Singapore 2003 Travelogue
Singapore...we almost didn't leave!
June 19, 2003, Singapore:
We arrived in Singapore a few minutes early at 6AM local time. As we disembarked, we were scanned with thermal scanners to see if we had a fever. It's part of the SARS controls that have been implemented. They are quite thorough and serious about SARS here. Obviously, it's how they got it under control. I was a bit nervous, but they didn't give me a second look. Obviously, if I did have a fever still, it wasn't high enough to raise their attention. Good.
We went in search of our batteries, and were directed to baggage claim. We made rest stops along the way. I was still quite tired and didn't have much energy. We still had an image of the batteries circling on the belt with all the other luggage, but in fact they were being held in a special "security" section. Oh, well. No laughs for us. After collecting our luggage, Kirk made a phone call. Unbeknownst to us, Jeff, a good friend in Dallas, had made arrangements for us to stay with a friend of his here in Singapore. Two days before we left Delhi, we got an email from Jeff telling us to email/call his friends! Awesome! That's fantastic news, especially since Singapore is quite expensive! Kirk called Michelle to see about getting to their house. She gave him directions on the phone and suggested just taking a taxi.
We changed some money and hit an ATM and then got in the taxi queue. Everything in Singapore is quite organized. There is a queue for everything. And a fine for everything, if you don't do it right. If you jump a queue, you can be fined. Of course, we didn't jump the queue. We started to give the driver the directions. He reminded us to put on our seatbelts. That's when we realized we'd been in India/Southeast Asia too long! The ride to Michelle and Doug's house was a bit disconcerting... we felt almost like we were back in the USA! I looked around at tall buildings, perfectly groomed parks and greenbelts, tropical trees, clean streets. We could have been in Miami, or San Diego. But then again, we were driving on the wrong side of the road, the signs were in kilometers and most of the people we saw on the street were Asia or Malay. Hmmmm...
When we pulled up at the house and got out, there was a large dog barking ferociously at us. However, he was keeping his distance and showing no teeth. We ignored him and started pulling the bags out of the trunk. Michelle came around the corner a minute later. Kirk paid the driver so he could go. Michelle greeted us warmly and introduced us to Clifford, barking dog, who suddenly became my best friend when I started scratching his back. Then she showed us into the house. The house was big, airy and beautiful. We met Chelsea, Michelle's youngest daughter. Michelle offerred us practically everything, from lunch to shower to sleep. We chose sleep.
She showed us up to our room, which was on the third floor. It was enormous!! It is by far the largest room we've stayed in, and we had the entire floor to ourselves. She asked us how long we were staying and we told her one night. She seemed disappointed we weren't staying longer. We said that we had planned it that way since Singapore was so expensive. She told us we should consider extending since we have free lodging now! She gave us towels and told us to take naps for as long as we wanted. She even turned on an air conditioner!! Wow!! AIR CONDITIONING!! Now, THIS is the lap of luxury!! I collapsed on the bed while Kirk decided to take a shower. I must have fallen asleep. Later, he said he had a hard time crawling in the bed since I was laying on the comforter, making it hard to pull it back. Later, I woke up and took a shower and went back to sleep.
Eventually, I had had enough sleep for a while and snuck downstairs, leaving Kirk to sleep longer. I chatted with Michelle and Chelsea in the kitchen for a while. I tried my first food in over 2 days - a banana. I got to learn a great deal about Michelle and her family in a short time. They had been living in Singapore for 21 years, although they originally moved there for only 2 years! Wow! They had 3 children, Chelsea is the youngest. The other two, Dustin and Megan, are at work with Doug. They are in college, but this summer are working with Doug's company to make some money. Kirk came down after a while and we all kept chatting for a couple of hours. They made lunch and I had a couple of pieces of toast.
That afternoon, we took it easy. Kirk put photos up on the internet and I rested, still feeling pretty drained from the food poisoning or whatever. We considered doing something like going to the Matrix, but it wasn't showing today. It actually was starting tomorrow at the IMAX. THAT sounded good!
Later in the afternoon, Michelle left to give some violin lessons and Chelsea went to the stables to go horseback riding.
