Saturday, August 14, 2010

Day 138: Shanghai

Before we go into the photos, I thought I'd share my impression of Shanghai and its lovely inhabitants.

Chinese people are quite rude. And I'm told that people in Shanghai are the worst of the bunch. Maybe I've been spoiled by the politeness in Japan-- actually, no, I am, because in Japan you're practically drowning in it. Now, I appreciate it more than ever after coming back from Shanghai. It's the negative mindset to be in, but whenever we had shoddy customer service or practically got thrown out of the way by a surprisingly strong, granny bat so she can get a seat on the train, I couldn't help but think, "Ugh, this would never happen back in Japan..." Oh, and I don't like their trains. Every time it starts to move or stops, it's always with an aggressive jerk and you're always desperately trying to grab hold onto something that's not a sweaty middle-aged man so you don't go sprawling to the floor.

And women don't shave here. It's a bit unsettling. I can't tell you how many times I've been surprised when deceptively pleasant-looking young women get onto the train and lift their arms to grab the handholds.

Oh, and it probably doesn't need mentioning, but it was f***ing hot.

Onto the good things:

The fabric markets.

Oh my God, the fabric markets. Once you go, you can never get away. Fabric markets are basically where you can go and get clothes custom made for you. You can pick the fabrics, the cut, everything down to the kind of buttons you want. I was hesitant at first because I wasn't sure what I wanted would translate over well. But the people there have a decent command of English, and what you can do (what most people will do) is pick something that's put out on display that you like, and they'll customize it for you.


I got my first massage at a really nice place and it was only 88 RMB ($12) for one hour.

And finally, the food. Oh my God, the food.



We also went to this plaza, I forget the name, it was very interesting because the buildings had a European design. There were a lot of foreigners around as well and a number of European restaurants and pubs.


There were also these group of Chinese girls doing some sort of amateur photoshoot and one of the girls was trying to do these sexy poses. It was embarrassing to watch.

Stay classy, ladies.

The thing about China that I enjoyed the most was how cheap almost everything was, and so you could pretend for a little bit that you were living the high life. I wish Japan had cheap massage places and fabric markets. :(

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day 136: Singapore III (Final)

Sentosa is an island resort in Singapore with super long beach, a bunch of fancy smancy hotels, and their own Universal Studios theme park. Basically it's a tourist trap.

We went on a good day with the sun out and the skies clear.

Aww, pretty right? But if you just move a little bit to the left...

It's kind of a jarring image when you're trying to relax on a relatively nice beach only to see barges in the background.

 Later this group of Asian guys sat in front of us and I saw the most horrible thing I have ever seen in my 22 years. A nude-colored speedo with a black waistband.

This may have been the closest I've ever been to death.

Put on sunblock, kids. Or you'll turn into a leather couch.


To be honest, the beach was alright. I've seen prettier beaches back in California. I didn't go into the water but other people told me that the water was oily (the hell??). However, interestingly enough, that day they were holding a beauty pageant sponsored by Schick, the razor brand. I think Schick was releasing a new razor or something because the entire pageant was like an advertisement for it. The pageant itself was so lame it was amusing. I've never witness something that gave me so much second-hand embarrassment. 

A day (or two) later, I went to the Jurong Bird Park, which is suppose to be one of the biggest bird parks in the world (?). To be honest, after going there, I prefer just going to a zoo because if I'm tired of watching birds, I can just go around the corner and watch some monkeys. Here, if I'm tired of watching birds, I can only go on to watch...more birds. 


We caught the pelicans around feeding time.

I feel bad for the fish. It's probably thinking as it's getting tossed, "Oh, FU--"

Not my hand.

I know it looks cool to feed birds out of your hand but I think that particular area was the worst in the park.  The entire area was shady and there was a lot of still water, meaning it was a breeding ground for mosquitoes. I got at least 10 bites on my legs alone. I had these flesh-colored medicated band-aids that are suppose to relieve bug bites, and my legs ended up covered with them. I wish I took a picture because my band-aids were Anpanman-themed.

But I kept forgetting to take the picture. :\

There was also a lory aviary where you could walk up real close with the birds.


If you hold out your arm close to them, they'll climb onto your arm after awhile. They start nipping on your arm, which is cute at first until it starts to hurt. 

While I was in Singapore, the weather was consistent in that would be sunny one day, rainy the next, and then sunny the day right after that. It was annoying in that it was harder to go outside when it was raining but at least it was easy to schedule what I wanted to do since the weather was predictable. 

Anyways, on the day before I left, I went to the Singapore Zoo and more notably, the Night Safari. Before I go into the Night Safari, the one thing I liked about the zoo was that it felt more like an "open" exhibit. The barriers were usually hidden before moats or plants so it seemed like you walking along side the animals. Well, not the lions and stuff obviously. However, the place was thick with trees so were actually some species of monkeys climbing around above you. Or so they say. The only one I saw was an orangutan and her baby. 

The Night Safari was quite interesting although it's essentially a zoo at night and you can see animals you wouldn't see active during the day. It also marked my first time seeing and actually being amongst bats. There was this aviary (but for bats) that you could walk through and there were literally bats zipping past me left and right. I don't have any pictures because they ask you not to use flash, but honestly even if you use flash, the picture looks like crap (yeah, I tried :X).  

