(From 2012) I ended up in the most famous bookstore in the world, City Lights Bookstore on Columbus Avenue, near Broadway, North Beach, San Francisco. I actually bought a book. But the place is really “bigger” than its books. It was the home of a stream of consciousness unrivaled in the past century, perhaps even more so. But why?
A man by the name of Peter D. Martin moved from New York to San Francisco in the 1940s. The City Lights name originated in an old 1952 Charlie Chaplin film. Martin used it as the title for a magazine, for writers like himself, as well as the famous Lawrence Ferlinghetti. In another year, he used the City Lights name to start the first all paperback bookstore in the United States.
The story goes that in 1953, Mr. Ferlinghetti walked past the storefront at 261 Columbus Avenue. Luck would have it that Mr. Martin was hanging a sign out front, saying “Pocket Book Shop.” Mr. Ferlinghetti eventually formed a partnership with Mr. Martin, and “City Lights” was born.
More remarkably, the partners each put up $500, and hired Shig Murao as a clerk. After working at first without any pay, Mr. Murao became not only the store manager but the man responsible for the “feel” of the store. And I can tell you first hand, the store still has the same fell today as it did during the heyday of the Beat generation, though Mr. Ferlinghetti claims to be a “bohemian of an earlier generation.”
The store has always served as a center of protest, for people who really want to change society. People like Tim Leary and Paul Krassner hung out there. That seems a long way to 2001, when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors made City Lights an official historic landmark. Their statement says it all, “a landmark that attracts thousands of book lovers from all over the world because of its strong ambiance of alternative culture and arts”, and it acknowledged City Lights Publishers for its “significant contribution to major developments in post-World War 2 literature.”
In 1955, Mr. Ferlinghetti also started publishing as City Lights Publishers. Apart from Ginsberg’s seven collections, a number of the early Pocket Poets volumes brought out by Ferlinghetti have attained the status of classics, including True Minds by Marie Ponsot (1957), Here and Now by Denise Levertov (1958), Gasoline (1958) by Gregory Corso, Selected Poems by Robert Duncan (1959), Lunch Poems (1964) by Frank O’Hara, Selected Poems (1967) by Philip Lamantia, Poems to Fernando (1968) by Janine Pommy Vega, Golden Sardine (1969) by Bob Kaufman, and Revolutionary Letters (1971) by Diane di Prima.
His “Howl and Other Poems” is a story in itself. For just one day, today, let’s just say it was a marvelous step back in time.
When I first heard of the white cities or towns in Spain, I was a bit worried. Do they only allow white people in the towns? As it turns out, they are called white towns for a completely different reason. The whitewashed villages of Andalucía are historical monuments in and of themselves. The people still live with age old traditions going back to their Iberian, Roman and Moorish ancestors.
Most of these towns began as fortresses along the ever fluctuating frontier between Christian and Moorish realms. Over the centuries, the towns have developed thriving agricultural centers producing olive oil, fruit, vegetables, cork, and goat’s milk. We decided to take the winy, hilly, curvy drive up to Ronda one day during our stay in Marbella a few years ago. We were staying in a large apartment in Marbella (Puerto Banus) with our dear friend Ingrid for a week.
The girls got a little car sick on the way up the hills. The Spanish are reckless and fast drivers, as we pulled off the road numerous times. The best therapy for the girls was a wide spot in the road, where we found a huge leather coat store. We must have been there for hours. Sheri bought a nice leather jacket, and I ordered one to be shipped to their store in Marbella for fitting. Then, since Ingrid was the most nauseated, and needing relief from NOT buying a leather jacket, we had her drive the remaining way.
By the way, Ronda is Andalucía’s fastest growing town. But Ronda retains its old world charm with a well preserved Old Town, breathtaking views of the Serrania de Ronda mountains, and the deep El Tajo gorge that straddles a 100 meter chasm below. But Ronda is probably best known as the birthplace of modern bullfighting. Legendary Rondeño bullfighter Pedro Romero broke away from the prevailing Jerez ‘school’ of horseback bullfighting in the 18th century to found a style of bullfighting in which matadores stood their ground against the bull on foot. In 2006 royalty and movie stars were helicoptered in for the Goyesca’s 50th anniversary celebrations in its small bullring, while thousands jammed the streets and parks outside. Otherwise the bullring, Plaza de Toros, is now a museum, and visitors can stroll out into the arena.
