Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011

A REMINDER THAT WAR IS HELLISH: We spent the morning on a bus tour commemorating the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in 1942. The tour was ably led by Geraldene Lowe. Our first stop was the Kranji War Cemetery, on the north side of the island, near the causeway to Malaysia. Quite a moving place.
One grave, for Signalman A.C.B. Clark, who died at 22 on April 24 1942, includes the inscription "Here is a place in a foreign land that is for ever England." It's inspired by the highly romanticized poem "Soldier" by Rupert Brooke, which begins this way:
If I should die, think only this of me
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England.

That Kranji corner was a touching scene. There's a lot of turf that will be "forever England" there. And "forever India". And "forever Malaya". And "forever Australia". And "forever New Zealand". And "forever Sri Lanka (Ceylon)". And "forever Netherlands". They all died defending Singapore and Malaya. Too many soldiers.
Another highlight of the four-hour bus tour was the Reflections at Bukit Chandu museum (right), just to the west of the center city in Singapore. The museum honors the sacrifice of the 1st and 2nd Battalion Malay Regiment in attempts to defend the western sector of Singapore in 1942. The museum is on Pepys (that's PEEPS) Road. Quite well done. After the tour we bought a very detailed battlefield guide to Japan's conquest of Malaya and Singapore. This does not equivocate. It blares: "Britain's Greatest Military Disaster." There's a good case for that label. We also bought a book about Japan's victorious and brutal--and lucky--Masanobu Tsuji. The book is entitled "The Killer They Called God." That got our attention!

TO-GO OR NOT TO-GO: Early on in the tour (which had about 22 people on it), we stopped for refreshments at a rural hawker stand. One of the great features was Coke in a Bag (right). It's a lot easier to drink a Coke INSIDE the stand, sitting on a chair, at a table. A to-go purchase of a drink is a bit more complicated. The buyer walks out with a small plastic bag filled with ice, a straw and a can of soda (in this case the ubiquitous Coke Light). You simply pour the soda into the ice-filled bag, which can't handle an entire can. The key to it all is a very thin blue drawstring that allows the consumer to 1) hold the bag; and 2) drink from it; and 3) devote your undivided attention to the task at hand. It is a two-handed operation, if you hold the can in one hand and the bag in the other. This inhibits the much-trumpeted multi-tasking, of which we are so fond. You can't drink and talk on the iPhone at the same time. I don't think vehicles are equipped with cup-holders that can accommodate this kind of to-go drink. A refrigerated can of soda would have done the trick, but this sufficed in a pinch. It hit the spot. In fact, it might have left a few spots on the shirt.

WALL-TO-WALL ORCHIDS: After the tour, we headed to the nearby Singapore Botanic Gardens. We had lunch at the Halia restaurant in the Ginger Garden area of the SBG. This is where I embarrassed Sandy--not the first time; likely not the last time. While ordering something to drink, the waitress suggested a cold tea that contained strips of ginger bark. I asked where the ginger was from. She said "Vietnam." I was OK up until that point. Then I asked, "Don't you have any ginger trees around here?" This is when Sandy dropped her head and wished she were in Vietnam. The waitress at Halia (which is "ginger" in Malay) patiently waved her hand in a circular motion and said, "Yes, all around you." The restaurant is INSIDE an area called the Ginger Garden. I guess it was like asking if there were any roses near the Rose Bowl. We also had ginger nougat for desert. Then we went to the truly fantastic National Orchid Garden. The lineup was incredible. I don't know the names of the flowers pictured here, but it's a sampling of what you can expect if you go.

No comments:

Post a Comment