Malled to Death

Trip Start Nov 07, 2004
Trip End May 20, 2005

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Flag of Singapore  ,
Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Singapore is an apt place to act as our step from India to Asia. Its population is a mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian (with some English heritage thanks to the improbably named Sir Stamford Raffles who developed the island in the 19th Century). The contrast with India is however indescribable - clean streets, brilliant public transport etc etc. Our Indian experience wasn't quite over as we had arrived in time to witness the Thaipusam festival. A somewhat grim spectacle involving men carring enormous wooden and steel contraptions along a 4 km route, with the added bonus that these are attached by dozens of hooks embedded into their flesh, with a few spikes through the cheeks and tongue for good measure. The women carry a milk jug.

The cultural mix is varried, but the most prominent religion is that of Kynsymaryzm, the worship of the god, Kypetulyzm (quite a fearsome god whom its claimed will one day devour the world). The religion is big here, there a scores of huge temples along the streets called 'Chowpng Maals'. Each one (mercifuly air-conditioned)is a massive 8-9 stories high structure, crammed with thousands of objects and artifacts. These places also act as social focal points, most of the younger generation congregate here, with whole floors set aside for the preparation of food. In the act of worship, called 'Chowpng', a devotee enters the temple and in a trance like/ hypnotic state they wander around touching and stroking the objects. Very occasionally a devotee will feel a conection with an object (this can be very strong, and some will claim that their very existance is dependent on a certain object). They then take it to the Priestess at one of the altars, together with a numbered card. These cards come in many patterns and colours, but the most pious usually colour theirs gold. They have many names but the most common are Vehyza and Mystakrd. The Priestess then returns the object to the worshipper, and this interaction provokes and intense, if a little short lived feeling of well-being and euphoria. The objects serve a very important role in the culture as an individual or families status and value in society is judged by their accumulation of these objects, collectively known as 'Mytryl Tyngs'.

Our hotel was in China town, and the area was lit up every night in the approach to the Chinese New Year (The Rooster). The streets were lined with market stalls and there was a great festival atmosphere. {Mark- the most important aspect of this trip:} The food, didn't disappoint. The variety of cultures ensures that a little of what you fancy is always available, 24 hours a day. We could have sat eating satay and drinking real coffee for weeks.

Unfortunatly these luxuries come at a price, and after 3 days our bank manager called to tell us to move on to Malaysia.

Caroline and Mark
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