Across the bridge, where an elegant cloistered 16th century convent is now an art museum, old Ronda, La Ciudad, sidewinds off into cobbled streets hemmed by handsome town mansions, some still occupied by Ronda’s titled families. The Casa de Don Bosco is one such, its interior patio long ago roofed in glass against Ronda’s harsh winters. Its small, almost folly-like gardens lose out, however, to the true star, a few minutes’ walk to the furthest end of the Ciudad, the Palacio Mondragón. Clumsily modernized in parts during the 1960s, this still has working vestiges of the exquisite miniature water gardens dating from its time as a Moorish palace during Ronda’s brief reign as a minor Caliphate under Córdoba in the 12th century.
The first thing we did after parking the car in an underground garage, was find an outdoor cafe for a light lunch and refreshments. On a typically warm May afternoon, a cold beer was most welcome. Not a minute too soon, did we head out to the many little shops lining the narrow cobblestone streets of old town Ronda. Low and behold, we found the shoe store (photo attached)of Ingrid’s dreams. This shop carried a plethora of narrow shoe styles, it seemed just for her. I even bought a pair of casual shoes that looked more like golf shoes. We must have looked totally ridiculous walking down the street with huge bags of shoe boxes, and a tourist map.
But as exciting as the shoe girls and boy were, the real highlight was seeing the bridge over the El Tajo gorge. It would not be difficult to see why the city was virtually impenetrable from would be conquerors trying to cross the 100 meter deep gorge. And the views are spectacular. We wished we could have spent a night or two up here in the hills, as none of us wanted to face the drive back down the hill. But I did get to visit several stores that had my favorite black hoofed jamon, illegal at the time for import to the U.S. I just heard it is available now at about $37 per quarter pound. I plan to send one to my friend Mike. We were in Spain right after 9-11, and fell in love with the jamon.
After buying a few more souvenirs, including a drawing by a local street artist down the narrowest alley in town, we headed back. We hear the sunrise and sunset here are the best in Spain. Oh well, next time. Ingrid drove again, chased by several large buses. I firmly believe the bus drivers in Spain have a death wish! But, coolly and calmly, she would let them pass at the turnouts. We made it back despite the worst rush hour traffic I have ever seen in Spain. We found a shortcut through a poor village and on dirt roads, saving at least an hour.
This day trip turned out to be a great way to see the white villages, shop, and get car sick. But I would not trade it for anything else. It was one of the highlights of our trip to Spain.
If there is one place on earth that is the most special and interesting, it is the Angkor temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia. We found Cambodia to be a special place, and the Angkor temples to be one of the best and most fascinating sights in the world. As one blogger pointed, out, Angkor is both beautiful and suggestive, the temples cover a broad expanse beyond Angkor Wat itself, and nothing is homogeneous, as the complex was built over four centuries. And through these four centuries, we have only come to discover them in the last 150 years. This magnificent area was abandoned and hidden by the forest and jungle, along with years of neglect under the Khmer Rouge.
The Angkor period spans the ninth to the fifteenth centuries. During this period the Khmer empire reached it maximum splendor, along with becoming one of the most powerful kingdoms in Southeast Asia. Angkor was built during this zenith, led by Jayavarman II, who called himself the good king. The temples portray a high level of civilization, and an exquisite taste for art. The enormous job involved thousands of workers to move the stone, and another army of thousands doing the artisan work. Though they are long departed, they left stories of their lives, customs, and their wars.
The magnificent temples of Angkor are located near Siem Reap, and are considered the largest temple complex in the world. The entire Angkor area covers 400 square kilometers, and contains over 100 temples. A good guide is as important as a good pair of shoes. And it is not inexpensive to visit Angkor. A one day pass is $20 USD, three day pass $40, and a one week pass $60.
(As it looked in 1866)
I will concentrate on Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and Bayon, my three favorites. Angkor Wat was built by Suryavarman II and is considered the largest Asian pyramid. The central complex has four lotus flower shaped towers on each of the four corners. At the center is a quincunx of towers. This temple is the highlight of the complex, as well as the largest and most breathtaking. The most famous decorations are the Apsara, or heavenly nymphs, which number over 300, each different, with over 30 styles. The central complex is 800 meters long on each side and consists of bas-reliefs depicting battles, the king’s army, heaven and hell, the churning of the ocean of milk, the elephant gate, Vishnu, demons, and the Battle of Gods.
