Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pai: I'm back, baby!

After I retrieved my bag from the minivan I ventured into town.

[Inhale. Exhale.]

Ah . . . it was good to be back in Pai. After spending 3 weeks here in March I vowed that I would return someday. I returned sooner than I'd expected, however, as that 'someday' took only 4 months. It's a great feeling - a piece of mind, really - to arrive in a city that you're familiar with, where you know the best places to eat, to drink, to socialize, to sleep, etc. Speaking of sleep, I eagerly began walking to Chai-Niz Village, located across the river, where I'd slept in a teepee for only 80 Baht. Once I arrived at the river, however, I was displeased to find that the bamboo bridges had all been washed away due to a few recent torrential storms. I had forgotten that I'd returned to Pai in the low season, and that Chai-Niz Village and its neighboring accommodations weren't open in the low season. Bummer. I was really looking forward to my teepee, too. Oh well . . .

Instead of finding a place to stay I decided that I'd go straight to the chai shop (Pai Art Design Way & Tea Place), and surprise Sandy and Otto. The main reason why I'd returned to Pai was because of Sandy and Otto and their shop. They've really created something special here. It's amazing that such a small shop can be a source of such positive energy. I haven't come across anything quite like it during my 8 months of traveling - and I've been all over Southeast Asia. And don't get me started on their chai tea. It's the best chai in Southeast Asia. Period. A friend of mine who recently traveled through India said that the chai tea at Sandy and Otto's shop is even better than the chai he had had in India. Better than India's chai tea? What does that say? It may very well be the best chai on the planet, then.

When I arrived at the shop, however, Sandy and Otto weren't there. I was told that Sandy had just stepped out, but would return shortly. So I took a seat and kicked back. Ah, yes, it was indeed good to be back. It wasn't before long that Sandy pulled up on her motorbike. I quickly sprung up from where I was sitting and stood at the entrance with my arms folded, giving a bit of a pose.

"Hello, everyone, hello," said Sandy in her thick Swedish accent as she approached the shop. "How is every . . . " she said, stopping in mid-sentence as it took her a second to register that it was me (probably because I had a beard the last time I was here). "You bastard!" she shouted. "I can't believe you're here!" I started to laugh, and we gave one another a hug. "I'm going to call Otto. He's going to be so surprised." As she was dialing Otto, now smiling, she said, "It's so funny, because I was just talking about you yesterday."

She continued.

"And you shaved! My God. The last time you were here you had a beard." All I could do was laugh and smile. I can't repeat enough: it was so great to be back.

"Otto, hey, guess who's here . . . ?"

What's also great about the chai shop is the people that it consistently attracts. The type of people I would like to meet and socialize with inevitably find their way here. In other words, I don't have to go out in search of these people. If you sit in the shop, they'll find you. Plain and simple. Margo from Canada definitely fits into this category. She had just spent 4 months in the Philippines, in a tiny fishing village on the island of Palawan. We were both excited to speak to someone who's traveled there as it's rare to meet a backpacker who has. I met many interesting people that evening, mainly Dutch. Loads of Dutch, really. I'm continually surprised at how well traveled the Dutch are. I mean the Netherlands (Holland) is such a tiny country, but you see them everywhere. Everywhere! In no particular order here are, in my opinion, the most traveled Europeans: English, Germans, French, and Dutch.

I stayed at the shop until it closed. Still needing a place to sleep, Margo recommended that I'd get a room at the guesthouse where she was staying. Once we got to her guesthouse, however, the owners were asleep. I told her that I'd go back into town where I was sure I wouldn't have a problem finding a room.

Oh, how wrong I was.

It was around midnight now, and none of the owners for any of the guesthouses in town were awake. Seriously. No one. I walked everywhere in search of a room to no avail. I finally found one place where the owner was still awake. He told me there was one bungalow available and for only 80 Baht ($2.48). Sounded great. It may have sounded great but, unfortunately, it didn't look great. Now I'm not one to be picky with rooms, especially cheap rooms. I mean I've had my share of nights during my travels where I've roughed it. But I wouldn't have slept in this bungalow even if he paid me. It had a tiny mattress on the floor about the size of the room, but with spiderwebs hanging from the mosquito net, and gecko turds all over the mattress. I was offended that he would even offer me a room like this. Seriously, do I come off as a guy who wouldn't mind sleeping in gecko excrement and under a spider infested mosquito net? Okay, don't answer that.

