Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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( Mailing List, Week 32)

Alas, though I finally worked up the willpower and blocked out some time to post some picture (I've got over 100 good ones lined up), the Internet has foiled my plans. It's not that access is hard to get or even expensive, but just that it isn't terribly reliable.

Speaking of not terribly reliable, I just had the misforutne of learning that my bank account balance has mysteriously gone into the red. Though I had plenty of cash when last I checked, and my burn rate has come down dramatically while here in South East Asia, for some reason my account is overdrawn. Definitely not the way to start your day. That, and it's been surprisingly difficult getting an international phone line to contact my bank to figure out what's going on:

First I find a place that charges about $1.5USD *per minute*, even if the call is collect. The payphones I find are blocked. I go to this ultraluxury hotel and ask for an international line, and they say they don't have one -- I need to go to a different lush hotel down the street that "I can't miss". Of course, as is often the case, I never find it, and am still left without a phone.

Sigh, I hope I'm not screwed. Anyway, if anyone has any documents they'd like written, I'm a skilled and eager telecommuting technical writer...

In the meantime, Kuala Lumpur is as good a place to be stuck without money as any. It's fun, it's cheap, and boy the nightlife is great. Cafes and clubs stay open late, and there are tons of restaurants open all night long. Even better, the place is still... active at all hours. I've spent enough nights in Denny's with the truck drivers and nocturnal freaks to know the difference, and the difference is quite good.

After miraculously making my flight out of New Zealand (I made it to the airport just fine, but fell asleep while waiting for a flight and awoke as it was boarding), I spent fourteen hours in the air and arrived in the hazy city/island of of Singapore. I really, really liked Singapore, despite the presence of more shopping malls than can be comprehended.

For instance, there's this huge one, right next to another incredibly huge one (with the largest fountain in the world), near a third large mall, with a fourth underground mall to connect them. All four are top notch and have everything anybody could ever want in spades. But together they make up a monolithic structure that defies my spatial capabilities. You wander along these huge indoor spaces, up and down escalators, through long twisting passageways, but you rarely catch more than a glimpse of outside. When you do, you notice that sometimes you're above ground, sometimes you're beneath, but it's hard to keep track of directions and distances. It's all beautiful and very convenient, and there are plenty of cafes to keep me occupied, but it's a little unnerving nonetheless. I imagine that once we have big space stations on inhospitable worlds, it'll feel a lot like a Singaporean shopping mall.

Not that Singapore is inhospitable. It's hot, granted, and pretty humid (though didn't rain nearly as much as I expected). But the island is larger than I anticipated and not at all claustrophobic. It is rather strange that for being in on island, you almost never see the coast. Everything is in the middle (though that's partially due to "the middle" having once been "the coast" due to aggressive land reclamation). Plus, a continual haze surrounds the island that obscures the sun just enough to destroy any sense of direction and time. But for an island nation, they have a ton of open space. Even in the central areas I could find large abandonded or undeveloped areas, overflowing with lush greenery.

Anyway, I spent two weeks wandering the cafes and alleyways at all hours, and up until the day I left I was still finding new places to enjoy. But, leaving was inevitable, and eventually I hopped a bus over the boarder and up to Melacca (a nice but not terribly engaging colonial town) and now Kuala Lumpur. How long I'll stay here I don't know, but I suspect it might be a while. At least... heh... until I figure out what happened to my money. I hope all is well in your sector of th world, and assuming I can get my finances in order, I'm still on track for a March 2003 return. Sorry for the lack of pictures, and I'll talk to you soon!

-david :)

Though many know that the law is pervasive and strict in Singapore, few realize that the maintenance of order falls to the Fethadroids - a mechanized battalion of security robots placed strategically throughout the city. Due to their traditional association with peace and security, as well as implicit flight capability and melee offensive weaponry, the pleasing shape of a bird was chosen to house the deadly machine. I was able to catch on film a rare exchange, where an offending citizen accepts rebuke for illegally chewing gum from Fethadroid #2274, more commonly known as "BOB".
I've heard Singapore described as a "mall culture" before, but I didn't really understand what that meant until I went there. This picture is taken in one of the innumerable halls of Suntec City - an incredibly huge mall built by combining five very large malls around a huge fountain (which is, of course, the largest fountain in the world). Suntec City is across the street from another gigantic mall, perhaps as big as any I've seen in the US (excepting the Mall of America, perhaps, though I haven't seen it). And as if this wasn't enough, they've just built another large mall, which is also home to an opera house and theatre complex. But wait, there's more! That's right, for the price of three malls we'll toss in a fourth mall *free*. Because these three malls are all surrounding a major intersection, of course spanning the malls underneath the roadbed is a fourth mall (Citylink) that is again, as big as any other mall I've seen but snaking out in a winding path that is disconcerting to the extreme. A... [more]
Wandering to a corner of the town previously overlooked, I eventually settled into an expensive Japanese restaurant for a cup of tea. Before me was a large window that, when lit just right (as it was that night), reflects an amount of light just about equal to that which it transmits. After a few tries with the camera, I managed to catch a shot that I liked. Of course, posing for pictures of yourself in the middle of a fancy restaurant definitely turns some heads.
On a small island off the southwestern tip of Singapore is Sentosa, a holiday theme park for locals and foreigners alike. A bit like a scaled-down Disney world, but oppressively hot and with virtually no visitors, Sentosa hosts a variety of exhibits and small rides connected by manicured trails and a tiny monorail. I purchased a rather pricey ticket that promised entry to a few different shows and buildings, but managed to skip just about everything I paid for to instead just drink tea and wander aimlessly through a number of pretty gardens (the orchid garden was my favorite). Perhaps the strangest element of the park was how it was almost completely empty - the only times I really saw other people were when waiting in line at the monorail hub, or for the musical fountain show at night. Other than that, it was as if I had the entire park to myself.
In the picture you'll see some giant creature in the distance. That is the mythical Merlion: half merman, half lion, and the all-powerful protectorate... [more]

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