Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sometimes You Need a Kilt



 Dec. 27

I can’t remember the last time this happened to me. Maybe never. I was denied access to a place because I was underdressed.

We got up early on Boxing Day, and the sun was still bright. Maybe Bali’s rainy season is over. We stayed in the villa all morning. I had some work to do on a feature and spent a couple of hours on it. I agreed to work a little during this trip because I ran out of vacation days. So technically I am working while traveling for a few days. I have some interviews set up with Singapore officials who are involved in the country’s push to establish itself as Southeast Asia’s premier venue for research and development. I know. Too much information.

Anyhow, we decided to go for a walk to a Hindu temple called Pura Petitenget, which according to a guide to local sights, is about 500 meters from the villa.

Christmas Day on the elephant was balmy, so we figured a walk would be easy. Not so.

The heat turned on that afternoon with a vengeance. I was wearing a cotton shirt over a T-shirt. No jacket. Just a hat against the sun. That was the longest half-klick I ever hiked.

A lady at the villa had wisely written the name of the temple on a piece of paper for us. Just to make sure we weren’t about to waste any energy, we stopped three times on the way and showed people the paper.

We had to drag around three sides of the temple before we found the way in. The gate was open at the head of some steps so old they had been weathered and worn uneven. We had the temple courtyard to ourselves, except for a short-legged dog looking for a shady place to sleep.

There were some colorful parasols sticking up in a separate section, behind a wall.

This may have been the inner courtyard, which I have read is sometimes restricted. We went up the steps to an open door.

There was a man in a Nehru hat who vaguely resembled Mohandas Gandhi standing inside the inner courtyard of the temple. He was all in white. He pointed at my legs and then pointed down.

I didn’t even get it at first. He was wearing sandals, so I guessed my bucks were all right. He had a hat on, and so did I. Besides, he wasn’t pointing at my head or his own.

After three tries, I finally caught on. He was shaking the hem of his sarong. I wasn’t allowed into church because I wasn’t wearing a kilt. Fantastic. It was the high point of my time in Seminyak.

video


The temple is next to a beach, which according to a sign, is sacred to Hindus so swimming is restricted. It didn’t seem to inhibit anyone. There were food vendors lined up to feed the bathers, so I guess sacred or not, the beach is pretty much open most of the time.

We stood on the edge of the beach holding our hats in the wind for a minute or so, and then I had enough beach.

The street and the bar on the corner are also named Petitenget. So I guess I had another beer at a bar named for a church.

We stopped at a convenience store for more beer and finally got back to the villa abut 10 pounds lighter than we left. I had one more beer and passed out on the couch.

We ordered room service for dinner. The Kunja doesn’t have a restaurant but instead has menus from several local places. You call the desk and they deliver it to your door. We were in the mood for some comfort food. Joanna had linguine with clams and I had a pizza Margherita.

That was it for the day.

Friday morning here (still Boxing Day for everybody back in the States) I was finishing my editing of the feature and sent it to New York. Next step is that Jeff reads it for sense before I send it back to the author.

We checked out at noon and the hotel gave us a lift to Seminyak Square, the section of town we explored a few days ago.



The heat was strong, but not as strong as the day before. I was dressed to go back to Singapore, so I had a jacket on. I carried it over my shoulder for a time, but also was able to wear it for a while.

We stopped in a surf shop to take advantage of the air conditioning. We walked a little more, and then turned back. We stopped in at the same surf shop to get some fruit juice they were selling. We were desperately craving fruit juice. Or at least, I was. We had cocoanut juice with slices of lime.

helmet

This break strengthened us enough to get to a restaurant where we had more fruit juice and some chicken and noodles. Mine had aloe, pineapple, other stuff, and bits of fruit. We also polished off a pint of water.

We took a cab back to the Kunja, which let us use a room for a couple hours rest during the heat of the day before we left for the airport.


I am waiting for the plane to start boarding right now. It may be tomorrow morning before I get to send this.

Our plane is delayed. It was due in Singapore a minute before midnight. I’ve already e-mailed the hotel to tell them we will arrive late and to hold the room.

I’m glad I came to Bali, and I’m glad to leave.