I had come to grips that I wasn't going to find a place tonight. It was my fault, really, as I should have found a room before going to the chai shop. So I began walking to the high school. Tonight I would be sleeping outside.

[sound of rain]

"Seriously?" I said aloud as I looked up at the dark sky. "Rain? Now?" The traveling Gods had a sick sense of humor. They were really testing me. But I had the last laugh.

As I was walking down one of the town's main drags, a bartender hollered at me. "Hey, you looking for a room?" Now this would have been a perfect opportunity to respond with a wiseass remark, but, considering my circumstances, I refrained. He called one of his friends, a Dutchman needless to say, and I was promptly picked up and escorted to his hotel, via a tuk-tuk. Eh . . . such a night.

I decided to change guesthouses and move closer to the chai shop after a few scary instances at night while returning to my room. I got fed up with the stray, vicious dogs that patrol the streets once the sun goes down. Conveniently I found a room across from the chai shop for only 100 Baht ($3.10) which included a double sized bed, television, and a bathroom with hot shower. Score!

A few nights after I arrived in Pai I went out with people from, for what I like to call, "the chai crew." Marloes from Holland was celebrating her birthday and invited everyone from the chai shop to join her and her boyfriend, David. We found ourselves that night at the Reggae Bar where we drank and danced the night away.

The original plan was to spend just a few days in Pai, then leave for a Buddhist Temple where I intended to meditate with the monks. However, I had a laundry list of things that I needed to take care of and I felt that this would be the perfect time to do just that. Furthermore, I decided to apply for my Chinese visa here rather than in Hong Kong. Speaking of which, a Chinese visa costs Americans a whopping $190 USD. Whoa! And it's not even guaranteed that you'll get approved. Huh?!?!

I was extremely nervous that I wouldn't get approved for my Chinese visa. Furthermore, I was worried that my Passport wouldn't be delivered on time. Time was of the essence as I had to leave Pai on Monday, May 26 and it was now Thursday, May 22 - and still . . . no Passport. The agency said to come back on Friday, which I did. Twice. Luckily the second time was the charm. I was ecstatic to have my Passport and approved Chinese visa safely in hand. Man, what a piece of mind. I walked back to the chai shop to give them the news.

"Did it arrive? Did it arrive?" People asked as I approached the shop. I whipped out my Passport where I had it opened to the page of my Chinese visa. "Approved!'' I said waiving it in the air, followed by a quick dance in the street. I was quite happy to say the least.

That night I hung around the chai shop for a few hours before Sandy asked if I would like to take a walk with her as she passed out flyers for the shop. I was game. So we headed out. And as we were walking down one of the busy streets a guy ran up to us. With his head slightly tilted and a curious expression written all over his face, he asked " I'm sorry, but . . . Adam?"

"No way!" I said smiling, followed by an enormous hug, laughing. It was Morten, my friend I'd met and traveled with in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia! I'd written about our travels in the blog, entitled "Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia: Week 2 of 2." How crazy is that, right? So random. So, so random.

Morten joined me and a few people from the chai crew at a local bar where we enjoyed a few drinks while listening to some live music. It was great to have Morten in Pai. "I can't believe you're here, man!" I frequently repeated. And for the next few hours we talked about what we've been up to since we'd last seen each other. Good times.

After Morten called it a night, I decided to join Leona (Korean) and Joost (Dutch), both chai crew members, who were going to another bar to listen to music. Leona drove her motorbike while I rode on the back of Joost's. It had recently rained and the temperature was pleasantly cool, especially as we approached 35kms/hr on the motorbike with the wind blowing in my face.

And what was such a delightful night quickly turned disastrous. For unknown reasons as we were passing Leona - maybe to avoid a slick patch in the road, who knows? - she came over on us. And Leona, who had ear phones on, didn't hear us approaching and, thus, collided into my left shoulder sending her airborne and into the pavement - hard.

[sound of crash]

"Oh my God!" I yelled to Joost, "Leona just crashed!" He quickly pulled over and I sprinted to Leona who I frightenly found laying in the middle of the road, face down and not moving. "Leona! Are you okay?" I hollered.

No response.

"Leona? Can you hear me?"

Again, no response nor movement. Suddenly we were surrounded by curious bystanders who had just witnessed the devastating crash.