Around 7, Doug, Megan and Dustin came home from work. Shortly after, Michelle came home and made dinner -- chicken adobo, a Phillipino dish. Then we had a fantastic dinner. My first real meal in a few days! It was delicious! Not that I ate a ton, but it was good! Doug is a riot! In fact the entire family is quite fun. Even if we had not seen ANYTHING in Singapore the entire time we were there, we would have been entirely content and blessed by the time we spent with this family! They are wonderful!
June 20, 2003, Singapore:
We woke up slowly. I told Kirk that I hadn't slept so well since we were in New Zealand, and I was completely serious. We had our devotional time and then Kirk asked me whether I wanted to stay longer. We talked about it and then he went down to call Singapore Airlines and see if he could change our tickets. He was successful. He changed them to leave early Sunday morning. But then, we decided we'd rather stay another day and go to church with Michelle and Doug's family. So, he called the airline back and pushed the flight back ANOTHER day!
When we saw Michelle, I jokingly told her perhaps we wouldn't leave at all! She laughed and said that's fine, but we'd have to take turns doing the dishes. "NO PROBLEM!," I answered. She told us about other people who had come to stay that had ended up staying longer than anticipated. A couple of times, people had stayed 2 weeks or so, but one guy had stayed 6 months! Wow! No, I told her, we're really only staying until Sunday night. We wanted to go to church with you on Sunday. She was really happy at that. Plus, they had a Bible Study on Friday night (tonight). Cool!
We made some breakfast; Kirk had cereal (he misses that -- he hasn't had it in MONTHS), and I had toast with peanut butter. Then we just hung around the house for a while. We figured out with Chelsea and Michelle when the Matrix was showing and how to get there. It turned out that they were going to a dentist appointment nearby shortly before we had to be there, so we decided to get a ride with them to their appointment and then take a shuttle from there. We'd catch a bus home afterwards.
When it was almost time to leave, we all grabbed a quick sandwich and then piled into Michelle's VW Beetle. As we were pulling out of the driveway, the car was lurching and sputtering terribly whenever she tried to accelerate; something was terribly wrong with her car. As a result, it took quite a bit longer to get where we were going and she was late for her dentist appointment. They dropped us off and we ran to where the shuttle was supposed to pick up. It was 3:12. The movie was due to start at 3:30. The shuttle runs every 30 minutes. We didn't know if it had just picked up or if it would come soon. We decided to get a taxi. It only cost us S$3 (which is about US$1.75).
We headed into the mall and up to the theatre
and Kirk hurried ahead to get tickets for The Matrix: Reloaded
(we were hoping they wouldn't be sold out, since it just opened today. It turns out that we DID get tickets...on the fourth row. We weren't too sure about that, since we were going into an IMAX movie, but we DID get seats, so we took the tickets and headed on in. Kirk bought me some water and a coke and popcorn for himself and we went into the theatre. The seats were actually pretty good. The movie wasn't too bad. It definitely was a cliffhanger, leaving you wanting to see Revolutions, the last movie in the series.
After the movie, we missed the 6PM shuttle and we quickly realized that if we waited for the next one, we'd be late for bible study. We decided to take a cab home. It didn't cost all that much and it got us home just 10 minutes before everyone else. We had some delicious lasagna for dinner and then got ready to leave for the study.
Bible study that night was a lot of fun. We met Paul and Leslie, some friends of Michelle and Doug's and studied the text of 1 John 2:3-14
. After the study, we had some carrot cake (yum) and then said our goodbyes.
June 21, 2003, Singapore:
It's hard not to wake up happy when you are sleeping on a wonderfully soft mattress (not saggy, or too soft, but just perfect! And not rock hard, like we have had for the last 4 months in Southeast Asia and India) and are treated to air conditioning and have silence! We are completely spoiled here! Maybe we WON'T leave!
