Monday, September 11, 2006

Installment #49 Hong Kong and Singapore, Back again

For those of you who have been counting it has been long since my last entry. Many things have happened since then, for one, I now use flickr quite extensively for all my photos, thanks in part to its easy to use interface and the ease in which you can edit pictures titles tags and comments for all to see. I am also typing this blog into another iMac, as my G5 died a terrible death due to a freak motherboard sickness in which a faulty firewire I/O card caused the system to lock up and fail to boot. So Applecare, in its kindness decided to give me a brand new iMac, this time, its the intel core duo version. Though, in similar fashion to my original purchase, 3 weeks after I get my new mac, apple announces the iMacs based on the new intel core 2 duo chip. Well, you can’t win I suppose. I just got back from travelling on business to Hong Kong and Singapore. Hong Kong was mostly spent with old coworkers and shopping for camera lenses. You see, Nikon seems to stock HK stores much better than tokyo ones, as they had ample supplies of the nikkor 18-200 super zoom that everyone loves. It was a busy week in HK and I really get a chance to do enough there. I did though, finally get to clubbing in lan quai fong, which was a fun experience. It isn’t tokyo or nyc, but it was still enjoyable. Singapore was more of an experience, you know, like the kind I used to have back in my travelling days. I sort of caught a sore through from all the curry that I ate in the span of 3 days, helped not in part by coworkers who highly recommended that I try the fish head curry. Thinking that it would be something like the dishes back in tko, I decided to give it a try during a lunch. The place was called Mutuu’s curry house, located in the food court area of Suntec City. The restaurant was very south indian in style, with large tables and well dressed staff. I idle in and ask for the menu. I see that the fish head curry is the first page on the menu, and the prices were 20 25 and 30 dollars for the S/M/L size orders. Wow, I thought, 20 is still a lot, in SGD. That worked out to be around $13-14. Pretty steep, but I come from tko, where that is the normal price that you pay for a lunch. ( for comparisons sake, a hawker centre will have plate of mee goreng for 2.50 SGD, or like $1.60! ) So I order the curry and wait patiently. 15 minutes later, I realize why the waiter looked at me funny when I told him it was ‘to go’. The bag he brought was as big as a garbage bag and weighed about 10 pounds! The curry was in a tupperware that was 6 inches deep and about 1ft wide in diameter! I had unknowingly ordered a meal for 4 people... to take out for lunch. Boy did I feel stupid for getting the rice and cabbage on the side as well. The curry itself had a real bonifide fish head in it. eyes and all. yuck. Also, it had a sufficient amount of bones in the curry to make it difficult to eat quickly, so I had to bear through all the comments from curious onlookers from the desk commenting on whether or not they feed me anything in tokyo, for it seemed that I was like a prisoner set free into the land of food, starved for years, and let out for one glorious meal. I never did finish more than 1/6th of that curry. I stealthily stuffed the rest into the pantry fridge... only to forget it there when I left to return to tko.

Memories of NUS

It was really good to see the old gang back there again. Johann brought me around the old NUS campus and we walked through Eusoff hall, where I stayed for exchange 8 years ago. Many things have changed, buildings renovated, and not one cockroach to be seen scattering about the floor. Even so, it was quite natsukashi to see the old grounds again, and to relive the times we spend in the study room mugging away at the textbooks trying to cram 4 months of lectures into 1 week of time.

Malaysia - Truely Asia

We drove up to Johor Baru on the weekend, which is just across the straight across from the island nation. Just about a 40 min ride, but made much longer thanks to 1) the border control station which doesn’t supply the necessary exit and entry forms that you will need 2) the traffic insanity of malaysia. Its malaysia afterall, so getting from A to B was an exercise in our buddy Brian’s patience. We decided to secretly keep count and came to a grand tally of 23 swear words in 20 minutes of elapsed time. it was a lesson in hokkien and mandarin colourful language. Speaking of colourful language, malay itself is an interesting one. For those of you who are not familiar with it, it is a purely phonetical language that uses the latin alphabet, with no accents, no silent vowels, and generally, no exceptions in pronouciation. Since the written form came along quite recently in history, like japanese, korean, vietnamese, and esperanto, they had the benefit of starting with a clean slate and trying to build a consistent system which has a minimal set of rules and abides by those rules most of the time. These set of rules pretty much makes it easy for an english speaker to read malay, even though they would have no idea what they are saying. For instance, Salamat Datang (welcome) - is pronounced *sa la mat da tang* Pretty brain dead easy right? One unfortunate circumstance arises for some words that, lets just say, have an unfortunate transliteration into english. One of these such words is *wang* which means ‘money’. Words that are borrowed from english also run into some trouble with this simple transliteration system. For example, the word for ‘cement’ is pronounced ‘ce men’ with a soft ‘c’. It’s quite true to the english pronounciation of the word, minus the trailing T sound which is not verbalized in malay. Thus, as you can see, problems arise when you have stores with signs that read, quite literally, “Semen Sold Here”. Which is how you would spell ‘seh men’ in malay. -- Thus we come to the apex of our story, and quite literally the best thing that I learned in my last trip. That it is quite normal in malaysia, when meeting someone at a cocktail party, to tell him that “you owe your wang to a lifetime of selling semen.” --

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