"Leona? I hollered for the third time. This time we received a response. "Uhhh . . . " Leona moaned. After inquiring if she'd thought she'd broken anything and if she thought she could move, we slowly helped her stand up. It had appeared that she'd only scratched and cut herself. Nevertheless, Joost took her to the nearby hospital on his motorbike. I found my way by foot. Joost was waiting in the lobby as they cleaned and bandaged Leona's wounds. What a close call. It certainly was an unexpected turn of events. I was happy that Leona managed to escape any serious injuries. Phew!

Once again, I had an extremely enjoyable experience in Pai. I can't believe that I spent another 3 weeks here. It wasn't my intention to spend this much time here. It really wasn't. But I'm not surprised that I did. However, unlike the last time I was here, I feel ready to leave. I really feel as if I'm entering a new chapter in my travels. And after nearly 9 months of traveling I still don't see myself returning home in the near, near future. I'm also really anxious to meet up with my cousin in Macau, where we'll travel to Hong Kong and China. I'm glad that I'll be sharing my next upcoming adventures with her. It'll be nice to join forces with another Daigle. There's really nothing quite like family.

I'll end this entry with a song called "Sweet Lullaby" by Deep Forest. Sandy and Otto would always play this song for me when I visited, and the song will forever remind me of them and their shop and the many, many great experiences that I've had while in Pai.

I love Pai.


Pai Art Design Way & Tea Shop is on FaceBook:!/group.php?gid=424722374324&ref=ts

Next Stop: Macau, Hong Kong & China.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Phuket, Thailand - Again.

After a 2 hour flight I found myself back in Phuket, Thailand. I couldn't believe that it had been 6 months since I'd been here last. Where does the time go? It really felt as if I was just here. Since I had 3.5 weeks before I'd meet my cousin in Macau, I thought I would spend my time in Thailand and revisit some friends in Phuket and Pai.

After I retrieved my luggage and walked past the sliding doors, I was bombarded by people who hounded me to take a taxi.

-"Sir, sir. Taxi, taxi?"
-"Where you go? Take taxi?"
-"Take taxi, sir? Come with me, come with me."

Good Lord, they're relentless. I walked straight past them, however, and to the Information desk. The woman at Information said I could take a bus which would cost much less than a taxi, but that I would have to wait awhile before the next bus departed.

"Time is not an issue," I said, smiling. "It's all I have."

I needed to call Josh and let him know that I had arrived. I CouchSurfed with Josh for 9 nights the last time I was here and had an amazing time. I was looking forward to seeing him again. But because I don't carry a cell phone, I had to bum some change from a random person to use the payphone. Josh, who sounded happy to hear from me, said he would pick me up from Central Mall located near his house.

The woman from Information was right: I did have to wait a long time, as it took nearly 2 hours before the bus departed. On the bus, I met a man in his early 70s from New Zealand who said he'd been to over 100 countries. Wow. I love speaking to people who are well traveled like that.

Once I arrived at Central Mall, I walked inside and borrowed someone's cell phone to call Josh. We arranged to meet at the fountain; however, there was another fountain that I wasn't aware about - the one Josh was talking about, of course - and we missed each other. As Josh thought I had already left, he went back to his house. I ended up taking a taxi.

Communication, communication, communication! It's sooo important. Eh . . .

It was great to see Josh and to be back in Phuket Town again. I love Josh's neighborhood, too. It has everything: Internet cafe, laundry service, street food, barbershop, etc. Josh was hosting another CouchSurfer at the time. Her name was Gabi from Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was Gabi's first time out of Argentina. She had been traveling nearly 2 months and had already been to Europe, Egypt, Turkey, China and northern Thailand.

Damn, she was moving fast.

But her sister, who's a flight attendant and could give Gabi cheap plane tickets, was quitting in a few months. So Gabi found herself on a mission to see as much of the world as she could while she had access to discounted flights.

Soon after I met Gabi I met Tata, a friend of Josh's, who just had a fight with his boyfriend and asked Josh if he could stay with him for a few nights. Of course, Josh, being the kind person that he is, said it wouldn't be a problem. Suddenly Josh had 3 people staying with him. That night the 4 of us went out to eat and to a market before returning to Josh's home. After talking to Josh for awhile I went to sleep.