The Kunja is gorgeous. You have privacy open to the sky and a sanctum where you sleep in a mosquito tent. There’s a huge rotunda, maybe 30 feet, maybe a hundred, with fans that keep you cool and the mosquitoes away if you sit out at night.

Somebody from the staff comes to cook breakfast for you on your patio. You want anything, including a ride, they get it for you. People come to spray your room and prepare the mosquito netting around 9 each night.

The beach is the big thing in southern Bali. But I’m not much of a beach person.

I am told that there are other things to see in Bali, but as we learned from the two-hour drive that covered less than 30 miles, everything is hard to reach.

A temple full of monkeys is still on my to-do list.

In the meantime, we will be going back to Singapore for a week. I’m eager for that.

Be well, all.  



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Elephant Walk




December 26

We got plenty of riding around done yesterday. One of the disadvantages of Bali is like home: it’s hard to get anywhere without wheels.

We decided to go to the Elephant Safari Park near Ubud. The price includes pickup and delivery.

The van took us on a two-hour drive through town, city, and jungle, giving us an overview of the southern part of the island, which is where the tourist trade is concentrated.

The trip is 47 km. What is that? Five miles? Twenty five? Most of it is in stop-and-creep congestion with suicidal motorcyclists slipping between the lanes of traffic.

Then there are several miles of twisting hill roads. You zoom down the road for a few hundred yards and then brake because the drivers have to take turns passing parked vehicles and other obstacles. Our driver hit the horn each time he went into a blind curve. Holding your lane is kind of optional here.

There were some hardy souls out walking. Some of them balanced bundles or baskets on their heads. People were carrying leaves and branches—maybe for cooking fires—that way.

Out in the country, I saw a few people, mostly foreigners, on bicycles, but not many. I assume most of the bicyclists have been killed off.

The hill country is lined with terraces and rice fields, and we could see peaks in the distance surrounded by clouds. Small egrets were stalking in flooded paddies.

Many people were out harvesting. Others were breaking the soil. They were using small sickles and mattocks with steel blades, but the farming methods probably date largely to the Stone Age.

Joanna says the harvester cuts the rice plant low, close to the root because the grass is useful for making baskets and other domestic articles. As with most primitive agriculture, there is little or no waste.

Several times we passed tarps spread with drying rice. Some were laid out in the road, and the drivers actually went around them.

Chickens and dogs strayed into the road, and the drivers went around them, too.

One really strange sight, and I only caught a glimpse of this: A man going up the steps into his house was leading a full-grown hog on a leash. I guess they had been out for a walk.

We passed several gatherings of people in traditional dress. There may have been a coincident Hindu holiday, or maybe the Balinese have adopted Christmas. At one temple, there was a procession in progress. We could see the top of a ceremonial parasol above the wall, and through the open panels could see people in robes.

The local architecture in Seminyak is a mish-mash. On this trip it was even more so. Traditional structures are built of brick, stone, and dark wood. They have roofs of terracotta with low-hanging eaves. Some are blackened, others covered in layers of moss.

The classics can stand next to newer, utilitarian structures that look like dental clinics. And then there are places that seem thrown together, built of raw cinder block, corrugated metal, and found materials.

Over all, however, there is a general sense of rust and decay. It is colorful certainly and in its way beautiful. But God, you know you’re someplace else, and it surely isn’t Los Angeles.

After my elephant adventures in Chiang Mai, I promised Joanna that we’d take an elephant ride together at the next opportunity. So the Elephant Safari Park was high on my list.



They started us out with the buffet lunch. I took chicken satay with peanut sauce, some kind of beef curry with little potatoes, and fried rice with sliced red chilis.

This was about three in the afternoon and breakfast was far in the past. I was actually starting to feel wobblier than usual, so it’s just as well that we started with food. I also had a plate with several kinds of sweets.

The show was going to start in a few minutes, but I didn’t want to see elephants forming a conga line or pretending they could add. Elephants are clever, and they may even enjoy showing off like that, just as people do, but I’m not sure. Besides, I had promised Joanna a ride on an elephant.

So they brought one over. We mounted the seat on its back, and the lady jockey started us off.

Now I know why the rajas sat on pillows. It’s quite different from sitting on an elephant’s neck. The rigging and the extra height add leverage so you really get rocked back and forth up there.

