Things I learned over my recent five-day vacation in Singapore:
1. The end of a year brings about a huge number of stock-clearing sales. In a nation where half the business district is taken up by shopping centers, this translates into a scenario where any random store that you enter is likely having a sale at that point.
2. Most hotels underrate the concept of "personal space". Any hotel that knows its value should be recommended. (Yes, the Pan Pacific Singapore was quite good.)
3. If you must bring a single pair of shoes to wear over five consecutive days, they'd better be comfortable — especially if you must walk long distances on a daily basis.
4. Spending more than thirty minutes on a succession of subway trains can lead to disorientation, loss of balance, and the strange desire to go surfing.
5. Whenever the largest bookstore in the world offers a twenty-percent discount on everything, about half the population of Singapore will most likely be browsing there at any one time.
6. Never eat at a foodcourt that Western tourists frequent. The locals will most likely have already realized that same fact.
7. If you must create a sexy female mascot in order to promote a new product or service, make sure that that service does not involve Brazilian waxes.
8. Mobile phone services don't seem to place a great deal of vigilance with regards to their roaming services, if only because anyone who wants to complain will most likely be unable to contact them from a foreign country.
9. Do not post signs that tell people that their destination can be reached by a roundabout route, especially when said destination is right around the corner.
10. A nation that penalizes you for consuming food and drink in public places is not conducive to the notion of take-out food.
11. If you are looking for a certain book, you will be the only one searching for that specific book in a specific bookstore at a specific time — at which point you will find out that it's out of stock.
12. Never toss a wrapped package into your suitcase unless you know exactly what it is, what it's made of, and what you're likely to tell the security men when they bring you into the small white room behind the airport offices.
13. Although the malls will be open till about nine or ten in the evening, most of the shoppers will already be home by seven.
14. Young adults love it whenever you demonstrate your facility with hand puppets. Kids, however, will just stare at you as though you committed some international atrocity.
15. The state of a nation can be inferred by the "Letters to the Editor" section of the local news publications. If all of the letters express outrage or strong reaction over the political establishment, then there is a major issue with the mode of government. If the most grave correspondence on a given day involves leash laws in a public park, then it's usually safe to say that the status quo is tolerable.
16. Never expect to find an indie establishment in a place where there are no new local literary publications in the bookstores.
17. To ensure that people will pay you far more than the usual amount for sushi, you merely have to lower the price of said sushi. (You can push this further by giving these customers little or no reason to leave their table.)
18. You know that you've brought too much stuff when the lady at the counter asks that your handcarried baggage be weighed. You know that you've bought too much stuff when it's double that weight coming home.
19. It takes about twenty-four hours before you start channeling the local English accent, lah.
20. Twenty new books will ensure that one has enough reading material for a long time — about four or five days, I think.