Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Homesick in Singapore

After work today I trundled over to Asia Square, another enormous development in the middle of Singapore, with an atrocious website that wasted half an hour of my life while trying to find a map. It does, however, have a Triple O's, and after three days away from my Canadian wife and my dear Hong Kong, I was missing burgers like crazy.

Unfortunately, it's also not finished yet. Unlike most shopping centres that aren't finished yet, and are full of bamboo scaffolding and shirtless labourers, access didn't seem at all restricted. The escalators were running, so I went up to the Food Garden (not a food court, mind, a Food Garden) only to be presented with boarded up shopfronts and two men hammering Pure Fitness together out of plywood.

Distraught, I descended to the ground floor (the 'storey' in Singapore, as they refer to floors in lifts) where a security guard pointed out the big sign I'd walked past, saying it wasn't open yet.

Quite graciously, he then told me I could look around some more, and if there was anywhere that wasn't open, I could just kick the boards down, which was a remarkably kind and generous offer. Possibly not the kind of recommendation you'd expect a security guard to make, but perhaps he saw the pain in my eyes, denied my vegetable burger.

I didn't fancy destroying my loyal brown shoes in an altercation with a shopfront, so he sent me off to the food over the road, an acre of hawker stalls, Wendy's and pubs for banker types. Not for me; I didn't fancy any more rice this week, or a square burger, or some blokes in stripey shirts shouting. Instead, I went into British Indian, which surprisingly enough served Indian food.

Well, I was surprised. After a day staring at computers, I'd read the sign outside as British Italian, and I was very confused that the menu was biryanis and naan breads, not risottos and panini. I ate some deep fried, cheese-soaked portabello mushrooms (don't worry, the accompanying chips soaked up most of the fat), drank a Coke and walked back to the hotel, then took a taxi to the airport.

It's been an odd few days in Singapore; I don't feel I really have the measure of the place yet. That's probably because I've had a series of ever-shorter nights sleep, culminating in this morning's five-and-a-half hours (stayed up late reading Great Expectations, got up early to take some calls). And because of my microscopic hotel room, which I spent too much time in when I should have been out entertaining myself. And possibly because I'm at that early stage in a new job, where you feel like you're just on the edge of competence and you have to scrabble with your fingernails to keep holding on. Which is exciting too, but tiring.

Luckily, I fly to Penang tonight, arriving at midnight, where it's only an hour's drive to the hotel, where I can have a good lie-in until seven, when I have to get up and try to be prodigiously clever all day. Guess who should have got a bit more sleep, eh?


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