Vanishings

A woman looks out from a two story window as we pass through the streets of Chinatown. Aliens; this entire city is made up of aliens. An old man tells us, “Here, in Singapore, we welcome all people from all nations, races, and creeds. We only ask that you abide by our rules.” Here, in this place, one truly can dissolve into the jungle.

“Where are you going?” They ask. “Where do you come from?”

Travelers congregate in the crowded bars of Boat Quay and Clarke Quay, and I think of the time when Singapore was only a small British trading post, a settlement literally hashed into the jungle. Travelers and merchants came in, perhaps on their way up to Canton to trade Opium for Chinese silk and spices. It still has the feel of a place that men come and go, perhaps because it is still a hub for international trade, only modernized. But within that built-up, glittering world remain the seedy echoes of the under-world, lit by garish neon signs and made sensual by the enticing faces of those certain women, luring businessmen and sailors into the dimly lit, well-worn hallways of their bars and parlors.

We sit at an orange plastic table with yellow plastic chairs in Chinatown, talking with friends of ours who have been away in the Middle East 8 months on business. Funny we should all meet by chance here in Singapore. The waitress comes and brings over cold Tiger beers, along with steaming plates of noodles, spicy chicken, and duck. We talk of our experiences and we drink to the paths that our lives have taken us down. Rain pours down like millions of pearls scattering upon the brick walkways as vendors frantically hurry to cover their merchandise and welcome tourists in from the rain.

I am no one here. I am everyone here. I can disappear into the night and blend into the crowd of 5 million faces during the day. Everyone is a specter that lingers for only a second.


I am a ghost.

 

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Yokohama bar and restaurant reviews + first Goukon!

Have been quite busy as of recent, so I do apologize for the lack of updates.  I am affiliated with Uncle Sam–I’ll put it that way–so sometimes I am bogged down with my job.   This weekend was quite busy, Saturday I went up to Yokohama Chinatown (again), with my friend A., and met up with my friend R. who is here as part of an international college student forum, hosted at the Japanese National Defense Academy.  12 of us had the “party room” at Koukarou Shanghai Cuisine, and although a bit cramped, it was comfortable.  We had a set menu of Chinese dishes, and I would say the food was moderate in quality.  It wasn’t an excessively expensive place, hence perfect for a gaggle of college students.  It’s a very small place, with three stories.  The top floor is the so-called  “party room.”  For one person, the set course is 1980 yen.  We had chili shrimp, dim sum, spring rolls, fried squid, a chicken and cashew nut stir fry, a beef stir fry, and a few other dishes.  I’d give Koukarou 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Our group, minus A., representing Japan, the United States, Tunisia, Great Britain, and South Korea;

While those staying at the National Defense Academy had a curfew and had to be back by 2200, A. bid them goodnight and decided to have a drink or two.  A. recommended a bar, Windjammer.

The exterior has a nautical feel, and the inside is fashioned to look like the inside of an old British ship.  Trip Advisor has a few reviews by others who have visited.  The drink menu is quite large, and the bartenders are more than willing to make something if it is not featured on the menu.  To top it off there are live jazz performances.  I would give Windjammer 5 out of 5 stars, for ambiance, music, drink menu, and excellent service.  Definitely worth checking out if you are in Yokohama.  And if that doesn’t quite fit your bill, across the street is always the British pub located above the Greek bar/restaurant!

I have yet to try either of these fine establishments; that is a post for the future!

Sunday evening I traveled back up to Yokohama to meet up with a Japanese friend of mine.  She had invited me out, and we met up at the station.  We went to Umeko no ie, a designer restaurant notable for its umeshuu, or plum wine.

I followed A. into a room, on which one side of a table sat five young men, and on the other side, four young women (I made the fifth).  The wheels of my brain began to turn and I realized that this looked like something I had heard about, and it truly solidified when we were all asked to give an introduction of ourselves.  I soon realized I had been invited to a “Goukon,” which is a popular form of dating in Japan.  It is like a group blind date.  Usually a few members of the group know one another, and an appropriate number of men and women are invited so that the numbers match.  The men were all current students at the National Defense Academy; two were Navy, two were Army, and one was slated to be an Air Force pilot.  The women consisted of myself, my friend A., a Chinese exchange student R., and two other friends of A’s.  I had been interested in attending a goukon, so was pleasantly surprised to have been able to have had the experience.  Umeko no Ie is pricy, but it also gets 5 out of 5 stars.  The food, drinks, service, and ambiance are of high caliber.  I would recommend this restaurant if in the area (it’s a chain, so I believe they are located in Tokyo as well) and if you have an affinity for plum wine.

All in all busy but pleasant weekend, met quite a few people from all over the world and had the opportunity to try a few new places.  Until next time!

Yokohama Chuukagai (Chinatown)

Today I woke up to bright, clear blue skies and sunlight streaming in through the windows.  Compared to the last few weekends, which have been gray and rainy, it was a very pleasant change to behold.  Weather-wise, it was actually quite warm in the sun, and all in all a good day to be outside walking about.  We made our way up North to Yokohama, and being the Chinese New Year had recently taken place, we thought it fitting to visit Chuukagai (Chinatown).

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Instead of shops full of counterfeit designer watches and handbags, Yokohama Chinatown is largely comprised of restaurants (Chinese food with a Japanese twist) and souvenir shops.  Today was quite crowded–as evidenced by the above photograph–so making our way through the streets was a bit challenging.  We did, however, manage to make our way over to the Mazu temple, which is dedicated to the goddess Mazu, who gives protection for safe transit on the high seas.  Image

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After visiting and paying respects to Mazu, we continued on to the Kwan Temple, dedicated to Guan Yu, a famous general who played a significant role in the collapse of the Han Dynasty.  He was elevated to the status of deity under the Sui Dynasty, and is worshipped as a saint who blesses those who observe the code of brotherhood and righteousness (with respect mainly to warriors).

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Once we had our fill of Chinatown we made our way back to Minatomirai, the Yokohama cosmopolitan zenith.  Our friend had been very adamant earlier in the day that he was on a mission to find the fabled Krispy Kreme Doughnuts shop; lo and behold, after much searching it was found, and the day ended successfully, donuts and all.

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