The next morning Gabi and I headed for Kata Beach. Because taxis in Phuket are expensive, and neither one of us wanted to spend the money to rent a motorbike, we decided to hitch. Yes, Kata beach is fairly far from Phuket Town, but I knew if the both us intended to go to Kata it wasn't a matter of if someone would give us a lift but when. And as luck would have it, we hitched a ride with a sweet, pretty Thai woman who was standing on the side of the road. She worked for a hotel which provided a free shuttle service for its employees. Once the shuttle arrived she asked the driver if it would be alright if we hitched along. He didn't have any qualms about it so we hopped in. And where was the location of this hotel she worked for? Yeah, it was just down the street from Kata beach. Oh, how things work out, ey? You gotta love it.

Gabi and I bought some fruit before finding a free, shaded area to enjoy the beach. After a long pleasant conversation with Gabi, she hired someone to teach her how to surf while I kicked back and read. After a full day at the beach, as it was nearly 6 in the evening, we hit the streets in search of food - cheap food. This turned out to be a difficult task as we were in a tourist infested beach town, so everything was marked up. But don't underestimate the will of a few stingy, frugal backpackers. Where there's a will, there's a way. And I eventually enjoyed the most delicious dish of pad thai that I've ever consumed. Gawd in heaven, it was good.

Next it was time to head back to Josh's house.

As we refused to pay the exorbitant amount of money taxis were charging, we attempted to hitch again. Back on the grind.

As we walked towards the town of Karon we found ourselves in a difficult area to hitch, especially since we were going to Phuket Town. We figured our best bet would be to hitch to Patong, then, from Patong, hitch to Phuket Town. It didn't turn out to be as easy as the both of us would've liked. There was a lack of traffic on the road to Patong - well, at least in terms of cars. There were, however, plenty of motorbikes and taxis. And the few cars that were heading in our direction continued to pass us by.

"Okay, okay," I said. "Look confident. We got this."


And they continued to pass us.

We began to feel discouraged. "Okay," said Gabi, "I'm not having fun anymore." A minute after she said that, a truck pulled over and we hopped in.

It felt so good to sit down after hours of walking. And strangely enough, the driver was playing a Norah Jones cd, someone who I'd been listening to recently on my Ipod. The Thai man drove in silence as we headed towards Patong. He had picked us up at the perfect time, too, as we were miles away and the roads had become quite hilly. When we arrived in Patong he asked us where we wanted to be dropped off. We told him we were actually heading to Phuket Town and that it would be great if he could drop us off outside of Patong. He turned his head, looked at us, and cracked a smile.

"Give me 2 minutes," he said, after he pulled up to a hotel and parked the car. "I'll be right back."

Once he shut the door, Gabbi and I exchanged glances and smiled.

"You don't think he's gonna take us to Phuket Town, do you?" I said to Gabbi. We became giddy with anticipation. Once he returned and began driving, he asked us where we stayed in Phuket Town. I instantly smiled as I was looking out the window, and I knew Gabi was too.

"Thank you so much!" we repeatedly told our driver as we exited his truck. After he drove off, Gabi and I gave each other a high-five. We couldn't believe he drove us all the way to Josh's house. So nice.

At the house that night, I met a few friends of Josh's from New Zealand of Asian descent. They left New Zealand with the intention to travel through Southeast Asia, only to get stuck in Thailand after blowing $20,000 New Zealand dollars during their first month of traveling. Since then, however, they have started their own web design business and are living in Thailand. We all went out that night, but because I was so tired, I didn't enjoy myself as much as I would've liked. Don't get me wrong: I did have a good time; however, I just wanted to go to sleep. I didn't understand how Gabi still had the energy. I fell asleep in 2 seconds when we returned to Josh's home.

The following and final day consisted of me hanging out with Josh's friend in the morning, watching a movie in the afternoon, and hanging out with Josh in the evening. Josh took me to a scenic view point which he recently discovered. It had a 360 panoramic view overlooking Phuket Town, the adjacent islands and the sea. We were there for sunset. Man, it was amazingly beautiful. It was a fitting ending to my stay in Phuket as I was leaving the following morning.
It just so happened that Gabi had a morning flight as well, so we agreed to share a taxi together.

Though my return to Phuket was short lived, I had a really nice time and was glad I'd come back. It was especially great to see Josh again. It's always sad when you don't know when you'll see a friend again. He told me he's flirting with the idea of moving to Norway. So perhaps I'll see him there if I decide to go to Europe. But whether or not he's in Phuket, I'll continue to be reminded of him and my days in Phuket when I hear the song "I got a feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas.

I gotta feeling! . . .


Next Stop: Pai, Thailand

Singapore, Part 5: The Final Day.

