming up, he doesn't summon the energy to fight through the pain and land a massive punch and win the bout. No, he collapses and his face is all fucked up and his body is all fucked up and his daughter and the leader of the orphanage and his corner are all pleading with him to stop. He poignantly stands back up after round 4, staggering to his feet and staying really unsteady, and says "to the end". The previously silenced-by-his-warriorness crowd applaud and the 5th and final round starts. His opponent just stands there, Lau lands punches weaker than gnat's piss. Just tapping him. Then he collapses and dies.

For fucks sake! So, let's get this straight, having served his time for the crime, he proceeded to take revenge on... himself? And had a wholly ineffectual montage while he was at it! Lau, have a bloody word with yourself.


Ahem. So, yes, that was the entertainment on the way to Singapore. Fucking hell this entry's going to be huge. Ah well.

So, I managed to be the first person off the plane when we landed (bloke in 1B was dicking around with his bags so I shuffled past him) and to my shock there was a woman holding a piece of card up with my name on it, at the gate. As far as I know people are only met at the gate for one of a few reasons: they're VIPs, they're disabled, they're criminals, they're in danger of missing their connection, or perhaps their luggage has gone missing. I wondered which was true of me and thought the last was most likely. As it turns out, it was the first. I was treated like royalty! The woman was there to escort me all the way through the airport, from the gate through immigration and baggage reclaim and customs right up to the waiting limo, there to whisk me off to the hotel. The last bit was expected: I had indeed booked airport transfer, but I thought it was going to be like everywhere else, where you get all the way airside alone and find a driver with your name or the hotel's desk. Not a full escort like this! Fucking ace. Then, when I got to the hotel there was virtually a team of people waiting to greet me. A woman opened my door saying "Welcome, Mr Foreman" while a porter said "Hello Mr Foreman, I will take your bags" and took my bags from the boot. The woman took me to the check-in desk, except it was more just a welcome desk as I got handed over to another woman who handed me a gift (scented candle) and led me to my room, where check-in was conducted. Holy fucking moly! I tell you, the wonders of having bought status with the hotel chain.

The room itself was fucking ace, too. Big, with a flat screen TV on a rotating base and connected to an iPod thing so you could use it as speakers (or even video? I dunno, I don't have an iPod). Free fruit and water, big bathroom with separate bath and shower cubicle, comfy seats, and .. a shit view. Ah well, can't have everything. As it goes I thought my bought status had entitled me to a room upgrade too, but then I couldn't remember what room type I'd paid for so it didn't really bother me. The only quibbles I had were the lack of pay TV (I was entitled to a free movie) and Singapore's government having banned some of the sites I wanted to visit on t'Internet. But I could live with that.

Stayed in the hotel room resting for a couple of hours, then decided to go explore. It was about 6pm come that time and hot out, but not desperately unpleasantly so. I had a guidebook with a map in it in my pocket but decided not to use it - everything's in English and I wasn't planning on going far, maybe just finding an ATM and then a bar or two to sample. In the end I took a bad turn immediately outside the hotel and walked for quite a while before eventually finding a subway station (with ATM in it), and a shopping mall. Walked all the way through that (supping a diet coke) finally ending up at Esplanade, a fancy theatre building miles from my hotel. Venturing back out onto street level I took a little wander around the grounds and along the side of the river, then went back inside and into Harry's Bar for a pint or two of Guinness.

Like in Hong Kong, a lot of bars in Singapore have a happy for the latter part of the afternoon/early evening, and refer to it as "1 for 1" rather than 2 for 1, meaning for each 1, you get another 1. I saw a sign on the outside of Harry's saying "1 for 1" but didn't study it beyond that, making the wrong assumption that I would be getting 2 pints for the price of 1 inside. I didn't. Guinness wasn't on the list of valid things. In fact, beer wasn't, I think it was only wine. I only worked this out after paying for the second pint (which I was automatically served) of Guinness. A better Guinness than in Hong Kong but still way behind Dubai.

There was Premiership on the TV in Harry's. This was no surprise. Every sports channel seemed to show non-stop replays of entire games, or at least highlights, on all the days when there were no games actually being played. They are fucking mad for it.

I really wish the pints had been half price, because as it is I paid SGD12 each for them. That's about 4 quid. :-(

Leaving Harry's I decided against retracing my steps (wasn't sure I'd be able to anyway) and just using the force. I had a pretty good idea of the rough direction I needed to go in and was too obstinate to use the map (and too unequipped by experience or tickets to use the subway or buses). Turns out I was wrong, as I ended up on a very extended walk through loads of bits of Singapore I didn't see in subsequent days, being completely out of the way for anywhere I'd want to go. Yes, I was lost. I finally gave up and referred to my map while waiting to cross the road at some point and discovered I was now only 2 blocks from my hotel, so it wasn't all bad.

Changed my shirt and then went to the hotel bar, my final destination for the day. While sat with my Hoegaarden forbidden fruits I pondered the idea of rescinding my "tell the truth" policy and start telling everyone who asked (cabbies, hotel staff, airline staff) that yes, fine, I'm travelling on business, fine, OK. And I'm scoping out hotels and airlines for who to give millions of dollars of business to so treat me well (the corporate sales manager of my Hong Kong hotel had indeed sent me an invite to have breakfast with him, and an application form for opening a corporate account. pfft!). I was getting more than a bit fed up at the surprise everyone was expressing whenever I said I was on holiday, see, even though such a reaction was entirely understandable. Ah well.

I've written down "licensing and temperature". What did I mean by that? Perhaps I meant that it makes some sense that our licensing laws have historically meant places need to stop serving at 11pm, if only to make us go home before it gets proper fucking cold. That doesn't ring a bell though. I wonder what I actually meant. Hmm. Ah, perhaps not going home before it's cold, but being able to have a decent night out even though you can't sensibly go to the pub before 8pm or so because it's so bastard hot in the day/evening. Singapore's record lowest temperature ever: 19.4C.

Anyway. My feet feel better. The Japanese grand prix is finished and it's just coming up to 3.45pm. I'm off to see if the wind has calmed down. If it has, the palace beckons. If it hasn't, I think I'm going to have a pint or two.

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