Singapore yesterday was great. I knew Singaore was one of the five countries that make up the Asian Tigers, having advanced both socially and economically by leaps and bounds in the late 90s and early 2000s but after having lived in Indonesia for upwards of a month now, I wasn’t prepared…
Oh! They just brought around lunch. what a happy surprise!
Upon opening the box, I was disappointed to find a cup of water and a factory bun. I didn’t try it but previous experience has taught me that these buns are sweet, yellow, sometimes filled with jam, custard, or what passes for chocolate here, and contain absolutely nothing of nutritional value (see picture). I avoid them whenever I can. I’m actually fairly hungry, and the disappointment was immediate. I didn’t realize I was making a face until my cheeks started to ache. I took a picture of myself and immediately cracked up, though quietly, as my seat-mates on either side are sleeping.
Anyway, as I was saying, Singapore was amazing. It was impressively clean, and well laid out with wide roads and stoplights where people actually stopped! It also had a fantastic transit system which I took full advantage of in my day exploring the city. The morning was spent shopping with the other volunteer I was traveling with. I picked up a headset with a microphone which will mean I can stop spitting all over the top of my laptop screen as I lean in to speak directly into the integrated microphone, as well as a small pair of speakers. My travel mate wanted to continue shopping but I was ready to get out and see the city so we parted ways and I skipped off to explore. Singapore’s subway system is highly efficient and is almost identical to the London subway system in terms of using a pre-loaded card pay your fare and automated gates that automatically deduct from your balance when you exit based on how far you’ve travelled. I was also impressed to see dedicated bus and bicycle lanes, which after the jagged, garbage strewn, open sewers and motorcycle choked traffic mayhem I have come to expect from Denpasar in Bali were like a vision from a dream.
Lunch was followed by a lazy stroll through back alleys and side streets as I tried to memorize the sights and smells and sounds to take back with me.
After having my fill of the sights of Little India, my next stop was Chinatown which was also bustling with activity. I cut my time in Chinatown short as it was getting late and I wanted to check out the harbor before having to get back and catch my flight but as I turned to head back toward the subway, a familiar smell tickled my unsuspecting nostrils. It was sweet, but also sour, with an oniony undertone and both floral and gym sock-esque notes. I swivelled my head to see a man and woman tag-team frantically frying up durian flapjacks, the steam rising from their cooking surface filing the air with that unmistakable scent.
Oh…it appears we are landing in Sumba…I`d better switch off. Sumba (which is in `Pulau Suba Barat`, as the lady next to me patiently explained. That either means the Island of North Sumba or the island of South Sumba. Just looked it up in my dictionary, it`s West Sumba) looks at least from the air and from the airstrip to be incredibly flat and dry compared to Ende, much more of an arid scrubby grassland feel than the lush greenery found in Ende. These milk run flights are pretty standard, as the cheapest flights always involve stopovers somewhere or another. Ende is our next stop though.
Anyway, back to SIngapore. I considered eating the durian for the sake of science and then thought better of it in the interest of seeing the waterfront. Besides, I already tried durian once when someone showed up with it late one night and I had a few pieces. The flavor jury is still deliberating. I spent the last of my afternoon in Singapore wandering the waterfront while listening to Radiolab podcasts and also checked out the giant statue of Singapore’s national symbol, the “Merlion”, which is exactly what it sounds like. Why can’t Canada have a mythical beast for a national animal?