Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Singapore, Day 3 and 4

Day 3 started with a relatively late wake up (about 10:30am, even though bed time was after 5am earlier that morning). We went to the rink for a semi-final game in our bracket. This was single elimination, and we got eliminated. At the end of the tournament, we played six games and were 2-4. Not spectacular, but there were a lot of other fast and skilled teams there. We played pretty well over all. So after that, I headed back to the hotel, showered up, and headed back into the city.

First stop: little India. Lots of Indian groceries and other shops. Many streets did not have proper "sidewalks," but the stores sort of had this shared covered walkway in front of their stores as seen above. A couple of Pakistani shops thrown into the mix as well. Some incredible Indian food was had.

Contents of one store. I guess religious idols of some sort.

A mosque.

Singapore is famous for their strict laws. This was really big in the news a few years ago when some American kid got caught spraying graffiti and ended up getting caned. However even with strict laws, to quote an ad I saw on a bus: "Low crime does not mean no crime." Most of the city is very clean, but I managed to find some graffiti afterall. (It says "Punk is Resistance".)

From little India, I walked over to a section called Arab Street. This big mosque seemed like a center-piece for that neigborhood. There were a large number of cloth/fabric stores as well as dress stores in the area. Very pretty neighborhood.

Another view of the main dome of the mosque from further away.

I walked by this sign which I thought was funny. It reads "State Land/Enter at Your Own Risk"... not sure what it's supposed to mean. Are there dangerous animals on site? Or are they simply saying that if you trip and twist your ankle, you can't sue the state over it? Anyway, I risked it.

Here's a sign you won't see outside of southeast asia (the one on the bottom right). It says "No durians". A durian is a tropical fruit that when opened, smells something like raw sewage and is very, very strong. (A bunch of the fruit caused a terror scare a few years ago on a flight in Australia.) The other signs are also interesting as they give you a good idea for now steep the fines are for simple violations ($1000 for smoking!).

Finally that night, there was an end of the tournament banquet. I went to bed relatively early (maybe 1am or so), but I had to get up at 5am the next morning because we had an early 8am flight back to Seoul. This is me waiting in line for check-in not having an easy time trying to stay awake. Then we flew back to Seoul and that brought the trip to its conclusion. I had a great time. I really liked Singapore, and this will probably be the only time in my life where I'll have played ice hockey in the tropics! Good food, good memories, good times.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Singapore, Day 2

On Day 2, our first game was early at 8:30am. So after that, I went back to the hotel, showered up, and then went walking around. Here are some nice, sunny, day time pictures of Singapore.

Clarke Quay again.

From a bridge over the river, also in Clarke Quay.

From a pedestrian overpass on my way from Clarke Quay to Chinatown.

Street entering into Chinatown. There are flowers and other red decorations for the Chinese New Year.

Entering into Chinatown. The architecture is starting to get a little more "Chinese" or otherwise Asian-looking.

More New Year decorations.

So traditionally, they have lion and/or dragon dances to celebrate the New Year. Since this is the year of the pig, I guess someone modified a lion suit into a pig suit.

Street in Chinatown with lots of shopping stalls. Most of them were just selling random tourist junk though.

Another cool view of a Chinatown street. It was particularly nice with all of the New Year decorations still up. There were more restaurants on this street.

Big pagoda (Sri Mariamman Temple). This is on top of the entrance to Singapore's oldest and most important Hindu temple (at least according to wikipedia truthiness). Very cool though; huge amount of detail, all intricately carved. So after wandering around Chinatown for a while, I had to head back to the rink for our second game of the day.

They had me playing defense for the tournament, although I'm more comfortable playing as a forward. That's me doing a bad job covering the attacker in front of the goalie. So after that game, I went back to the hotel, took another shower (it's really hot in Singapore, even when you're not playing hockey), but I didn't really have all that much time to wander around, so I went back to the rink and wandered around the food stalls again (and had two dinners). After that, we had our *third* game of the day at 10:15pm. It was about 12:30 by the time that the game ended, I got changed out of my equipment, I grabbed dinner number three, taxi'd back, and took a shower. We met up at the hotel bar, had a couple of drinks, and then proceeded off to some other bar ("China One") in Clarke Quay.

...where we then proceeded to party until about sometime between 3 and 4am. The drinks there were fairly expensive. A gin and tonic cost $14 (singapore dollars), which is a little over $9USD. That's almost NYC prices! We then got some food at a little past 4am, and it was definitely past 5am by the time I hit the sack. Luckily the first game the next day wasn't an early one. I don't think I managed to get much more than four or five hours of sleep per night during the whole trip (there were other guys on the team who fared even worse).

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Singapore, Day 1

The first morning it was still gray and drizzling a little bit. Despite being up late the night before (as well as the night before that), I woke up early on my own before the alarm and so I walked around the area. We were in a part of Singapore called Clarke Quay (pronounced "key"), which was along a river. There were a lot of malls, shops, restaurants and bars in this section, and it was also very pedestrian friendly (most of the main part of the city that I saw was good for walking).

