Altogether I've been to 24 countries (that's a lot of silver charms on the bracelet!) and at least 34 states (possibly driven through some when I was small that I don't remember). Pretty good, don't you think?
But the furthest east I've ever been, in all those years, was Istanbul...until today, when I landed in Singapore! When I expressed some wariness about traveling to Asia, one friend told me her husband called it "China Lite"; another told me it was China For Dummies. But since I'm here on a business trip, mostly it's just a big, pretty, cosmopolitan city where I feel abnormally tall.
The sun was just coming up when we started our descent over Singapore, and the moon was shining full above the cloud cover. In the layers between the clouds, not that far away, I could see near-constant lightning strikes, zapping down to the water. My colleague Sharon who took me around town this afternoon, told me that Singapore is notorious for high amount of lightning strikes it gets. The flight was uneventful, but rather boring, because I was too tired and headachy to watch films and though I was in a window seat, which I normally prefer because I can doze better with the wall support, on a 14-hour flight it left me feeling rather trapped and having to impose on people every time I had to go to the bathroom.
The first thing I noticed on the taxi ride from the airport was all the greenery and all the flowers. There are frangipani trees everywhere, and beautiful sprawling trees with a rounded canopy all along the roads...I tried to look them up but still am not sure if they are rain trees or yellow flames. Either way, I suspect I couldn't get them to grow in Sweden!
The hotel is huge and very luxurious, much more high-class than the usual sort of hotel when traveling for business. Sharon says all the business hotels in Singapore are much nicer than elsewhere, and this isn't even one of the top ones, according to her. :) There are birds singing and trilling somewhere in the sky-high atrium inside the center of the hotel.
It was nearly 9 a.m. by the time I got checked in and up to the room and I laid down to rest for a couple of hours. When I got up, a full-fledged thunder and lightning storm was in progress: smash banging on the edge of the city and in the short time I stood and watched from the window, the rain swept in on full cloud cover, everything went foggy and it poured for 20 minutes.
Sharon picked me up just after noon and we headed out to find a local eatery for Singapore chicken rice, which is apparently a thing, judging by all the photos of it on Google. It had yummy green ginger sauce to go with it. Then she took me a dessert place and ordered a bunch of local specialities...which are apparently common sweets all over Asia. I loved the almond shaved ice cream and the iced lingons but the jelly/syrup things with them will take a little more getting used to. She ordered a hot dessert as well: a ginger broth with peanut- and bean-paste doughballs. I tried one of the bright pink peanut ones and it could grow on me, but I don't think it would ever become a favorite.
After only 1 day of rain and humidity, you should see Barky! Holy moly, poodle-head extreme! Every time I catch a glimpse in a mirror, I scare myself.
We finished up with a walk through one of the area malls, a tour of Chinatown under dripping awnings and a drive around the city so she could point out the sights to me. What a pretty town! Now I'm back at the hotel, full from a delicious buffet dinner in the hotel restaurant and ready to lie down and immerse myself in Henry II's squabbles with his family in Sharon K. Penman's Devil's Brood.
5 days of work in the Singapore office ahead with 2 full days of holding trainings for the South Asia Pacific AND North Asia marketing team members...eek! Sharon's promised me a ride on the Singapore Flyer and dinners out every evening, and the malls are copious and within walking distance, so I expect I'll manage to keep myself occupied.
View from my hotel balcony
Evening in Singapore
*There were probably never lions here...it was most likely a tiger that the man who founded and named the city saw.