Kirk adjusted the showerhead to give a little more waterflow. It's much better now. We had some breakfast and then chatted with Chelsea and Michelle when they got back from the stables. Doug's at work. Then, Michelle left to take Dustin and Megan to the dentist. We headed out to try some sightseeing, although, as I said before, if we had done nothing but hang out with this family, we would have considered our time here a rip-roaring success! Armed with lots of information and our travelguide, we headed out the door for the bus stop. The first bus to come along was 61, which we knew went to West Mall, so we hopped on.
At West Mall, we found a used bookstore and I bought some new reading material. Finally! I got "The Covenant" by James Michener
, which is about South Africa, our next destination. This is like being back at home. Except that EVERYWHERE you go is like a giant mall. The stores are much the same as at home, plus Australia, New Zealand, England, and a few other countries. They have all the major stores and brands here. We even saw a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf! In fact, we saw SEVERAL! Everytime we passed one, Kirk would ask me if I wanted to go in...he was tempting me to go into an American chain! It was about the only place that truly WAS tempting!
After buying our books, we decided to go and get lunch, but Kirk's boot suddenly let loose again! This is the 7th time now that this boot has needed repair!! Lowa is definitely going to get a letter from us when we get home! We found a shoe repair, but he needed to keep the boot overnight and that's what Kirk was wearing for the day. Kirk gave it to him anyway, and we headed upstairs to the dollar store, where he bought a pair of flip flops for a Singapore dollar (US$0.59). Then we started looking for a place for lunch! At the food court on the top floor, my stomach was doing flips -- all the food seemed to be sitting out and none of it looked fresh. We ended up breaking our long-standing rule and going downstairs to KFC. It was very bland food and at least I could eat it (although I couldn't even finish a large popcorn chicken -- it was too much food).
From there, we went and found the MRT (metro rail). We wanted to go to Chinatown. The MRT is pretty easy to use. We decided the Outram Park Station would be closest, so we bought a ticket there and then got on a train. When we arrived at Outram Park, we saw signs for the brand new North East Line
that had just opened two days before and actually would take us straight to Chinatown! We decided to give it a try! It was a cinch! And it came right up on Pagoda Street!
Singapore China Town
Sri Mariamman Temple
Some of the many Hindu gods
I'm not sure what I was expecting out of Chinatown
. Perhaps something like the Chinatown of Bangkok. But this place was very pristine. Many of the old buildings had already been torn down and replaced, as well, so I'm sure that much of the old character of the place had disappeared with the buildings. We walked up and down the various streets, getting a feel for the place. We stopped and bought a couple of large drinks at a 7-11 and then kept on going down one of the streets. Then, we stumbled upon the Sri Mariamman Temple
. Originally built in 1827, renovated in 1862, it's a Hindu temple with some of the most colourful statuary I've ever seen. It has a simply amazing front gate that we saw from well over a block away. After looking around there for a while, we decided that we would do a walking tour that included all the temples and mosques in the area and plotted a route to ensure we didn't miss any.
Thian Hock Keng Temple
Altar at Thian Hock Keng
Next, we went to see the Nagore Durgha Shrine
. Unfortunately, it was boarded up, as if they were either doing renovations or perhaps it was unsafe and they were just keeping people out. We could just barely make out the towers on the corners of the shrine. So, instead, we headed down to Thian Hock Keng Temple
, which dates from 1839 and was built as a place to give thanks for a safe voyage. It was an amazing piece of work and quite beautiful
. We went on down the block to Al-Abrar Mosque
, which was quite nice. We met a man upstairs who was from India. He chatted with us while we took a look at the sanctuary from above.
Yueh Hai Ching Temple
Yueh Hai Ching Temple
We headed on to the Wak Hai Cheng Bio Temple
(which is also known as Yueh Hai Ching). It dates from 1826 and is a Teo Chew temple. Pretty much all of the temples we had seen today had been built for the specific purpose of giving thanks for safe journeys. This temple was quite different from the others we had seen in that there were no deities or images worshipped.