(As it looks today)
As we walked through the central complex of Angkor, we could admire the craftmanship and strength required to build this huge complex. The fact that is has stood for about a thousand years is testament to their engineering ability. It has been the bet preserved temple, and continues as a significant religious centre, first Hindu (dedicated to Vishnu), then Buddhist. It is the enduring symbol of Cambodia, appears on its national flag, and best exemplifies Khmer architecture. Curiously, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west, for unknown reasons.
It is most advisable to arrive as early as possible. Sunrise and sunset are also popular viewing and visiting times. The heat during the day becomes unbearably hot and humid by mid day. We tend to start early each day, have a nice lunch, rest or spa in the afternoon, and do a little more exploring before sunset. Fortunately our car was air conditioned, and loaded with icy cold water in the trunk. Our second visit there was done in a medium size bus. In both cases, we were the only passengers!!!
We could not help but make eye contact with the local Khmer people. A large group operate small booths selling souvenirs, mostly T shirts, books, and trinkets. Another group sells water and soda, along with some small snack bags.
But the most heart rending group are the mine victims. Most of them play in a make shift band, asking for donations.
I dare any of you to pass by without donating some money. But as we peer into their eyes, we see a sadness or resignation. They have been through so much, having lost loved ones to the terror and killing of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. The children aggressively hawk their books and souvenirs. Again, it is hard to say no.
Our guide on our first visit was Srei Roath, who we maintain contact and friendship with. She is planning to get married next year as well. She proudly and expertly led us through the Angkor Wat temple, and later through many others. She has purchased some land to build a guesthouse someday as well. On our second visit, we invited her to dine with us in the French restaurant in our 5 star hotel, the Sofitel Royal Angkor. It was her first time for both champagne and rack of lamb. But she was not treated with much respect by the locals working in the restaurant, called Mahout’s Dream. It was rather obvious, and we applauded her for her fortitude. She is a real lady, and a great guide, and even better friend.
The second visit to Angkor Wat was markedly different for me. I felt much better this time, and I wanted to climb to the top of the temple. I was unable to do it the first time due to an upset stomach, though Sheri was able to make it to the top. The problem is trying to get back down, since the steps are so steep and with a narrow pitch. Most of us had to climb down backwards, on all fours. Never have I been so glad to get back to terra firma.
Also, having learned more details on the first trip, we concentrated more on the big picture. This included how we thought the temple was used by the king and locals, as well as the function of the rooms and chambers. The large stones were brought from tens of miles away (the nearest rock quarry), probably during the floods and rainy season, or dragged by elephants.
Angkor Wat lies only 5.5 km north of Siem Reap. Siem Reap has become a mecca for travelers local and foreign. Foreign investors have built many new hotels, and guesthouses abound for the locals and backpackers. Restaurants are popping up everywhere, and a small middle class is being built to support the tourist movement. The hotels are staffed by young men and women who have learned to speak English. Their parents are still on the farms, while they are learning the language of the future.
But the future of the young folks, and the future of their country depends heavily on their cultural riches of the Angkor complex. Its magnificence is greater than any man made structure on earth. This is their ticket to the 21st century, and their ability to break the cycle of poverty and exploitation. The Khmer welcome us warmly and gracefully. Every request is carefully and thoughtfully prepared and executed. They are proud of their country, despite its poor infrastructure, dirt roads, beggars, and mine victims. The people there make it special. I have not been to the Taj Mahal yet, but I consider this experience greater than the Sistine Chapel, Westminster Abbey or Notre Dame.
Aerial view during the rainy season.
In many ways, sitting in a fancy hotel, with plentiful buffets, we felt some guilt and need to help the locals. We asked Roath to take us into the old part of town, so we could visit the small shops and artisans. We also ran into many young girls and children begging for money. We were told about the young girls who sell their baby for $100 or less. We were told not to give money to the children, since they would be reward for not attending school. But they looked so poor, and so hungry, that Sheri gave most of the $1 bills she brought to the children and other beggars.
Another highlight for us was feeding the monkeys on the roadside, around the temples, and on the main roads. We bought a huge cache of bananas at a roadside stand. We found a huge family of monkeys on our way back to town. Our guide warned us to close the windows, and drop the bananas to the ground. Within seconds, our little bus was swarmed with monkeys, climbing on top of the bus, arms reaching inside, and a constant chatter outside. It was quite a scene, since their aggressiveness was rather surprising. Once we got comfortable, we threw the bananas to the little guys, since the grandpa (boss) monkey was trying to hoard all of the bananas.
