Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Singapore Delights

Again, back tracking a bit, this is a double post, if you missed the one about Litchfield National Park go check it out!

I’m in Bangkok now, where the internet is passable and the weather is a billion degrees compared to Melbourne. I rather love hot humid weather, the way it lays on you like a blanket at night, the way it feels like you’re moving though a  sauna during the day.

Yesterday was delightful. After arriving tired and somewhat grumpy and realizing that the sun wasn’t up for another two hours I almost considered scraping my crazed itinerary in favor of staying in the ridiculously well set up Changi Airport ( they have movies and video games and a pool and everything). But as dawn broke I decided that I was going to make the best of it.

I check my bags into the luggage room, grabbed the train into the city and headed for the botanic gardens. I had no map and no real idea where I was going but because it was Singapore everyone was very polite and spoke English so I managed to catch the right trains and busses and arrived, well before the crowds at the beautiful Botanical Gardens. The smells were delightful, the air was warm but no unbearable and the plants were amazing.

The Botanical Garden houses a very special section, the Orchid House, and there’s where I headed, pausing to check out the Ginger Flower section for a minute. The Orchid House was lovely, hundreds, maybe even thousands of different orchids were all happily growing dressing the garden in a lush colors.

So many different kinds of flowers. Big ones, small ones, ones that didn’t even look like orchids, green ones, white ones, orange ones, purple ones. I was in orchid heaven. I spent an hour or so just looking at these beautiful little masterpieces. Just as I was leaving the tour buses were arriving and hordes of tourist came flocking in ruining the serene and somewhat magical atmosphere of the park. Good timing on my part.

I then grabbed another bus and another train and headed to Chinatown, it was just past 11am by this point. I had 2 hours left before I needed to make it back to the airport. My hope was to pick up some food and then head to Little India to track down an ultra cool store. I didn’t account for the weather.

No sooner had I stepped out of the subway did it start to rain. Not a little bit of rain either, torrential South East Asian rain. I had to buy and umbrella to protect my camera and then I wandered, slowly through the flooded streets of Chinatown looking for food. To no avail. I did stumble upon two magnificent temples though, one was as South East Indian style temple, which made me cry a bit as I watched the morning puja and lit a candle for myself. The next was the Buddha Tooth Temple which was spectacularly photogenic and filled with lovely smelling incense.

I got directions to an indoor market where I could grab some food even in the rain. So up wet stairs and into a concrete market I headed. There were delicious smells coming form nearly every stall and way too many options.

“ You should get those ones,” A kindly older Singapore woman said and pointed to some steamed dumplings.  I nodded and ordered myself a tray. The woman offered me a chair and I sat and talked with her and her husband about the foods of Singapore. They bought me a sugar cane drink (which was actually safe because it’s Singapore) and I pretended like I had never had one before.

They were retired and looking for some company over lunch, I was happy for the conversation. They even helped me cut in line so I could get some slow cooked broth roasted (don’t know) chicken and spicy noodles. I was so full I could barely have another bit but I love real Chinese food and this was its Mecca.

By the time I finished lunch I realized it was time to head back so I grabbed the train and rode it back to the airport, walked right up to my terminal and sat and enjoyed the two hours left to me on the free wi-fi. All in all the second best layover I’ve had, it didn’t beat Amsterdam but It was still one of the better days I’ve had in the last couple of months.

Now I’m in Bangkok, writing in Ethos Café. This is our favorite Bangkok haunt, their chocolate and coconut and masala coconut shakes are divine, even if their prices are a little steep (for Thailand that is, still a steal compared to wherever you are).

I have three more days here before my flight and I’m doing my best to pass the time well.

When I was a little girl my grandfather used to take me swimming at a lake in the summer. There he would teach me how to swim, he was a very good swimmer, I am regrettably, not. I would practice holding my breath and swimming underwater. In order to expand my lung capacity he told me “ Katie when you’re under water and you feel like you’re out of air and you can’t go any more, just go a little more, just one more stroke.”

I feel like I’ve long since run out of air, this is my one more stroke.

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