East Meets West...
November 29, 2006
From the moment I stepped into the meticulously clean taxi at the airport, I instantly knew I was going to enjoy my next three days.
If I were to think of one song that came to mind when I went down to Orchard Road (the main drag for shopping) it would be ‘It’s beginning to feel a
lot like Christmas’. It would be here that I was fully immersed in all things Christmas – street decorations, lights, huge Christmas trees and…my
favorite…Christmas carols! I found myself staying in stores so I could listen to the full versions of ‘Let It Snow’, ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’,
Mariah’s ‘All I Want For Christmas’ and another song that I forget the name of (but I do remember that it was used during the Beverly Hills 90210
Christmas episode where Brenda brought the homeless guy to their house for the holidays). I love Christmas. This sensory overload was making me
Being ‘directionally challenged’ has its privileges as I found out after leaving the metro station. I found it interesting that I could miss seeing so many
things on a street that I had just walked down a few hours prior. But then I came across the Riverwalk. Okay…now I knew I would have
remembered seeing this. I pulled out my map. For the past fifteen minutes I had been walking in the complete opposite direction of where I intended
to go. All in a day’s work of traveling with myself. After opting to stay in this area a little while longer, I then did a 180 and headed back to where I
initially intended to go.
As the saying goes… ‘When in Singapore…’
Well, the entire statement would be ‘When in Singapore, have a Singapore Sling.’ And there is no place better to do this than at the Long Bar in the
Raffles Hotel – where the drink was created. The atmosphere inside the bar reminded me of being inside a Tommy Bahama’s store. Except that you
don’t eat peanuts and throw the shells on the floor in a Tommy Bahama’s store. And you don’t drink Singapore Sling’s in a Tommy Bahama’s store.
But other than those facts, that was what it reminded me of.
November 30, 2006
This has proven to be the perfect city to wrap up my time in Asia. Why is this??? It’s because it is giving me the opportunity to ‘relive’ some of my
days from being in other parts of this continent: the Middle-East, India and China. Of course I never saw any place in these countries that is as clean
as they are portrayed out here. It feels as if they have the ‘Disney effect’. Call it an Asian Epcot Center, if you will. Even the mosques and Hindu
temples seem too perfect with their paint jobs and sculptures to be ‘real’. But they are.
Areas like these are what make Singapore so unique. Things are real-yet-surreal. I can honestly say that I have never, ever seen another city like
this. I guess you could also consider it…hmmm, I don’t know…like being in a sort of bubble.
I had an experience today that was a first-hand account of how nice people really are here. A guy started chatting me up on the street. At first I
automatically went into ‘What the heck does this guy want’ mode. But then I remembered where I was. Singapore. There was a chance that this was
genuine. He asked where I was from and I told him “San Francisco”. At this point, he smiled and said “Oh, that city famous for…” Before he finished
the sentence, I knew exactly what he was going to say. He was going to say something along the lines of ‘That city is famous for the Golden Gate
Bridge.’ But then he finished his sentence and it was not what I expected. He ended up saying “Oh, that city famous for homosexuals.” I started
laughing and I had to tell him that, yeah, he was kind of correct about that. We parted ways a couple minutes later but that ranked as my best
conversation with a Singaporean.
I had contact information for a couple who lives here (given to me by somebody I worked for right before I left). Florence and I exchanged a few
emails and we ended up getting in touch today. She suggested meeting at the Long Bar at Raffles and then moving onwards to East Coast Seafood
(which is a very Singapore thing to do) to meet her husband and his business associates.
I met Florence and another couple at the bar. This was Florence’s first time meeting all of us as we were all friends of friends. I could have gone the
Singapore Sling route again…but this time I went for the Tiger Lily (since I saw people having that last night and I thought it looked quite good).
Apparently, this was another drink that was created here. And I can vouch that it was pretty darn good! I got the recipe but will probably never
make it as several of the liqueurs used seem to fancy-schmancy for me to have on-hand.
We went to East Coast Seafood afterwards which was a bit out of the city center. There were about ten of us and Florence was in charge of ordering
the food. I took advantage of my new-found admiration for beer and proceeded to get drunk. Totally dumb to do with strangers as they don’t know
me so they probably couldn’t even tell I was drunk and, therefore, they probably think that I am some obnoxious, word-slurring, overly-talkative
girl. Ah, yes. Gotta love leaving people with great first impressions. There is a small chance I could be too critical of myself right now. I got along with
everyone well so maybe it was just me that was overly annoyed with myself. In any case, it was a fun evening and it was great meeting everybody. I
definitely got a Singapore experience of the seafood (namely the crab with black pepper) that I would not have gotten otherwise. Once again, I
continue to be amazed by the kindness and generosity of complete strangers. I should knock on wood before I say this but I feel like I have
experienced so much ‘goodness’ in people over the past seven months. Yes, I sound corny. But it’s totally true!
