Friday, June 17, 2005

Indonesia, here I come

woke up yesterday with a sore throat, and have been coughing and feeling light headed ever since. i think it's the flu, but then browsing through lonely planet, it dawned on me that more extreme illnesses like dengue fever and hepatitis a show the same symptoms: fever, coughing, thick phleom, darker urine. lay in bed yesterday night, thinking what this could mean. the things i've been eatin outside does not reasure me that it's just the common flu... everything is so spicy and greasy and covered with a layer of red chily! my first overseas trip into the tropics, out of the familiar world, and i'm struck down by the common cold (let's hope it's that...) i think i saw myself during sleep, lying in a strange place alone, with my face and body burning, and my mind yearning for home. some people have even joked that i will not return, and i myself have wondered the myriad of ways i may 'go'... maybe it's too always.

saw more of Singapore in the last few days, and became ever more impressed. went to the mcritchie resevoir, and had a 12km walk around the park at around noon. fascinating wildlife, forests, big spiders, three-feet geckos, and most intriguing of all, macaques just sitting on the footpath and scratching themselves. i took out some bread and fed them. they hungrily struggled for food. as i walked further, there was a sign prohibiting feeding the monekeys...fine o S$10,000 (5000euros). and you will notice as you walk around Singapore, staggering fines, and funnily worded public notices. maybe such stringent fines and rules and health hazard warnings makes this country so ordered. then the night before, went to night safari (apparently the first safari in the night in the word)...a host of wild animals in their natural habitats...restless leopards that aced back and forth, alligator lke creatures that had their mouths wide open, giraffes that grazed on tres, giant bats that hung upside-down in our footpaths... again, besides the modern and traditional, there is also the wild side to singapore.

yesterday, i went to the botanical garden ( a hige expanse of green in the middle of the city)....numerous species of orchids and wildflowers surrounded me as i once again venture into the woods. a giant tuchan perched above me, and dripped juice as it bit at wild berries. this was followed by a visit to Little India, and the Arab area of Singapore...little enclaves of colour and punget scents of culture and life in the bustling city. but it was at the buddhist temples that i found peace, that i could cool in the shade, and ask the buddhast and deities for protection, for inner calm, as i verge on venturing into the 'wilderness'.

afterwards i went to collect tmy passport from the indonesian embassy. to my surprise, i've got two months time there! it's really bewildering how they embassy works...they show such an unfriendly face, and ask yu to obey stringent procedures and red-tape...and then they go ahead to give you two months stay, after repeatedly saying all i could stay was one....
and so in a few hours, i will be taking the plane towards indonesia. it feels somehow unassuring, and my mind cannot but imagine that i'm about to venture into the 'wilderness'. of all the storiesm warnings and be-carefuls i've had in the past weeks and months, i'm about to go see for myself. i sit here, as i have done in recent months, trying to imagine the roughness, the poverty, the sights that water the eyes and sours the heart...but then on the other hand, i fantasize about the diversities, the beauties and the mystical energies that infect, as i go from place to place.
indonesia, here i come...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

In Singapore

Sitting here at my friend's place, watching the drizzle fall, listening to the sound of watery splashing as buses and cars rush by. Outside the window, sturdily built and colourful public housing line the landscape. Singapore has probably the highest rate of home ownership in the world, and as a tiny city-state it has many things to be proud of. Certainly, the sights and sounds i've experienced in the past few days have not ceased to awe.

Main purpose of the trip is actually to get a visa to Indonesia. For some reason (which I fear is political) it's not possible for foreign nationals to get a visa to Indonesia in Taiwan, so I was told to go either to Singapore or Hong Kong. Thank goodness I have a friend here who I just met through another friend back in April, so save a lot of extra costs! The visa is being processed at the moment, and should be ready tomorrow. First impressions of the Indonesian bureucracy is not too appealing. Smile-less bureaucrats who treat you as if you were some beggar asking for help. Was told to return again after I showed up in the early afternoon the day before, because apparently visa applications are morning duties. They didn't say this to me on the phone, or mention it on their website.

Been around Chinatown on the first day. Many things are so similar to Taiwan...the street scenes, the way people look and dress. One thing is different though; though most people are 'chinese looking', when they open their mouths it's English that comes out. It feels like i've landed in a parallel universe, where things do not appear as they seem. To me, that's a strange idea...maybe it's because i've ingrained myself to the fact that 'black hair, yellowish skinned' means East Asian. but then here, that kind of idea is outmoded. Seeming is not being, as i always put it.

Even so this tiny-city state seems to have little problem defining itself, knowing its own existence and identity. With the blend of Malay, Tamil, Chinese (which further branches out into Hakka, Hokkien and Teachow), and a proportion of foreign (by that I mean 'white') expats, Singapore does not seem to have problems showing itself off as a world-class, developed and educated state. This country is a true blend of Asian cultures, as the Asian Civilisations Museum tries to showcase. It takes much pride in its history, cultural heritages (note the-s), its glorious and suffering past, its econmic miracle, and its own stance in a region dominated by predominantly muslim countries and peoples. With such ordered and clean streets, well-mannered people and infrastructure, you wonder whether you've landed in paradise. At the customs counters of Changi Airport, the special cunters for Singaporeans flash the words 'Welcome home!'. Two simple words, but with such significance. This is a government that cares and knows its people. maybe too much, but such orderliness and such proper organisation and regulations comes at a price.

To see and explore, to learn and grow. To know a world that is greater than my own.
That's the purpose of my trip.