The relationship between time and travel boggles the mind.
Well, at least it boggles my mind. We left Lafayette on an early flight Tuesday morning headed to Asia — expecting to arrive in our first stop, Singapore, about 25 hours later.
I spent more time than I care to consider in an effort to make plans for the long trip to be as bearable as possible. I studied airplane seat maps. I paid for economy upgrades. I did all sorts of research. Piper and I packed our essential plane items perfectly between us.
I believed that Piper, my 17-year-old daughter, and I were set to flourish on the nearly 17-hour flight from San Francisco to Singapore.
I wish I had the time I devoted to that planning back.
Things did not go according to plan because of a piece of bent metal, which happened to be in the luggage cargo area of the plane we were supposed to take once we landed in Houston. The delay to our original flight had us rerouted from Houston to Tokyo and then, from there, to Singapore.
Both Piper and I ended up in middle seats separated from each other. It was a rough flight that made me reconsider ever going anywhere again.
But that was yesterday.
Less than 24 hours later, I’ve recovered and know exactly why we came. As I write this, I’m sitting comfortably in my friend’s home overlooking Singapore. My friend and her family moved to Singapore earlier this year. She is a student of wherever she is and a tour guide extraordinaire. Navigating a new city with someone who knows the place takes the experience to a whole different level. We’ve just returned from a hawker market, and now Piper is at the zoo with my friend’s daughter. The two teenage girls went to the zoo on their own. I’m fine with that because Singapore, a small island city-state, is one of the safest countries in the world.
The government is tough on crime with some famous definitions of crime, including selling chewing gum or walking around one’s home in the buff with the curtains open. Forgetting to flush a public toilet is also a crime, and those who do so, if caught, are levied with a $150 fine.
The country is at the southern end of the Malay Peninsula. It was a British colony from 1819 to 1963, except for an interval from 1942 to 1945 when the Japanese took over. It became an independent country in 1965 and will celebrate its 54th year of independence Aug. 9.
Singapore is known for its cleanliness. Less than 24 hours in, every place I’ve looked has been bright and shiny. My friend had mentioned to be sure and go in the bathroom at the airport because the bathrooms there smell so good! I did and must say that she is right. The airport bathrooms smelled like an expensive hotel.
Even though nearly 6 million people live on the small island (it’s 31 miles by 17 miles — 277 square miles), there is much less traffic congestion that one would expect because the country carefully monitors the number of vehicles on the road.
When I commented to my friend that I was surprised that the roads weren’t more crowded, she explained why. She told me that the first step of buying a car here is to purchase a Certificate of Entitlement (called a COE), which are auctioned monthly by the government. A COE gives car owners the legal right to register, own and use a vehicle in Singapore for 10 years. Thus far in 2019, the cost of a COE alone, depending on the cost of the car one intends to buy and that month’s auction price, have ranged between $25,000 and $48,000 — and that’s just to have permission to buy the car. When all the costs are factored, buying a vehicle like a Volkswagen Golf requires about $100,000. The payoff is that there’s no congestion and the country has great public transportation.
In Singapore, we have a host of activities planned, including a cooking class, a city tour and visiting the American Club with our friends. We head to China next week where we will visit the orphanage where Piper lived for a few weeks before she moved in with her foster parents. We’ve made arrangements to go to their home and visit them, too.
We are grateful that we have a few days to adjust and take in the beauty and ease of Singapore before heading to what we know will be an emotional time in China.