Next we headed over to Clifford Pier
to get a look at the Harbor. On the way, we walked through Raffles Place, which Kirk thought looked very "typical" Singapore
. I enjoyed the "Progress and Advancement" sculpture that was there. I got a good laugh walking over the covered bridge crossing the road to Clifford Pier. The bridge was lined on both sides with shops...proving that Singapore is, indeed, just a giant shopping mall! When we got to Clifford Pier, we got a good look at the harbor, including the infamous Esplanade. The Esplanade
is the "acoustically perfect", but "aesthetically offensive" (depending on who you talk to) building that was designed by the same guy who did the Sydney Opera House. To many, it looks like a beetle.
Chelsea, Donna, Michelle, Kirk, Doug, Dustin, & Megan
(Click picture for full size)
We decided to head back to the MRT and try to figure out where the American Club
was. It's where we were having dinner with Doug and Michelle and family and we figured it would be easier if we could meet them there instead of making them come pick us up. We found it on a map and found we could get there easily by getting to the Orchard MRT station. We got to the station and then called Michelle to let her know we'd meet them there. Then, we wandered around for a while before walking to the club to meet them.
Dinner was fantastic! The food was, too! They had all sorts of food, including Mexican, which I had (gosh, I haven't had Mexican food in 9 months)! Kirk had a French dip. And ice tea! With free refills! Wowee!! But the most fun was the conversation. On the way home, they drove us all over the place, trying to make sure we had seen certain sights, Raffles Hotel
, The Sultan Mosque
(the biggest in Singapore), all sorts of stuff! They were great!
When we got home, we decided to put in a movie...the Princess Bride
!! It was great! Chelsea, Megan and even Michelle knew the movie lines as well as (if not better than) I did! Doug and Kirk were ready to kill us for reciting the lines before they happened (although they'd seen the movie a few times themselves)!
June 22, 2003, Singapore:
Another great day!! And our last in Singapore. When Kirk and I went down for breakfast, Doug was the only one downstairs. Chelsea came down a little later. If the others didn't hurry, we'd be late for church. Doug had said this might happen. He got 'em moving, though, and we were out the door only one minute later than he had said he wanted to be. I wore my Lao skirt to church...it's already too big. Megan said she'd alter it for me later.
We were heading for St. George's Church
, a landmark, built in the 19th century. The brickwork was quite amazing and the church is open air. St. George's is involved in mission work in Cambodia and Laos. I was particularly interested in their work in Laos with all the religious persecution
going on there and in light of our travels there. The sermon was good and tied in with the Bible study we did on Friday night.
Black & White
After church, Michelle and Doug and family drove us around to do some more sightseeing. First, they took us to see some "black and whites
". The old colonial homes in Singapore used to be painted with a black and white paint scheme. Some of them still remain and are beautiful. We drove around some neighborhoods looking for them. Michelle and Doug moved to Singapore 21 years ago for a 2 year stint. They are still here! Ha! They are great
tour guides! Eventually, we headed back to the house.
Michelle took us to do some errands and then we went back to the house and watched Silverado
, which apparently no one (other than Kirk or I) had seen. Afterwards, we went to the mall to pick up Kirk's now-fixed boot and see if we could help Doug pick out a new cell phone. Doug's one of these people who uses his phone to call people. He doesn't need a whole lot of bells and whistles. He just wants the phone to work. In Singapore, there are more bells and whistles on the phones than you can imagine! Well, we helped him pick one out, but then he couldn't buy it, because his company had to buy it. Believe me! Singapore has more crazy rules than you can imagine.
Back at home, everyone went their different ways for the afternoon. Megan repaired my skirt and we hung out chatting for quite a while. She's quite a seamstress. She's working on a really cool quilt, using pieces of her favorite t-shirts from high school. I've thought about doing that with my old rowing t-shirts. Meanwhile, I also did laundry and tried to colour-proof a pair of pants I bought in Thailand (but it didn't work). It turns out, Megan attends Biola in the LA area. We are hoping to get together when we are all back in LA. She'll be returning to school in August and we should be home shortly after.
