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Random Travel Notes 10 October 5, 2008

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Up and Away.
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Just a few missives from a quick trip last week to Singapore and back with my parents:

CX vs. SQ. There was a time when Singapore Airlines stood head and shoulders above the competition in the region, with Cathay Pacific coming a respectable second. As far as I’m concerned, Cathay is now the better airline — or at least its business class service is far superior to their Singaporean rival’s. The Hong Kong carrier has newer (or newly refurbished) aircraft, a surprisingly more service-oriented crew (SIA’s seem nearly robotic, to be honest), and a much better in-flight entertainment system. At best, the two are neck-and-neck in the food category: both offer reasonably palatable meals for airline food, with Cathay having the better selection and SIA having more flavor and much improved plating.

Formula None. The question we fielded the most from our Singapore contacts was whether we were in town for the Formula One Night Race. That our trip was in time for the event was coincidental; indeed, we arrived a few days before the weekend of the race (and would leave before any of the pre-race activities would begin), while the race itself wreaked untold amounts of havoc upon our schedule, our hotel rates, and the traffic on the ground. No one in our family is particularly interested in the sport (is it really a sport?) so we couldn’t care less on way or another. Interestingly, none of the locals we dealt with over our three-night stay were enthused about the event, whereas expats seemed all agog over the festivities. I suspect this may have changed considerably now that the race is over and looks for the most part to have been a smashing success.

Filipina, lah. Having done our fair share of jetsetting, we’re quite used to the fact that our surname gets mispronounced quite a bit overseas. My father’s first name also tends to be a tongue-twister for some, but he takes that in stride, too. So when we were checking in at our hotel, it was no surprise that the hotel staff attending to us did the requisite mispronouncing and tongue twisting. Just par for the course, right? Wrong. Soon after, she started speaking to us in Filipino. Turns out that she was indeed Filipina, albeit of the Chinese-looking variety, and one who’s stayed in Singapore so long (17 years, she said) that she’s already assimilated the Singaporean accent. It makes a strange combination, to be honest, but I do believe that’s the first time I ever encountered a Filipino who’s practically more Singaporean. She did say she gets to fly to the Philippines at least once every year, however. That should count for something.

Singlish at the Speed of Huh? When I studied in Singapore for four months back in ’02, some of my classmates were impressed by my English fluency. This surprised me, if only because I thought they spoke (and wrote) just as well (or badly) as I did, albeit with a Singaporean accent. Now that I’m no longer entirely acclimatized to that accent, I see now that the problem with Singaporean English is not that it’s spoken badly, though that happens too, but that it’s spoken on average too fast.

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