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The chronicles of two Portlanders in Singapore

… I don’t mean to say “whatever” like a valley girl from a bad 80’s movie might1“whatEVVEERRRRRR!”.  Far be it for me to pop any attitude or show any snark2Who me?, but rather, I mean to say it was a week of assorted activities.

Beverly was sick the week before.  With a lack of energy and running a bit warm, visions of exotic tropical diseases appeared before our eyes, but it just turned out to be the common cold.  Mixed with the high heat & humidity, it was a truly unpleasant experience, as I ended up fighting it off the week after.  This led to one of our more mundane activities, but noteworthy in its own regard; we called ahead and took dinner away3here, it’s called “take away” instead of “to go”, I’ve noticed..  The regularity of the event is what struck me – here Beverly and I were, myself with a cold, both of us a bit tired, eating on our balcony from plastic takeaway bins, so much like we used to in Larkspur, when we lived right above the Thai place in Larkspur Landing.  I don’t think that was lost on either of us.

Another mundane experience – driving to the supermarket for assorted large quantities of items.  In this case, dehumidifiers4a must here and water5another must.  Aversion to wasting plastic bottles aside, we had been reusing and refilling some bottles I had bought when we moved in, and honestly I felt like the bottles were getting a little funky.  Bev & I decided to try our luck at the Giant supermarket6well named, to be sure in Vivo City – this would also test us a bit on driving and dealing with mall carparks, which are mazes at best.

Vivo City, despite our previous misfortunes, has become a great place for us to eat, shop & even catch the movies.  It’s Singapore’s largest mall, and has a large variety of mid-range brands as well as number of restaurants and services.  We’ve found dog grooming & pet stores, stationary stores, Giant, which is sort of like Walmart or Target in that it has both the goods of a supermarket and a department store.  Golden Village theaters have been a great place to watch the movies – the seats are comfy and getting there is an easy task as the yellow line train connects Holland Village to Vivo City.  At Giant, we found a queue to enter outside, 5 minutes prior to opening.  We soon found out why – there was a large store-wide sale going on and we found our water & dehumidifiers on the cheap.  We didn’t shop around much, though, but we did see a massive bin of loose cans of Tiger for S$2 a piece.  Not hesitating in the slightest, we loaded up, and checked out with water, dehumidifiers and beer.  Essentials, the lot of them.

This was Monday the 1st of June, a public holiday here in Singapore7For those curious, it’s Vesak Day, celebrating the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha..  We had a small breakfast earlier so we decided on a dim sum place in Vivo City for brunch.  We were not disappointed, enjoying xian long bao (xlb) – Chinese buns steamed with a bit of soup inside of them.  The place we went to, Paradise Dynasty, is apparently well-known for their xlb, and they offer a rainbow-colored assortment of buns along with instructions on the proper means of eating them as well as the order in which you should enjoy the variety of flavors.  We cheated a bit as we alternated buns, so I think it’s only proper that I go back and have the complete set in order.

Things were less mundane earlier in the week – through, I found a group called the Expats Quiz Night, a fairly popular bar trivia game run free of charge by an expat quizmaster who runs larger quiz nights to raise funds for charity missions in Cambodia and Laos.  Not really knowing what to expect, Beverly & I arrived on a Tuesday night to the Exchange, a bar on the first story of one of the downtown towers.  One can imagine the scene quite easily, I wager – business attire after business – ties off, shirts loosened, machismo and good looks well on display.  I met up the following night with a neighbor and one of his friends, who, both familiar with the place, described it generously as a meat market.

Let me tell you, there were some expensive cuts on display.

Quiz night, however, was amazing.  We sat next to a family of 4 from Britain, and so when teams of 6 were asked to be formed, it was a natural fit.  We got on amazingly with our new teammates, even swapping phone numbers and talking about golfing outings.  The family was an older couple who lived here, and their children – their son who still lived in Jolly Olde England and their daughter, who was on her way to Australia.  Laughs were in abundance – we joked about how between the six of us, we ought to have everything covered from both sides of the pond.  But we missed a question about the drummer for Queen 8as Paul, our teammates’ patriarch proudly mentioned they were his favorite band, and it was the daughter, whose name is escaping me at the moment, who figured out that “13 S on the AF” meant “13 stripes on the American Flag.”  I’ll be over here holding my red, white & blue shame.

