Stopping all stations

02 Oct 2006

It took me a long time to realise that when you reach the end of the MRT line, you've reached the end of the country. We did that twice yesterday. At one end is Changi Village, which is peaceful, inexpensive, and miserably hot. We spent a little time on the beach, regularly ducking to avoid being run over by passing 747s - have a look at Lyn's pictures to see what I mean.

At the other is Chinese Garden, which is currently hosting the Lantern Festival. It was sort of like the Lights Of Lobethal, only with more lanterns and some seven-story towers we climbed up for a better view. Mooncakes are a confusing but delicious mixture of sweet bean curd and salted egg yolks. Mine didn't have any military instructions in it.

Next to the dorm is a baggage storage area that's triangular in cross-section. Today, for the first time, I walked in and got my bag without banging my head on the ceiling. It only took me four thumps to learn.

The first policeman we saw in this country was in our hostel. And he was looking for someone. We changed hostel the next day. The Inn Crowd, where we're staying now, has no policemen. It also has a bar suitable for entertaining two Canadian women who have to stay up until 1am so they can call their travel agent back home and get the hell out of here.

Begging here is infrequent and sophisticated. It's more of a cold-reading combined with a confidence trick. It starts with a well-dressed man coming up to you on the street and telling you that this will be a lucky month for you, that you have several close friends, that you are a good reader of people, or other cold-reading fishing material.

From there he speaks continuously, shotgunning you with predictions, and moves straight into the trick. This consists of writing something like "Blue 3" onto a small piece of paper without you seeing, then folding it and giving it to you. Then he'll ask you to pick a number (from 2, 3, 4) and a colour (from red, blue, green). By altering the script slightly he can force you to pick blue 3 - eg if you pick "2", he'll say "pick another". You pick 4, he crosses them both off, leaving 3. You open the paper revealing him to be a genius mind-reader, he opens a folder with pictures of a temple, starving children, and other worthy causes, and then demands money.

How much he asks for depends on how he's read you. I was happy to give the first guy a couple of bucks for the entertainment, even though I was rather dubious that it was going to charity. The second guy asked me if I wanted to help the children "a little bit" ($100), "a bit more" ($200), or "a lot" ($300), and got rather stroppy when I gave him nothing. Of course, I'd sabotaged his trick anyway - asked for three birds, I gave him "magpie", "kookaburra" and "raven", which made it rather difficult for him to force me into choosing "eagle".

The more convincing kind of beggar comes up to you in saffron robes and shaved head, gives you some kind of prayer card, and then says "buddha temple" "buddha temple" over and over until you make a contribution.

The zoo /night safari needs its own entry. But I saw a backstroking polar bear, and that alone was worth the price of admission.