Monday, June 28, 1999
from the Peninsula: 16. War and other things

Itís late at night and Iím still up, waiting for my laundry get washed in the washing machine. After this Iíll have to hang my clothes to dry and then sleep because tomorrow I plan to walk much, visiting all those museums and bookstores Singapore is famous about.

Actually I planned to visit the museums today but I forgot something very important: most museums are closed on Monday! So I will visit the museums tomorrow. Today I went instead to some more Singaporean landmarks: temples, mosques, churches and a synagoge, the first synagoge I ever saw in my life, being an Indonesian living in a country with the biggest moslem poopulation in the world. Jewish and Israel are taboo words back home.

Then I went to the Kranji War Memorial, where they have the graves of the soldiers who died in WW II. This place is quite a way away near Changi airport. After asking for directions I took a train then walked. I had to walk quite far to reach it. The place was very quiet. It was big and imposing. But it has that sad atmosphere of a place which has witnessed many a young life cut short. I saw some old people there, but not many. It was very quiet.

It was very hot too. But I walked again and after asking around again for direction I found a bus to go to Changi Chapel and Museum. The prison is now used for drug addicts so it is closed, but we can still visit the chapel and museum. But even the chapel is only a replica, not the real one.

Actually inside the prison building they have murals made by one of the inmates during his captivity. But to get inside we have to have written permission. Nick said it's not difficult to arrange for a written permission. His father had the permission when he visited here. Nick's father also fought in the WW II so he's very interested with the war historical places around here.

The atmosphere inside the museum was depressing. Lots of photos of the Changi prisoners. Reminded me of that book King Rat by James Clavell, which were written based on Clavell's own experience here. Reminded me also of my grandfather's notes. My father's father was interned by the Japanese as well. Because he's Catholic and was close to the Dutch priests, he was thought a spy, so he was taken by the Japanese.

He left pieces of paper with notes and sketches of what he went through at that time. How he was kept in a very small quarter only big enough for him to sit hunched, among his own faeces and pee. How he was tortured with water. Thus my interests in the war history. My grandmother said when he came back after being released after the Japanese surrendered my grandfather was so thin, smelly and sickly, he went straight to hospital and died not long after. My father did not even remember his father.

Like in the POW museum in Kanchanaburi, there were sketches and memorabilia of those prisoners. Some of the sketches they show looked like grandfatherís sketches. I don't know why we don't have this kind of memorial in Indonesia. Our people died by the millions too during the Japanese occupation, and many Indonesians was sent to build the Death Railway and never came back. No mention about them at all in our country. At least as far as I know. I should find out more.

This evening Nick and his girlfriend Sophia took me out to the Botanic Garden to have a picnic while watching a music group performance. The music was OK, it was a group from France and the music was a little bit of Pink Floyd type. But what's wonderful is the place. Right in the heart of downtown Singapore, not far from Orchard Road, thereís this beautiful lush and green garden with big trees and forests, and a big grassy open space where we all can have picnic in front of the stage. It was full of people. Nick said that three years ago when they started to have this open air show, there were only very few people and mostly were expatriates. Now everybody in Singapore like this picnic-show as their favourite evening pastime.

It was very nice, we still had sun until about 7 oíclock and then it got darker and darker and at last we had dim lights from the lamps here and there. Oh it was so nice. They all brought food and drink. I had bread and cheese and wine. It was my first time of having wine outside formal dinner. Nickís friends were also nice and asked questions on what I thought of this country and what I saw on my trip.

I like Singapore. Here it's very nice to walk about. There are soooo many trees. It is very green, so we can walk without our heads getting dizzy from the scorching sun. The traffic is also very light compared to jakarta, and the cars are new cars so not too many pollution from dark diesel fume got into our lungs. The drivers are also very polite, probably because everybody cross the streets in the right place. When we're tired, many parks around and many places to sit. Under big trees or in a sidewalk we can easily find a stone chair to sit. And we can always refresh ourselves in the toilets, which are clean and gratuit! In many places we can find tanks with tap water to drink! Oh wonderful! So even if the bottled water are expensive in Singapore, we can always re-fill our bottles in those tanks.

Transportation in Singapore is also very nice. For us, the MRT is simply amazing. Everything is automatic and modern, and clean and cool. Even when we have to stand we didn't feel tired or hot because of the aircond. Compared that to a bus in Jakarta. Yes Jakarta public transportation is really terrible. Unlike here back home the buses were dirty and old, some of the new ones have aircond but after a year or two, most of the aircond have broken down. You can't ride a bus in Jakarta without getting sweaty and smelly. And don't talk about the pickpockets. Plus of course the traffic jam. Here the buses are also very nice and clean. And we can pay with cards or use the automatic machines for coins, which is rather amazing for us. So we like to go up and down buses and MRT to use the automatic machines! :)

Taxi is very expensive in Singapore, and so is keeping a car, according to Nick. In every car they have to install an electronic thing called Electronic Road Payment. Whenever a car is heading a toll road the driver simply produce the card and put it in his machine and he doesn't have to stop at any booth to pay! I can't stop being amazed :D

One thing that I noticed: in Singapore public phones are everywhere and most of them work! In Jakarta if you can find any, that's very good and if you can find one that works, oh! that's a miracle! :)

One other thing that me and my friends found interesting: petrol stations. We even stopped and took photos in petrol stations. Why? Because petrol stations in Indonesia are all the same. Companies like Mobil, Shell or BP cannot sell their petrol directly to public. It has to be the State Oil & Gas Company: The Pertamina who does that, they have the monopoly. As a consequence, all petrol stations all over Indonesia has the same look and colour. And they are mostly dark, dirty and don't have mini stores or pproper and clean toilets. In Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand the petrol stations are all lit up, colourful and very clean. Most have mini marts and proper and clean toilets. So for us it's just like in American movies. Gerry and Nick were amazed when we asked to stop and take photos in those beautiful petrol stations :D

Singapore, Monday 28 June 1999


Posted at 11:27 pm by koeniel

 

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