Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Eighth month, burning man

This month, we have mostly been:

- Watching Tiong Bahru burn. It has been Hungry Ghost month and many of the local residents have been out burning fake money, gold, expensive shoes and wristwatches - you know, all those essential items you might be missing as you float around the spirit world. I have been routinely surprised at the offerings left out, each night increasingly elaborate. A whole roasted duck and enormous slab of (my favourite) crispy roasted pork were laid out one evening. I can't tell you how much I had to fend off the devil of temptation inviting me to pluck a couple of pieces and pop them in my mouth. The icing on the hungry ghost cake was an inordinately loud concert (getai) with an overactive smoke machine that at one point clouded the entire stage and its performers. Due to being lost in translation, we didn't stay long.

- Checking out the forgotten malls of Singapore. People's Park, Peninsula Plaza and the Golden Mile Complex house specialist shops should you be in the market for electrical components, cables and camping equipment respectively, as long as you don't mind a pungent smell of disinfected toilet, a grime covered floor and shops that time forgot. Contrasting sharply with the intriguingly named 'had its own special 'shopping' scent designed for it', "ION", these malls are full of charm - where else can you visit the 'Ministry of Clothing', 'Lady Dress Making' and 'Jumbo Jeans'? They are however, unfortunately, existing on borrowed time.

- Enjoying the newly opened bar in Tiong Bahru. Finally, a bar in Tiong Bahru that is not serving the most disgustingly wood (yes, wood not oak) flavoured wine to the 'tunes' of psy-trance. Hotel Nostalgia's bar offers reasonably priced wine that is eminently quaffable. Friendly and inviting bar staff and peanuts served on a plate (!) top off the low lit ambiance. The only unfortunate circumstance is the proximity of the busy Tiong Bahru Road. Even on a weekday evening, the buses roaring past or (worse) stopped at the traffic lights can put a dampener on an otherwise romantic conversation. Food portions could be up-sized a little given the high prices in an area famous for $3 noodles but it's still our new favourite local watering hole.

- Marvelling at the many uses for one long finger nail. Why do some Chinese men have all nails short bar the little finger nail? Is it for distance nose picking, ear digging, tooth picking or head scratching? Is it a sign of one's male prowess? In fact, the story goes that it is a sign of power or riches. Labourers working in a field couldn't possibly grow long finger nails, you see. Perhaps I shall write to Richard Branson and see if he's keen to try some Asian cultivation.

- Slurping the local steamboats. At Tin Yi Gang Shi Huo and Le Le Pot on Seng Poh Road as well as Ting Heng on Tiong Poh Road, a boiling pot of tasty broth is placed on your tabletop burner and a huge array of raw meats, seafood and vegetables is brought out. The order of the day is 'cook your own' but if you ever come out with me, keep an eye on your prawns. I have a tendency to 'borrow'. At the end of the meal, the broth has entered the 'uber-tasty' realm and noodles are thrown in as a last round for those who have the stomach space remaining.

- Raving it up in Rawa.

Next up is my 30th birthday extravaganza in Japan (where we shall be entering The Labyrinth) and a Chinese wedding as well as hanging out with my Singaporean cousin who will be visiting from the windy city of Chicago. Rock and roll.

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