We were able to make some purchases in these small stalls. When I asked for forty scarves, the shop keeper was just ecstatic. And Sheri bought several silk purses from the same lady. It must have been her biggest sale of the year. But nonetheless, these people are proud, yet humble, and poor, yet dignified. Where else in the world can this be?
We recently returned in October, 2018.
The first time I heard of Kuala Lumpur was when Muhammed Ali fought Joe Frazier there in the 70’s. I had no idea where it was, or anything about the city, the country and its people. After visiting several years ago, I am a little more familiar, thanks to our friends Sohbee and Angela. I can only hope I describe some of the city accurately on their behalf, as it is a wonderful place to visit, with friendly people, and lots to do.
Sheri was going to the local community college here when she met Sohbee (aka Pansy), an energetic young lady, married to an enjoyable and fun loving British chap, Tom Sturt. They have a daughter, Isabelle, and they lived here for several years, before moving to Dalian, China a few years ago. They met in KL when Sohbee was a young lady, and Tom was there as an architect. They kept telling us that we should make the time to visit KL on our many trips to SE Asia. They also suggested that we stay at the fabulous Datai Hotel on Langkawi.
So, we went, first to the Datai, and then to KL. Our first night there, we called Angela, Sohbee’s dear friend who still lives in KL. She arranged a tour of the city the next day for us. Then she and a friend met us for dinner in Chinatown that evening. They also took us to eat our first durian, the stinky fruit, at a roadside stand on the streets of KL’s Chinatown. But the best part is that Angela has become a dear friend. She met us a few years ago in Sydney, and showed us around as well. We hope she will visit us someday soon.
Anyway, KL is a very interesting city for many reasons. KL is a city of almost 2 million population. Its residents are known a KLites. It is home to the tallest twin buildings in the world, the Petronas Twin Towers. Its origins are traced back to the 1950’s when the Malay Chief, Raja Abdullah, hired Chinese laborers for the tin mines. It became a trading post, although it went through many problems, like disease, fire, and floods. During WW2, KL was captured by the Japanese. They surrendered to the British after the atomic bombs. In 1969, the worst race riot in KL took place between the Malays and the Chinese. But the result of 196 deaths was resolved into major reform of KL’s economic policy. Another movement in 1998 called the Reformasi in KL, resulting in the sack of the Deputy Prime Minister. As recently as 2007, two of the largest political rallies in history took place.
My perception of things now is a little different. It appears to me that the three major cultures, the Malays, the Muslims, and the Chinese seem to get along well at the individual level. Everywhere we went, people seemed very friendly and helpful, almost to a fault. But after reading and talking to locals, the undercurrents of racism still run strong, perhaps stronger than in our country. I do not know where it is headed, or how it will be resolved, if that is even possible.
Moving on to our trip, we landed at the KL airport and took a car and driver to the fabulous Mandarin Oriental Hotel. It is located in the heart of downtown, and next door to KLCC and the Petronas Twin Towers. Despite the fancy buildings and architecture, KL retains great local colour and traditional culture, with a bustling and vibrant Chinatown, and a noisy, curry filled Little India. People here love to eat, any time of day, whenever the food is good and inexpensive. Our friend suggested lunch at the KLCC shopping center food court. Every type of Malaysian food was represented, and it was difficult to choose just one or two stalls.
We took our usual mini van tour of the city on the first morning. People here are very proud of their city and its many sights. We saw many of the city highlights: the Butterfly Reserve, KL Bird Park, the National Monument, Petaling Street (Chinatown), Petronas Towers, KL Tower, the Courthouse, the Royal Palace, the old Train Station, and the Chinese Temple. We finally got tired of seeing the pewter and street markets, so we called it a day. But our driver have us some hope for shopping in Chinatown. He pointed to his “Rolex” on his wrist. He said he got it for $20 US, but that we would probably have to pay more unless we have a local with us. We eventually bought some in Penang with our friends Jason and Chun. He is an expert on “Rolexes”.
After a rest, we arranged to finally meet Angela in person. She suggested the Furama Hotel in Chinatown at 6pm. We got there a little early, and got to walk around the busy Chinatown streets and open market. After almost getting caught in a heavy rainstorm, we waited at another hotel bar since the Furama was closed. When it was time to meet Angela, we headed out to the street. She spotted us from across the street, never having seen us before!! But the streets were flooded, and there was no way to get across without wading in a foot or two of rain water. The resourceful Angela found a way to cross the street and meet and greet us.