Joanna found that pressing firmly against the seatback made the ride easier, and after that it got much better.

The driver asked where we were from. “New Jersey.” “The United States.” “America.”

“America. Obama. OK.”

The driver told us that the elephant was a grandmother, and one of the oldest in the park. Grandmother certainly was temperamental.

Much of the ride goes through a grove of rainforest. As luck would have it, I was on another hungry elephant. It would stop every once in a while to pull at the vegetation. The driver tapped it behind the ears or prodded its head with a little pickaxe, and the elephant would usually trumpet or snort and then move on.  Sometimes it would growl instead and try to shake the driver off. I remembered what that felt like.

At one point on the way back, grandmother lost it. She took off for a pile of palm leaves on the grass. The driver finally got her to move on and we entered the pond at the end of the ride.

At the end of the ride, Joanna got to feed Grandma.

video


As a final touch, the elephant drops a floral wreath over the passengers.


 As we were strolling around the park, we came across a baby elephant and its nursing mother. Why, this could be one of our elephant’s grandchildren. I have no idea that it is true, but could be.



It had been overcast with occasional rain the whole time we have been in Bali and Singapore, until Christmas Day. It was bright but not too hot. I was sitting outside in the morning at the computer and actually got goose bumps on my arms.

How the hell do you get cold in Bali? It’s not even a full nine degrees south of the Equator.

The van brought us back from the jungle to the city. We had Joanna’s birthday cake for dinner and that’s about the last thing I remember. I was so tired I felt drunk, and I hadn’t taken anything stronger than sugar all day.

Elephants. Wow. Another good day someplace else.

It’s still Christmas where most of you are. Be well, all, and be merry.




Dec. 30

Pretty cool to be riding an elephant, Harry. Sounds like a very interesting day.

Sorry to learn your gout has been bothering you. I remember seeing you limp around with a cane. No fun.

We just got back from taking our kids and grandkids to a resort on Marco Island, Fla., across the state from where we are. It was a nice little vacation.

Peter

Dec. 30

Sounds like fun for you too, Peter.

My grandson is still a lump who protests once in a while. I may have to learn how to throw a ball so I can play with him. Of course, once he turns 16, he'll be old enough that I can take him to Amsterdam and buy him a beer. Hell, I'll only be 83.  


Monday, April 14, 2014

On the Town



December 25, 2013

Went downtown to take a little round.

We were carted there in the hotel’s open electric bus—sort of a cross between a Jeep and a surrey. It’s a good thing for me that there is a ride. I have no idea where I am. We came here in the dark. The streets twist and turn.

Besides, the road outside the hotel isn’t good for walking.

It’s so narrow, I can’t see how the cars get past each other. There are indeed many cars, but even more motorbikes, which cluster in the roads and fill the sidewalks, where there are sidewalks. Outside the hotel, there is a space reserved for pedestrians on the side where you can walk single file, but sometimes that disappears. People also park bikes and cars there.

We heard drums last night and followed the sound. We expected a temple ceremony, but instead it was a band playing at a restaurant up the road. Later we saw Roman candles shooting in that general direction. We figured it was a Christmas special.

Anyway, we walked maybe a couple of hundred yards through the dark. The walk felt absolutely perilous. Maybe it was. But we got back all right.

It’s hard to remember that last night was Christmas Eve here. Lots of businesses are decked with Christmas trappings. Many people in bars and restaurants are wearing Santa hats. They were doing that in Singapore, too. But Bali is prime tourist country. Tourism is probably the island’s chief industry. Christmas is one of the high seasons on the island.



We went to a market area of town, which may be called Seminyak, but I can’t be sure. The language barrier is kind of steep here. Many people speak better English than I speak Cantonese, for example, but not much better. I am starting to get the hang of it. Yes, no, today, tomorrow, 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, more coffee, please, thank you. Add a wai, as you do in Thailand.

I don’t know if the wai (palms of the hands together with a nod) is appropriate, but I’m trying to retain some measure of egalitarianism. I have read that there is a caste system here, but hey, I ain’t Hindu.