Last full day in Singapore.


Time flies when you're having fun.

Sheila and I got off to a late start, too. We pretty much lounged around while enjoying one another's company and watched episodes of Glee, one of Sheila's favorite shows.

We eventually pulled ourselves away from the apartment and went into town to have lunch. Afterwards we bought some delicious frozen yogurt and walked to the Fountain of Wealth, the largest fountain in the world. I didn't get to witness the Fountain in all its glory, that occurs only in the evenings; however, we still took a few pictures in front of it.

"Excuse me," Sheila said as she approached a random guy who was with his friends, "Can you please take a picture of us?"

"Yes. Sure."

"Thanks," Sheila responded. "And make sure that your friends are not in the picture, either." I let out a light, soft chuckle. I found Sheila's candor quite humorous.

Afterwards, we sat down at a nearby park bench and began discussing ways in how we could see each other again.

"Would you want me to visit you in Japan when you visit your Aunt?" I asked.

"Of course! I would love to see you in Japan," she excitedly responded. "If you came to Japan, that would be our fourth country that we've been together. I like."

I liked too.

"Okay, well, let's plan on meeting in Japan after I travel to China, then."

"Awww . . . but that's 2 months from now," she said, sounding sad. "I don't like." I didn't either, but I knew the next 2 months would go by like that - SNAP! - and I would be in Japan before I knew it.

Noticing the time on my watch, we headed back to the apartment. Tonight, a few of Sheila's friends, Dawn and Chapz, were coming over to join us for dinner and celebrate Sheila's belated birthday.

Back at the apartment, Sheila checked her email and Facebook through Jeng's phone as the internet for the laptop wasn't working. And as I was reading in a chair next to the window, Sheila asked me a question.

"Adam, who's Guido?"

"Guido? He's a friend of mine from the States. Why?"

"Because he commented on a picture of me that you recently posted."

I don't know but, to me, the way she sounded as she proceeded to read his comment was hilarious.

"He said, 'Where's a major wind gust when you need one? ;-)' "

I about fell off my chair I was laughing so hard. Sheila didn't find it as funny as I did, however.

Good ol' Guido. Miss ya, buddy.

Soon Sheila's friends, Dawn and Chapz, arrived at the apartment and we all enjoyed a delicious dinner and b-day cake. Mmm . . . mmm good.

Sadly the time had arrived in which Sheila and I were leaving Singapore and parting ways. We woke up early and took the MRT all the way to the last line: The airport.

We had breakfast at McDonald's and enjoyed our final moments being . . . well, goofy.

Next I walked with her up to the point where I couldn't continue any further.

"Well, I guess this is it, " I said, feeling at a loss of words.

"Awww . . . I'm going to miss you, Adam."

"I'm going to miss you too," I responded. "But, hey, two months."

"Two months," Sheila repeated, smiling. And we exchanged a hug and kiss before I headed back to my terminal, located way over yonder on the other side of the airport.

"Two months," I thought to myself as I began boarding the plane. "Two months."

How many people board a plane heading to Phuket, Thailand, wishing they were going somewhere else? But, nah, it's going to be an amazing 2 months. The plan was to revisit some friends in Thailand for a month before heading to China where I would meet my cousin, Jessica.

Japan will be here like that - SNAP!


Next Stop: Phuket, Thailand

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Singapore, Part 4: Universal Studios and Getting Lost in the Streets of Singapore.

After a glorious nights sleep, I was awakened by Sheila who said she had breakfast prepared for me. So I sat up, rubbed my blurry eyes, stretched and let out a lions yawn. I briefly starred out the living room window from the 28th floor of Jeng's apartment, where I had an amazing view overlooking the city, before joining Sheila at the kitchen table. Just another day in the life . . .

The plan was to visit Universal Studios which had recently opened in Singapore. Sheila, who's never been to there, wanted to check it out. But first, Sheila and I shared a taxi with Jeng's roommates, Ellen and Amiel, to Raffles City where I would attempt to withdraw money with my debit card. After I had my debit card stolen in Vietnam and was issued a new one, I hadn't been able to withdraw money. It didn't work in the Philippines or Malaysia, so if it didn't work here, in Singapore, it would probably be safe to assume that I had a defective card. During the taxi ride, Amiel said he used to avidly participate in CouchSurfing (CS) and had hosted many, many people here. He told me Singapore is a popular place to CS as accommodation is so expensive, something Sheila and I discovered after our first night.

