Far East Files-7. The Only Cowboy In Singapore

I always seek out Irish pubs when abroad.  Of course, it is pleasant to have a fresh pint of Guinness and pass away the day.  But more importantly, I enjoy seeing how these establishments are shaped by their surroundings, far from the influence of the Emerald Isle.  Such is the case with the Dubliner Pub in Singapore.  It is housed in an early 20th century colonial home, originally called the Oxley Mansion. This old Sino-Portuguese house has an interior of stone, brick, wood, copper and marble, materials of choice from an age gone by.  It is a pleasant refuge away from the new Singapore of soulless glass, concrete and metal.

We sit with our good friend Kashyap, who along with his wife Asha, has been so gracious as to open their Singapore home to us for a week.  We look out from the pub’s front porch toward the busy Penang Road.  Directly before us is a bus stop.  There is also a cowboy.

I ponder these strange circumstances.  I am in Singapore, in an Irish pub, looking at a cowboy.  Hmmm.  And this guy is a real cowboy, at least in garb—a big white cowboy hat, a belt with the mandatory oversized buckle, Tony Lama imitation ostrich boots, and a thick chain linking his pocketed wallet to tight fitting jeans.  Kashyap proposes that the wrangler could be from Malaysia, or perhaps the Philippines.  While we ponder his homeland, buses come and go.  The cowboy looks expectantly at each one as they arrive.  Big, red & purple SBS buses arrive.  Tourist buses also pull in and pause.  An Indian workers bus makes an appearance.  But the cowboy still remains.  “Maybe he is waiting for his horse,” quips Hettie.  We all bust up.

I should not be surprised by the appearance of a cowboy in this city.  Singapore is a place of tremendous human diversity.  It is Asia’s melting pot.  Just stroll through its neighborhoods and you will see Chinese, Indians, Malays, Filipinos, Australians, Brits, Indonesians and an ex-pat community representing a league of nations.  In one afternoon I get to watch a cricket practice, eat savory Chinese dumplings, dine on a tasty curry from Chennai, India, and pose in front of Prada in the posh dark of night.  This city is home to everything and everyone.

But back to the only cowboy in Singapore…  The clock hanging on the faded wall at the Dubliner clicks to a new hour.  By the time Bus # 2476 pulls up, our pints are dangerously low.  The cowboy anxiously reads the number and quickly mounts his ride.  In the waning moments of dusk, he finally rides off into the urban sunset.  It is time for another Guinness.  And time to find the next street drama.

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