We stopped at a bar with a largely Western menu, where we were able to find something that sounded unusual. Unusual if you’re from New Jersey. There was a sautéed chicken leg, steamed beef, a couple of kinds of bean curd, some crudités, and chili sauce on the side. The rice came wrapped in a banana leaf. I had a Bali beer called Bintang, which was a lager, but not completely flavorless. In fact, it may be the second-best Asian beer I’ve had this trip, after that potent Baron’s I bought in Singapore.

Joanna seems to be doing all right with the food, although every once in a while, she picks up something a little too hot for her comfort. Bread or white rice will calm that down. So will plain tea, or anything with milk. Forget water: it’s no help. Beer also has very little therapeutic effect on the chili burn, but the heat gives you an excuse (if you need one) to drink even more beer.

We went to the flea market where we bought a couple of sarongs. The man showed us how to fold it for a man’s kilt, and also how to make it into a lady’s halter dress.

Joanna was surprised that I refused to observe local custom and haggle with the guy. Maybe I should have, just to be polite, but there were two reasons working why I couldn’t do that.

Maybe five minutes before we stopped at this stall, we watched a Western lady with another vendor. The lady in the booth put something into a bag, offered it, and probably named a price that I didn’t hear. The Western lady said nothing, and just scowled like somebody with indigestion. When she didn’t get a discount, she muttered something and walked.

I don’t know. Maybe there was some other dynamic engaged before we got there. But if there was, then why hadn’t the Western lady already walked? In any case, the whole exchange was so unpleasant, that I couldn’t play that game.

Besides, this guy works in a flea market for a living. What am I going to save? Eight, ten bucks American? I spend that much on a single beer in some bars.

We walked along what appeared to be a main commercial street. We thought we might be walking in the general direction of the Kunja, but weren’t sure. Besides, I wouldn’t know how get back anyway.

The town is crammed with restaurants, trees, Australians, surf shops, Hindu shrines, and motorbikes. Very cool.



It has that Third World mishmash feel, where you walk past a bridal shop, an upscale bar, a ramshackle body shop, and a cool alley that leads back to a secluded hotel.

It reminded me of Chiang Mai, which is one of the most interesting and beautiful places I have ever visited. On the other hand, I have also seen that kind of body shop and overpriced bar combination in Los Angeles, which as far as I know, may be a part of the Third World with too much money.

We stopped at a tiki bar where I had a couple of San Miguels. Still lagers and light for my taste, but OK nonetheless. They put me over the top, however. I was ready for a rest.

We caught a cab, handed the driver the hotel card, and agreed to pay 100,000 rupiahs (maybe $8.25) for the ride. I took a nap at the hotel, and that restored me enough that I had the energy to turn in for the night.

We heard the doorbell ring around 9 or so. I got up, and it was three staff members who came in singing “Happy Birthday” to deliver a cake for Joanna. I don’t know if Greg told them or if Frad made a note when he took down the information from Joanna’s passport.

It was certainly a surprise. And who doesn’t like surprises?

It’s still the 24th back home. I know because my computer clock is on Eastern Standard Time.

Happy birthday, Joanna.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.



Dec. 24

Merry Christmas indeed, Grasshopper, and Happy Birthday, Joanna. I'm glad you're having fun!

The haggling story is interesting. I've never been to Indonesia, so I don't know the etiquette there, but here in Thailand, unless there is a price tag or price sign, you are expected to haggle. If you remember our experiences here in Thailand, the secret is to keep it friendly and light; lots of smiling. It's a game.

Perhaps the attitude is more serious there, or, perhaps the lady you saw got too serious with the vendor and caused bad feelings. While I generally agree that I'm happy enough to overpay slightly, especially given the difference in income levels, you don't want to seem like a complete sucker, either. I also enjoy the banter, if the vendor speaks enough English. I've found myself in some pretty funny situations at times. But then if you're only there for a day or two, does it really matter?

I'm off to Surat Thani this afternoon. Tomorrow morning I catch a flight to KL from there — it's a relatively new service.

Enjoy the rest of your time in Bali.

Larry

Dec. 25

Merry Christmas, Harry.

Enjoy the trip and give my best to Larry.

Just came back from a Christmas Eve visit to the Clairidge in Montclair to see the new Coen Bros. movie about Greenwich Village folk scene.

Ping me when you're back and let's have a beer or three.