Sheila and I, now by ourselves, began searching for banks. The end result? I'm displeased to report that I still could NOT withdraw money. Ugh! I was very, very displeased. I asked Sheila if we could sit for a moment. We walked across the bridge, passing the Fullerton Hotel and the sculpture of children and found a park bench located in front of the Asian Civilization Museum. Sheila, who noticed that I was obviously upset, inquired what I was thinking. I expressed my frustrations and said that I would be fine - I just needed a moment to calm down and clear my thoughts. Just then a diseased looking bird flew down, landing a few feet from where we were sitting.

"What the hell is that?" I said.

"Awww . . . " Sheila responded, feeling compassion for the ugly bird. It was so sad but, at the same time, so funny and the both of us roared with laughter. As my mood had obviously taken a turn for the best, Sheila felt it was the perfect time to become Ms. Paparazzi once again, and began taking millions of pictures.

Next we headed to Universal Studios.

Tickets for Universal Studios had all been sold out, but that didn't deter us from taking pictures in and around its vicinity. Just walking around the Studios' grounds was satisfying enough for me. Its atmosphere created that magical feeling as if you really were walking around in a movie, as popular musical scores from its movies were being played.

After we left Universal Studios we began walking to another Merlion, only to get caught in a downpour. We ran for cover. After we found a place to sit, waiting for the ran to stop, we heard loud shrieks coming from around the corner.

"What in the world is going on?" I said, and I got up to see what the commotion was all about.

Sadly, a nasty accident had occurred. One of the descending escalators had abruptly stopped, sending children tumbling down the stairs. The cries from the injured children echoed throughout the building. An ambulance arrived shortly after.

As the rain came to a drizzle, Sheila and I quickly walked to the enormous Merlion. Sheila set up the tripod while we waited for our turn to take a picture as there was a long line. Once it was our turn, Sheila set the timer for the camera and we ran up the stairs. After I saw the flash go off from her camera, notifying us that our picture had been taken, there was another flash, then another, and another, and . . .

"Good God!" I said, "How many pictures did you set it for?'' People were becoming impatient, as there was a long line of people waiting their turn.

"I set it for 10 pictures," Sheila said nonchalantly.

"Ten?!" I yelled. "Are you crazy? You're gonna get us lynched!" And we began to laugh uncontrollably.

Next we went to the man-made Siloso Beach. But because it began to rain, Sheila and I ran for cover again. We found shelter under a giant awning where people were having picnics and playing frisbee. We relaxed and enjoyed some tender sweet moments before moving on.

My friend, Ghana, who I'd met in Malaysia, said he had a friend, a Filipina coincidentally, who's an excellent musician that performs nightly in Singapore and, if I got the chance, suggested that I attend one of her performances. Sounded good. So after Sheila and I left Siloso Beach we took the MRT back into town.

While standing in the MRT, holding onto the railing as I rocked back and forth with every turn, Sheila asked me why I spelled the word 'pretty' as 'prettay' in my blogs. I told her I spell it like that when I impersonate Larry David from his HBO television show Curb Your Enthusiasm.

"How do you say it?" Sheila inquired. "Like this? Prettay . . . Prettay . . . Prettay . . . Prettay good."

"Naw, naw, " I said, laughing, "That was terrible. Say it like this: Prettay . . . Prettay . . . Prettay good."

She attempted again. "Prettay . . . Prettay . . . Prettay good."

"Hey, that was pretty good, actually," I told her.

"Pretty good?" she said, smiling, "Or was it . . . Prettay . . . Prettay . . . Prettay good?"

"Oh, Lord, look at what I've created," I thought to myself.

She continued. "Prettay . . . Prettay . . . Prettay . . . "

Then I joined her and we began saying it together. "Prettay . . . Prettay . . . Prettay. . . "

Everyone's eyes in the MRT were fixated on us as we must have sounded and looked absurd. Sheila and I shared a hearty laugh together.

We got off at Bugis station and walked across the street to the shopping market. After we left the market we began walking towards Lavender Street where Ghana's friend was to perform.

"Hey, I'm hungry," I told Sheila. "You want to eat at Burger King?"

"Nah, let's eat somewhere further down the road," she said.

After walking block after block without finding one measly restaurant, I looked over at Sheila. "Hmmm . . . Sure wish we would've eaten at Burger King," I said to her, smiling. She knew that I was just messing around with her.