It turns out that she and her friend arranged for us to have dinner right where we were standing. It was a very “local” type place. We were the only foreigners in the place, and Sheri the only Caucasian. Angela and her friend took care of ordering. But first, her friend put all of our bowls, plates and chopsticks in a large bowl, and poured hot tea over them. Wow, we never have seen that before. I wondered what would be next.
As the food arrived, Angela explained that one of the dishes is called “worms”, and is a favorite of her niece. She said her niece could eat the entire serving. We wanted to know a little more about this dish, as in, could it really be worms? She assured us that it only looks like worms. We have encountered strange names for Chinese dishes. Another curious one is called “Ants on a Tree”. So far so good, right? Wrong! Sheri discovered that this wonderful dish called “worms” was made out of liver. Now, we both hate liver, but it did not bother me. As soon as she tasted it, she stopped eating!!! It was actually kind of funny. The rest of the meal was quite delicious, and it was fun to try some new things.
After dinner, Angela asked us what we wanted to do. Sheri and I said we wanted to try durian, known variously as the king of fruit, or the stinky fruit. Durian is from a large family of plants, such as cotton, okra and hibiscus. It can grow as large as 12 inches by 6 inches, and weigh from 2 to seven pounds. It is shaped like a football, and has a brownish-green spikey exterior. The odor has caused hotels and public transportation to ban it from its premises. But it is relatively expensive compared to other fruit. It averages from $8 to $15 dollars US.
A British naturalist describes the taste thusly. A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy. It is neither acid nor sweet nor juicy; yet it wants neither of these qualities, for it is in itself perfect. It produces no nausea or other bad effect, and the more you eat of it the less you feel inclined to stop. Well, I cannot stand the stuff, both then when I had to spit it out, and now, after trying it several more times. They say it is an acquired taste, much like beer when we were in College. At least, beer left me intoxicated. I would describe the taste as a cross between rotten onions, stinky sweat socks, and over ripe bananas.
So, Angela and her friend enjoyed the durian themselves. They said it was a really good one. She bought some other fruit for us to cleanse our palate. We enjoyed the rambutan, since it tastes like its cousin, the lychee. We will never forget that night, nor Sheri the look on my face. Angela said the people sitting at our outdoor stand were from Hong Kong, and were really enjoying it. In fact, she said they call the people from Hong Kong by the nickname, “honkies”. Sheri is now a big durian fan. She has purchased it here at County Square Market in Pleasant Hill. She talked Jason and Chun in Penang into taking us to a street vendor. She even bought some in Laos earlier this year.
The next morning, Sheri had to recover from the previous day’s festivities. So I took off on foot to the tall KL Tower for a view of the city. I walked about 8 blocks to the base of the tower, then walked up another 500 yards, uphill to the entrance. The 360 degree view was spectacular. The Malaysians like to copy architecture from around the world. In one place, I could see full size copies of the Sydney Opera House, Notre Dame, and the World Trade Center’s twin towers. I also got a great view of our hotel, KLCC, and the famous Petronas Twin Towers. Did you know that each tower was guilt by different companies? Tower 1 was built by the Japanese, and Tower 2 by the Koreans. From 1998 to 2004, it was the tallest building in the world, now passed by Taipei 101. The Skybridge that connects the towers serve as both a stabilizer, and a fire escape. Interestingly, after the 9-11 attack in the U.S., it was determined that the staircases in the Petronas Twin Towers cannot handle the people working in the two towers.
By this time, it was pretty evident that Sheri was getting sick. I went over to the Pharmacy at KLCC to find some guaifenesin for her congestion. The female pharmacist was quite interesting. She had a designer dress, full face of makeup, a fancy hairdo, spiked heels, and a white lab coat. It is a far different picture than any of my employees. She looked more like a super model. She had never heard of what I was looking for, so I bought something else. But what an experience.
There is much more to see of KL, and the surrounding area. We would love to go back (several times) and have Angela show us all of her favorite places. The driver who took us to the airport, drove us by the new city of Putrajaya. Since 1999, they moved the legislative, executive and judicial offices here in an effort to relieve some of the congestion of people and traffic in KL. It is a planned city, still undergoing rapid growth and building. It has tree lined wide boulevards, lots of parking, lakes, traffic signals, open areas of green, and lots of affordable housing. The idea of replacing KL started back in the 80’s. Similar plans have been discussed for Bangkok, Thailand as well.
