This weekend, Elisabeth and I traveled to Singapore. BEST DECISION EVER! We left Palembang on Friday afternoon for the big city that’s also an entire country. We couldn’t find a cheap direct flight, so we had a layover in Jakarta. We had some minor…okay major…difficulties. Not only is the Jakarta airport tricky to navigate (not much English and very confusing), but there are very strict rules regarding documentation you must have with you before you can board an international flight. I’ll keep the story short and just say that I definitely got my exercise. Picture a movie where the main character has to race through the airport in a life or death situation… that was us. We literally had to take off our shoes in order to sprint faster. It was a frustrating start to the trip, and our struggles continued when we touched down. Our plan was to take a taxi from the airport to where we were staying. We’d been told that credit cards are accepted everywhere (including taxis) in Singapore. We got in the line for a taxi and when it was our turn, the driver said that he didn’t accept credit cards. Having very little Singapore cash, we were frustrated, and since it was late at night, we were also tired and grumpy. However, our frustration ended here. A young gentlemen saw our disgruntled faces and asked where we were going. “Commonwealth MRT,” we said. He responded with “Oh that’s near my place, we’ll share a cab.” We entered the cab, and he refused what little money we had. He said “No no, we share. You don’t have to pay.” He was so kind, and from then on, our trip was nothing but awesome.
The first thing you notice about Singapore is how incredibly clean everything is. It was a stark contrast from Palembang, where we’ve been living for the past month. While Palembang is chaotic, cramped, and to be honest, a little smelly (it’s an industrial city, what do you expect?), Singapore is the definition of order. Everything is tidy, neat, and efficient. There are clear maps and diagrams to show you where to go in Singapore, while in Palembang, I have yet to see a city map. There are signs posted everywhere warning people of all the fines. Some include no smoking, no chewing gum, no littering, no jaywalking, etc. For a full list, consult Wikipedia-there are A TON of fines… hence the title of this blog post. Hey, they have to keep the city clean somehow!
Our taxi dropped us off at the apartment where we were staying. We were very fortunate to have Sara, Elisabeth’s sorority sister studying abroad in the city. She volunteered to house us for the weekend and show us around. She met us on the street and led us to her apartment where we were given beds, water, and most importantly for Elisabeth, milk and cereal. The next day, Elisabeth and I had a lunch date with an ISU graduate. The meeting was set up by Elisabeth, who happens to be friends with Dr. Geoffrey, the president of Iowa State. Dr. Geoffrey set her up with the graduate’s contact information, and he volunteered to take us to lunch. We were treated to the finest wine I’ve ever had, tomato soup, prime rib, vegetables and potatoes. During lunch we talked about everything from our personal histories to mathematics to international experiences and more. It was great to talk to someone who came from Iowa State as an engineer and has become so successful on a global scale. After lunch, he took us to another club where we had wonderful desserts that reminded me of home. It was a great start to the day!
After lunch, we met up with Sara, and headed back to her apartment to change. We’d been wearing dress clothes because the club we were at required collars and didn’t allow jeans. I was so happy to put on a pair of shorts to walk around in! Despite the heat in Palembang, I haven’t been able to wear shorts or tank tops because the city is very modest and conservative. Sara took us to Arab street where we found a cute little aromatics store. Elisabeth and I both bought some perfume (super cheap, too!) and we had dinner at a Turkish restaurant.
After dinner, we headed downtown to the center of the city. We decided to ride the Singapore Flyer, which was amazing. It’s a giant ferris wheel where you can see wonderful views of the city. The big wheel is always moving. From far away it looks stationary, but when you get close, you see that the glass capsules are just moving very slowly. The whole ride took about 30 minutes, and it was well worth the S$30 we paid to do it. (1s$ ~ $0.75) Once the ride was over, we walked around for a while and just enjoyed the beautiful city. I was so grateful to be in a western city for a little while. This trip was exactly what I needed in order to finish strong. I’m feeling great about the next few weeks, and I can’t wait do some more traveling in the coming weekends! Next stop: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia!