Photo’s are here or you can just click on the photograph above.
2 days squashed into an airplane seat, 2 stops in Chicago and Tokyo, and one solar eclipse later (which I missed, being on the wrong side of the plane… roll on 2024 😉 ) and I finally arrived in hot, steamy Singapore.
At the hotel by 2:30am thoroughly exhausted, quick shower, straight to bed, promptly fell asleep and wide awake an hour later staring at the clock by 3:30am 😦 The joys of international travel 🙂
I’m not used to traveling internationally for anything more than a few days without my companion photographer and blog-writer at my side but, for once, Jenni thought it really was time to go home and do some work instead of gallivanting around the globe with me on this particular trip. I suspect the inclement climate of summer in Singapore had as much to do with her insistence that she should head home and paint as anything else. Which is ironic as Hurricane Harvey caused a tropical depression in southwest Florida, the result of which was even hotter, steamier, and more stormy weather in Sarasota than here in Southeast Asia.
So, I was left to my own devices, for once, to soak up the cultural differences between North America and Southeast Asia which we both miss enormously.
The purpose of my trip was to train up our new Project Quality & Risk Management person for the APAC region (Clara). It was also great to catch up with so many familiar faces from the time of our lengthy sojourn here a few years back.
Come the weekend and I was up bright and early (obviously!) to head to some of my and Jenni’s favorite old haunts. It is perhaps a good thing that she didn’t come with me this time because not only had her favorite coffee (and cake! 😉 ) shop (Shop Wonderland in Kampong Glam) closed down but the Chinese foot massage spa in Bugis which we used to frequent every weekend had also disappeared without trace leaving me no alternative but to go in search of another suitably dingy-looking massage spa specializing in the torture of feet and toes (but without the benefit of caffeine)… first world problems 😉
It was entertaining to hear Singlish again (the English based patois spoken here in Singapore) and to try to decipher what on earth the locals were talking about 😉 For those who want to know where chop-chop [hurry up] came from – look no further than Singlish) 🙂
It was also comforting to just hop on a bus or the MRT (still the cleanest, fastest, coldest – and most efficient – subway anywhere in the world) without the need to look at a map because I knew exactly where I was going 🙂
Consequently, and for the most part, I managed to successfully avoid all the tourist areas (Orchard Road, Gardens by the Bay, Clarke Quay etc.) and headed out to see some of our old ‘favs’ instead:
- Kampong Glam (the Malay/Arab quarter) previous home to Shop Wonderland (thankfully, it had relocated to Tanjong Pagar, so all was not entirely lost), Bar Stories (my second favorite cocktail bar in the world!), the Turkish restaurants and music and crazy busy Haji Street;
- Kampong Kapor (Little India) where you are transported to another entirely different world – an assault on the senses of beautiful colors (painted buildings, fruit and flower stands, silk dresses); delicious aromas; crazy numbers of people hurrying about their business, Indian workers eating together in street cafes and an air of chaos that is one of the many reasons I absolutely love Southeast Asia; and, of course, some of the best Indian vegetarian/vegan food I’ve eaten anywhere in the world;
- Chinatown seems to get more and more touristy over time. To give it it’s due though, I failed dismally in my search for a foot spa in Bugis but finally came up trumps in Chinatown;
- Marina Bay to admire the impressive skyline in between the storms;
- and finally a walk around the less touristy parts of Tanjong Pagar where I was staying. It is primarily a business district these days but has some fascinating history and, if you wander about aimlessly for long enough, you can find some great little side streets with all manner of interesting things going on 🙂
Tourism has definitely stepped up a notch in the last few years. I even saw an enterprising young man riding a Vespa with a sidecar attached carrying a tourist on a whistle stop tour of the Kampong Glam highlights! When we lived here we used to walk almost everywhere – that way we wouldn’t miss the little things – street scenes, people and so on which made it special for us. I’m sure it’s fun in a side-car and it’s great to see the entrepreneurial spirit alive and well, but I suspect it won’t do much for maintaining the originality of these older neighborhoods.
I managed to find time to catch up with my old mate Paul from Bristol who has lived in this part of the world for some 18 or so years now; it was great to see him, have a laugh, chat about old friends and work our way through a couple of large towers of beer…as you do at Tawandang in Dempsey Hill. I even managed to catch up with a couple of old friends from my Hewlett-Packard days (Demetrio & Gerry) who were here for an HP event and were staying just around the corner 🙂 …and also Akhil, an old buddy from Red Hat who was in town for a few days!
Then it was back to work to finish up my tasks here – along with the continued chaos that always comes with the end of our financial quarter 😉 …and sadly, to say cheerio to the Services VP here who has been a great advocate for myself and my team over the past few years – good luck in your new endeavors Sachin!
A flying, but successful, trip. Thank goodness I can go home and put Jenni’s mind at rest, at least, that Shop Wonderland is safe and well, albeit in a new location – otherwise she might never come back 😉
All in all, my trip to Singapore was too short – every time I come to Asia, I yearn for it even more!
“Se la mat jalan” Singapore – until next time…