We went to Singapore a few years ago, with our friend Mike and his son, Matt. It was our first and only trip to this unique, and clean place. On the map, Singapore is an island just south of Malaysia, toward the southern end of SE Asia. In 1819, the British East India Company (remember reading about that in grade school history?) established a strategic trading post for the many spices first, then as a military and commercial center for the British Empire. It was actually occupied by Japan during WW2, then reverted back to British rule. It became an independent republic in 1965, though it retains much of its British roots and culture.
This small island nation is the 6th wealthiest country per capita in the world. Its citizens enjoy a high standard of living, and a representative democracy, with English as the official language. However, ethnic Chinese make up the bulk of the population. It is also only one of three city-states in the world. But don’t be fooled, it is a busy and vibrant city, with great shopping, multi ethnic foods, and some famous landmarks.
First, when we landed, the Singapore airport looks more like a hotel lobby than an airport. Even the baggage claim areas have fresh flowers and soft music. Though we landed late at night, the drive into the city was remarkable for its clean streets, and lack of blighted areas. It was almost hilarious at our hotel, part of the well known, and nicely appointed Meritus chain. We checked in and Sheri and I got twin beds!!! Mike’s son, Matt, got a king size bed for himself, as did Mike. It turns out that we were travelling under different last names. They said they give twin beds to “single” travelers. I spent most of the night trying to keep from falling onto the floor.
Naturally, the next morning we took a tour of the city. We spent a good deal of time at their famous botanical garden and orchid farm. We also visited the many ethnic areas of the city, like Chinatown, and Little India. We visited the heart of the business district, as well as the government sponsored apartments or condos. Even the architects and city planners here practice feng-shui. Their system allows newlyweds to buy homes at a reasonable price. They also allow families to live in close proximity to each other. For an elderly parent, an apartment or condo in the same building is almost mandatory.
We ended up having lunch in Chinatown, perhaps the cleanest Chinatown we have ever seen. We had some noodles and dim sum, which reminded us of home. But the highlight of the tour was seeing the famous Raffles Hotel, the place where the Singapore Sling drink was first concocted. I knew we just had to go back there on our own for a drink and a walk through perhaps the most famous hotel in all of Asia.
That night, we made plans to see the famous Singapore Safari Night Zoo. The uniqueness lies in the animal habitat without bars or cages. The zoo utilizes moats and natural barriers to keep animals as close to their natural home as possible. There is just enough light to spot the animals and their offspring. They were also fed their evening meal around the time we went on our tour. This was portayed as a must see here. But the animals appeared rather sedate, even the nocturnal predators.
Now, the next day was rather unpleasant. It started out great, as Sheri and I took a cab to the famous Raffles Hotel for our Singapore Sling, invented by Ngiam Tong Boon between 1910 and 1915. It was founded in 1887 by the famous Sarkies brothers, and named for Sir Thomas Raffles. Famous guests include: Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Charlie Chaplin, Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, George H.W. Bush, Jean Harlow and QE2.
But they would NOT let us inside with our bermuda shorts (even though it is hot). Then I fell ill while walking the outer grounds there. I laid down on a bench, but managed to buy a souvenir baseball cap. Sheri hailed a cab for us, so we headed back to the hotel. I am sure the cab driver was not happy with me, as I was pretty sick. I spent the rest of the day in bed, drinking and eating very little. I don’t know what is was other than a 24 hour bug. And I was so dizzy that I had difficulty staying on the twin bed!
I managed to get out of bed the next day, very weak and tired. I managed to make my way down famous Orchard Avenue, the crown jewel of shoppers in Singapore. We were expecting high fashion, but found that electronics were the main draw. But, we finally got to partake in the famous Singapore food courts and hawker stalls. Though my apetite was not fully back to normal, we marveled at the food choices and the reasonable prices. It is truly a foodies dream come true. We tried some steaming hot noodles, a rice dish, and the best rice pudding we had ever encountered. Just my luck to have an entire day go to waste.
Singapore is a nice place, but a little too organized and sterile for us. It lacks a soul or a charm, if you know what I mean. People, though friendly, do not exhibit the same warmth as in places like Laos or Thailand. It would be a safe and clean place to live. The school system is among the best in the world. The economy provides lots of jobs and social programs. What is there not to like? It just seemed too good to be true.