December 1, 2006
Singapore is one straaaaange city. Not a ‘bad’ strange. More like a ‘Truman Show’ (that Jim Carrey movie from a while ago) strange.
I have just spent months in places where, with a few exceptions, maneuvering the streets is the name of the game. It’s a man-eat-man world out
there (or maybe more like a motorbike-eat-man world). There is no such thing as adhering to crosswalks. There is a sense of pride when you grasp
the skill and figure out the timing. You cross whenever you want, wherever you want.
While any dummy could tell that driving conditions were different in Singapore, for some reason I didn’t figure that the walking conditions would be
as well. Because I didn’t know any better, I crossed to the other side of the street whenever I wanted as long as there weren’t cars coming.
I had access to a Lonely Planet last night and saw that this is a big ‘no-no’. They mention that people get fined for this (and considering this is
Singapore, I believe it!) kind of behavior. I guess I’m a pretty lucky girl for not getting busted.
But here is where the strangeness comes in. I was adhering to the rules today. Well, I would bend the rules a teeny bit. If I saw a local crossing the
street while the signal was red, then I followed. But if everybody was waiting for the signal to turn green, I was waiting with them.
There were several times when there wasn’t one car in sight…yet nobody moved from the corner of the street. We all just stood there waiting for the
signal to turn. Sometimes it took so long it was reminding me of waiting for water to boil. Seriously. Yet we all just stood there. Waiting. And waiting.
How in the world did this city/country get so orderly? Maybe it was by caning people for graffiti crimes? Killing people for drug crimes? Warnings of
fines for everything under the sun? I’m thinking Singapore should share its secrets with other countries, schools and parents. A receipt blew out of a
bag I was carrying on my first day here and I’m not lying when I say that I had to run at least ten steps to retrieve it. I didn’t want to go to jail on my
first day here (okay – I know that is a bit of an exaggeration…).
I really didn’t do too much today besides meander around a few different areas of the city. I was thinking about going to a spa to kill some time
before my flight but then I opted against it as I have sooo many expenses that are going to be coming my way in Australia. The spa was an incredibly
good price considering the facilities and the extremely-nice hotel it was lodged in. But it would have still cost me a minimum of $70 and it was hard to
justify as I had just received months worth of spa treatments in the last month. Now I am giving myself a pat on the back for ‘saving’ $70 by not
taking advantage of this.
Instead, I walked back to the Arab quarter where the aromas of the Lebanese street food was enough to make a person moan in appreciation. Well,
at least this person. I got to hear Lebanese music and people speaking Arabic. It feels like a lifetime ago that this was the daily norm for me.
I said ‘good-bye’ to Singapore a few minutes ago. I am now on the plane now en route to Sydney. I have to say how much I love the Singapore
Airport. It was like my little playland. I could have spent days there. If I was Tom Hanks, this would be ‘The Terminal’ I would want to live in! I got
my last dose of Coffee Bean with my last Singapore dollars. If a person has a long layover, they can opt to go to the spa, the gym, to a transit hotel
(where you can pay by the hour) or you can take a free 2-hour tour into Singapore. There are also computer stations where people can use the
internet…for free. Oh, and it was my lucky day as the Duty Free shop was giving samples of Bailey’s in mint flavor and Bailey’s in caramel flavor.
Time for me to check out the entertainment magazine to see what movies and television shows I am going to watch on my flight. Gotta love
Singapore Airlines (if not for their entertainment services then for the nice Christmas decorations they have hanging in the plane)!
December 2, 2006
Uh oh. There is a guy who is currently passed out. I am on a huuuuuge plane…and this is all happening just two rows in front of me. I just saw him
being walked to his seat by two of the flight attendants. At first, he was able to walk a bit. One row later, the flight attendants were dragging him as
he became 100% dead weight. He is an Indian man and his wife doesn’t know what to do. The flight attendants just called for the other ones to get
some oxygen. He is completely passed out. Before this, his eyes were glazed and not focused. The girls near me think he had a stroke.
They just made an announcement about a medical emergency on-board and for any doctors to come to row 35B.
The medical troops (three in total) are now assisting the man. He is breathing but doesn’t appear to be conscious. I feel really bad as my first reaction
when I first saw him being held up by the flight attendants was me asking the guy next to me “Is he drunk?”
All is well aboard flight SG 221. The man regained consciousness and I just saw him walk. I think everyone is doing a sigh of relief. I might be wrong
but I think it’s a bad omen if somebody dies on your flight…
In Little India.
After some beer, it is time for some crab.
A street in Singapore.