Day 53: Singapore Not For Fail-Chinese

Hello everyone who’s been visiting this website hoping for new content on a daily basis but isn’t getting it because Christopher Law is a lazy bastard to can’t focus on writing any more because he’s having too much fun or relaxing too hard in Hong Kong.  But, thank you all, whoever you may be, for visiting my site! It means a lot to me.

I’ll still be trying my best to report to you what its like being in a different country as a Canadian Born Chinese who has limited Cantonese and even more limited Mandarin.  This proved totally true in Singapore where I fail to start conversations with other Chinese people in a strange new land.  Let me tell you something, there is absolutely no advantage to looking Chinese and not speaking the language; or otherwise known as being a “Jok Sing” in Cantonese.  People always assume you speak Chinese.  Granted people in Singapore do speak English but sometimes, they think you’re lying to them over the fact you don’t speak Mandarin.  When really, YOU DON’T SPEAK Mandarin.  It gets annoying at first, but you get over it really quickly.  It was the same in Seoul actually, but it didn’t bug me as much there.  It’s probably cause my first experience with it in Singapore was much worst.

The first night I landed, I went out to the nearby mall to eat some dinner in a food court.  The menu was TOTALLY in English, but when I went up to order, the girl wouldn’t stop talking to me in Mandarin.  At some point in the conversation she asked if I wanted to add something to my meal, I kept on saying no.  Eventually I remembered how to say it in Mandarin but that was like after a minute of struggling with her in English.  I was so shocked.  I didn’t think this wouldn’t happen in Singapore, but then again that’s like wishing people in Hong Kong all spoke English too; that isn’t happening.  But, like I said you get over it.  This one other lady in the MRT (their metro system) started speaking to me in Mandarin, then Cantonese, then Fu Jian, then finally English.  I guess it’s a good thing though.  Most people who grow up in Singapore speak more than 2 languages that’s already a lot more than most Canadian raised kids.

I did spend about 5 days in Singapore, but I have to say there really isn’t much special about the place; of course in my opinion.  There are nice malls, and restaurants, and even a casino that has a super great view, but I have to say the only thing worth going for is probably trying out all their Hawker centres.  Now, you’re probably asking, “What’s a hawker centre?” Basically, they’re the equivalent of “Dai Pai Dong”s in Hong Kong.  Don’t know what that is?  It’s basically a Chinese food court.  Search it on YouTube and you’ll get a visual idea of what I’m talking about.

This was probably my favourite thing about Singapore.  Why? Because it was actually darn CHEAP! Some people might tell you that Hong Kong food is cheap.  But, honestly, in no way is Hong Kong food actually cheap and even less so compared to Singapore.  But, I guess that depends on your definition.  Therefore, if Hong Kong is considered cheap, then Singapore is DIRT cheap.  Let’s compare a common dish found in Chinese restaurants.  Everyone’s favourite Chicken Cutlet with Rice.  Now, in Toronto, this might cost you something like $7CAD at a Chinese diner.  In Hong Kong it might cost you something like $40HKD or $5CAD.  Singapore, well you’ll find it for a measly $2S.  In Canadian dollars, that works out to be $1.6CAD.  Okay, there has to be a catch right?  Seriously, I bought it, ate it, and there really isn’t much difference in the quality at these prices.  Compared the usually places I go to in Hong Kong and Toronto, you really can’t say there’s much difference in quality.  They all taste the same.

I’d say the average price of most outdoor Hawker centres is probably around $2 to $5 Singaporean.  For a big developed city like Singapore I find it really weird that food can possibly be this cheap.  I will say however, not all the outdoor hawker centres are very clean.  Before I left for Singapore, people gave me this impression that Singapore is this SUPER clean city that won’t have a speck of dust on the floor but prepare yourself.  Singapore’s hawker centres are as dirty as Dai Pai Dongs in Hong Kong.  Although, I have to say I rather eat in Singapore than the Dai Pai Dongs in Hong Kong.  You can find Hawker centres that are indoor and have air conditioning but you pay a premium for that.  The average price ends up being more like $4 to $8 Singaporean, which is closer to the average prices in Hong Kong.  Just try them, you won’t be disappointed.  It’s hard not to bump into them, they’re quite literally everywhere and really stand out.

