Singapore clark quay click for larger image


Finally I'm back in a place with a normal internet connection.

The plane touches down in Sinapore. Getting off the plane, the difference from the Saigon airport is striking. The Singapore airport is as clean and modern as any I've seen in my life. In Saigon, I was brushing off the chair in the waiting area before I sat down in it. Here, I felt I should brush off my butt first. The floors sparkle, all over the airport.

Stepping out to the taxi area, I felt relieved. The sidewalk was actually dirty and scuzzy, just like in any other airport in the world. I've found it! There IS dirt in Singapore!

I sign up for one of the cheapest rooms in Singapore. I wanted something that was sortof lower-middle, but everything was filled up. I have to go back and forth like this sometimes, expensive places, cheap places. Even the stairs in this place are sparkling clean.

The room was actually somewhat depressing. It was tiny and had no windows. I had to move the television to make room to put my stuff. The bathroom was like, imagine a shower stall. OK now install a toilet and sink in the shower stall. I guess it makes it easier to clean the bathroom that way.

It's in the Little India district of town; that's where the rents go down. I got some curry something for dinner. The waiter was nice but communication was a problem. You know he just sets some food down, I eat it and pay whatever. It was indian, it was good enough. $4.50 Singapore dollars and I can't complain, maybe $3.50 us.

If aliens abducted you and plopped you down on a Singapore street, you would at first think that this was some sort of British thing. English is the first language, and the culture is very British. And the license plates are different, and the spellings are british, and the money is different, but there's all these Asian people around. And you say to yourself, Britan has gone through some tough times recently; this place sparkles a bit too much. And there's none of these old British buildings from hundreds of years ago. And there's way too many asian people around, and signs are in different languages.

But other than that you can walk around and buy stuff and take a taxi and everything works the same way it would work if you were in San Francisco. You take escalators through marble malls and eat chow mein for lunch. Apparently twenty years ago it was a backward southeast asian seaport.

There's three cybercafes in singapore. One is on Boatquay (boat kay), a street that runs along a river. That's easy to find. I find the other streets after scanning the free map from the tourist bureau. My guide says that BoatQuay is in the party district. And my cybercafe list says that it's usually open till midnight, but on weekends it's open till 1. Hmmm... what else am I going to do on a saturday night when I just got into town?

The map shows me I can walk to here, take the subway, and walk to boatquay. Well, the walking is a pain, I guess taxis are cheap here so maybe I just do that from now on. The subways are clean and the tickets work pretty much like Hong Kong (very similar to bart). I come out of the subway and I have no idea what direction to walk in. I'm in the middle of a city, in a courtyard, surrounded by skyscrapers. The buildings aren't on the map, just streets. But I can't see the streets because they are behind the buildings. I start walking in some direction and I see a streetsign that looks good. Then I see a stream of people walking... over there. Maybe this is it.

Boatquay is a pretty lively area on a saturday nite. People walk by sidewalk cafes as music from a half dozen jazz places mix in the air. This is just a matter of hours after my plane touched down. Finally I get to it: 82 boatquay. It's open. S.$10 per hour (like seven bucks US).

This is a sun workstation, the only cybercafe I see with Unix machines like this. Set email prefs. I start swearing at the way it doesn't select all the text in a text box when you tab to it, so you have to futz to delete the old crap. Mac "look and feel" except it isn't. grrrr.

And so here I am. and I don't have anything else to write. Lemme send this email before something goes wrong and I lose it all.

Tour Bus

I made the mistake of taking a tour bus when I was in Singapore. It was sortof the usual, drive by places that were historic. I guess it was somewhat educational.

Generally towards the end of these they take you to some sort of craft place where you see people making something, and then they dump you into the sales room where you're encouraged to buy overpriced, tourist-targeted trinkets. This was no different. They were getting around to explaining this, it had something to do with gemstones.

I just remember coming up the stairs , and half way up there was this huge ... wall thing. Sortof like a picture but made out of stones, smoothed stones. But it just looked incredibly tacky and stupid. I didn't think much of it.

