And so I arrived in Asia…..Kind of. A resident of Singapore told me that I chose a good city in which to ease into the Asian culture. With a heartfelt chuckle he described the city as “Asia lite.” There is truth to his statement. The city reminded me more of New York or London than anything I could conjure from my limited knowledge of Asian culture. Because it is a city of Ex Pats or Ex-patriots, it lacks a true identity. These ex-pats leave their home country seeking the thrill of living in an exciting and financially powerful hub of the Eastern Hemisphere. Along with their wives and children they bring with them their unique qualities that embellishes the unidentifiable flavor of this booming City State. It is a true melting pot. At first glance I didn’t think so. I thought it was just English. Everyone spoke English, the signs were in English, they used English electrical plugs, and even drove on the left side of the road. However, one trip to little India, or china town or Arab street you can see the different threads that weave together this beautiful tapestry that creates the lovely nation of Singapore.
My first night in Singapore I got to really taste what it is like to be living in a vibrant city full of culture and depth. I still don’t know how God worked this all out, but I ended up staying with a lovely friend of a friend of a friend. Her name was Britta and she was originally from Germany but I know her now to be a true citizen of the world. She proved herself to be the most gracious and willing host even BEFORE I had even met her. When I asked her why she would be so open and welcoming to a stranger she simply stated that she had received so many blessings from individuals around the world in her own journeys that she was pleased for the opportunity to help a fellow traveler. I have often felt the same way and I knew right then that I was going to learn a great deal from her.
My first night Britta took me to her friends art gallery opening. (pantone my art). It was a display of 10 different artist. Each artist painted the same subject but each had a designated color and medium. The night was full of art, culture, food, drinks and interesting people from around the world. This incredible experience was followed by a rooftop feast of THE BEST Indian food with the incredible Singapore Skyline as our backdrop.
The next day I explored the beautiful Singapore Botanic Gardens which includes the worlds largest collection of orchids. It was a beautiful day and I really enjoyed seeing the calmer side of Singapore. I had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant and had time to contemplate my surroundings. The people people of Singapore were incredibly friendly, kind and helpful.. And everything was orderly, clean and efficient. The city, which outlaws gum due to its messiness, was spotless. There was never ANY trash on the ground despite the fact that I could NEVER Find a trash bin. I found out later that one reason for the cleanliness was that the city can fine you up to 1,000 dollars for littering or make you do hours of community service. A country with ACTUAL consequences! How refreshing! The fact that crime is truly punished (ie drug trafficking is punishable by death) creates a city with a very low crime rate. Funny how that works.
Later that evening I had dinner with a friend from Malaysia I had met on the train from Prague to Luzern Switzerland two years previously. Through the power of facebook we figured out that we would both be in Singapore and he graciously showed me around the city and took me out for a traditional Malaysian meal. I have to admit that I was nervous to try Sting Ray, but it was actually quite good!
The next day my friend Teresa arrived from Indy and we explored China Town and Little India. We tried the countries beloved Durian Fruit. While I can appreciate the giant building in the city that is shaped like a Durian, I did not love the taste or the SMELL of the Durian Fruit. Later in Thailand I would find a sign that prohibited the Durian to be eaten inside the building because of the smell…which if you have ever smelled a Durian is quite a reasonable request.
That evening, Teresa, Britta, Britta’s friend from Sweden and I went out for a ladies night. We started on Arab street and ate at a Turkish restaurant. It was incredible. Probably my favorite dining experience I’ve had so far on this trip. After dinner Britta took us to some amazing spots around Singapore. One of which included the famous Marina Bay Sans hotel. This building is famous for its giant boat shaped rooftop infinity pool that lays across the three towers of the hotel. What fascinates me the most about this structure is not the remarkable pool but the knowledge that this incredible building resides on reclaimed land. It, and all of the incredible buildings around it are now standing where the ocean use to reside. It is knowledge of structures like this that give me a huge appreciation for the civil engineers, like my brother, who have the ability to create these structures and make them safe.
So…in three days I was in Singapore I experienced the foods of India, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, and Turkey. I had met many people from all around the world. And I got to see some pretty incredible sights. It is a very interesting city. It seems to be always on the move. Just like the people who move in and out, it is constantly changing and adapting and molding itself into the gorgeous tapestry of individualized threads full of life and flavor.