Web Exclusives: Letter
from Hong Kong
a PAW web exclusive column by Ed Finn 02 email@example.com
November 20, 2002
a song of Singapore
Frisbees and more on a getaway from Hong Kong
I had been looking forward to my trip to Singapore for weeks. I
was itching to see another bit of Asia and play in my first ultimate
Frisbee tournament this side of the Pacific.
As my team haggled with the flight attendants for yet more miniature
bottles of wine, I went over what little I knew about Singapore
and tried to imagine it. I was going in blind: I had no guide book,
no past experience, no clue as to geography or local customs. My
preparation for the trip had been on the field and in the gym, trying
to get ready for six to eight hard-running games in grueling heat.
Well, it turned out Singapore wasn't actually grueling. Apparently
we caught a good weekend, where the weather was breezy if uncomfortably
warm. The best news was that some blessed cloud cover protected
us from direct sunlight for much of our time on the fields. Alas,
this did not prevent me from adopting the traditional costume of
my family when traveling: a healthy coat of sunburn.
Aside from two days spent out on the fields (where vast skyscrapers
quietly lurked in the background), I hardly saw anything of the
city. I arrived on Thursday night and was sped immediately to the
palatial apartment of a local Singapore player, where after a night
of revelry I opted to sleep on the couch over his cold marble floor.
The next day was spent in a post-apocalyptic hangover daze, exploring
the further reaches of our host's extensive chambers and spelunking
through his cavernous kitchen.
The rest of the weekend became a blur of Frisbees hurtling in
various directions, overpopulated hotel rooms and wild parties.
My fears of Singapore's repressive social environment were finally
laid to rest as I watched 200 costumed foreigners turn a swanky
downtown bar into a gyrating centrifuge of dance-aholic sin. Singapore
has a vibrant nightlife oddly concentrated into a few select areas,
or at least it seemed that way to me as we leapt in and out of cabs
in search of various watering holes. Dinner and the early evening
was spent at Boat Quay, and the rest of the night on sensibly titled
Dining at Boat Quay is an experience where Singapore shines over
rivals like Hong Kong. Here was a prime tourist area, packed with
restaurants and touts pushing everything edible from shrimp to sauerkraut.
Unlike the rest of Asia, there were no life-shortening diesel traffic
fumes, as the area was closed to vehicles. There was a nice view
over the water. And the water was clean! Well, I couldn't smell
it, anyway. The food was good, if expensive. Boat Quay is Singapore's
entrance to the Asian tourism beauty pageant: clean, efficient,
and good for a meal. Overall the effect was something like a Disney
impression of a Mediterranean boardwalk, full of enticing meals
and conscious ethnic variety but lacking that layer of authentic
What the streets lacked in filth we made up for, stumbling unwashed
into restaurants after a day eating hardly anything. Anything tastes
delicious after a long day outside, but those meals live on in my
memory as particularly delicious one restaurant's fusili
salmone brought me back to the many Italian meals I savored around
In fact, the whole weekend smacked of college in a rather pleasant
way. I felt like I was on a poorly planned road trip (the best kind),
crashing in other peoples' hotel rooms, partying late into the night
and generally pretending not to have any responsibilities.
The fleeting impressions of Singapore I have as a city only reinforce
that heady sense of extended adolescence. My weekend adventure was
a midsummer night's dream, a topsy-turvy dreamland of rushed adventures.
The city just seemed to draw it out. Government ad campaigns felt
like high school election posters "Beat myopia!"
And when I saw the locals relaxing, it was in games, flirting conversations,
and mealtime gossip fests. I probably saw the fun and silly side
of life in Singapore because I was doing it too, but I'll always
think of it as a midsummer theme park somehow trapped in adolescence,
millions of people living in the free anticipation of Freshman Week.
I was in a funk for days after my return to Hong Kong, already
missing the strange circus of an Asian ultimate tournament in Singapore.
Players from all over the region had gathered to play, party, and
pretend for a few days, making a kind of performance art out of
having a good time. The weekend will always live in my memory as
some of the best fun I've ever had, but like any tonic it must be
taken in moderation. Dreams have no power without a daytime to undo;
it's more fun to imagine Singapore as that midsummer vacation madness
than a real place. Maybe next time I'll stay for a weekday.
Ed Finn 02 works for Time in Hong Kong and
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org