Monday, 28 March 2011

A little story about Singapore

Originally Posted with images on Deus Bali Blog...

Two days ago if you had of asked me about today (Saturday) your would have found out I was pretty bummed about it. Circumstances arose mid week resulting on the need to make a milk run to Singapore. Heading up first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Saturday, supposedly a day spent doing stuff with family and friends. Not sitting in planes for five hours and wandering around the land of the skyscraper for another 9.

Then yesterday it changed while checking FB, I had some down time... and I found out that TR Bikes in Block 7 Jalan Batu Singapore, in case you were wondering their address, were having their "March oh March" a Fixed Geared bicycle event. Now that was bound to be something to do. With a starting time of 2pm I could see that it would slip in perfectly after that business I had to do and before that plane I had to catch. While leaving me time to see if I could find a certain Beyblade for my son.

Friday night late I was busy FBing Bumbumbum Ariffin, lets just call him Bum from now on so I don't get RSI, he's the guy that seemed to be at the centre of event things, doing it on behalf of the three owners of TR Bikes; Henry, I remember him as the bald dude. Lynten, hhmm I met him for about 3 minutes as I was leaving last time in town, so lets call him the long haired dude and Chris, the one on crutches... Crutch dude sounded a little derogatory. Oops I said it. Bugger!

Bum happened to be in Bali about two weeks ago but fate dealt us a hand that didn't allow our paths to cross. When I told him I was coming he seemed genuinely surprised, although pleased, that I was making the journey. Perhaps he just though I was crazy, has to be one of the two.

Three o clock Saturday rolled around and life found me in the back of a cab in the nether region of ECP with one of the more elusive and oft talked about Beyblades on my boys wish list in my possession, I took this as a good omen. Which was something I needed right then as TR Bikes was proving hard to find for the uninitiated, which perfectly described me and my faithful sidekick, "taxi man". Omen number two came when I spotted a young hipster on a fixie whipping through traffic speed checking moments before he might possibly become one with a car fender several vehicles up. With words dripping in cliche I told Taxi Man to "follow that bike!" and not for the first time today a big smile crossed my dial and as I reclined back into the generously upholster diesel Merc which was Taxi Mans ride.

Located under one of the old government housing blocks this unassuming shop, it’s a double actually, is sandwiched between a Chinese herbal medicine shop and a 7eleven. The later proved invaluable when beer o clock rolled round. The former probably has its uses but that will have to wait until another visit.

Right here I have to stop the narrative (?) and spend a sec and describe this kampung. Picture an area that is delineated by three 80 meter long 5 story high housing blocks. They form the sides of a triangular with access to the inside only at the points and you have it. The shops sit under the buildings and a paved road ran around the inside with a little park and tiered pond amphitheater type arrangement in the middle. It was all very pretty. But that's not what I saw when I arrived. I saw the crew already hard at it.

The high jump event was well under way when I dropped my bags, greeted a couple of guys, grabbed my camera and started clicking away. Now I am no Red so I have to take a different approach to this photography business, I was going to work the percentages. In my pea brain I figured that if I shot 400 photos, at least 6 would (I hoped!) make it past the sensor and be suitable for your viewing. With hunteresque skill I nuzzled my way to the front of the throng of 100 hipsters from around Singapore, Malaysia and, as I was happy to find out later, some crew from Bandung. The bar was set about 40cm and the round I missed had brought the number of competitors to two. Problem was neither of them made it any higher. Bum had the perfect tie breaker. Chance in the form of a quick round of paper, scissors, rock. Lovely bit of improvisation I thought.

Winners named noted and we were onto the longest skid. Up until this point I had thought our kids were pretty damn good at this. Had to reevaluate that idea when this event was taken out by a skinny kid on an old converted ten speed who left rubber on the tiles for a good 80 meters! 20 meters more than second place. Mighty job!

The crowd were getting restless and the owners had set up another round of Sapporo beers at the table that permanently resides in front of there shop by the time Bum had the first group of guys on the line ready to ride the sprint. Now there are two things here. Remember my description of of the place? A triangle right, well they have corners that are more than 90 degrees and that other salient fact is a fixie can not lay over that low as the peddle will hit the ground while in the bend. I set myself up at the start only to miss a three bike pile up round one, on bend one, in lap two. That wasn't going to happen again and I moved to sit myself on the Kerb on the second straight looking back to that first corner. Riders not making the bend can't brake, they don't have any brakes, so they either end up crashing sideways, straight into one of the big green hedges or as one guy did it, in the shops. The crowd ate it up. Three rounds later and a final of the heat winners we found out who was the fastest on the day.

Like a well oiled crank we moved to the sunken amphitheater for the track stand comp. At least thirty riders started out. 3 minutes later at least two thirds of them were still in contention, Bum raised the stakes. One arm. This did wonders to cull the pack by 50% almost immediately but there were some real stayers, pun intended, in Sing. No hands came the cry! Another ten dropped off but 6 persisted. By now, these guys had been balancing on two thin tires for about 7 or 8 minutes. The degree of difficulty got a rocket when Bum told them to take their shirts off. Amongst the hilarity this request generated in the crowd who watched now blind, no hand track standers crashing to the ground it did have the desired result and left us with one bare chested winner. There was much rejoice.

Moving into the final event of the day, the No Foot Down, kind of like our Sumo but with a pond in the middle, the atmosphere in this strange cultural courtyard in what would have been one of the more dodgy areas of Singapore in it's day was effervescent. Laughter poured freely forth and not just from the fixed afficiandos but from the upper balconies where some of the older occupants had come out of their houses to see what these kids were up to and got swept up the wash. Others had taken places on the park benches and amongst us in the amphitheater. It must have taken a good fifteen minutes but finally a winner was delivered down and I saw my chance to duck into the 7Eleven for some light refreshments. Not that I need to justify my actions I do want to say for the record that it was close to 5 pm.

It must have taken at least thirty minutes to give out the winners prizes. There was frames, wheel and crank sets for the first, second and thirds in each event. And a mammoth raffle with 18 prizes. It really showed me the generosity of the owners of TR Bikes. It's all well and good to sell the crew bikes, it's business but they were cultivating a lifestyle and putting something back. Good joss guys! Looking at my phone I saw I had nearly over stayed my welcome. After a couple of goodbyes and congratulating Bum on a well run, not to mention, very fun, awesome afternoon I moseyed out of this cultural cul de sac to go looking for a car to whisk me back to the airport and home. I'm on the plane now. The smile hasn't left me. Thanks for the great arvo.