Flowering architecture on the Singapore waterfront.
I arrived in Singapore after twenty hours on the same plane. This I know …. It is way too long to hang in the sky. I did have a one hour layover in Hong Kong, but they didn’t let anyone going on to Singapore off the plane. I
was stuck walking the aisles dodging the cleaning crew. This is the whole flight synopsis… I ate, slept & watched bad movies, repeat twice more. It was grueling. I have to say Singapore was worth it. It is beautiful!
The last time I was here for a short layover I made a mental note to return for a longer visit. My tired body and bleary eyes feasted on the lush environment. It is incredibly green with exotic plants. Trees are juxtaposed against
a very modern high rise skyline featuring interesting and wild architecture. I love this place, I can actually read the signs and there are people from all over the world here. I don’t stand out so much.
I got to my hotel, washed up
and went straight to my first meeting at the office. I was about ½ hour early so I looked up a colleague that I met in China on a previous trip. Yee Sing did not disappoint me, in five minutes he had me laughing and forgetting how tired I was.
He let me know that Singaporeans take care of their guests and he invited me to go to a “pepper crab” dinner. He told me Singapore was famous for this dish. I am a little skeptical after his description, I did say yes, but not tonight,
I am too tired. If this is another trick like “Chinese delicacy”, I will not be so willing. I will keep you posted. My first meeting was scheduled for ten am. I was pretty sure I could get enough rest to feel normal.
Singapore is very civil. Clean beyond your imagination. We are talking Disneyland pristine clean here. You can drink the water!!!! English is the official language. The international buffet in the hotel is awesome but I have not been very
experimental yet. After some of my pervious experiences in other countries I may not be experimental at all, I will see how I feel. A beer cost about $15. No kidding! They told me there is 100% tax on liquor. I won’t be drinking
much, not that I do much anyway. I guess that is one way to control public drinking. I would describe the culture here as a cross between Chinese, Malaysian & East Indian. It seems like most people speak several languages, Chinese
and English and some Malaysian languages are mandatory in school. All other languages are learned by local surroundings or by travel. Singapore is such an international city; you can figure that out just by looking around. I don’t
feel like a foreigner as there are so many people from different countries. In fact, 1-3 workers are foreigners. This country grew by 1.5 million people in one year largely from immigration. Unbelievable. It is not cheap here. The exchange
rate is about 30 cents to my benefit on the dollar.
It was déjà vu as I walked walk into the office on the second morning. I recognized my host as I had worked with him in California. I had seen his name on the e-mails
for planning the trip but did not know it was the same person until I saw him. He had relocated to Singapore for two years… tough duty. Most of the day was in the office with the typical tours. People were very gracious and I enjoyed
meeting everyone. I really came away with a good picture of what needs to be done so this trip had already been worth it. I can speak to the issues with firsthand knowledge.
I invited my hosts to go to lunch and told them to pick something
they wanted to eat. I just had no clue….. We ended up at a Chinese restaurant within walking distance from the office. I froze as I walked in the door and smelled some of the familiar scents. I immediately regretted walking past Subway Sandwiches
and I don’t even like Subway much. I managed to find something safe to eat and was thankful for the small portions. The egg flower soup was wonderful and I had some pork and noodles. Whew! I got through lunch without much difficulty.
I have learned… You can drown out a lot of flavors by adding hot pepper sauce and soy sauce. I forgot how quickly those smells can turn my stomach. I think the olfactory senses are stronger than I ever would have guessed.
of my teammates wanted to know if I had any chewing gum. I said yes I brought some for the plane ride. He asked how I got in the country since it is illegal to chew gum. I said,” Actually I did not think about it, it was in my purse, it went
right through the ex-ray machine that all luggage goes through before you can leave the airport.” He told me on one of his trips to the US, he brought in a case of gum from Costco and was escorted into an interrogation room. The authorities immediately confiscated
his gum supply. Now let me say I would have melted right there on the spot if I was escorted to Interrogation in any foreign country. Since the contraband substance is highly prized, I happily gave my one pack of gum to my Singapore teammate. I
caught him chewing it later in the day and I told him “don’t you dare tell anyone who gave that to you.” Another highly prized item… American Potato Chips… however these are legal. It is so funny what American items
are important to other cultures.
I finished my day in the office chatting with Yee Sing over coffee. OMG this guy is likely to be the funniest person I ever met. He was telling me some story and making some comparison of choices of some HP
product lines…. “You can kiss the girl or kiss the goat. Come on Nina, it is an easy choice” He must have a hundred lines like this and he says them with all seriousness. We were talking about the American debt to the world.
He said no need to worry; no one is going to collect. If they actually collect, the whole system will collapse. Americans are the world’s consumer. I found it an interesting perspective. “It amazes me how much the rest of
the world knows about American life and our political system and people. As I was gathering all the paper I had collected during my visit I asked for a paper clip to contain all the floor plans. Yee Sing erupted in laughter. “Are you kidding,
we are paperless, don’t you know this is a technology company, everything is online, paper clips are a collector’s item. If I had one it would be rusted.” How could I possibly argue?
After a full day of work Yee Sing and
his wife, Loh Peitlee, were hosting me for dinner. His wife was a very charming person, I enjoyed her very much. We went to a Malaysian restaurant in downtown Singapore. I love going to local places as you get a real flavor of the country.
The owners knew Yee Sing and Loh Peitlee the minute he walked in the door. The food was very good. The chicken looked like it had a barbecue sauce but was quite different. I tasted a fish cake - I know it sounds awful but it was
really flavorful and very good. It was nothing like the crab cakes we are familiar with, it was long and paper thin and cooked in banana leaves. The vegetables were also good with lots of cabbage and carrots with a Thai-like sauce. The rice was great,
it was cooked in coconut milk. Although I tried lots of new things there was nothing on my plate I could not eat. My stomach is still very skeptical so I am into very small portions. Since I am not staying in Singapore long, It may not be
possible to figure out the nuances of the cuisine before I leave. Since it is the weekend I have one full day of touring and the following day I depart for India.
Saturday and Sunday are free days. There is plenty of shopping within walking distance
from my hotel. I would also like to see some of the interesting architecture down by the waterfront and go to the night safari at the zoo. All I have to do is figure out the logistics.