Monday, July 31, 2006

True street art.

Partial view from our hotel room.

He granted permission...for a small donation.

Sweet comfort in a green tea frapaccino.

The ladies gave permission for this photo, then surely made fun of me for wanting to take it!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Pins at a small shop.

Craig and me in Shanghai

Think Manhattan times a thousand with heat like Singapore. It is incomprehensible, really. Skyscrapers further than the eye can see in every direction. Yesterday Craig and I did some of the typical tourist things---saw the cool double-sphere tower, went to the largest mall in Shanghai (by accident, we were just looking for a place to get lunch with air con), and went to Shanghai Old Street. At one point I caught myself thinking "we must be in Chinatown" then realized it's all chinatown...duh.

In the tourist areas we were constantly being approached with greetings such as "Hello, watch, purse, Louis Vittion, Prada, many, right here" while being shown laminated flyers picturing various purses and watches. So far I've resisted the street solicitation, but when they say "Coach" I begin to drool. I'm at war with myself, because I don't believe in knockoffs, but, much like some women are seduced by shoes or the perfect boot (my shout out to Hilary), and men by a beautiful woman, fabulous bags can make me weak in the knees and willing to abandon (almost) all principle.

After the tourist destinations, we wandered around and quickly found ourselves in the other Shanghai. Places screaming to be photographed, but requiring much restraint as Craig also described on his blog. No one wants to be treated like they are in a "zoo." We tried to be respectful, and asked permission to photograph when appropriate. I was refused only once, by an elderly woman. The mops at the front of her home were beautiful in their way, but she shook her head.

I will try and post some photos, but have had some difficulty, so we'll see if it works.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Well, where to begin? Immediately after getting off the airplane it was obvious we were not in Singapore. So I'll start by saying the Singapore airport is the nicest I've ever seen. It has much to offer including kiosks with free internet access, napping areas, free foot-massasge machines, live orchids and other tropical plants and flowers everywhere, spa like shops where you can get foot or back massages, retail stores such as Burberry, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Coach.

Now we enter Bangalore International airport. Dirty linoleum, haphazard paint jobs, missing ceiling tiles, piles of construction (destruction?) rubble, two (that i noticed) plate glass windows broken with huge shards in place and nothing to prevent someone from entering there. In one area of baggage claim I counted 7 ceiling fans, 2 of which were operating, and one tiny shop selling candy bars and chips.

Then we walk outside and the real adventure begins! There is no order to the parking. Or the driving. A car was waiting for us courtesy of the hotel, so we didn't have to endure the gauntlet of drivers wanting to take us. As we entered the haphazard crush of vehicles exiting we first experienced the Indian form of lane demarcation: go wherever you will fit (one half inch clearance is plenty) and announce yourself all the while with your horn.

We arrive at our hotel, both of us a bit shaken by the reality of Bangalore. The hotel is lovely, and we settle in for the night. Next day we ask the concierge for advice, and he suggests we hire a taxi to take us to various sights around town. This sounds fine, so off we go. The traffic and driving habits are astounding. It seems a requirement to use the horn in direct proportion to how much the gas pedal is used. OK, but are a lot of people staring in the windows at us? Why is that young girlchild doing gymnastic tricks on the corner and then tapping on our window? Doing tricks for money? Oh.

Our driver takes us to the Bull Temple, fine, interesting, a big bull carved from one stone, why not pray to a rock? Next he pulls into a driveway, stops and we are ushered into an apparent rug showroom complete with highly detailed demonstration, high pressure, lengthy, tea-is-served sales presentation. Right, well we're not really in the market for a several hundred dollar silk or wool rug. No, not the carved stone elephants or the semi-precious jewellery (that's how it is spelled here) or the pashminas, or even the lovely hand painted paintings. No. Really. We're leaving..."Kumar! we're ready!!"

So we get in the car, gently tell Kumar (not making it up) that was a bit too high presssure for us, please don't take us to any more places like it. So we drive past the library, through a park, stop at a large government building, all the while being stared at in and out of the car. Then we are delivered to another shop! The kind where the lights weren't on until you arrived, and now everyone is scurrying around, turning on lights, manning their stations. Please, sit down, allow me to show you the turquoise...the one I like is $600 dollars american? Ya, not so much...just a bit out of my souvenir budget. So I try and gracefully look at the scarves and ties. But the ONE that Craig likes is dusty, soiled. "This one is a bit you have another? "Madam, I assure you all of these are new. It is against the policy of our shop {implied: and i am HEARTILY offended that you would suggest such a thing] to sell anything which has been worn." Silly me. But it is dirty. KUMAR!

