Published: April 20th 2008April 12th 2008
Half mermaid and half lion (thus explain the name), Merlion is Singapore's national icon.
Within only 85 miles north of the equator line, Singapore is wickedly humid. Lush tropical trees and exotic plants are thriving and covering most of the island - along its roads and in between modern buildings and historical structures, making it even hard to breathe yet comfortable for having the shades over human habitation down on the ground level.
After receiving a bad news from my brother-in-law, I scrambled around to find a plane ticket to Singapore, and some twenty-eight hours later, I stepped out from Terminal One of Changi International Airport to meet up with my immediate family, who had flown in from Indonesia a couple days earlier. This unfortunate event has caused our unexpected reunion in Singapore, and I had to miss my ING Marathon back home in Atlanta. Dad has undergone an emergency colon surgery in National University Hospital, a very reputable medical Mecca in Singapore. Due to his critical condition, I managed to request a quick medical leave from my work and winded away with my comfortable daily routines for a while.
This tiny republic island nation of Singapore is one of the smallest countries, yet one of the riches in the world, and the
Haw Par Villa Mask
Uhm this scene actually brings back my unpleasant childhood nightmares.
neighboring islands of Riau Archipelago in Indonesia - due to some of its smaller islands’ disappearances to be removed into Singapore - condemn the Singaporean land reclamation, and the effort to enlarge the land is continued by importing mounts of earth from Vietnam instead.
Singapore is always as clean as I have always remembered, due to constant cleaning and waxing. In fact, Changi Airport is so squeaky clean that one always wonders whether a fly could land on its gleaming marble without being slipped. But of course Singapore is too clean that there is no fly around to prove the theory.
Singapore is obsessed with cleanliness - with list of hefty fines posted everywhere, people ought not to eat, drink, have durians (the spiky, smelly South East Asian fruit) or chew gum in public places or inside MRT stations or taxi. Not even in offices’ waiting rooms. Don’t even think about vandalism here - the 17-year old American Michael Fay’s caning is still a hot debate in Singapore; at least I was discussing it with local taxi drivers twice so far. There are even worse rules for smoking, let alone drugs - one cannot import tobacco products into
Singapore is the place for beautiful orchids
Some showy purple orchids at the National Orchid Garden.
Singapore. Thus Singapore is notorious with its nickname, the ‘Fine City’.
Due to its strategic location, Singapore has known to be a cross road in Asia where immigrants have developed a unique assimilation culture of Singapore. Singapore is a land of harmonious paradoxes. The historical Indian Hindu Temple of Sri Mariamman is smacked in the middle of Chinatown. Chinese incense fills up the air of colonial structure of Raffles Hotel. Westerners live in Kampong Glam next to Sultan Mosque, the Muslim quarter of Singapore. Peranakan (descendant of early Chinese who were assimilated with Malayan culture) are looking for Malaysian food is widely served in Little India. Surprisingly, everybody live in harmony despite its differences, an example of other countries, including the States, ought to learn.
Amazingly, as one of the smallest twenty countries in the world (the U.S.A. is about 15,000 times larger!), Singapore has four official languages: English, Chinese Mandarin, Malay Bahasa Melayu and Indian Tamil. The most interesting one is English, better known to be ‘Singlish’ - Singaporean English - that has no prepositions, and uses more Chinese grammar into the sentences. So don’t be surprise to hear something like, "... Uncle calling yo? Can, can
Traditional Indonesian food
Indonesian food at a hawker centre.
Life becomes routine in Ward 78 Hospital, where Dad (including mom, sis and I) spent a couple of weeks living. I learned many things about IV, contrasts, Gastro-graphing, CT scan, all of the big hearted nurses, and the huge complex of the National University Hospital itself. Singapore takes pride as having the best health care in Asia (based on World Health Organization in 2000) - it is Asia’s leading medical hub with internationally accredited world-class healthcare services. It is a big relief that dad is taken care of in this medical facility.
Singaporeans are obsessed with food, and there are many hawker centres (=food courts) where oblivious pictures of food are on display for competition. I have eaten many excellent meals so far, ranging from Indonesian cuisines to Chinese, Indian and Singaporean. My favorite so far is the national dish of Mee Siam - a rice noodle with spicy, sweet and sour light gravy, and ‘teh tarik’ - steaming hot, sweet, milky tea is poured between two steel mugs held far apart, as if it’s being ‘pulled’ between the mugs for mixture and cooling off (‘tarik’ means pulling in Bahasa Melayu)
Sir Stamford Raffles is
Orchard Road Plaque
The shopping district of Orchard Road is lined up with such plaques embedded to the sidewalk, which have unique tropical fruit designs to it. Here is the mangosteen plaque.
a big guy here in Singapore, as ‘Washington’ for the States. He founded the city in 1819 for the East Indian Company of the British Empire. One of his biggest legacies is the Raffles Hotel (in 1887), a well-known location as the birthplace of the Singapore Sling. The Long Bar where this famous drink was invented might be the only place where you can litter - the tradition is to eat peanuts and throw the shell to the floorboard, of which I felt guilty on doing so.
For some strange reason, the big hits in 1980s and 1990s American songs seem to be the greatest hit here nowadays in Singapore. I’ve heard New Kids on the Block’s ‘I’ll be Loving you Forever’ three times in different places throughout the island so far! And I had to hum Elton John’s ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ while circling the biggest fountain in the world - Fountain of Wealth, three times clock-wise for good luck. So far, I’ve heard Amy Grant’s ‘Baby, baby’ and Rick Price’s ‘Heaven Knows’ as several familiar Chinese songs.
Dad was finally released from the hospital after roughly two weeks, and we moved to Orchard Road’s
Singapore has an orchid fever
Singapore is blessed with many exotic floras, and orchid is like god here in this tiny island nation. Here are some pretty orchids at the Singapore Airlines office
Lucky Plaza for a couple of days. Orchard Road is a premier shopping center in Singapore, and many big names are having stores here. From our 20th floor room, the scenery is grand - there are always things going on in Orchard Road, and seeing it from up above is something else. For instance, it is nice to hear some birds chirping although we live in pretty much downtown Singapore.
I managed to do a morning run to the nearby Singapore Botanical Garden one day and saw many enthusiast runners there, side by side with the tai chi performers. Singapore Botanical Garden hosts the precious National Orchid Garden, a must-see destination to observe many exotic orchids that made Singapore famous. The Vanda Miss Joaquim, Singapore’s national flower, is one of the most beautiful flowers I’ve ever seen. Visiting the Garden is definitely a must for everyone who is traveling in Singapore.
Mom and dad decided to finalize the surgical recovery process and the subsequent chemotherapy back in Bandung, Indonesia.
There are more photos below