When I got to the top of the stairs, and the retail room, the first thing I saw was a huge picture of the Singapore skyline. But it wasn't a photograph or a painting; it was made with lots of little stones, all glued in. They were all colorful and it was like they were trying really hard to make it be cool, but it just looked stupid. It had little electric lights in it, flashing, that were making a pathetic attempt at looking the lights you would see on a bridge trestle or skyscraper radio tower.

I said, jokingly, "that's amazing. I wonder how much it costs?" And there was a sales guy right on me, and he told me the price, something in the thousands of dollars. "Wow", I replied, a bit startled.

I walked through the showroom and it was full of this stuff. They take semi-precious stones like jade or amber, and polish flat pieces and then make over-priced pictures out of them. Not like mosaic, I think that might look nice, but they were jamming more stones in, as if they were trying to cram in as many gemstones as possible. There was no visible space between stones.

I can't describe how awful they looked, it was painful just being there. But I remember that one issue seemed to be that the color of these was a little out of control. Some stones were a pure and vivid color. Others were marbled with white or black or some other color. Really beautiful, on an individual stone basis. The marbling would make the stone seem lighter in the picture, so the color situation was all crazy; they couldn't make the colors that they needed for the image. But it's like the beautiful marbeling was lost on the picture. And it was as though they assumed that the color from jemstones was so supreme it would make everything else right, and that just wasn't the case. If we cram a hundred or a thousand beautiful things into the same picture, the result will be really incredible, right?

And the art looked like it was done by a kid. Just stupid.


joie wrote:
> Allan, I guess this makes you an official CSN Foreign Correspondent.  


> send me a jpeg of you in one of the cafes and we'll do a story about you.
> Seriously.

ok i'll get someone to snap me with my camera.  no digital camera
available.  Using these disposable cameras.  Open a new package, ask the
woman on the next computer...


ok, when I get back to the states I'll have it developed, old fashioned
chemical process, and scanned, I got a friend.... so maybe two months
from now.  

(It ended up taking me three years to get this photo scanned. Finally got my own scanner. These cheap cameras I used really suck. ought to get a digital camera. - allan, sep 4, 2000)

A faster way to get a gif of myself is at, just
snoop around.  

> Unlike the "other" list, CSN does not charge the cafes, and we will NEVER
> sell or give this list to any commercial enterprise....we are cafe pioneers
> and as such we believe in sharing this information to advance the industry
> and the magical world of connectivity.

sounds very good and needed.  Where do you get funding from?  That's my
only worry.  

> Your notes are greatly appreciated and we look forward more.

Well this is fun for me.  When I get bback and get a job I may be too
busy for this.  

> About the story, please tell about yourself....are you in the industry?  

yeah.  Programmer.  Founded Allan Bonadio Associates, and then
Prescience Corporation.  Wrote its flagship products, Expressionist and
Theorist.  These are math programs.  Realistic looking equations.  Sold
it all to Waterloo Maple Software,  You can surf to and download the MathView plugin for netscape, that
gives a feel (they renamed theorist to mathview, don't ask why).  

[note: as of 1999, go to, it's been renamed again. - allan]

> you travel for business or fun?  

both.  This is supposed to be all fun, but maybe if I get paid for an
article I can write off some of my expenses.  

>How do the cyber cafes (other than the
> obvious) fit into your travel plans?  I am very, very interested.

Well it started out as a better alternative to mail and phone.  

Mail is ok but when you travel your mailbox stays put.  Unless you use
poste restante, but if you don't pick up your mail for a month or two it
gets tossed.  And you can't get the mail that was sent to singapore when
you are in Jakarta.  email solves this problem.  

Phone is expensive and it's synchronized.  You call up your sweetie and
get a recorded message because she's not home.  Then the hotel charges
you two bucks cuz you called from your room.  In Mexico I started using
"tourist phones" that charge directly to a chargge card or phone card. 
Well, sticker shock when I got the bill: those creeps charged us$5 to $7
per minute!!!!!!  Next time I use phone cards.  

Normally I use email much more than phone or mail anyway.  I even went
for a month recently where my answering machine was broken and couldn't
record an incoming message.  No big deal, I get just a few calls a
week.  But I get 10 to 30 emails a day.  it's so much more efficiiient
than paper mail or phone calls.  

