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by: Bernard Teo

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Bernard Teo
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List of Categories : Database * Technology * Commentary * Singapore * Travel *

Wed 23 Jun 2004

From Chinatown to Chinatown

Category : Singapore/chinatown.txt

I've been so busy working on the traveler's hostel project that I hadn't had time to think about going to WWDC. But the time is almost near and the bag's been packed.

I've been doing a lot of reading about Singapore's Chinatown. It seems odd that Singapore, with its largely Chinese population, should have a Chinatown, or that it would amount to anything beyond token significance. But due to Stamford Raffles' delineating of the city along racial lines, when he established a free port here in 1819, that's the place where most of our forefathers landed, whether they be rich or poor, and that's where our story began.

You can't tell by looking at the tall buildings in the Central Business District, along the fringes of Chinatown, that a lot of places where I walk over today used to be sea. Like where our office stands. Just like Boston's Back Bay, the water had been filled, but in our case with earth from the hills, since flattened, around Chinatown.

There's a lot of history, and tragedy, and not a little heroism, to get from then to now. A lot of writing about Singapore is about its plasticity and lifeless-ness, e.g., about the fake Disneyland-ish facade in today's restored Chinatown. But that's what you get when you leave out the story about the people.

If you care to hear the perspective of one for whom this is home, you may hear a different, more vibrant tune. After all this is what it means to travel, to learn how other people live and see their own world. That's the theme that I'm trying to build for the hostel website. I'm starting to understand things a lot better now, myself, about Singapore, and if anything, whether we succeed or fail with the hostel, this will be its own reward.

So. I'm going to be moving mentally and physically, in the next few days, from one Chinatown to another, in San Francisco. And then back. The experience should be interesting.

And also, finally, to watch Steve Jobs live. This I can't wait.

Posted at 4:00PM UTC | permalink

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