Friday, August 22, 2008

Batam Ahoy pt 2: The Cabbie Speaketh.

Recap of the last blog:

Pua Chu Kang….Batam…Jar-Jar Binks…piles…Led Zeppelin…cheeseburger (double)…cabbie.

As mentioned, the cab driver was a polite guy. Here is the thing about the cab drivers in Singapore: They are as polite as heck. Can you believe it?

In Malaysia, you have to tell them where you are going first and chances are they are not going there. Name any place, including Planet 9 From Outer Space and chances are he’d say, “Nolah, not going that direction”, unless you offer him a bigger fare, your savings accounts and three cows.

I am generalising of course. There are many friendly cab drivers in Malaysia, and I have a neighbour who is one, and who has been useful in my days of no personal transportation. Plus he already owns three cows. Kidding.

Anyway, the point is, Singaporean cab drivers are very polite. All of them speak English and they are more than willing to talk about the country, and if you are Malaysian, say that “hey, I have been to Malaysia. I go to JB every month,”. That’s the sad truth, quite a number of Singaporeans have made it only up to Johore Bahru.

Or so, I thought until I saw the number of Singaporean cars zooming past me in the north south Highway, in no less than 150kmph .

Coming back to my story, the cab driver, let’s call him Ismail (real name Agent ZOR985XZ2) asked if we were going to Batam, and I said yes and asked if he had been there.

“If pakcik (referring to himself, not his uncle) go there, makcik will not like it. In fact, I will not be seeing makcik again,” he said.

Of course, he does not mean that Batam island is some kind of Bermuda Triangle-like place, though there is some points in that “disappearing” acts some Singaporeans perform from time to time.

What he meant, and what I understood having lived there for five years, is that the place is where many Singaporean men see as haven. Yes, in Batam you get good food, finally.

Okay, it’s more than that. In Batam, you get women. Both for personal or professional use. I mean, prostitutes services to pay for or gals to marry. What Ismail talked about was a growing social concern in Singapore when I moved to Malaysia back in year 2000.

There has been dissatisfaction amongst Singaporean women that men are frequenting Batam for two main reasons: sex for pleasure and sex for lifetime of ball and chain. Men were marrying Batam gals and were buying houses there to settle down once they are able to retire (In Singapore such thing is possible: retirement I mean). That this issue has any relation with growing number of single women in singapore is purely coincidental, I must say. Right?

Ismail also added that Batam is what Singapore is not. It is not the place where you work your ass off. It is not the place where women are as complex as the jigsaw puzzle you never get to finish.

Indeed, it is a place where restaurants with great seafood means the priest read the last rites to the fishes only minutes ago.

Yes, they say seafood in Batam is fresh as vegetable is in Cameron Highland as Malaysians know. In fact, that was the main attraction for me to accept this difficult challenging, life threatening media trip of visiting oil rig.

Ismail’s point is this: If a number of Singaporeans, especially men, are still healthy and not dropping like flies for stress induced diseases, its because places like Batam (and JB, I think).

Of course, the conversation continued to Malaysian and onwards (and whoa this is sooo shocking!) to Malaysian politics. There are stuff discussed and since bloggers get prosecuted and middle finger is shown to freedom of expressing your opinion in the blogsphere, I shall write it down with invisible ink (urine) and feed it to my cat.

Chances are the cat will spit it back at me. Come to think of it, I don’t have a cat. Phew!

In less than half an hour (any which way in Singapore you take less than half an hour if traffic is good. There is joke about driving in Singapore - “you don’t have to use the fourth gear”) we were in Harbour Front, a shopping complex/ ferry station/ immigration for ferry passengers/ free toilet service centre.

The place was as busy as any new shopping mall would be, and it has everything a mall has, including shoppers, aimlessly wandering loiterers and sales assistant who’d jump out of nowhere and offer to spray you with perfume. What cruelty!

One elevator ride up and we were at the counters selling ferry tickets. Tickets arrangement was done by Zeff (remember Zeff? You don’t? What’s the matter with you? How can you? Zeff is the Jedi master sent to assist Anakin to rescue a missing Ewok who last seen trying to kill George Lucas for not reviving them on big screen).

Soon, we were in the business of waiting for the ferry. So, we waited, and waited, and waited……(to be continued).

Watch out for Batam Ahoy Pt3: (working title) Revenge of the African Cheesecake.

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