Singapore

First up in my upcoming series of posts will be Singapore. For those of you that don’t personally know me, I spent this past winter backpacking around Asia. I started right after New Years in Singapore, spent about a week there before traveling up to Malaysia for a few days, and then spent about 3 weeks in Thailand between Bangkok and the Chiang Mai/Chiang Rai area. After that I took a quick plane ride out to Hong Kong where I spent a couple weeks, and then flew out to Japan to finish off my trip. I ended up spending 5 weeks total in Japan, starting in Osaka, hitting up Kobe, Kyoto, Hakone, Yokohama, Kawasaki, and finally Tokyo. I figured I’d start out in the hottest places, and slowly move north to the colder areas as the season ended. This ended up working out great because Singapore was an excellent place to get my feet wet in Asian culture. Most people in Singapore speak English, nearly all signs are in English and the city itself even had a very western feel to it. As my trip went on I got into progressively more eastern cultures, ending in Japan which probably would have been very difficult to start out in due to the severe lack of English-friendly amenities. Overall I couldn’t have been happier with the way everything came together.

Before I left on my trip I met a fellow photographer by the name of Rizal on flickr. We talked a bit before I left and planned to meet up once I got over there. Originally we had just planned to go out for a quick shooting session around Singapore, but between Rizal and his friends he introduced me to we ended up getting together almost every day I was there. He even brought me into the Arab Quarter to find a hookah lounge after I mentioned my affinity for shisha. Read on a bit for more on these guys.

I brought three cameras with me on this trip; two main cameras and a backup. The two main cameras were my 645 medium format rangefinder, the Fuji GS645S, and my Minolta X-570 SLR with a few lenses. The Fuji 645 has a fixed lens, being a 60mm f/4, and for the Minolta I brought my 50mm f/1.2, 28mm f/2.8 and 135mm f/3.5 lenses. I brought a little over 100 rolls of film with me, 72 being 35mm and 30 being medium format. I actually ended up running out in Japan and had to purchase film there for almost double what I paid back home. My entire film stock was Kodak Portra, with the 35mm split almost evenly between 160 and 400 speed, and the 120 split between 160, 400 and 800. I also brought a mini travel tripod with me which served me alright in Southeast Asia for the few times I wanted to use it, but once I started getting into more serious night photography over in Hong Kong I ended up purchasing a much larger and sturdier tripod over there. Oh, and my backup camera was a tiny little 35mm rangefinder, a Yashica Electro 35 CC with a 35mm f/1.8 lens. It came in handy a few times when I didn’t want to bring one of my larger cameras out with me, and for a few days when my Minolta’s shutter died in Bangkok. Well, that’s enough writing. On to the pictures.

The Singapore Artscience Museum, in front of the downtown skyline and Marina Bay.

The famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel. I had planned on going up to the top to get a shot of the skyline over the infinity pool, but I it was something like $20 for a ticket up there. That probably doesn’t sound like much, but with a budget of $40 per day (including food, transportation and accommodations) things like that can add up fast. I’m sure it’ll still be there next time I go. Anyway, I found an even better observation deck for 1/4 the price right down the street, which I’ll show you in a bit.

They were having a choreographed light show with music over the bay. I’m not entirely sure, but it seemed like a nightly thing.

This is the pedestrian bridge that extends over the entrance to the bay. It was cool-looking during the day (you can see it above, in the second image I posted), but definitely a lot more interesting at night.

The Artscience Museum at night, from the boardwalk along the bay.

Singapore’s version of the parking garage.

This was one of the very first pictures I took upon arriving in Singapore.

During the time I spent in Singapore, everyone was gearing up for the Chinese New Year. Chinatown especially was getting pretty crazy. Unfortunately I wouldn’t be sticking around for the celebration, but I can imagine it was intense.

This is what it’s like being over 6 feet tall in Asia.

If I remember correctly, these were some kind of coffee roasted nuts. They were quite tasty.

Animal Parts. Looks like a beef heart in the dish there, oozing with fresh blood. Yum.

I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly everyone was over there. People in Southeast Asia especially seemed to love having their picture taken.

Especially in places like this I would expect people would prefer to be left alone, but nobody seemed to mind. Of course one of the main reasons why I travel in the first place is because I have a genuine passion for learning about and experiencing this kind of stuff, so hopefully that was the impression everybody got.

From here it was a quick ride on the subway down the the port area.

One of the things that got me interested in traveling to Singapore in the first place was the container port. By some measures it’s the largest in the world. Unfortunately all my attempts to gain access to the grounds were denied, so I had to settle for an aerial view from a nearby apartment complex.

The apartment complex had an observation deck near the top which stretched around all seven buildings. It gave me a great 360 degree view of the entire city.

Back on ground level, I was able to find some really cool architecture around the bay area.

This scene was directly outside the front door of my hostel. Every time I would leave, I’d see it and want to take a picture, but always hesitated. Then by chance as I was leaving one morning this construction worker walked across, giving me just what I was hoping for to bring the image together.

This was taken very early in the morning, just as the sun had risen. It looked like she was just beginning to set up shop for the day.

My friend Rizal explained to me what this was all about. Apparently these are lottery tickets, similar to the Mega Millions here in America. However, instead of going to the store to pick your favorite numbers, these people would have all the tickets pre-printed and people would sift through them all to find ones which contained their numbers.

Caught this beautiful sunset from the rooftop garden of a shopping mall on Orchard Road. That’s the moon up there.

Took the night bus back.

On the left is Rizal, and David’s on the right. These two guys took me out almost every day and showed me all around Singapore. Seriously, I never would have seen half the stuff I saw if it wasn’t for these guys. It just so happens that they are both excellent photographers as well. Rizal’s blog can be seen here, and his flickr here. David’s flickr can be found here.

Thought this was a pretty quintessential picture of Singapore. Taken in Little India I believe, while it was probably pretty close to 90 degrees out. In January.

I like to think these guys were going on vacation, but I don’t think that was the case.

Rizal and friends brought me to this outdoor market dubbed the “Thieves Market”. Apparently years ago this was just what the name would imply, a place where thieves could fence their pilfered goods. It’s hard to imagine a thriving community of thieves in Singapore nowadays, and this market and ones like it have now evolved into being general flea markets.

As night fell in Little India, things started to change..

Apparently the inhabitants of Little India are mostly brought in to work on construction projects around the city. Young, able-bodied men are shipped in to work 6 days a week while their families remain back home. Their one day off, Sunday, is treated like a veritable holiday. They all take to the streets, and turn this little quarter into the male-only Indian version of Mardis Gras.

These guys seemed to be taking a break from the madness.

A couple of fellow travelers having some drinks in a back alley establishment.

These guys were playing a game similar to pool, but instead of balls they used what seemed to be plexiglass discs, and instead of a cue they would just flick them with their thumbs. The powder was to reduce the friction of the table to ensure the discs would travel smoothly, and also to absorb the impact of the discs around the pockets in the corner, presumably to help ease them in.

There were a bunch of these tables set up in this one area, with crowds of people all standing around watching.

In case you can’t make out the fine print on that newspaper back there, it reads “Woman Accused of Sleeping with Father”. Interesting stuff.

And that’s it for Singapore. I had a fantastic time here, but had only just begun on my journey throughout Asia. Join me next time for my quick jaunt through Malaysia while on my way to the bustling city of Bangkok.

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