Singapore, Pt. I

April 14, 2012 § 11 Comments

I took this photo before even leaving Hong Kong Airport — as I sat in the lobby waiting for the two-hour window of permitted checking in, a young couple and their photography crew of three appeared across from me for a wedding photoshoot. This sight is pretty common in HK; I see at least one a week, usually on my way home from work. I guess there aren’t that many viable locations on this island to shoot wedding photos? Maybe they met in the airport or something. Either way, it was weird but cute.

Whatever floats your boat. (Or plane.)

My flight was supposed to arrive at Singapore’s Changi Airport at 10:30PM on Thursday night. My friend CK, who was graciously hosting me, would still be working at the time, so we planned for me to take the MRT (subway) to Marina Bay Sands, where we could meet and grab a bite while enjoying the view.

As is typical with airlines (especially budget ones), my flight was delayed. We landed in Singapore at around midnight. I find it surprising that (I was told) Changi Airport is usually ranked one of the world’s best airports — whoever judged that contest obviously never visited the “budget terminal,” which basically means “cheap-ass building for our most worthless customers that is a mile away from the actual airport.” Frankly, it was comparable to the lilliputian Yiwu Airport.

Right after passing through customs, I exchanged some cash and called CK’s cell phone from a nearby pay phone. He didn’t pick up. Worried, I figured I should just try to find the MRT right away, so I exited the building and followed the signs to the free shuttle bus to Terminal 2, which is apparently where the MRT is located. It was seriously like a 10-15 minute bus ride (at night, with very little traffic!), which speaks to how far removed the janky budget terminal is (still bitter). At least I had this sign to amuse me:

I’m just not going to try to understand.

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Prepare For Takeoff

April 6, 2012 § 1 Comment

Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve always dreamed of going to Singapore. I barely knew anything about it, but after spending summers in the polluted urban jungles of China, I figured a place where cleanliness was the law was too good to be true. In fact, a few years ago when I was first considering studying abroad, Singapore was my first choice — that is, until my father deterred me by telling me that I’d be bored within a week. Still, although my romantic notions of spotless sidewalks have mostly faded as I’ve matured, my eagerness to visit remained. It was with some trepidation that I booked my flight without a travel buddy, but thankfully, my Singaporean friend CK was willing to show me around.

Interesting things abounded before I even got on my flight. When checking into Tiger Airways, which is apparently the budget airline to fly to Singapore — other ones don’t fly there, strangely — the lady at the counter asked if I would consider changing my flight to the next morning. “We would book you a hotel room for the night and compensate you with S$200 (~$159US),” she offered. Two hundred Singapore dollars, eh? I mulled it over for a moment, thinking of the things I could buy with that extra cash.

Sensing that I was weak prey, the first lady’s partner/assistant/lackey, who was standing behind her, elaborated on the deal. “There are two flights tomorrow morning, and you can use the money as credit for a future flight with Tiger Air…why don’t you take some time to think about it, maybe call your folks, and we’ll keep your boarding pass here at the counter for you,” she pressed. Ha ha, call my folks…that’s a good joke…as if I have any family to contact here in Hong Kong! And if I couldn’t use the money as cash, I didn’t want it. Besides, I didn’t want to inconvenience CK by changing plans and cut into what was already a pretty short vacation, so I declined. It was their own fault for overbooking the flight anyway — not my problem!

Air travel always offers interesting experiences before one even arrives at the destination. This time, while I waiting in line to board and while walking down the tunnel thing to the plane, I was in front of an older Asian man who was carrying some English-language newspapers. I got the feeling that he was following me a bit too closely, so I was a bit alarmed when I stopped at my row on the plane to pull my laptop out of my bag and he paused right beside me to stuff his bag into the overhead compartment, his armpit hovering just above my face.

The plane was still relatively empty at that time, and he just happened to have the seat right next to mine, effectively trapping me by the window. Perturbed, I fleetingly hoped that he wouldn’t try to molest me on the flight. (It’s an extremely silly scenario, but these are the small things that men probably never have to worry about…) The third person in our row turned out to be a woman that I had also seen before boarding; in the airport, I saw her carrying the book Why Men Marry Bitches, and in the plane, she was reading He’s Just Not That Into You. Interesting choices. But I guess she was better off than me because I had stupidly forgotten to pack any reading material, not even a magazine.

