Who in their right mind volunteers to pull 13 straight days, 85 hours of travel, and swing +14 / -13 hours in the span of 7 of those? Me (though one might argue the ‘in their right mind’ part).
If there’s one thing endurance training has taught me it’s that your body can almost always answer the call.. if your brain is willing to pick up the phone and dial. So when my boss asked if I was interested in supporting our Singapore team for a week, I didn’t even hesitate to get my name on the list. First, because seeing international health systems in action is the most interesting opportunity my job offers. Second, because my first manager is on the Singapore install team and this was an amazing chance to get the ‘ol one-two punch back together. And third, because it meant I could put my first pin(s) in Southeast Asia!
That was before things got crazy with one of my own customers and coronavirus became a legitimate compound word. Regardless, I’d do it again.. so let’s start with the sunny side of the story!
Singapore is a vibrant place.
If it was a wine it’d be a crisp, fruity white.
Notes of Dubai, though more deliberate, and infinitely less dry.
In a few blocks, the city could transform from a shiny/concrete jungle into a real one. And every once in a while, there’d be a shiny building laced with jungle. In that way, the city somehow managed opulence without being obscene. I’m sure residents may fight me on the latter point, but I wasn’t paying rent 🙂
On the other end of the bell curve, is the down to earth vibe that hits the second you find yourself in a hawker centre. When you think about it, the cost to deliciousness ratio at these food-cart conglomerates is frankly illogical, but the fierce competition has given birth the world’s first Michelin Star carts. I was lucky enough to stumble on Shi Hui Yuan, a three-time star-winner, in Lau Pa Sat my last night in town. And when in Rome, you let the Romans tell you what to do.. or in this case, eat! $4.50 USD for the best braised duck I’ll ever have.
I also enjoyed the tastes of Newton and Tiong Barhu hawker centres, and went full circle on a 3.5 year weekly Indian food tradition with my old manager, feasting at Sakunthala’s. There’s definitely an ulterior motive to some of the exercise I do!
Outside of the food, I got to enjoy quite a few things that were somehow even cheaper (primarily free.) The first and second was the Botanical Gardens. I was SO jazzed to find out they housed the world’s largest collection of orchids (my favorite flower). My good friend Google said it was open until midnight, and after 5 days with the activity level of a veal calf, I chose to walk the three miles from my hotel.
There were a few surprises including a steamy rain shower on the way and finding out that ticket sales to the orchid garden ceased 53 minutes prior to my arrival. Although initially disappointed, I didn’t fly 36 hours to let that stop me so I enjoyed the rest of the grounds and plotted my return the next day. Running 6 miles round trip in 90 degree weather was well worth it.
The next evening included more gardens at the Marina, but these were of man-made magic and came with music.
And I can’t leave out the genuine natural beauty of MacRitchie’s Reservoir park.
On the other end of the spectrum, there exists a pretty pervasive consumer culture (the endless malls of Orchard street) that I avoided like the plague. But finding myself in Little India and stumbling upon Chinatown, I did fall victim to some good deals, snagging a watch for $7 SG and my favorite Burberry perfume for $48 SG (~5 and 35 USD, respectively.)
I won’t pretend that I wasn’t super disappointed to cut out what would have been the more relaxing, Indonesian portion of my trip, but at least I was able to pack in some mini adventures after hours. All of that is a huge credit to the Singapore project team for their incredible work with the complex integration. As a result they were able to roll back 12 hour coverage to 9 by the time I arrived, giving me time to recoup from the jet lag and enjoy the city.
And the best news is that I can actually count the weeks until eastern hemisphere and I meet again.