Singapore: Glass half full of sweat, half empty of soul

(Just realized I never published this.  Cambodia kind of erased it from my memory.)

The OCD in BJR loves Singapore.  Wow this place is clean and orderly, and thanks to the threat of long prison sentences and the death penalty, there is no crime.  People are friendly.  The OCD in BJR thinks if you could just move it North or South about 30 degrees in Latitude, it could be Utopia.

The other side of BJR (Is that “Evil Bryan”?  Probably not, more like “Chaotic Bryan”) never wants to visit Singapore again.  The excessive wealth, opulence, and city-with-no-soul impression burns like drinking battery acid, and the concept of shopping as a legitimate activity evokes deep, long sighs.  And regardless, Utopia is not actually a place that real humans could be happy in.


Audra, one of my closest friends in Sydney, and who was the first person from Atlassian I ever met, went to Singapore with me.  Her husband Joe dropped us off at the Sydney airport and 9 hours later we were in Singapore.  Audra had reserved an airbnb stay for us that was described as “staying inside a Tiffany box”.  Red Flag #1. I had my concerns, picturing myself sleeping in a blue lace canopy bed with lots of small pillows.  I am not a diamond ring, after all.  When we told the taxi cab driver the address, he asked if we were going to a factory.  Red flag #2, but of a different sort.  In the end, Audra’s pick was fantastic – we were in a real neighborhood, staying in a high density building (or “HBD”) with hundreds of other families, eating “chicken-rice” at their local hawker center, and far away from the skyscrapers, casino, night clubs, hotels, and mega-malls.


Our first night we ate at the Long Beach restaurant, and ate black pepper crab, and called it an early night.  The next morning I hopped a cab to Athlete Lab Singapore.  I belong to the Athlete Lab in Sydney, an indoor cycling / training center for cyclists and triathletes where you train based on your functional threshold power (FTP).  On Thursday my physio had banned me from running for 10 days, which was like a death sentence heading out on a holiday, so I was lucky to know about the lab and get in a 90 minute session.  It turned out to be more mentally difficult than physically challenging, as 1/3rd of the way through, the video cut out (normally they project Ironman races or Tour De France stages in front of you).  The workout further deteriorated when one of the riders told the kid who was messing with the music to stop changing it, right as he had switched to what I can only describe as sappy Chinese polka-hillbilly-love-pop.  The next hour was punishing, as song after song of this absolute crap blared over the speakers. Forget Metallica –  figure out who this artist is and have him play live at Guantanamo and the confessions will flow.

After a shower, I ordered some Tian-Tian Chicken Rice and the Maxwell Food Center.  After talking with the woman at the food stall, I polished off what I soon realized is considered the family-size portion of the meal.

Audra joined me after her bike tour of the city, and we walked through the Budda Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown, looking at the amazing artifacts and the money making machine that is a city temple.  Aside from being startled from a spray of holy water, I was at peace and enjoyed the time to relax.  From there, we visited Dr. Fish and stuck our feet into tanks of fish that apparently exfoliate your feet.  While not initially excited about the idea, I have to admit it was pretty humorous.  The woman running the place was a character.

Train ride home

Walking (not running) in the MacRitchie Reservoir Park

Originally I was supposed to run 20k on Sunday in an urban rainforest, but since I’m banned from running by my physio for at least a week, I hiked the running trail, walked the Tree Top Walk, and climbed the Jetulong tower.  Probably 12-23k in walking, which is still good for leg and foot strengthening, but I couldn’t help but look longingly at the people trotting along the trail.   Early on, one monkey let Audra know she should back off, but otherwise the trail was calm and uneventful.   The Tree Top Walk ended up being a suspension bridge about 250m long, where you get a good look at the top of the canopy, and then less than 1 km later, you climb ~8 flights of stairs to the top of Jetulong tower, where you get a glimpse of downtown Singapore, and a good view of what the rainforest looks like.

Ku De Ta at Marino Sands Bay Hotel

The view from the top of the Marino Sands Bay gave me my first real glimpse of the city and harbour, to take it all in.  It’s beautiful, but completely unnatural. Sigh.  The food at this top-of-the-world restaurant was pricey and yet mediocre. I wished I was back in the hawker center.

The next morning I did another session at Athlete Lab and then found a beach where I could swim, which was harder than it should have been given that the city is bordered on one side entirely by water.

Just not for BJR

In the end, I can check Singapore off the list, but I won’t go back unless I’ve been handcuffed first.

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