Yesterday’s missions: Accomplished! After a nap yesterday, I headed out to explore Singapore (Anyone seen “Up”? The wilderness must be explored! Caw, caw! Raargh!) I got some money changed at my hotel, which was very convenient. Armed with a handful of Singaporean cash and coins, I headed off to the nearest bus stop to begin my second mission of the day- conquering the public transportation system. After a quite confusing look at the bus stop schedule, I determined that I should get on number 190 to Orchard Road. If you know anything about Singapore, you know that Orchard Road means one thing- SHOPPING!!! I definitely identified myself as a foreigner when I didn’t know where to put my coins in the meter on the bus. Luckily, the driver was helpful and I successfully made it to my seat. My next dilemma was figuring out when and how to get off this bus. When we had arrived at what looked like a major tourist area, I jumped off and followed the crowd. A little scared and not knowing where to go next, I bolted toward the closest familiar thing- a department store! I spent a few minutes regaining my composure by browsing handbags and then headed outside. I don’t know whether it was fate, luck, or divine intervention, but I had jumped off that bus right next to the train station, which was exactly where I needed to be! I went down the escalator to the underground station and bought myself a tourist pass which will give me unlimited rides on the trains and buses for $8 Singapore dollars a day. (That’s about $5.50 American- pretty good, eh?)
I walked around Orchard Road for a little while longer and looked at all the shops. There is basically a multi-story mall on every other block on Orchard Road with large deparment stores and designer shops (Armani, Prada, etc.) in between. While walking around, I noticed two things- 1. Everyone is dressed really cute all the time and 2. It smells like Asian food everywhere all the time. I would soon learn that there are two things Singaporeans love more than anything- shopping and eating. Needless to say, I fit in well here : ) My only problem while shopping was that I kept walking on the wrong side of the aisles (they drive on the other side of the road here, and walk that way, too). I got really good at smiling and saying, “Sorry!”
By now, it was getting close to the time I was supposed to meet Natalie for dinner, so I got on the Red train heading North toward the Ang Mo Kio hub. I found the Subway restaurant (yup, looks just like the ones here) where I was meeting Natalie (she picked a familiar-looking place so it would be easy for me to find, which I was very thankful for). I had about an hour to kill until Natalie arrived and the constant permeating smell of Asian food was really starting to overwhelm me, so I decided to take refuge from my culture shock inside the nearest McDonalds. I took my small bag of fries outside to eat it, where I continued to be bombarded by the smell of Asian cusine. “Can’t I just eat my fries in greasy American peace???” I screamed inside. After finishing my little taste of home while sitting across from a little old Singaporean lady, I headed back to the Subway. I found Natalie and she gave me a little tour of the shopping center, including a fruit market (crazy-looking fruit!) and Asian beef jerky (made from pork and chicken, and even more delicious). We then met up with her friend, Dawn and jumped on a bus to another part of town.
Dinner in itself was an unforgettable experience. Natalie and Dawn took me to a place called a Hawker Center. Basically, it is a place to get local cuisine very cheap ($2-3 a meal). It is a huge outdoor pavillion with food vendors located in stalls all around the outside. First, you find a table. Then, someone from your party stays at the table while the others go order food. The vendors then bring the food to your table and you pay them there. Luckily for me, Dawn took care of ordering the food and I got to sit back and take it all in. She came back in a few minutes and said, “I hope you’re ready for this, because after all this food, you won’t need to eat for weeks!” First, the drinks arrived- Sugar cane juice with lemon (think very sweet, mild lemonade). Then plate upon plate of local cuisine arrived and, after brushing up on my chopsticks skills, I dug in. I ate fried oysters, chicken and beef skewers, fried carrot cake (actually made with radishes?), chicken wings roasted over an open fire, fried fish dough, bok choy- a green vegetable (for an attempt at nutritional value, Dawn said), and best of all- sting ray (yes, as in the animal that murdered Steve Irwin). It was all a little overwhelming but ridiculously delicious and after eating all the delicious Asian food, I was finally able to make peace with that smell that now permeated my hair, skin, and clothing. Dinner was amazing- Thank you Natalie and Dawn!!! After a lengthy bus ride home, I arrived back at the Y. As I entered my room, I found a new surprise waiting for me- a roommate! Her name is Belle (I originally thought she had said Bill and was slightly confused, but soon corrected). She is from just north of Bangkok (coincidence?) and is on her way back home from school in Brisbane, Australia where she is studying English. After a nice little chat, she headed to bed and I did the same soon after.
I went for another swim this morning and got to relax in the sun a little, too. I found a “magic toast machine” in the breakfast room at the hotel which made me think of my CITs and smile a little bit. Belle is gone on a bus tour, but I am meeting her later this afternoon, and she is going to join Natalie and I for the evening. She doesn’t have plans for the next two days, so we are planning on seeing the sights together. It will be nice to have a traveling buddy although I must say, I have been doing really well on my own.
Well, it’s time for me to go back out for some more exploration. I think I’m going to try to squeeze in a little more shopping and eating before meeting back up with Belle.
Life Realization of the Day: Asian food is delicious!