Friday, February 19, 2010
See You in Singapore
One of the best things about being an expat, is that you meet other expats, people that you would never have met if you hadn't left your home countries. When I think about my friends here, there are lots from the US, but also Canada, Malaysia, China, Japan, the UK, South Africa, India, Sweden, and more. Some of my closest friends from my time in Korea are from Singapore. My friend W invited us to come to Singapore for Chinese New Year (Luna New Year). Our friend, S, who moved to Taiwan was going to be in Singapore for CNY as well. What an amazing opportunity to be with friends and see their home country through their eyes (and stomachs)!
Fortunately, we bought the airline tickets before our trip to the States over Christmas, otherwise, I probably would have backed out because Eva is not much fun to travel with (mobile but not bribe-able). But, the flight from Seoul to Singapore is only 6.5 hours with a 1 hour time difference so it wasn't that bad.
We managed to coordinate getting all three families together. Ian had a great time playing with the kids:
The word for Singapore is easy. It is a busy island port with warm weather, lots of shopping and even more eating opportunities. Most Americans probably think about the caning case of an American teenager for vandalism when they think of Singapore. Though the rules are strictly enforced, it does not feel oppressive. (However, I would not want to live there with a teenager who might make stupid mistakes since the stakes are high and trials are swift and punishments are swifter). Take this humorous sign encouraging you to be polite:
But, the fines for violating the rules are serious:
Does anyone love durian enough to risk a $5,000 fine?
By the way, I did get to taste a durian dessert. It was creamy and sweet but there was a kind of peppery after taste and smell that was like vomit. But, it is hard to say whether that was from the fruit or because I had vomited earlier in the day (terrible sinus headache compounded by the heat) I would like to try fresh durian eventually.
We stayed with our friends in a government pension flat. The government built lots of affordable apartment buildings so that anyone who wants to own (or at least rent) property, can. The last time my friend looked into buying an older attached house with a small front garden, it was $1.5 million. Since they don't live in Singapore full-time, but visit every few months, they bought one of these flats. The flat originally had 4 small bedrooms and a walled-off kitchen. My friend created a master suite by combining two of the bedrooms and a bathroom. She had the walls around the kitchen taken down so there is more room for the kitchen which flows into a livingroom/diningroom area. We stayed in the guest bedroom which was large enough for a queen sized bed and a full-size mattress on the floor in front of it (for Ian). The other room is used as an office. It was great for us and much better than staying in a hotel with the kids.
There are lots of malls in Singapore with foreign stores (there are even two IKEAs). The prices on foreign goods are much cheaper than Korea from what I saw. We went there to eat, not shop, but if I lived there, I would have plenty of shopping. There is a good metro system and cabs are easy to get, but you really don't have to walk far to get to eat somewhere.