So after grabbing a quick breakfast and a coffee, I hopped in a cab to the hockey rink for our first game. The rink we played at was actually very small, and so all games were actually played 4-on-4 (instead of the regular 5-on-5). Besides being a better match for the small playing surface, this also means that you don't need as many people to put a team together which made for more teams. I think there were something like 12 teams in total, hailing from Singapore, Korea, Japan, Qatar, Thailand, UAE (Abu Dhabi), Hong Kong, and probably some other places that I forgot.

We played at the "Fuji Ice Palace," which was on the third floor of a shopping mall in the west suburbs of Singapore (Jurong). It's not build for ice hockey. They had to put up make shift netting to protect spectators from flying pucks, and there were no real locker rooms. The picture above is the view from one of the locker "rooms," which consists of some coin-op lockers with tarps strung between them for walls.

Here's a view from one end of the rink. It's probably hard to tell from the picture, but the rink was *small*. The entire neutral zone was at most the length from the blue line to center ice in a normal-sized rink, and so players frequently put themselves offsides because the blue line comes up fast. With such a small rink, icing was also only called if you sent the puck all of the way down the ice from behind your own goal line *and* only if no one was in a position to get it. We also only played two periods per game, but that worked out ok. The periods were about 20 minutes long (running time), but we ended up playing a total of six games over three days, so it was still a pretty good deal for a 120,000W registration fee. We were mostly outplayed in our first game, but we managed to win 2-1 (as further evidence of the small size of the ice, both of our goals were scored by slapshots from *outside* of the blue line, with one coming from behind center ice).

After the game, I wandered around the shopping area around the ice rink. While the rink was in a mall, there was another large shopping complex next door that was filled with a huge variety of food stalls, fruit drink shops, and other stores. While wandering around, we found this one really funny store that just had seemingly random items. Among them were this crate of bowling balls with a pair of used ice hockey skates (I can't imagine much demand for second hand skates in s'pore).

The store also sold rice cookers and other home appliances, which are pretty unrelated to ice hockey skates. Anyhow, we thought it was funny. Later that afternoon, we played in our second game.

Prior to the game, we were still waiting for the Zamboni to finish resurfacing the ice. This was pretty funny; the guy was cruising around on the Zamboni while talking on his cell phone. He did about half of the ice like this. The ice was in pretty poor shape. Singapore is just too warm and humid, and so if you put on too much water, it would take forever to freeze solid. So "resurfacing" the ice was basically barely scraping it and putting the thinnest possible coating of fresh water over the ice. Along the boards in the corners, there was a lot of granular ice that had the texture of the ice in sno-cones. So the ice conditions were pretty bad, but you've just got to make due when you're that close to the equator.

Another interesting picture of the ice rink that you probably won't ever see in the US or even Canada. Those red things hanging there are paper lantern decorations for the Chinese New Year. The official new year holiday season ended this Sunday, and so there were still plenty of decorations up all over Singapore.

At night we walked around Clarke Quay. With all of the lights from the buildings, bars, clubs and everything else on both sides of the river, it made for a very pretty sight. I think this is actually the ferry/boat landing for taking trips up and down the river (I think mostly for tourists). We had dinner (I had a steak! I haven't had one since I've been in Seoul since beef is so horribly expensive in Korea), went to a bar, and when all was said and done, it was relatively late again by the time I went to bed (we had an early 8:30 am game the next morning).

Singapore, Day 0

Ok, so even though I claimed this blog was going to be "retired," this sequence of posts really don't belong in either the Korea blog nor the food blog (the relevant food things will be posted on the food blog, of course).

The ice hockey team I'm playing with here put together a team to compete in a tournament in Singapore this past weekend. The trip was for a Wednesday night departure and a Sunday return, which worked out perfectly with my teaching schedule. So, Wednesday right after class, I ran back to the apartment, grabbed my hockey bag and a backpack with my clothes, and then hopped in a cab to Gangnam Express Bus Terminal (non-stop buses to the airport from there). It was actually a pretty nice terminal (sure beats Port Authority in NYC back when I was in college):

So from there, it was a 45 minute ride to Incheon Int'l Airport.

This is just to give you an idea of the amount of luggage that's involved when you have about ten people traveling together with ice hockey equipment. Note that the carts of bags goes all the way back to the guy in the red shirt in the background (part of our group).

Immigration card for Singapore. First sign of Singapore's reputation to be incredibly strict on crime. I'm not really a supporter of capital punishment, but I'm sure this definitely helps keep their drug problems under control.

Our flight was delayed by a little over an hour (which ended up helping since we were a little late to the airport), and so we didn't leave until about 8:30pm or so. With a 6-hour flight (minus a one-hour time zone difference), it was plenty late when we got in. However, I was hungry (when am I not?) so I wandered off nearby the hotel.

It was raining out, but very warm and humid (Singapore is pretty far south). The rain was just a light drizzle, so it was pretty nice walking around. It was somewhat reminiscent of taking a stroll in the rain during a summer evening in NYC. Anyway, I found some grub (refer to the food page), and then went to bed by about 3 or 4am I think.