Charlie


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bali, Hi




December 23, 2013

Right now, I’m sitting under a huge canopy without walls that shelters the living area and kitchenette of Villa 3 at the Kunja Villas and Spa resort in Seminyak, Bali.

We started the day easy and then went for a walk in the neighborhood of the hotel after we checked out. The hotel kept our bags and lent us an umbrella.

One of the distinguishing features of Chinatown in Singapore is the shophouse. They’re low to the ground and line many of the streets. They have been refurbished and gentrified, but still have some character.



They are mostly two or three stories. The first floor is commercial space, the “shop” part. I guess traditionally the merchant’s family would live on the second and third floors.  Probably extended families.

The walls are tropical colors—maybe coral, tan, white, blue—with elaborate window frames and shutters usually in a darker color. They are fronted with colonnades to protect passersby from the sun or the rain.



We have enjoyed both kinds of weather in Singapore.

We went back to Gyoza King because Joanna wanted more of the fried tofu. This was probably one or so in the afternoon, but we had only eaten a yogurt drink so far, so it was breakfast for us. We ordered scrambled eggs with chives, besides the tofu. Both dishes were very tasty, but being Japanese, the flavors were exotic for us.

Breakfast or no, I had a Sapporo. I am coming off a three-week bout with my gout. I was dragging into the office on a cane and getting home around seven, so tired that I just went straight to bed several nights a week. Some days I didn’t make it into New York and worked from home instead.

That seriously cut into my drinking time. Larry told me he read a news brief in the Times about my enforced temperance. I understand that the stock prices of several breweries and wine merchants actually fell during the last Wall Street rally.

They say we should drink responsibly, and I agree. I am not back to capacity even now, but I am doing my best to help this sector of the economy prosper. Now, if that isn’t responsibility, what is?

We got a cab to the airport, arrived a little after three for a 5:30 flight. We went to the wrong desk. Even though the sign said KLM, the lady said she was with Jetstar and KLM was around the corner.

No problem.

We went to passport control. Joanna had lost the piece of paper she was supposed to hand in when she leaves the country. That, too, presented little trouble. She went to the immigration desk to be cleared. I was wondering if maybe this counted as really being deported from a country.

It was a long hike to a bar, but we found one tucked in a corner of the terminal. Harry’s bar. No kidding. I have spent so much on alcohol that they named a bar for me in Singapore. There are Harry’s bars in other cities, too, but I didn’t know my questionable influence had spread this far. I had a house brand lager. Not much flavor, but it had a nice bite from the carbonation.

I told Joanna it was light—meaning in flavor. An Australian next to me assured me that it was indeed 5 percent alcohol by volume.

We got chatting back and forth about forgettable stuff, and then he remarked on my accent. I found out later that he is from Brisbane. He pegged me very well as coming from “somewhere east of Ohio.” My accent is from the southern Delaware Valley, and is common in southern New Jersey and up the Pennsylvania bank.

When we arrived in Bali, we were to be met by a man holding a sign with Joanna’s name on it. Before we got to immigration, we saw men holding signs, but none with Joanna’s name on it.

We must have looked suitably puzzled. We didn’t want to miss the guy if he was in this part of the airport, but also weren’t sure if this is was the right place. Like sharks, guys wearing ID tags came up to offer help.

We gave up on our guy with the sign and headed for the “Visa on Arrival” line. One of the guys with an ID had attached himself to me by that time. “Who are you and what is your role?”

He offers to buy the visa for us so we don’t have to stand in the line. All we have to do is give him our passports. That’s easy. I am to hand my passport and Joanna’s to a stranger in an airport in outheast Asia.

No, no, no.

 I think the line took us all of five minutes.

We went straight through immigration next. The wait was a little longer here than for the visa, but nothing like the lines in Newark.

The customs form asked if I had anything sharp. Just in case somebody saw it on an x-ray, I declared my pocket knife, which was in my checked luggage. That apparently was not considered contraband, so I was admitted to the country.

When we got out to the meeting point in the terminal, there were guys everywhere holding signs, so we walked up and down reading them all. That’s how we found Frad from Kunja Villas, who drove us to the hotel.