Then it began to rain.

Suddenly we found ourselves walking in the rain, feeling hungry and tired.

"Yeah, Burger King would've been pretty good!" I jokingly repeated. "And where the heck is this Lavender Street, anyways?"

Sheila and I caught the laughing bug.

"Poor us," Sheila said, laughing. "Poor us." And we continued to walk aimlessly through the wet streets of Singapore - but laughing. People probably thought we were intoxicated by the way we were behaving. Especially me, as I began walking with a limp as my feet were hurting so much.

Eventually we called it a night as we were both feeling tired. We took the MRT back to Bugis station and enjoyed a pleasant meal at . . . . . Burger King. VICTORY!!!!


Monday, July 12, 2010

Singapore, Part 3: The Merlion and Meeting Sheila's Friends.

[Sound of an alarm clock]

"Ah, man, it cannot be time to wake up already," I thought to myself. But sadly it was, so Sheila and I began fumbling around in the dark and got ready to leave as we were meeting Sheila's friend, Jeng, for breakfast at her apartment. I was so happy that I had decided to pack the night before as I could barely think I was so tired. Thank goodness for Sheila or I would've gone back to sleep. She treated me as if I was a wounded soldier in battle.

-Begin Scene-
[Sounds of gun fire and explosions]

Me: Ugh...I can't make it, Sheila! I'm too tired! Just go! Enjoy the breakfast without me!

Sheila: I'm not leaving you behind, Adam! We're in this together! I made a promise to Jeng that the BOTH of us would arrive at her apartment together and I'll be damned if I break that promise! It's going to be a delicious breakfast, and I'm going to see to it that you're there to enjoy it with me! Now get up!

-End Scene-

The sun was just beginning to perch over the horizon as we left the hostel. The streets of Singapore were noticeably absent of people as we walked to the MRT station. It was quiet. A little too quiet, really. After, both, a MRT and bus ride we successfully arrived at Jeng's house on time. All in all, it took about an hour.

"Hey!" Sheila and Jeng both shouted in excitement, after Jeng opened the door to greet us. They were pretty happy to see one another to say the least, as they continued to hug and frolic around.

"Oh," said Sheila finding a second to introduce me, "This is Adam."

"Hi," Jeng said, "Nice to meet you." And the both of them quickly scurried off to the kitchen speaking in tagalog.

Eh, women . . .

Jeng and her boyfriend, Kenny, share the apartment with 3 other people: Ellen & Amiel, a pair of newlyweds, and Joan. All Filipinos. After everyone left work, leaving Sheila and I with the apartment to ourselves, we lounged around for half the day waiting for the rain to stop.

After a late start, Sheila took me to see the Merlion located near Singapore's financial street along the harbor. I still don't understand the significance of the Merlion but there were a lot of people, including us, who took pictures in front of it. It's some sort of touristy gimmick, I think. On our way back over the bridge, Sheila and I indulged and bought a few ice cream sandwiches. Yummy.

We met up with Jeng at a McDonald's restaurant after she got off work as I was craving a Big Mac. So delicious. I don't know why but I was craving Big Macs the entire time I was in Singapore. It was nice to deviate from the rice and noodles diet for once. Don't get me wrong I love rice and noodles, but dang, having it 3 times a day for 8 months gets a little bit old.

After consuming my delicious, satisfying Big Mac the 3 of us took a stroll around the neighborhood before returning to the apartment.
As we were walking towards the MRT Jeng noticed that Sheila and I were holding hands.

"Why are you holding hands?" Jeng half-jokingly shouted while pointing at us. "Are you her boyfriend?" Sheila began to laugh as she explained to me prior to visiting Singapore of the cultural differences between the US and the Philippines in terms of relationships. Apparently, in the Philippines, it's taboo or frowned upon for a male and femal to show affection if they're not "officially" labeled as a couple. Maybe it's not taboo, but it sure creates a lot of gossip.

Back at the apartment Sheila and Jeng prepared and served dinner. The Philippines is a country deep rooted in Catholicism and its influence could be observed at the dinner table as everyone said a silent prayer before eating.

Before we went to sleep, Sheila requested - more like ordered - that I give her my dirty clothes so she could hand wash them. I definitely didn't have to be coerced to hand over my dirty clothes to be washed for me. I found it very sweet that Sheila enjoyed cooking my meals and washing my clothes. So nurturing. I liked.