The last thing I want to really note about Singapore is the multicultural community.  The way I see it, there are two kinds of multicultural communities.  Ones that mix and ones that don’t.  What I mean by don’t mix is, is when cultures immigrate somewhere and create their own exclusive communities.  A city might be filled with China Town, Little Italy, Little India, and Greek Town but their communities end up being exclusive almost.  I find it an issue in Toronto.  In Singapore however, the place is so small they’re almost forced to mix.  I think it’s a good thing since that way people get more exposure to other cultures other than their own.  I had a grandmother in Toronto who lived there for 50 years and didn’t learn a word of English.  Now, that isn’t right.  But, that’s another store for another post.  It was nice having different culture foods that weren’t all cooked by Chinese people all the time.  Singapore does have a China Town though, as you can see in the photos below.  But, to me it wasn’t anything special.  Reminds me of what old China Town in Toronto looked like 15 years ago.  Since, now in Toronto its no longer China Town but China City!

Personally, I don’t know if I’ll ever make a trip as long as I did in Singapore but if I’m in the area again (Asia) I might make a weekend trip there with some friends.  Definitely having a friend who speaks Mandarin would be a big plus but it isn’t all that necessary.  Even with Asian features, you simply need to try a little harder than the rest.  I really did enjoy my time in Singapore, it was refreshing to say the least.  The overall culture is totally different from Hong Kong but still enough similarities in the Chinese community to not feel too alienated.  I know I didn’t really explain all the photos you’ll see below but if you have any questions feel free to shoot me a message on facebook or via any other messaging system! I’ll do some quick posts about Hong Kong pretty soon. I managed to pull some photos off my camera! Until next time chaps!

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Day 11: To Cologne (Köln)

I’m on my way to Cologne now, having some breakfast at L’Alizé.  It’s a small restaurant inside of Gare du Nord.  I don’t think I mentioned this before but Gare du Nord is basically where all the high-speed trains stop in Paris.  It’s at least one of the major stations, kind of like Union station in Toronto.  I’m taking my usual train around central Europe, Thalys.  It’s the fastest high-speed train they have in Europe, and it can be very cheap if you book your ticket 15 or 30 days in advance.  I’ll explain tips on booking train tickets in another post.  I’ll probably make a tips section sometime soon.

… (hours later)

I made it to Cologne (Köln).  I somehow managed to sleep a bit on the train but it was really uncomfortable.  After getting off the train I hailed a taxi and gave the driver the address to my hotel.  It was so silly! My hotel was literally 100 meters away from the train station, I probably could’ve walked.  But the tab was only 6€.  The hotel I’m staying at is really nice.  Its called St. Martin Rhein Hotel.  The view I have is great and the area is really lively.  Lots of restaurants down below, kind of like le quartier latin in Paris, but somehow it feels a lot more different.  The only downside to this hotel so far is that there’s no elevator.  I struggled carrying my 40lbs suitcase up to the third floor.  Overall though it’s really good.  The front desk people are really friendly and helpful.  Also, after my initial check of the room, I have to say, it’s really clean!

Wiener and Pretzel After grabbing some famous German wieners and a pretzel I walked around the area around my hotel.  My first impression of Cologne is it’s awesome here; granted this is a tourist area.  In comparison to Paris, I think I like it here a bit more, but we’ll see what I find in the following days.  This place actually reminds me a lot of Hong Kong’s better shopping areas.  Just outside my hotel there’s a nice quay or wharf.  I get a decent breeze into my room so it isn’t too hot and the view is a good addition.  And also, there’s lot of really good live music playing all over the area.  However, I hope it stops around after 11, I’d like to get some sleep.

I had no idea about this either but there’s a rather large Chinese disaporic community in this area.  Actually, quite a few waiters I’ve seen around the hotel are Cantonese-Chinese.  I had one of the waiters come up to me and ask if I was Chinese.  Ended up having a conversation where he spoke Chinese and replied back in English with a lot of sign language.  But, it’s even more impressive when they start speaking German.  At least to me, the German here sounds so much nicer then what Hollywood likes to show us.

After walking around for a bit, I stopped by Starbucks to get a Java Chip Frap with soya (or soja pronounced the same way).  Cost me a pretty 4€ slightly cheaper than Paris!  It was quite nice there, quiet too.  Sat down a surfed the net for a bit.

Here are some photos I took while walking around town.  I saw this Asian buffet place while walking around, might actually eat there tomorrow.  I haven’t touched Asian food in like 2 weeks now, having withdrawal!

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