My most recent of travels brings me to the orient. I find myself docked in the port of Singapore, the island state that is a city, which is a nation. This land has been held by the English, the Japanese, various multinational banks, some noodles and is now home to a hot pot of cultures.
I’m here on a work trip into the wold of coffee. Myself and fellow traders come in the name of caffeinated commerce. Whilst here I have been breathing in all that is fragrant about Singapore. To be blunt, this place smells like a wet towel which is more to do with its near 100% humidity rather than the fact it hangs around with the Asian kids.
I have been working a trade show all week, dealing with people from all over the world who interact with coffee. This could be cool Italian’s who drive the Ferrari of Coffee machines, through to Hillbilly Indonesians trying to get me to drink their Coffee Luwak. Coffee Luwak is a coffee variety sourced from the poo of a cat native to Indonesia. The animal naturally processes the coffee cherry into a bean, and the passes it on. It is very low yield and high process, so costs approx. $50 per cup. It tastes as you would expect- nutty and crap. I wonder what the guy who discovered it was actually up to when he stumbled upon this.
Singapore is very clean, reserved and safe much like its people. The Government is fairly stern, like a Grandparent forced to raise an abandon Grandchild cos its parents died in a Balloning accident over the Yarra Valley. Chewing Gum is banned here. I cannot tell you how much I wanted gum whilst here. Maybe it was the lure of the forbidden, but my gums were tweaking like a Smith St junkie in the 90’s. I suspect this lack of gum chewing by the populous has led to the development of Singlish, a term to describe the use of ‘la’ and the end of random sentences. It is a well-known fact that vocal warm ups for Singaporean singers tend to go along the lines of “Lal Lal Lal Lal lal lal lal la la.”
Singapore is an underrated city. It is a little bit New York in its business, a little bit of Dubai in its initiative and a little bit Las Vegas in its showmanship…literally a ship. This ship just happens to sit atop three 50 storey towers at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. I was up there on Wednesday night along with 100 or so other wannabe’s that looked like extras for a Sex in the City episode. It was actually ‘Ladies Night’ but they should have called it ‘Sleazy Businessman’s Night’ as there wasn’t too many women around. We went to the bar called Ku De Tah, which in Thai means expensive drinks. The view was free (amazing!) but the beer was not (at $20 for a Corona).
China Town, much like many other incarnations around the world, is a place where Chinese people own shops selling their cuisine and plastic. Early on, we stopped by for a meal and enjoyed some fiery Hunan dishes, where everything was chilli served with a side of meat or vegetables.
One night I was at a dinner hosted by the Victorian Government. It was about as good an event organised by a public servant could be. The night was made better towards the end; one the guys on our table regaled us with tales of life as an all importing, gun shooting, contracted kill CEO in the Philippines’. It left mine and Lincoln from Tullamarine’s tales of the seedy world of plastic cups and portable plumping equipment, for dead.
Singapore is weirdly wonderful city whilst trying very hard not to be. How else can you explain a country that bans gum, fines you for sitting on public seats, is growing in land mass, has a ship on a set of towers and soccer pitch floating on water, plus has amazing, cheap food found only in shopping mall food courts? Beats mela!