The trip was only two full and two half days but I was knackered upon my return. I think I tried to fit too much in having not been to Singapore for over six months and unsure when I might return again.
The main purpose of the trip was to visit my old sub-contractor to discuss a new project. That turned into a full afternoon of rambling discussion which ended in him commenting I had put on weight. His frankness was perhaps welcome (no it wasn't) and a jolt to actually do something upon my return home. I have no excuse now as work is somewhat more relaxed and I have more time to myself.
I arrived in Singapore late Saturday afternoon and grabbed a bite to eat at the Marriott Crossroads cafe, the best place to watch the world go by in Singapore. Amazingly the staff there recognized me, and not in vague "welcome back" nothings, but by name. I then wandered up Orchard road for a drink at a bar above the Irish pub which is good for seeing the comings and goings across the road: (Orchard towers that is, locally unkindly yet accurately known as the four floors of whores). However in passing the aforementioned building I couldn't help but note that one bar, the one I tend to frequent for a drink very occasionally - without partaking of the services on offer I might add - was closed. So I ventured inside out of curiosity and found one of the workmen to talk to. Gone, he said, gone for ever. It is not being refurbished but changed into a legitimate restaurant. Ah, the beginning of the end for a fond Singapore landmark. I wandered around the other floors, although it was too early for too much excitement to have started. The other bars were present and correct, albeit closed but the number of, I think, girls, beckoning me into massage parlours of dubious repute seemed to have multiplied by ten. I availed myself of the dingy toilets one last time and went to my bar of choice, had a Guinness and went to bed early.
Singapore never stands still and aside from the constant building was a small yet significant change I noted. The MRT was announcing the stations in Mandarin as well as English. If I was an ex-pat there I would be worried by this move. It may seem insignificant but with the other anti-foreigner sentiment it can only be a matter of months before those on employment passes are found hanging from street lamp posts outside the ICA building.
The next day I had reserved for buying a computer. There was an IT show at the Expo which a friend had told me about so I got the MRT only to immediately regret the move as I ended up jammed in a corridor with a mass of excited and spotty teenagers. I extricated myself through a side door and despite the heavy rain went back round the outside of the building to have a coffee at Coffee Bean whilst waiting for the initial crowds to subside. I actually managed an hour in there, long enough to know I was not going to buy there given the stands seemed to be manned (or should that be boyed) by people with a singular lack of knowledge of the products they were trying to sell. However I had seen a nice Toshiba laptop at the exorbitant price of $2600, seen the Acer and Asus ones which failed to impress and Lenova only offered Windows 8 as did the Dell I had my eye on.
So I got the train back to Funan IT mall and went up to the Dell shop to have a closer look. Decent keyboard considering how slim it was, good build quality and the display which some complained of seemed fine to me. So I went next door where they actually sold things (the Dell 'shop' only accepts 'on-line' orders and they keep no stock - I know, don't ask). They had the XPS-13 there, with Windows 7, for $1799. This was more expensive than the show with the 'compulsory' Windows 8. I mentioned this but with no hassle at all the South African salesman who after twelve years in Singapore needed to get of the place, immediately came back with the show price. However there was no Office and I hate these cloud thingies so I asked about that. Well this is boring for you but rightly proud of my latent negotiating skills I left there with the top model (i-7 processor with 256G of flash hard drive), Windows 7 upgraded to the Professional version, the nearly full version of Office (with PowerPoint and Outlook), 3 year's worldwide guarantee, a USB optical drive and all the adaptor connectors (USB to Ethernet, that sort of thing) for $1900 and I got $105 back from the tax refund at the airport.
Chuffed with my achievement I had an average Sunday lunch at the Irish pub, returned to my hotel to setup the computer (which proved a breeze, even the e-mail via Outlook was setup in half an hour) and then wandered out again to grab a snack at Cafe iguana (Mexican food) and have a drink at Harry's bar behind Orchard Towers.
The next day was business meetings but I also wanted to browse one of the CD shops for a few things. Only yet again there was change. The That CD shop straddled two floors on the corner of some road roughly opposite the Hyatt hotel. Only its days of straddling were gone. Downstairs was now a restaurant, just what Singapore needs, more restaurants. The shop is now in the corner upstairs with a fraction of the stock they used to have. I bought 3 James Bond DVDs, the two Timothy Dalton's and a Roger Moore as they were on offer and left disappointed that yet another music shop has bitten the dust. (The best music DVD shop shut a year or more ago, that has lots of US imports and you could always find something interesting there. I guess being a Luddite I haven't noticed that illegal downloads are the way to go, except I doubt many are bothering to put Vic Damone on torrent sites).
One other trip I made in the morning was to Toa Payoh. Having worked there whilst in Singapore I knew the shops there and thought I should invest in some stronger reading glasses. Even smaller book print or landing cards were proving a little tricky depending on the light. Luckily most opticians were still closed and the one I found that was open didn't have anything stronger than 1.75 dioptre (I had 1.5 dioptre but 1.75 didn't seem to make much improvement). I say luckily because it forced me to go elsewhere and I thought of an opticians I knew of Bishan which is where I used to live. It is always quite nice to wander around there anyway. I found the opticians but rather than just offer some off-the-shelf glasses they insisted on testing my eyes. The testing took nearly an hour - they tested near and far sight, colour blindness, the works. It appears I have one eye worse than the other so I chose some frames and $98 lighter I left with instructions to return at 6p.m.
After my meeting I returned to pick up my glasses and was amazed at the difference. It helped that the glasses didn't have smudges and scratches on them of course but I felt like Superman - medicine bottles here we come. They also have some anti-reflective coating which really seems to help when viewing computer screens. Chuffed again I left to try my new found eyes out on the menu at Mezza-9 at the Hyatt, my treat to myself.
A meal of potted shrimps and nice steak was then followed with a final drink at Harry's Bar, which turned into a bit of a session thanks to the band there and a friendly chap called George who was passing through Singapore on his way to Namibia or somewhere in Africa anyway.
After organizing my tax refund at the airport I then bought a little camera for Ploy. I felt guilty that all I had bought as a result of the payments we had received was for me or the business and Ploy had mentioned that she wanted a camera for her job. We have a nice Panasonic one but it is rather bulky and perhaps trickier to use and I also mentioned she had a camera in her phone but she has no download leads for it and it is obsolete now as it was released more than 9 days ago. So I bought a simple point and shoot thing from Casio and then returned to the business lounge to envelope myself in the treats Singapore Air have to offer.
A nice meal of lamb with haricot beans and artichokes was accompanied by some nice wine and a couple of episodes of 30 Rock and Big Bang Theory on the flight home and before I knew it we were home again to the ever enthusiastic greeting of Pinky.
The Christmas lights were incredible as always, the service excellent, everything just works from the trains to the Internet, I love the afternoon thunderstorms, but the people, oh dear the people. I could not live there anymore. Shoe-horned onto trains at almost every hour of the day or night, pavements heaving with sedentary walkers staring into the their phones, places to go, people to see, the city never stops although the people also don't seem to know where they are going.
I am glad we made the decision to live here. Singapore is a great place to visit but would be hell to live in today.
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