It should come to no surprise to any who know me that I did a bit more than my fair share of answering questions.  I am, as most people know, a repository of useless knowledge.  However, I did miss that Robin Hood was the movie staring Russell Crowe as a folk hero in 2010, and completely drew a blank on the inventor of the World Wide Web9Tim Berners-Lee.  Tim Berners-Lee.  Tim Berners-Lee.  I will not forget Tim Berners-Lee, wrote Bart Simpson.  These missteps cost us a shot at some reward, but team “Yes, Dear” finished in a very healthy second place, scoring a perfect 10 for 10 on food questions, the first full marks of the night.

As I mentioned, Wednesday night I met up with a new friend from across the street, who walks his dog around the same time I take Mini out for her nightly pooping.  We struck up an immediate friendship – Dan is also from the US, Colorado, and has been here for some 16 years if I recall correctly.  His easy-going manner is something that I always enjoy in another person, so it was a great way to spend an evening, having a few beers with him and a friend of his, getting to know a bit more about the city I live in from two fellow North Americans10the friend, Jeff, is a Canadian..

The drinks, though.  This week, I had nothing but Tiger beer when I went out, an inexpensive lager much in the vein of Heineken11indeed, as it is owned & distributed by Heineken, with a distribution and popularity close to Budweiser.  I think all told we likely spent $300 between Tuesday and Wednesday nights, just in Tiger beer.

Now, do you understand why we jumped on the $2 cans?

Over the weekend, in lieu of leaving town, we decided to check out the local beach scene on Sentosa.  I haven’t written much of Sentosa, but that’s not due to any lack of interesting material.  Far from it, in fact, as Sentosa is the “resort island”, home to Universal Studios Resorts and a plethora of other high-end touristy resorts.  That’s all on the west end of the island.  To the east, lies luxury homes and golf courses, and apparently beaches with no leash restrictions.  Saturday morning found Bev, Mini and I out on the beach, taking in sun, salt and sand.  Tanjong beach in particular was an amazing experience – imported sand (Singapore doesn’t really get much in the way of direct waves, it’s shielded by other islands or landmasses on all sides) and a beautifully crafted beach with a small island you can paddle out to, and a small bay for swimming.

I remember every time I go to the beach how much I love salt water.  However, I’ve never been in salt water like this, though – warm, refreshing water, it reminded me some of our time in Tulum on the Caribbean, but even that water wasn’t nearly as warm as this.

Near the beach was the Tanjong Beach Club, a restaurant that offers couches that you can recline on while enjoying brunch or dinner.  Bev & I made a note to come back and enjoy this, perhaps sip on a Bloody Mary as we watch the gentle waves, such as they are, roll in against the pristine sand.

Sunday brought relaxation through other “natural” means, and by “natural” I of course mean man-made constructions of plant and metal and glass – the Gardens by the Bay.  The Gardens are an amazing experience and a true wonder.  Plants from all over Asia are arranged in themed garden areas by country.  Chinese gardens include murals of Chinese herbalism techniques, Indian gardens have virtual cookbooks of spices detailed out in small alcoves extolling the virtues of plants.

Bev & I had been to the Gardens before – the morning on our last day of our house hunting trip was spent walking around and marveling at the various Gardens.  Sunday, however, we met with Tricia and a friend of hers from Chile and went into the Flower Dome & Cloud Forest, two large glass dome areas.   The Flower Dome had a themed event of “Nursery Rhymes”, with flower-studded representations of such classics like The Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe, or Baa Baa Black Sheep.  Also included were Chinese and Malay rhymes, which sadly didn’t translate well into English, but were appreciated none the less.

The Cloud Forest was a 7-story metal & concrete structure sheathed in ivies and other vine plants and flowers, made to look like a humid jungle that was self-sufficient.  Conservation was a major theme within – the bottom stories had some data on global warming, and a documentary called +5 degrees, a scary future-cast of what could happen to the world, should the average temperature rise 5 degrees Celsius.

More permanent fixtures of the Flower Dome included succulents from the world over, including familiar sights like the Agave and Barrel Cacti.  Since the Gardens are less than two years old, it’s amazing the reach they had in sourcing grown plants from every corner of the world.  Even more amazing was the “Mediterranean Climate” section, which immediately felt welcoming, with it’s olive trees and rhododendrons.  I remarked on this to Bev, that it felt – and smelt – like “home”, to which she replied, “no, it reminds me of the Bay Area.”

Well, of course, it’ll always be home to me.

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