But I took these before the park opened and before it got dark.


A fire show outside the entrance.


That pretty much covers most of my Singapore trip. Next post I'll start talking about Shanghai, which should be shorter since I only stayed there for about 4 days.

Also, just a heads up, I'm leaving for Korea on the 16th and returning on the 26th, so hopefully I'll finish this up before I leave. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Day 133: Singapore II

While I was in Singapore, it was the last day of their annual Singapore Food Festival.



Chili Crab, one of Singapore's must-eats. Very good. Spicy.


I love pork buns. So psyched to eat one. Despite being $2.20SD for one.

 Once it got dark, the entire area lighted up and it became quite pretty. Did not make up for the humidity.


We walked around and came into this plaza area where there was a bunch of eateries, and there was one that was clinic-themed. 

Drinks are served as IV-drips with a super long straw.

And the waiters are dressed up as doctors and nurses.

Afterward, we went to Raffles Hotel, which I believe is the oldest hotel in Singapore.
Or at least a really old hotel in Singapore.
And really fancy. You can't even go inside unless you have a room.

You can however, walk around the exterior and stroll through their courtyards, and we found an outdoor kitchen.
Note to self: when somehow acquire a shitload of money, get outdoor kitchen. With chefs.

The original Merlion in Merlion Park.

Marina Bay Sands, a hotel/casino.
It's a boat held up by three blocks.
Didn't go inside because you have to pay $20 to go inside the boat, and what's the point of going inside but to go inside the boat?

For the past day or two, it's been unexpectedly raining. In fact, it was raining rather hard just now and according to Yahoo!Weather, it's suppose to rain this week as well. While I appreciate it bringing down the temperature, I'm more reluctant to go outside now because I don't want my feet to get wet. 

Oh and also, at dinner tonight, my host mom told me that her younger brother wants me to teach him conversational English, and that he would pay me. I couldn't get away with doing it for free and so I think we settled around 1,000 yen/hour, which is about $11.50/hour. I should've aimed lower but at the time, I was thinking that $1 USD = 100 yen. Boo you, US dollar. 

I can't say it's something I look forward as I don't share the same comfort level with my host uncle(?) as I do with the rest of my host family since I don't see him that often. I can already see the awkwardness that may (read: will) ensue.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Day 130: Singapore

Got back from my trip on Wednesday and I'm still tired from it. I think the heat and humidity in Shanghai wore me out in particular. Still can't escape the heat since the temperature here is still in the high 80s to low 90s. Yesterday I had to go all the way to school to sign one piece of paper for my scholarship only to find that office has earlier summer closing times so I had to go again today. Boo you, Japan, boo you.

Right, so Singapore. I think my expectations for Singapore were too high. For some reason, I was expecting a pristine, white, and clean place. It wasn't, really. I felt like I was in Vietnam almost, albeit a cleaner version.

The street I walk down almost every day. 

I pass this too almost every day.

 There are also rules for everything. And fines for every rule you break, 

They had this in all the train stations. 

Bugis Street is a huge area where a lot of shop stalls are set up, selling mostly clothes, bags, accessories, and souveniry touristy crap.

And a sex shop. Where Wednesdays are Ladies' Day and women get discounts. 

Another thing about Singapore is there are malls everywhere. Everywhere. Almost all the train stations exit into malls. It's ridiculous. And there's a popular street called Orchard Street which is basically a street with a dozen malls lined up right next to each other. 

However, some of the designs of the malls were pretty interesting.

An interesting story - upon arriving to Singapore, I took a taxi to my hotel. During the drive, I was talking to the taxi driver and I noticed something common among Singaporeans. While basically everyone can speak English, a lot of Singaporeans add "lah" to the end of their sentences. At first, I was confused because I wasn't sure what he was saying, and then I realized it was just an additive. And then, I have to admit, it got kind of annoying. 

Anyways, when I gave the address of my hotel to the taxi driver, after a while, he asked me what I was going to this hotel. As it turns out, the hotel I booked is located in Singapore's red-light district. My friend, whom I was visiting in Singapore, said that Singapore doesn't really acknowledge this area, and I noticed that said district was missing in maps as well. 

While the area did look sketchier and was a bit dirtier than the rest of Singapore, my hotel was at the edge of the district so it wasn't like I was smack in the middle of Brothel Boulevard. Another thing is that Singapore is quite safe. Even though my friend told me repeatedly that there was nothing to worry about, I was still paranoid about going back to my hotel at night, but I quickly realized that my friend was right. It's just, use common sense and don't do anything stupid. It's like Japan - despite what even some natives say about some areas, it's pretty safe. Just...use common sense and don't take candy from strangers, etc.

Anyways, it was quite funny because the taxi driver was telling me to be careful of "dirty old men, lah" (which obviously fed my paranoia), and when we were closing into my hotel, he was pointing out brothels to me. Near the end of my time in Singapore, I realized that there may have been two brothels next to my hotel. It was only the last couple of days when I realized that the two buildings next to my hotel were completely unmarked and had panels of Asian-styled drawings of women in old Chinese garments, which I recognized from the period Asian dramas that I watched with my parents that prostitutes wore at that time. 

But don't worry, Mom. As you can see, I am alive and well.

To be continued in the next post.