I'm writing this from my very large, very comfortable bed in my very small New York hotel room on 26th Street. I'm exhausted, but happy.
It's been a rather strange forty eight hours, involving the head spin that is Singapore, the torments of travelling with a low level dose of food poisoning and finally, ending up in a city I haven't been to for eleven years and feeling quite okay about the lot of this.
Travel is about experience. Not all of it is going to be good experience. Sitting on a plane for twenty hours thinking that you're going to either pass out or throw up in equal waves, on top of stomach cramps, while having every drop of moisture is leeched from your skin, all the time surround by a hofbrauhaus of German Tourists- really isn't up there in my best moments. (What is the collective noun for German tourists?)
But enough of that. Singapore. A superheated Disneyland for dysfunctional adults with too much money? A place designed by Michael Jackson, only with more rules and lots of coffee houses? Stepford for those without a wife but the need to have everything controlled. It's not that I didn't like Singapore, it's just far too regimented, sterile and conformist for my liking.
The things I will remember most about Singapore, other than Evaline's monumental generosity, is its sterility. It's like a rich, petulant, precocious Malaysia with none of the soul. Leaves wouldn't dare fall from the trees in case somebody in the goverment would get mad. Don't get me wrong, the manicured streets, even pavements, regimented distance between trees etc, etc are very calming the my Western sensibilities - but I do prefer the ramshackle side to Malaysia, some ten kilometres away as the crow flies. I like the open drains and pot holes, shaky electricity, blue and white uniformed school kids scurrying about, skinny cats and the personality of the place. Singapore has been planned and developed. JB just sprouted.
From our hotel on the Orchard Road we walked into a bevvy of exclusive shops filled with luxury goods and expensive clothing. Sure, it's lovely to look at but where is the fun in the place. We did a river cruise at night and saw the sights all lit up for our enjoyment. Sure, it's really pretty but you have to seek out the substance. Evaline and I made our way to the Malay Quarter and Little India to see a more real side to this tiny island. Highlight of the trip to Singapore was a visit to the Hindu Temple in Little India, a richly carved building silled with devotees. The camera stayed in my bag out of respect, but I wish I could have taken some shots of the ornate carving inside. People streamed in and out of the building, prostrating themselves, kissing statues, leaving alms for deities... it was a fascinating human parade, all supported by years of prayer.
Maybe it's the colonial vibe that doesn't sit that well with me - I am an Adelaide girl after all. There is the hankering to go back and stay at Raffles next time. We had breakfast at the kopitiam or coffee shop at Raffles, but next time I want the full silver service affair. There is something completely over the top about this piece of history - home to the Singapore Sling and a dead tiger under the pool table in 1902. Made a promise to Evaline that next time I'm in town we stay here... better get that kids book off the ground.
Some of the gloss of Singapore was taken out mid afternoon on my last day there when the food posioning got me. I went from my normal rosy shade to a fetching grey-green. Aware something was up Evaline took me to the airport early, where I made a mad dash to the bathrooms. On checking in my bags and bidding Evaline goodbye I checked into the transit hotel for a few hours of rest and unfortunately more vomiting. I made my flight with the nausea abating, freshly showered but feeling totally wretched. Thankfully I was freshly showered - I think spending 24 hours on a plane smelling like upchuck would have made me suicidal.
It wasn't a pleasant trip in the slightest, but the cabin crew were helpful, plying me with icy cold towels and dry ginger ale. No sleep was had and by the time I got to Frankfurt the cramps were abating. The second leg was a bit better, though my sense of humour was out the window - it took every fibre of by being not to deck the creepy, fat German tourist who was taking sneaky photos of the female cabin crew EVERY time they passed by. That was just eww.
All is pretty much back to normal now. My appetite is back, the cramps, nausea and generally crappiness has gone, though my skin will take a few more days of intensive moisturising to get the plane air out of my skin. Even managed to eat something decent. Found that New York has Pret a Manger - a favorite haunt in London - on the streets of Sixth Avenue. I took a four hour walk after a three hour nap - it seems to have made everything better. Looking out over New York at night from the Rockefeller Centre is very cool too.
Right, I best off to bed. More about this strange and foreign land next blog. For all of the amazing sights, sounds and smells of Asia, this America place really is quite foreign.