Our Adventure Draws to a CloseApril 14, 2018 in Singapore ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C
One last day before we return home.
We began the day in Saigon with another delicious breakfast of SEA delights (who needs eggs and bacon when you can have noodles, pho and dim sum) and a final cup of iced Vietnamese coffee. Then, we set off to explore the Second District, which Une (my scooter driver) had told me was very interesting, and a must-see. According to Une, it is very green and filed with beautiful parks and houses. So, off we went. What we discovered was a big ex pat enclave, filled with big houses, gated neighborhoods, signs in English and tons of Westerners. As Arie astutely pointed out, this is exactly the type of neighborhood that would impress a 24 year old Vietnamese girl! As we walked along the streets, we were struck - for the millionth time - by the economic disparities in the country. The rich in this country are so very, very rich, and the poor are so very, very poor. While this is true throughout the world, the differences seem much starker here. And, the fact these differences exist in a supposedly communist country is astonishing. We ended our visit to District 2 with a stop at Osterberg’s ice cream — a Copenhagen creamery that specializes in tropical fruit flavor. It was delicious.
After having some good ice cream, and a quick dip in the pool, we packed our suitcases and headed for home.
But, we had one more stop to make . . . Singapore. When we were planning our flights, Arie told me that we’d have to stop in Singapore. He suggested that we add one additional day to our trip, so that we could explore Singapore. At the time that we were getting our tickets, I was fixated on having to be back in the office on Monday, April 16th and was adamant that we could not add a single extra day to our trip. What a dope! As we traveled through Asia, I decided that we had to move our tickets so that we could have a day in Singapore. Unfortunately, we simply could not get an earlier flight, so we only had 14 hours in the country, most of which were at night. Not one to let sleep get in the way of an adventure, I decided that we were going to squeeze as much adventure as possible into the few hours that we had, and Arie, being a good sport, was willing to join me.
We arrived at the Singapore airport at 7 pm, zipped through customs (so efficient), grabbed our bags and checked into the airport hotel. After quickly changing clothes, we summoned a “grab car” (the equivalent of Uber) and headed into town. As always, we had an interesting chat with our driver. He was born and raised in Singapore, and worked for IBM as a “middle manager” until he was fired two years ago during a layoff. He has been unable to find a job in the last two years, so he is driving for a living. He told us something very interesting — cars are considered a luxury item in Singapore and are very heavily taxed. His car, which is a Lexus, cost him a total of $170,000 USD — which included taxes in the same amount as the purchase price fo the car, as well as a license fee that is about $50,000. To add insult to injury, a car can only be driven for 10 years. At the end of 10 years, the owner must turn the car in and a small refund (approx $20,000) will be issued, The cars are either crushed, or if they are in good shape, sold outside of Singapore. Of course, the owner doesn’t get whatever profit is made on the sale of the car — that goes to the government.
When we arrived downtown, we saw lots of tall office buildings. English is the primary language used in Singapore, so all of the signs are in English. Given the throwing litter is illegal (punishable by a $500 fine), the streets are immaculate. We had about an hour before dinner at Nouri — a restaurant that Maya had eaten at when she was briefly in town. We had the cab drop us off in Chinatown, so we could stroll through the Hawker Market before dinner. Unlike in Vietnam or even Thailand, where everything seems thrown together, the Hawker Markets in Singapore have permanent stalls, and full-size tables and chairs. The food looked delicious, and was pretty inexpensive. Since we were on our way to a multi-course meal, we decided not to snack along the way.
When we walked into Nouri, the sommelier asked if we had a reservation. When we gave Maya’s name (as she had made the reservation), he gave us a broad smile and said, “oh, you must be Maya’s parents. We had such a great time when she was with us a few weeks ago!” What a lovely welcome. We got a great table near the kitchen, so we could watch the chefs at work. As soon as we sat down, Ivan — the owner of the restaurant — came over and greeted us warmly. When we said we were Maya’s parents, he flashed us a big smile and said that he’d really enjoyed meeting her when she came to the restaurant. Over the next few hours, we had one of the best meals of our entire trip. Every bite was just delicious.
As dinner came to a close, Ivan came up to us and asked if we wanted to take a walk after dinner. When we said that sounded fun, he suggested two different routes, one which took us to the Gardens by the Bay, which I had read about. So, we set off through town towards the Gardens. The walk was beautiful, but very, very hot. After walking about a mile, we came to the entrance of the Gardens. in the distance, we could see a huge building that looked just like a spaceship — three towers crowned by a single immense oval. As we walked in the direction of the tower, we saw lights of red and purple projected on the oval, and five beams of light coming out of one side. So weird looking. But, we were in for a far more striking site — the Supertrees. There are about a dozen of these “trees,” which are metal structures that range from nine to sixteen stories tall and look like trees. Each of the trees is illuminated with blue violet lights, and there are plants and vines growing on them. Even at night, they are simply extraordinary looking. We wandered in and amongst the trees for quit a while, but as the time closed in on 1 am, we decided it was time to get a little shut eye.
As I said to Arie as we drove to the hotel, we managed to squeeze as much fun into an 8 week sabbatical as is humanly possible. From flying out hours after we finished work, to walking around in Singapore just hours before our flight home . . .what a fantastic adventure.Read more