Singapore Adventure

Monday, June 13, 2005

Shop Til You Drop
by venitha

Singapore is called a shopper's paradise, but in general I think they mean a window-shopper's paradise, fun to look and to wander and to make aimless purchases. Shopping as a way to pass the time in air-conditioned comfort. Shopping centers are filled with small specialty shops: watches in this one, sunglasses in that one, trips to Royal Brunei in the one over there. And don't even get me started on the vast flea market that is Chinatown. We would never be able to get my mother out of there.

I don't particularly care for that sort of shopping, though I admit that the air-conditioned comfort part has growing appeal these days. No, forget the window-shopping; I'm on a mission. I have a short list of unrelated items that I need, and where, oh where, is Target?

Thankfully, I am not the first American to have this problem in Singapore. Amol, a fellow expat and friend of Jim's from work, solved it for me by raving to Jim about Mustaffa, a shopping center in Little India that has everything. EVERYTHING. And, yes, this is MEN, talking about SHOPPING. Before I even knew I had this problem.

So Sunday morning, Jim and I took a cab to Mustaffa and quickly discovered that Amol doesn't lie. Super Wal-mart with a much larger selection and much narrower aisles. Our first purchases:

* Foot powder. Humidity + sandals + lots of walking. You do the math.
* Hankerchiefs. Sweaty sweaty sweaty. I think I am about to embark on two years of wearing no make-up, because, really, what's the point? I am apparently alone in this thought, however, if the endless rows of cosmetics at Mustaffa are any indication.
* Washcloths. Bath towels and hand towels are both provided in our temporary digs, but no washcloths, in spite of the fact that I specifically asked the maid for them (she nodded and smiled). Do people just use the hand towels as washcloths since getting clean here is a such a monumental task? Or does it have something to do with religious practices and not being "kosher" to share washcloths? Enquiring minds want to know.

My main task this morning was to find a transformer. After a quick survey of the shopping centers within walking distance of our apartment turned up no electronics stores, I took the MRT back to Mustaffa, which of course had exactly what I was looking for.

My impulse buy along with the transformer: Tiger Balm, a Chinese herbal remedy. I picked up the package just from curiousity, having heard of the company, famous for its philanthropy in Singapore. I bought it because the usage guidelines made me laugh out loud: "Fast and effective relief for headaches, stuffy nose, insect bites, itchiness, muscular aches and pains, sprains and flatulence. Apply Tiger Balm gently on the affected area." This stuff smells a good deal like Ben-Gay. I wouldn't think that applying it anywhere that would affect a cure for flatulence would be wise, but I'll let you know how it goes. =)