Around 6:30, we all piled into the car and left to get Chelsea (she was at the stables) and then off to dinner. We went to Doug's favorite Sichuan restaurant, Hua Zhu Restuarant
, Blk 4 Queen's Road (Off Farrer Road), #02-101 Singapore 260004. There are so many restaurants in Singapore
, it's a miracle they ever found this one! Doug ordered for everyone and, let me tell you, the food was fantastic!! We had sweet and sour pork, chili prawns, lemon chicken, some sort of peppered beef, sauted vegetables, hot and sour soup, fried rice and white rice. There was TONS of food! It was served family style, so heaping plates were brought to the table and you just reached in and got what you wanted! I couldn't eat a whole lot but I tried a little of everything!
After dinner, we piled back into the car for the drive back to the house. Chelsea and Megan started singing songs from the Veggie Tales
for some reason, cracking us all up! When we got back to the house, the girls put on a Veggie Tales Singalong video and we packed our backpacks. When we were finished packing, we all went downstairs to watch a movie. Now, let me say a little about this movie watching thing. Doug doesn't watch a lot of movies. But when he does, he chooses the movies he wants to watch carefully. He watches movies that he finds entertaining. He doesn't worry about what is considered a "chick" flick or whether it's an "action" flick or whatever. Tonight, he wanted to watch "Ever After
", so we did. As it turned out, Kirk had never seen it before, so we made a rule...no saying movie lines or talking out of turn, so Kirk could try and actually watch the movie! I think I actually only accidentally said two movie lines! (I did apologize).
After the movie, all the kids went to bed. Megan had already gone to sleep. She was feeling sick and needed rest. We said goodnight and goodbye to Chelsea and Dustin. Then we got our packs and Michelle and Doug very graciously drove us to the airport, despite the fact that it was late and they had to be up early for work the next morning.
Now, let me say something here: this family is amazing. We have been truly blessed by them. As it turns out, they are from (at least on Doug's side) California, and come back to visit often. In fact, in August, they'll be back in the LA area to visit. We've asked them to come and visit King's Harbor Church
, even though we won't be there to show them around yet. We are very much hoping that someone from our Friends and Family group will agree to host them (take them to church and introduce them around, perhaps even go to lunch or dinner with them afterwards, depending on which service they attend). They have been so wonderful for us, and we would love for them to see KHC and attend one of our services and to meet some of our church family!
At the airport, we said goodbye (I almost climbed back in the car and just said take me back with you). We went to find our check in counter and realized quickly that the plane we were going to be on was actually continuing on from Johannesburg to Capetown after we got off! That's where WE wanted to go! We went to the Singapore Airlines office to see if there was any possibility of changing our ticket to stay onboard. In fact, it looked like they were going to let us do it for a $75 change fee, but then they realized it was going to put us 700 miles over our 40,000 mile limit and we couldn't. Oh well.
June 23, 2003, Singapore:
(It's after midnight, hence a new day)! We went and checked in and then continued through immigration and security. Going through immigration, customs and security at the Singapore airport is a complete breeze. It's almost easier than a domestic flight in the US. Then, as we walked by a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Kirk looked at me and said "last chance"... I caved in! I had a small decaf vanilla ice blended with no whipcream! Yum! Just like home! Except it sure seemed sugary! Gosh, it's hard to believe I used to drink those all the time!
We went into the waiting area, where they had TVs in various sections, each showing a different TV show. We originally sat away from any of them, but eventually moved to the one showing Dharma & Greg. We had seen that show when Kirk was sick in Delhi and it was pretty funny. We watched for a few minutes before boarding the flight.
We didn't have great seats this time and there was someone sitting in the third seat in our row. Oh well. We were on Singapore Airlines again, though, and they have great inflight entertainment and services. We had a 10 hour flight ahead of us. And lots of on demand movies to watch if we wanted to! And I WANTED to! Kirk and I sat there playing interactive games on the screens (against one another) while we waited for the boarding and preflight procedures to finish. Eventually, they came by and told us to put the remotes away, but we were still able to play the games with the remotes in the cradle. As the plane taxied down the runway, though, the games clicked off. As the plane left the ground, and we officially left Singapore, I was filled with a sense of both contentment and a bit of sadness. We had enjoyed our four short days with Michelle and Doug's family. But the days were very short. We would have loved to have spent more time with them. Perhaps another time!
On to another adventure in South Africa!
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