03 March 2008

A Visitor in Singapore

It is always a pleasure when I entertain overseas visitors. Combine it with a big event (or several), and the experience just gets better. So, I was excited when Stephen Corley made the trip over for a few days in Singapore before going to Hong Kong to help ring in my 40th birthday.

The week of his visit began with the Super Bowl and ended with Chinese New Year. The second day of Chinese New Year was my birthday, and I thought it was nice that a billion people would help me celebrate the milestone.

Chinese New Year is the biggest holiday for the Chinese, and the excitement was evident across the Singapore in the days leading up to it. Stephen arrived early on Sunday before, and we wasted little time in diving into the mix by heading to Chinatown. While the rainy season is said to end in January, a cloudburst had watered down the streets early that Sunday. But, as it had stopped, I confidently stated that we could leave our umbrellas behind: “It only rains once a day in Singapore.” By the time we reached our bus stop at the entrance of Chinatown, however, the skies had once again opened. We ducked through the five foot ways that line the streets of Chinatown, finally finding shelter on Food Street. After a refreshment and some dim sum to tide us over, we enjoyed the pre-holiday hustle and bustle. It is reminiscent of Christmas in the States: gifts are bought, lights are strung,and red and gold decorations are hung as far as the eye can see. It really is an exciting time.

The next morning was Super Bowl Sunday in the U.S. It was 6.45 when we boarded the bus to take us to Clarke Quay, where we would join the American Chamber of Commerce in watching the game. I won’t rehash the disappointment that was the game; suffice it to say that it was a very bad way for me to start my week. But, with the game being over by 11.00, we had most of the day ahead of us, for me to blow off steam.

Many years ago, Stephen’s grandparents invited their friends from around the world to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in Singapore, at the Raffles Hotel. So, it only made sense that we drop by to visit the site of the celebration. The Long Bar proved to be a nice place to while away an hour or so on a quiet Monday. And from there, it is a short hop to the Kampong Glam for a taste of the Muslim side of Singapore. We followed that up on Tuesday with a day of real local food - laksa for lunch and chilli crab for dinner. All in all, a good stay in Singapore for Stephen, and a nice opportunity for me to revisit some old and discover some new favorites.

But, as much as I enjoyed his visit, the main event was to come - a journey to one of my favorite cities in the world, Hong Kong.

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