Ah, Singapore. Where the temperature is a constant humid 85 degrees, where a gentle breeze is always blowing, where the traffic hums along and the sidewalks gleam and the living is easy.
This has been a moment of calm in my SE Asia journey, a little moment to rest and recuperate, to stock up on a few things (hello, regular toothpaste!) and to actually have a minute to reflect and think.
Yesterday, after eating breakfast, I ventured to the Singapore Botanical Gardens, which has two major things going for it: one, it's big and peaceful and serene, and two, it's FREE! Thankfully, Singapore has not turned out to be as expensive as I feared (in part because I'm really used to living in expensive cities), and I think you can get by here without spending all your money right away. I took the MRT to the gardens (S$1.50) and wandered around the entire park for hours. (You do pay to go in the National Orchid Garden, which was S$5.)
After, I enjoyed my hyper air-conditioned return back to the part of town where I"m staying, getting off a stop early on the MRT and wandering around this fancy shopping mall for a while. I bought an umbrella treated with UV protection at the big fancy department store (S$12) and then some essentials at a drugstore (including real toothpaste). I wandered around the expensive food court in the basement and had a little snack of a sandwich that came with some BBQ potato chips and a tablespoon of coleslaw (S$7). My point in listing all the prices here is to demonstrate that things are actually pretty reasonable by Western standards ($1USD = ~ S$1.33), or at least by San Francisco standards, which I am pretty sure is now THE most expensive city in the US.
Anyhoo, after all my errands, I went back to the hostel and relaxed for a bit, then headed out to meet a friend from boarding school and his wife for dinner. We ate some yummy Hunanese food, and it was great to catch up and talk about who we'd seen from high school in recent years and chat.
Today, I ventured to the Peranakan Museum, which focuses on the Peranakan people of Singapore/the Malay Peninsula, who are the descendents of immigrant-born Chinese (and also Indonesian, Indian and Malay) people who came here from the 15th - 17th centuries. They did quite well under British rule and tended to be quite wealthy, and the museum focused on daily life as well as the bigger ceremonies, especially weddings and funerals. There's a great deal of beautiful handicrafts on display, and I enjoyed seeing all the beautiful beadwork and embroidery. Immigration and culture is so fascinating in general; I find it so interesting that cultures are really always changing and evolving, absorbing new trends and aesthetics while retaining important parts of the past. In the beadwork designs, you see motifs that are clearly influenced by Europe as well as ones that are intrinsic to Chinese design (such as lotus flowers and the lion-dog).
Afterwards, I went back to my favourite mall and had a salad (yes, a salad) from one of those NY-style salad counters where you tell someone what to put in your salad. ("I'll have some tomatoes, please, and some chickpeas...") Yeah, yeah, I should be eating nothing but Asian food on this trip... whatever! Don't judge me! It's been six weeks and I wanted a nice crunchy healthy salad filled with tomatoes and bell peppers and chicken and balsamic vinaigrette, OK!? I promise I'll be eating Asian food again tomorrow (looking forward to laksa ... yummers).
On that note, I'm off to meet my old dormmate from UCSB for dinner. Now that I am back in a part of the world where the Internet moves at a reasonable pace, I hope to update more often. Miss y'all!