Monday, July 31, 2006

Dive Trip

K and I have just come back from our first live-on-board dive trip, aboard the MV White Manta. Despite initial worries, only one of us got seasick (that would be me) and that was a fairly mild case that nevertheless prevented me from eating lunch (which was, like the other meals on board the White Manta, excellent). I deeply regret not being able to sample the green curry, but at that point in time, it was as like to come back up as it went down. An afternoon nap settled me down nicely, and I had dinner with no problems.

One of the we reasons we tried the White Manta was the schedule: leaving on Friday night, we reached Pulau Dayang the next morning and started diving immediately - no long queues at the Causeway, or 4 hour trip along Malaysian roads to get to Mersing. You sleep in a comfortable bed, and arrive rested and ready to dive. And the toilets were actually cleaner and better aboard the White Manta than in the dive centre on Dayang.

I did my Advanced Open Water course on this trip, and the instruction was excellent (as was the instructor to student ratio: we had something like 6 dive instructors/divemasters) so the learning was both easy and safe. Fish life wasn't quite as spectacular as the Maldives, but there was still plenty to see - from cuttlefish and squid, to baby moray eels, to huge bumphead parrotfish. I did my deep dives and night dives (less frightening than I thought: it's hard to be scared of the dark when there's so much light from all these megawatt dive torches. I always remember the poor little baby squid K spotted: the moment she pointed it out, everyone's dive torches transfixed the poor fella until he looked like some WW1 Zeppelin caught in searchlights).

All in all, exceeding expectations. Given a 5-day workweek, this may be the best way to do weekend dives.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Heinlein on Singapore

It's strange to come across a description of your country from 40 years ago, from the pen of one of your favourite sci-fi authors:

"Singapore is like Hong Kong, only flat; one afternoon was enough. I had a drink in the old Raffles, another in the Adelphi, got rained on in the Great World amusement park, walked through Change Alley with a hand on my money ..."
- from Glory Road, Robert A. Heinlein

It goes on, and in much less flattering (but far more interesting) detail: this is Singapore in the '60s after all.

I remember the oddest conversation once in Pembrokeshire, in Wales, with a taxi driver who used to live in Singapore, about how he once found the hubcabs from his car in Change Alley and had to buy them back. This is clearly not the Change Alley of today - not when Heinlein could write (in 1963) "Singapore is one of the Seven Sinful Cities where anything may be had".

"Seven Sinful Cities"? People keep calling us a "nanny state", but it seems this nanny had a bit of a long-haired, wild-child youth before she sobered up and settled down.

(admittedly, Glory Road is a work of fiction, but Heinlein seems to write from personal experience. Great World Amusement Park? I still vaguely remember passing by the shell of the place as a child)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

They grow up so fast

let go of me!

Remember this fella? I saw him one month ago, when he was still stumbling round a cardboard box with his mother.

A proud mother

Now he's all grown up, and a feisty, naughty little kitten he is as well. Uber-cute. I was so pleased to see that he had been taken care of, and was doing well.


Decay #4


Last in this series, which I've decided is quite depressing = )

Stall number 02-149 and table number 357: my last two shots of the hawker centre at the ex-Chinatown complex.

table 357

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Decay #3

topless, originally uploaded by Wahj.

Somehow this one doesn't fit the whole "decay" thing, but I feel more or less obliged to continue the naming of the series = /

These mannequins were still on display, even with one day left until the closure of the place. What struck me was how odd the whole topless (literally) effect is when you line 5 of them in a row.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Decay #2

last day, originally uploaded by Wahj.

I'm going to be putting up the shots from Chinatown complex over the next few posts.

This home-made signboard caught my eye, a simple piece of styrofoam with the words "Last (one) Day", the "one" written on a separate piece of paper (a lottery ticket, ironically).

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Decay #1

Terz has already blogged about this, so I won't go into the details. The old Chinatown Complex was being closed down for renovation, and I joined him on one of the many days he was there photographing the slow demise of the place.

fish remains

Decay was the overwhelming sense I took away from the place - not so much felt when I was there as much as realised when I looked at the photographs I had taken. It's funny how you shoot one set of photographs looking through the viewfinder, and encounter another set of images when you review them. What you saw, what you thought you saw, and what you wanted to see, are completely different. God knows what your audience sees when they look at the photograph - bits of what you wanted to see, you hope, and something for themselves, if you're lucky.

The place was going to be torn down the next week when we were there. I found this casual piece of food detritus, fish remains, lying dried up on the table in the hawker centre, and it seemed to embody the sense of decay and neglect. No one was bothering to clean up anymore.