I had no idea Singapore was in the northern hemisphere. Granted, it’s just in the northern hemisphere, but still, I didn’t know. I also didn’t know I could be standing in Singapore and see Indonesia in the distance. I was surprised to learn that Singapore is joined to Malaysia by bridge. I discovered that the orchid is the national flower of Singapore. I found out that trains in Singapore don’t have drivers. They magically move around all on their own, which was a tad disconcerting. It turns out that dumplings in Singapore taste so much better than dumplings in Newtown. In Singapore, they have a mall with a river on the ground floor, and a hotel with a boat on the top. Dead ancestors are a big deal and offerings are burnt for them. I can authoritatively report that sugarcane juice tastes like sugary plant water. Jamie Oliver’s restaurant is basically a carbon copy of his Sydney enterprise. Lots of suburban Singaporean shops have store cats, kind of like a mascot. Singaporean soy milk tastes very different because they add palm sugar.
As you may suspect, I’ve just come back from a whirlwind weekend in Singapore to visit a special friend who has been living there for two years. We had a fantastic time and my desire to travel has been well and truly rekindled.
Since my dodgy DNA travelled with me, so did my meds and treatment toys. My trip was very short so I was lucky enough to travel with the bare essentials, a short list of pharmaceutical supplies I simply can’t live without. I tucked them into my cabin bag for easy access and to ensure they travelled to my destination… and not Iceland. I guarded my medical documentation as carefully as my passport and packed some contingency meds to assist if my lungs misbehaved.
One of my personal health highlights of the trip was an observation my friend made. We were walking around her suburb whilst talking when we hit a hill. Well trained by 26 years of friendship, my friend immediately slowed down for me but I just kept on powering up! She was pleasantly surprised at how easily I could achieve the astonishing feat of walking, talking, and climbing a hill all at the same time. Incremental improvement can sometimes go unnoticed or be under appreciated by ourselves, but is obvious and startling to someone who hasn’t seen us for a long time. Whilst I know my health is excellent at the moment, and has improved significantly over the last year, moments like that really highlight the positive changes I’ve experienced.
My friend conscientiously checked I was coping and estimated how far we needed to travel to each new tourist destination. The thing is, I could do it all! Walking 500m to see a particular attraction, then walking back again, and then walking onto something else was not a problem, was not even a question mark in my own mind about if I could achieve it. This was also a change for the better, another health milestone achieved. There have been many times when I have chosen a route based upon the flattest terrain or availability of lifts; when I have lamented the long walk and hill between the town centre and my hotel; when I have been forced to pause, rest and breathe; when I have come home from a trip absolutely shattered, a teary mess, barely able to make it home from the airport. Not this time! Not this time.
On the way to Changi, at 4am, I savoured Singapore. The sleepy, heritage-listed neighbourhood my friend lives in slipped away while the city lights twinkled their last hurrah before dawn. I admired again the gorgeously leafy trees and the summer flowers which seem to line all the roads and put Sydney’s boring roads to shame. We motored past countless dwellings proudly displaying the Singaporean flag. A foreign language murmured on the taxi radio whilst the air conditioned interior was welcome. Conversely, so too was the humidity. It bathed me in a light sweat, even before sunrise, and was tropical and exotic in small doses, a far cry from Sydney’s inclement and wintry weather. It was freeing to walk around in very little, unencumbered with winter and wet weather gear. Once I checked in my luggage I stepped outside to breathe in the dense humidity one final time. The airport was near empty so early in the morning. I bought a muffin and a jumbo coffee which were comfortingly tasty and settled back to look over the pictures I’d taken. I chuckled at the Merlion (a strange mermaid and lion hybrid) on the river’s foreshore, sighed in pleasure at the night cityscape and relived the light show on the river. The market sights, sounds and smells rushed back to me – fish, meat, unusual fruits, paper offerings to burn for ancestors. I could smell incense from the ancestor shrines and fires and felt it irritate my lungs. I flicked through many pictures of the food we enjoyed and my mouth watered. I tasted again the scrumptiously delicate cupcakes from a famous local patisserie, The Dumplings To Trump All Other Dumplings, the bespoke raspberry ice block absolutely chock full of crushed raspberries and nothing else. Squashed into the airplane home I was immersed in the peculiarities of a long-ish international flight. I tried and failed to nap with the provided blanket and pillow. I made small talk with my very attractive neighbour. I watched many movies, my legs got cramps and I got bored. I happily received two meals, skilfully avoided the mushroom crepe and enjoyed every morsel.
After touchdown I changed out of my shorts and thongs and T-shirt. I pulled on jeans, a knit, a jumper, jacket, scarf and boots. I got out my umbrella and reluctantly wheeled my suitcase out into the pestilence: torrential rain and a biting winter wind. Goodbye Singapore! Welcome home to Sydney.