The whole building is very open. We walked through a door. It was dark, and I expected to step into a foyer. Instead, it was a courtyard. If you’re as careless as I am, you can damn near step into the pool going in.

There is an apartment, more Western-conventional and air-conditioned, behind a second locked door. The bathroom floor consists of large slate slabs interspersed with loose river stone. There is no wall or window by the tub, just an open space covered by a bamboo curtain. You don’t need a lot of walls here, I guess. Just a roof. Also mosquito netting. Very nice.

I think Joanna’s son Gregory owns the place. For all I know, he owns the whole resort. I’m not asking. It’s too strange.

When we got here, the first thing Frad did after lugging in our bags was to serve us cool moist towels and beautiful tea containing cinnamon and a stick of lemongrass.

We had a problem with the bathroom plumbing. A man showed up to fix it this morning. I asked him to have a seat while I made sure Joanna would know he was on his way.

The man thought I was directing him to climb through that open wall instead of going through the door. I felt so bad. What’s worse, the language barrier prevented me from explaining or even apologizing.


video


We ordered the continental breakfast. It isn’t delivered to the door on a tray. A man brings a picnic basket. He makes the toast and brews the coffee, and then serves us.

Could I get used to this? I don’t think so. But it’s gong to be an interesting few days.

More later.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why It Rains in Singapore





Dec. 22, 2013

Saturday we went to church, so Sunday we went to the forest.

The streets are damp, so it may have rained last night. I know it rains here, because there is a rainforest. Well, a little remaining bit of it, but it’s tall and dark.

It is kept in a nature reserve on Bukit Timah Hill. That’s a good five, maybe six, miles from the hotel, so we took a cab to get there.

It is a pretty steep hill and there are trails for mountain biking, hiking, and vertical jogging. I didn’t see any emergency medical stations, so I guess if something bad happens to you during strenuous exercise, they expect you to roll back down to the bottom of the hill.

The cab let us out at a parking lot. There is a paved road that looks deceptively climbable. Only authorized vehicles are permitted to drive on it. I assume they go up from time to time to pick up the dead.

The forest is beautiful, full of hanging vines, drooping palm leaves, trees with aerial roots, and signs that say don’t feed the monkeys. The birds, insects, and probably monkeys too make a racket. It’s almost like the 17-year locusts, but this is December so they must do this all the time, and they are good at it. I couldn’t hear my tinnitus.

Partway up, we left the main paved road to take the Southview Path, which is cut into the hillside. It has irregular steps built over tree roots and up steep inclines. Every once in a while, someone would pass by us, but for the most part, we had the trail to ourselves.

The only other times I’ve seen anything remotely like this it was a reconstruction inside a glass house in Atlanta or Washington.

According to a sign, only 1 to 5 percent of the sun’s light reaches the forest floor. This close to the Equator, that’s still a lot of light in my book, but it’s pretty shady. We were on a neat, man-made trail, and it was delightfully spooky.

video


It is also damp. You can smell the leaves decomposing on the forest floor. Some of the leaves don’t make it that far when they fall. There are small trees here that have adapted to catch falling leaves, which get caught in the branches, where they break down to feed the host.

The temperature, the manager of the hotel cafe said, is about 32 the year round in Singapore. That’s 32 Celsius, or about 90 Fahrenheit. I haven’t worn a tie since I checked into the hotel. On this climb, I took my jacket off and slung it over my shoulder to see if my shirt would dry.

No, not while I was climbing those dirt steps. Instead, the parts of the jacket touching my shoulders got wet.

There used to be tigers and leopards here, but they were killed off for sport by the 1930s. There are photos of them, and a specimen (or replica) of one in a diorama at the visitor center.

The climb up the paved road to the summit is 1.2 km.

We came out of the Southview Path and took a breather sitting on a fence rail.

Then we picked up and started to climb some more. What’s this? I see a pavilion ahead. As tired as I am and as sore as my feet are, that has to be the summit. Boy, am I glad we made it. Joanna’s doing fine, of course. It’s Harry who’s dragging ass, stumbling on the steps, leaning on a stick.

But we made it.

Hot damn.

No.

There is a sign by the shelter: Our starting point is 0.7 km downhill. What? not even a thousand meters? Well, we took a detour, which made me feel a little better.

The summit, though, is still about a half a klick up this 20 or 30 percent grade.

No thanks, I’ll put my sorry butt on this bench and dry off. It’s all downhill from here.

After a rest period, I picked up a stray plastic bag and put it into the monkey-proof trash bin to show that I am friend of Singapore. Then Joanna and I started downhill, gravity more or less on our side this time.

I say more or less, because although the force was with us, the grade was so steep that we had to walk flat-footed to keep gravity from pulling us down too energetically.

I saw people from time to time jogging downhill. Now, in my experience, running downhill is the fastest route to a fat lip. I’d fall flat on my face if I tried to do that. Of course, I have fallen down crossing a wet street on occasion, and I was sober at the time.

Anyhow, we made it down to the parking lot. Joanna flagged down a cab and we went to the hawker center on Maxwell Road, near the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, and not far from the Orchid.

We had the local specialty, called chicken rice, which is just that, served with a savory sauce. The dish is supposed to have been created here by someone from Hainan Province in China.

Hawker centers are giant food courts. The government decided years ago that street vendors were unsightly and possibly hazardous to the public health, so they have been collected into pavilion-like structures that dot the city. You go in and order from here for there and take a table.

The chicken rice place was so popular that the line stretched around the corner. It was pretty good, but I’m not sure it was worth a half-hour wait.

We went to the hotel for a brief rest, where I amused myself by forgetting how to access my office e-mail. I emailed Jeff, who emailed the help desk for me. (I got into the system Monday morning Singapore time--but I am getting ahead of myself, as I often do after crossing too many time zones. I have traveled 13 hours into the future.)

Much later, we stepped out for dinner. We saw lots of Korean places open, but many restaurants were closed on Sunday night, including three French places. We decided to try an Italian place around the corner from the Orchid Hotel.

We had walked past the place a couple of times before, and this time made a note of it and went to the end of the street. OK, Italian it is, and we walked back.

The waiter, maybe the owner, welcomed us in. He said he had seen us in the afternoon walking up the street (on our way back from the hawker center), then again just now.

I may be the only man in Singapore wearing a pony tail. I reminded the guy of someone named Doctor Eno (or maybe Dino) who had been here a few years ago and owned a distinguished race horse. Apparently the Doctor had a pony tail too. Maybe to match his horse.

The Chianti was OK, a bit strong on the tannins, so it had an acidic edge. Joanna’s merlot was strong, but smoother. We had an arugula salad with pears, walnuts, and shavings of cheese, which is always a refreshing combination.

Pasta was those large round sleeves of macaroni, whose name I never remember. It was served in a cream sauce with sausage. We could taste the bits of fennel and rosemary. A little comfort food never hurt anybody.

Joanna got the photo of the day. I actually forgot to snap a shot of a “Do Not Feed the Monkeys” sign. The signs are all over the park. C’mon, how are you not going to give your blackened banana to a big-eared waif who looks like that?



It’s probably one of the cutest threats ever tossed in my direction, but it’s still a threat. The authorities must be serious about it. And if you don’t go along, they may hit you with a stick.  Love to all. But don't feed the monkeys.

Dec. 22
Glad you made it to a hawker center. If I'm not mistaken, the chicken rice at Maxwell Rd. is said to be one of the best. This is a constant debate among Singaporeans: Who makes the best chicken rice? The people there are obsessed with food, which is one reason I like Singapore.
Isn't it funny how people will line up at one stall, while at a nearby stall, serving the same dish, no one is waiting? The rule is to find the longest line as it's probably for the best food. There is little tolerance there for mediocre food.

Just so you know: the Indian food there is also great; many say the best anywhere outside India. If you don't have time during this visit, we'll get some when you return after Bali.
And yes, don't feed those little bastard monkeys. They seem so cute, but they're fucking monsters! I've seen them attack little children stupid enough to wave around cookies and such. And they will bite with little provocation.

I plan to visit the Bata Caves in Kuala Lumpur before I meet up with you. This is a Hindu temple, also loaded with little bastard monkey thieves.

I've encountered Islamic moneys in the Lower Atlas in Morocco and Buddhist monkeys here in Thailand. I expect the Hindu monkeys to be just as seemingly cute and ultimately obnoxious.
Larry