This week, Beverly and I are traveling to Singapore on a house-hunting and exploratory trip. During the week, I’m going to be documenting our trip in small bursts and stream-of-thought posts. I’ll place these posts under the tag “house hunting” if you want the full digest.
Well, the first 12 hours of Singapore have not left us wanting in any fashion.
As mentioned, the connecting flight from Narita was delayed1thanks, ObamaMichigan. and we arrived at Changi just shy of 2am local time, strangely exhausted and drained though I believe the entire plane fell asleep somewhere over the South China Sea. Plant life was immediately noticeable – the airport was clean, modern, and abundantly planted with flowers, bushes and even a few small trees. This places Changi very high on my (admittedly small) list of top airports.
The attention to horticulture only magnified outside – Singapore is incredibly rich in tree life, a fact punctuated by our cab driver/official introduction to the city when he mentioned that there are over 3 million (or was it 300 million?) trees growing in the city. It does make a noticeable difference, something Bev confirmed remembering going to New Jersey once for a wedding and noting the oppressive smog and humidity in the now-ironically-named Garden State. At 2:30am, it was a comfortable 26 degrees2Celsius, about 79 F; though the captain, upon our decent into Changi initially misspoke and said “26 Fahrenheit” which lead to one of the all-time-great collective WTF moments. and fairly high (80% or so) humidity.
Our cab driver – perhaps the best introduction to the city one could ask for. Honest advice on driving (don’t, it’s too expensive) and how long it takes most people to acclimate to the climate (a year, ouch.) For his help, he even declined a tip, noting that our appreciation was enough. Was that a hint for a huge tip? I’m not sure and since I only had 5 dollar bills in my wallet, I wasn’t about to insult the man.
That we’re here on a “business” trip has colored our experiences for sure. Between business class and the fine hotel that we’re checked into, the trip has been marked with constant pleasantries and well-wishes from the people we’ve interacted with. However, I’m beginning to suspect that this might just be more of a cultural thing than I am used to. While Portlanders are nice, Americans, by and large, tend to be individualist and adverse from giving too much. When the guy at the customs baggage inspection is courteous and welcoming, however, I think perhaps my theory has merit.
The hotel, of course, is nearly fawning in their levels of service. After a run around the marina3a 2-mile affair that saw the temperature rise at least 3 degrees C and left me seriously hurting trying to keep up with Bev, the door staff was there with towels and water. That sort of thing can go to a person’s head – or, in my case, straight to the old Catholic guilt center because I didn’t run hard enough to warrant that sort of treatment, and yes Sister Mary Kathleen, I will run harder and in higher temps next time. Breakfast included a guided tour of the buffet, and the pool, well, it’s best I stop fanning the little green monster.
But it’s not just that we’re at a nice place. We walked down to the mall next to the hotel (having forgot swimming suits, of all things) and at every shop, the level of interaction was pleasant, helpful, but most of all, easy and human, without that thin screen of contempt that colors nearly every retail interaction I’ve had in the States. Perhaps it’s again the service/retail industry model that has worked here, but even walking/running4gasping past people on the streets, I find a friendly city thus far, which gives me an incredible amount of hope for our new life.