Friday, December 24, 2010

Singaporean Christmas

After wandering through the muggy tropical night, aimlessly wondering what Christmas is all about (and such tropes), I decided to rest my quickly blistering feet by hopping on a train.

Disembarking I found myself on a main avenue, Raffles Road, walking on past parks and fountains. In an underpass I stumbled past some hip young adults and teens who'd reclaimed the space for practicing break dancing moves.

The youth here, as someone observed, are culturally just hitting the 1970s. Which is all good by me. I hope they like Stevie Wonder.

Following the crowds past the regal hotel driveways I found myself crossing a bridge towards the Marina Bay hotel - the new, casino-friendly, wildly expensive, let's-take-a-shot-at-being-Dubai resort that made international headlines opening earlier this year.

As a foreigner I went into the casino - they charge Singapore residents $100 to enter to discourage gambling. If your passport isn't local you get in free and are free to spend as much as you like.

Singapore has a few things to learn about casinos. I can give them some tips, having been in most of the ones Reno offered.

First - don't make them open and airy. Paths should be convoluted, and entrances hidden. Instead there are plenty of helpful people there waiting to show you the way out - using the broad, easily navigable paths.

Second - mix all the games together. That way if you do poorly at blackjack you can turn around and try slots or roulette. Also: clocks? Seriously? Not a good idea.

Third - I saw exactly, looking carefully, two other white folk. Now, since Singapore is a multi-ethnic society I can't know for certain that the thousands I looked upon weren't perhaps from Hong Kong, or Malaysia. But I don't think the $100 is keeping the Singaporeans out.

The rest of the place was pretty nice - skating rink, food and shops. I walked back across another bridge, a double helix of DNA, (with geeky AT and CG lights - it was nifty) and skirted the waterfront. I found myself by a church - the oldest in Singapore as it happens - right as people were entering for a midnight service. Raised Episcopal (American Anglican) I decided to go inside and sing some hymns.

The hymns were the best part. The service was pretty confusing - lots of elements that Episcopalians leave out, I guess, and the sermon was just plain awful. People started texting, reading, looking at event calendars, chatting... I'm glad I wasn't the only one who tuned out: most of the congregation did.

Around 1:30 I got back to my hostel, unable to walk. Sleeping-in I start Christmas around 11 am by Skyping family. In the hostel Mickey and Scrooge are in the background quoting Dickens.

Singaporean Christmas. Not a bad thing at all.

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