Next we are dropped on a narrow, busy, crowded retail street. Shops full of dusty stuff we don't want. And we are beginning to recognize the Indian style of customer service: stalk the customer. They just come and stand right by you, and stay close wherever you go. I was this close to taking out some restraining orders! And the crowds and the garbage and the honking and the crumbling buildings---which we still can not tell if they are being built or being torn down. If they are being built, start praying to the bull right now that there is never an earthquake...or a loud clap of thunder.

By this time we were shell-shocked, and asked Kumar to honk our way back to the hotel. Wow. Ok, so fast forward to the next day: Craig had work meetings all day, and I literally did not leave the hotel room until he returned at dinner time. I just didn't have it in me to venture out into that wild world.

But today, off we went, Craig and I. This time on foot---no more high pressure sales destinations for us! But we did experience more of the customer-stalker mentality, and boy do i hate it. Get the f**k away from me. In one shop it seemed there were literally 12 stalkers for every customer. Two young men practically came to fisticuffs trying to convince me the handbag they had shown me was the better one for me. Aaaaaaaack.

From that western-ish shopping area, we set off walking some more, and ended up having the best time we'd had yet...wandering the streets, taking photos. We were so off the tourist track, if there even is one, little children in front of their homes were calling to their siblings inside to come out and see the white people! I can't swear that is what they were saying, but they saw us, called inside the house, and more faces peeked out at us. We waved and smiled. Not all the grownups were so happy to see us, however. Or maybe smiling at strangers isn't culturally acceptable, except for children. After getting ourselves thoroughly lost, and finding our city map incomplete, we did our most adventurous thing and hired one of the 3 wheel, 2 stroke engine vehicles to taxi us back to the hotel. OMG, imagine Space Mountain or the Raiders of the Lost Ark ride at Disneyland, without any of the safety precautions! Wild, fast, hair raising, white knuckle adventure! And just as we were delivered to our hotel, a monsoon rainstorm let loose. Such fun.

After today, I think I actually prefer India, stalkers and all, to Singapore. At least it feels real here, and not so freakishly hot. Even with men peeing indiscriminately at the side of the road, and moms taking their toddlers down the block to poo on the sidewalk not quite right in front of their own home (a park shared with cows and at least one goat). Watch where you walk. And smile at the children.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Another cool tile from the Melbourne plaza.

This photo is of a tile in a plaza in Melbourne. Mostly nonsensical, yet containing a sentiment most of us carry somewhere inside. I found it sweet, and the placement interesting: on the ground.

My favorite sign from the trip so far. It was in Melbourne, Australia.


August in New York City. Now add a thousand degrees, ten trillion people, a minimum of two shopping centers per block and you've imagined Singapore. Do I sound a tad cranky? I'm sorry to be so, and yet have trouble being cheery when every pore of my body is like a faucet left on. I haven't been this miserable from weather-related causes since, let's see...oh ya, that 2 weeks in August of 2002 that we spent in Manhattan.

Day before yesterday we went to a local indoor market in the section known as "Little India." It was like four floors (thankfully air conditioned) of knock-offs and glorified dollar store merchandise. It provided my biggest incident of culture shock: the restrooms had no TP (or towels) but rather a handy hose in each stall. Yes, a HOSE. So you get to clean off your wet parts with water...don't even THINK about going number two.

The heat has not prevented us from venturing out, but it has limited our wanderings. We frequently duck into an air conditioned space for respite, and that's where those ubiquitious shopping centers come in handy. We suspect this is how many Singaporeans spend their time---wandering the malls. Guess it's just another thing they have in common with the US.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


A mere 17+ hours on a plane ("Holy butt cramp, Batman!"), and voila, here we are in another hemisphere, a different continent, the middle of winter. Same language though, so that's brilliant. Craig is off to lunch and a meeting today, and I might shower and go exploring some more on foot. We did a fair amount of that yesterday in order to make ourselves stay up until at least 7p.