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Ten kilomitres from Pandemonium to the world’s end.

A scarlet-white airliner “Airasia” landed in the Changi airport [1] . Bali, the island of the setting Sun, was left behind, and the Chakri Dynasty [2] citadel, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon [3] , and three last august days in Singapore were waiting for me ahead.

* * *

A bus did not arrive, so I raised my hand and stopped a red Ferrari.

— Where are you going, mister? — A 35-year-old Chinese woman smiled at me from behind the wheel, well-groomed and goodlooking in her black business suit.

— To the East Coast Park, and you?

— Fine! Me too!

I got into the car and felt as if I was in a fighter-airplane!

— Where are you staying at, mister…

— Kris. I’m Kris and I’m a traveler from Russia. As usual, I am staying at a hotel belonging to the largest hotel network in the world. It is called “Thousands of stars”!

— Mister Kris, I have been living in the East coast boulevard highway for five years and I don’t remember any hotel with such a name. Are you sure?

— Absolutely! I’ve heard that in the East Coast Park there are beautiful trees and a picturesque view at the sea. The sky is cloudless, so today there will be several thousands of stars in the sky!

I laughed out loud, so did she but quietly, just to keep my company. Listening to such a story, many Chinese people think that a foreigner is in a tight situation. Kind and sympathetic by nature, they try to help.

But being courteous and tactful, they do it gently pretending to believe your “romantic story” and just for your good they invite you to their place, or to the restaurant, or to “my brother’s hotel”. So that was just that kind of situation.

— My name is Joan. I’m from Hong Kong but I’ve been living in Singapore for five years now. If you don’t mind, mister Kris, I ask you to be my quest. Tomorrow is a day off and I’d like to talk. Tell me about your travels, please.

* * *

The path from the parking lot to a big two-storeyed house with a dark wine red ridge roof was faced with a drip grey stone and framed with a perfect emerald green lawn. The entrance to the house was guarded by two severe bronze lions. Beneath one of them there was a char-on iron barrel. I looked in and found out that the barrel is half-full with soot. In this soot there was a fresh apple, red in crimson veins. I wiped it with a tissue and bite off a half of it! To enter the house with a bited apple in my hand was a big mistake – the hostess stared at the fruit immediately.

— Where did you get this? — Her eyes were getting wider and wider.

— Emm… It was in the barrel.

— Oh, Buddha! You are a spirit from hell! Go away! Now!

I was paralyzed for a second as well as Joan who was looking at me furiously for some time. Then she calmed down.

— no, you are not, — she smiled. If a spirit is exposed and a man orders it to go away, the spirit can’t disobey.

— But what’s the matter? — I smiled at response. Peace was re-established.

— Well, in Medieval times in the Celestial Empire there lived a man named Mu Lin. Unlike his mother, he was very kind. His mother was so proud of her wealth that disdained everyone who was poorer. Mu became a monk. His mother was angry with him and started to take vengeance on all monks. She ordered to give food to every passing by monk and add a prohibited meat to it so that monks could not reach nirvana. Gods saw it and got angry with the perfidious woman. They sent her to hell and ordered demons to keep her hungry till the end of time. Mu Lin went down to hell and wanted to feed his mother, but in her hands food turned into blood and fire. So the son returned from the underworld and began to ask gods to forgive his mother. His prays were so sincere that Buddha himself heard them and allowed spirits to come up on the earth once a year so that they could eat. Since then every August hordes of spirits from hell flood Singapore. And we help them so that our forefathers can go back to the abode of spirits, content and satisfied. In barrels we burn clothes, shoes, money for spirits… Money is usually false and on such days you may find it in any «7/11″ market. Such notes say “Bank of Hell”. We also leave good food in barrels. so you took an apple from the dinner table of spirits.

* * *

Next day we set off to Sentosa [4] , the island of entertainment! People and peacocks strolled slowly along the smooth asphalt streets bordered with slender high palms.

From the top of the hill we looked at the alley of wonderful fountains decorated with a colorful mosaic.

And the Singapore mascot, ferocious but fair Merlion, lion with a fish tail, watched us from above.

Together with Joan, we walked down to the sea. The hanging bridge led us to a tiny palm-covered island where we found a sign saying «you are at the southernmost point of the Eurasian mainland».

— Joan! We’re at the world’s end!

A passerby took a snap of us with her black i-Phone.

* * *

In a few days, leaving for Thailand that had already become home to me, I was picturing the rediscovered country and thinking of its many-sidedness. Singapore offers you everything you can imagine!

Glassy skyscrapers reflecting sunrays on the seafront crowned with Durian Hall [5] . Evil spirits from hell, guarding legends of the past. Beautiful women who let you realize the importance of our real hard-to-catch present.

Finally, this is The world’s End!

________________________________________________________________________

Chris Van der Valke, Singapore 2009.

Published in «Traveler’s Diary» of Summer-Autumn 2010, and other magazines and newspapers.

Translated from Russian to English by «Traveler’s Diary» magazine. The original full Russian text is here.

________________________________________________________________________

Notes of author:

[1] Changi — International airport of the republic of Singapore.

[2] Chakri — the current royal house of Thailand, ruling from the 19-th century.

[3] Krung Thep Maha Nakhon — City of angels, the great city (thai) — first four words of the full official name of Bangkok.

[4] Sentosa — a small island to the south from the city of Singapore, where the Singaporeans come to have a rest, walk in the park, swim and watch a colorful laser show.

[5] Concert hall in the shape of durian.


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