Flying during the day is a delight because the view from above the clouds is always gorgeous, but traveling at night has its advantages as well. As I gazed out the window and saw stars in the sky and clouds floating below, I imagined a flipped world, that the space below the plane was actually the sky, rife with puffs of clouds and miniscule lights from boats that could’ve passed for stars, while the view above was actually the ocean, vast and dark and dotted with reflections of the lights below. There’s nothing like stargazing to make me feel incredibly small, to remind me that I’m nothing but a speck in the universe. But sometimes I relish that humbling existential feeling and remember to enjoy what I have at this very moment.

Rub A Dub Dub

April 1, 2012 § 1 Comment

Mmmmm, I just got back from a massage + facial, and it feels like the world is a beautiful place.

This treatment was one of the first Groupons that I bought in Hong Kong, which is kind of saying a lot because so far I’ve purchased 22. It was irresistible — a treatment that normally costs $345US was on sale for $13?! I was all over that, obviously.

I was in the mood for pampering because lately, a lot of tension has been building up in my neck and shoulders, which is bound to happen when you’re typing at a desk all day. In fact, it had been so long since I bought the Groupon that I didn’t even remember that it came with a facial. My body was aching for a massage, and I had to find a professional since I don’t have B around to give me one, hehe.

One main purpose of using a Groupon is, aside from the obvious factor of saving money, is the opportunity to experience something new. The risk that I run here in Hong Kong is that I might venture into a place that caters only to locals, as in menus with only Chinese words and waitstaff that only speak Cantonese. This has already happened a few times, and in those cases I usually end up appearing deaf & dumb, but I get by. It’s odd each time because the Groupon website is in English; how do these businesses get their deals online without knowing any English??

BeauStyle, the place I went for my massage, was tucked away inside a hair salon. I think the receptionist spoke the best English — the manager didn’t speak any, and my masseuse could speak very little. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to get body work done at a place where you can barely communicate with the staff, but it was too late to back out!

I was led into a small, dimly lit room with a massage bed, and my masseuse gave me a towel/dress thing that buttoned up as a tube top. She also gave me a pair of very sheer underwear made out of fine netting, which perplexed me for a minute. Was I supposed to wear these as underwear or over my own underwear?? I didn’t want to surprise her with my naked bum if she wasn’t expecting it.

I ventured out of the room to ask, but the hallway was empty. Eventually another staff member walked by, and she answered my question by telling me that it was supposed to go on my head. LOL. Thankfully my masseuse reappeared to clarify my quandary (it was supposed to be worn alone) and hand me a hair net.

The massage came first. It’s truly a luxury to receive a massage from somebody who knows what he or she is doing, and in this case, she really put her hands to good use. I’ve previously only gotten two body massages before. One was a $10 Swedish massage in the Philippines, which was as intense and satisfying as it was cheap.

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The Jungle Above My Head

March 12, 2012 § 6 Comments

To the mold in my life

Lately, I’ve been plagued by a problem with which many people living in Hong Kong seem to be familiar: mold. A few weeks ago, I noticed a shadowy growth lurking in the corners of my headboard. Around the same time, the ceiling in my room seemed to be changing before my very eyes. I was experiencing a mold invasion, and this is the exhaustive (but not yet completed!) saga.

My life consists of only brief experiences with mold. Having grown up in the suburbs of Chicago, a relatively dry place, the only place I ever experienced it was on fruit — usually grapes — that had been left too long in the refrigerator and could be easily disposed of by simply tossing into the trash. Fuzzy gray grape mold was unsavory, but I never really had to confront it.

During my sophomore year of college, I stayed in an old apartment building with a weird shower that looked like a teleportation device. It didn’t drain very well, and after a few months, a layer of black mold had started to form on the floor of the shower, which I initially disregarded because I simply didn’t know what it was. It got to the point where a mushroom/flower/something had blossomed out of a nearby crevice, and my roommates and I thought it was just an errant screw until one of them finally got around to spraying everything with bleach. (Yes, that whole tale is disgusting and I just got hives from thinking about it.)

The point is, I’m living with mold. I won’t post any photos because obviously, it’s gross. Just imagine a growing constellation of spores nine feet above my bed, like the result of a fungal big bang.

It was first brought to my attention when I noticed some persistent dust-like debris on the top shelf of my headboard — I would wipe it away only to see the stuff reappear the next day. Then, from my desk, I happened to glimpse an ominous dark green patch in the corner, and subsequently deduced that it had spread all across the underside of the headboard.

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