So on this trip I decided to depend on cybercafes, but to my amazement I
can't depend on them in certain places.  Like away from major cities. 
There's three (one person told me twenty) near Kuala Lumpur, but none
(that i could find) on the more rustic east coast, where the beaches are
beautiful.  And vietnam was a big drag.  

> Our latest revision to the Cyber Cafe Guide will be on site very soon.

well, great, some more updates.  

CyberNet Cafe, Singapore, is up and quite comfortable, see at
note their alias cybertrek.  Nice digs, feels like san francisco.  

I think there's one at the singapore airport; try to hit that.  

The one in denpasar bali seems up; i got an email from them.  THey just
haven't updated their website to say they're up.  Seems like an
idylillic location!  

I really wish there was one on the island of Sulaweisi.  Too rustic.  

> Nice to meet you.

same here!

john gingrich, friend from high school

--- june 2, still in hong kong

John Gingrich wrote:
> Well, let me know how things go on your big trip to the Orient.

I'm here right now!  I went to a bird market today.  Congested little
alleyway with all these stalls selling songbirds.  Something to see.

--- june 7, singapore

> Do you mean to tell me that you're sending e-mail from Hong Kong?  As my
> son, Miles, would say, "Whoa!"

yup!  actually now i'm in singapore.  I'm in a different place. 
Drinking beer and doing email.  Using this form of money I never saw
before like four hours ago.  This cybercafe is on a party street and
it's saturday nite.  1130.  The whole street is hopping.  but I have to
adimit it's more nerdy in this place.  But hey I don't mind.  I don't
know anybody around here anyway.  

Some guy is taking a picture of his friends in a booth.  There's no
computers in the booth.  Just at the bar.  The "bar" looks like a piece
of mission control because it's got a row of screens with keyboards in
front.  But they serve you drinks on the platform above the monitors.  

In between i was in saigon.  They had two cybercafes but one didn't work
and the other was stupid.  I could send emails but not check my own
email.  stupid.  I'm thinking of writing an article about cybercafes
when you are traveling, and what's possible and what isn't.  It's all in
its infancy so a lot of times it doesn't work too well.  

> >>I went to a bird market today.
> What does one do with a song bird after buying it?  Eat it?  Cage it?

cage it, and keep it in the house to chirp perkily and stuff.  Then it
becomes your bird and you get to line the birdcage withg newspapers once
a week or something.  

> According to a recent NY Times report, Hong Kong is a magnificent place.
>  What do you think?

Yeah, pretty amazing.   Too bad the chinese are inheriting it.  THey'll
probably screw it all up.

--- june 19, singapore again after being in malaysia

> Very cool stuff that you e-mailed to me.  Cyber cafes in Singapore?  Mind
> blowing stuff.

back in cingapore.  You know there is a place hotter than the midwest in
the summer.  The tropics.  Like the whole year.  Yuppies get air
conditioning.  But whenever you go outside, sorry, hot and sweaty.  

> E-mail me again, dude!  I love getting international from my desktop!!


To friends, June 19
i got to the cybercafe in the Singapore airport.

For future reference, it's on the 3rd floor of Terminal 2, pretty far
away from terminal 1.  A hassle for people on Garuda or the other
airlines on termiinal 1.  Had to ask around for it.  After you get off
the skytrain from terminal 1, just go as far as possible to the other
side of the building on floor 3 and you'll be close.

Very small but very glass.  About a dozen machines.  Very doable here. 
No real food; just deserts and softdrinks.  But what do you expect for
an airport facility.

To joie, June 19, from the airport
joie wrote:
> Sit right there!!!

oops, sorry, my plane leaves in a half hour.  I'm at the singapore
airport cybercafe.  

Terminal 2, 3rd floor, away from the Skytrain.  
There's only two terminals and a tram that runs between.  

> I am checking out your site....
> ......."Totally awesome blonde"...that must be me?
> >ok i'll get someone to snap me with my camera.  no digital camera
> >available.  Using these disposable cameras.  Open a new package, ask the
> >woman on the next computer...
> You are so funny.  I like you're style!

you gotta do something to breathe life into these ascii emails.

> >flash!
> Hmmmm, there's a mental image :)

soon we'll have digital images.  Just gotta stick quickcams on all these
pcs here.
and a little bit of software.  cool to send a photo with an email, huh? 
an electronic postcard.
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