Humid humid humid. It was warm, but not particularly hot. We have hot, here. We have hot and NO humidity. Completely different weather and completely different heat. If it wasn't humid when we were outside, then it was raining. Either way you were wet and sticky. Everything you touch there, in Singapore, is sticky. [Went through mad packages of wipes!]
The Singapore airport is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. As far as a terminal goes. We only saw Terminal 3, but from what I understand from talking to a police officer there and from others, Terminals 1 and 2 are just as nice. Incredibly organized and incredibly efficient. And, immaculate. Well of course it is. There is a $1,000 fine for chewing gum. No gum is sold in Singapore. [Medicinal gum, yes, in pharmacies.] There is a $500 fine for being caught smoking outside of a "smoking area." I forget how much the fine is for not flushing a toilet. My gosh there is a fine if you sell durian or eat durians! And, of course, when I saw the sign [no picture of that sign, sorry], I had to ask. What is a durian? Sounds like it should be a cigar, doesn't it? It is a fruit. I did not get an opportunity to try it. I did, however, see them sold in one of the open markets. [Lots of open markets!]
I took eight packages of cigarettes with me. You are allowed one open pack, for which you do not have to pay duty. I had the two open packs. I handed one to DH and said, "Here. These are yours." DH does not smoke. We got to customs and there are two lines. A green line for people that do not have anything to declare and a red line for people that have something to declare. I had already decided that I would be declaring the eight packs of unopened cigarettes I had. Big, hefty fine for NOT doing so. The duty paid would be almost equivalent to purchasing a pack of cigarettes there in Singapore - and I knew they would not have my brand - so I wanted the "tax stamp" which is a certificate they give you that says you are legal and will not be fined. I think the fine is $500. The duty tax we would have had to pay would have only be about $115. [Always trying to save money!] We could see our friends behind the glass wall waiting for us as we were about to go through one of the lines - the green or the red. We were waiving - everyone was all smiles - us and them - and I headed for the red line. I could tell by their faces - went from smiling and happy to - oh no - what is she doing?!? The nice man said, "What do you have to declare?" I said, "cigarettes." Then he said, "Where did you come from?" This always raises eye-brows. "Saudi Arabia." Two, tall, anglo-blonde Americans coming from Saudi Arabia...
He immediately wanted our passports. They are American passports - navy blue covers. The man started flicking through the pages and then asking questions. DH is ready to leave me there for putting us through this all so I could claim cigarettes, even though I had made it very clear that the duty taxes paid would be a whole lot less than the fine if I got caught. "How many packages do you have? Where did you buy them? How long will you be here?" I answered all the questions. He sent us back to the green line and told us to enjoy our stay. No duty taxes to be paid. Not a bad thing. Being honest. They do inspect your luggage and they would have found the cigarettes. I was not trying to hide them. My mistake, though, was not getting something in writing about this - but I didn't think about it until after the fact. We get through the green line and get outside where Jeff and Jude are waiting for us. Big hugs, hellos, all that, and then, "What the hell were you doing in the declaration line?" I explained... Apparently it would have been a good hour with forms and waits and official signatures, etc. Who knew? I just didn't want to find myself in trouble for NOT declaring something I was supposed to declare. Gave Jeff and Jude a good laugh. "Sorry, but I am not about to be jailed and or caned while I am visiting. Just doesn't sound like a lot of fun for vacation."
Walk outside the terminal and the air hits you. Takes your breath away. It is heavy and oppressive. I had jeans on and a short-sleeved sweater. We jumped into two taxi-cabs to get to Jeff and Jude's apartment. One wasn't big enough for all four of us and the luggage. All of the cabs are little cars - Toyota's and the like. I could not wait to get there to get out of my clothes. Couldn't get to their flat fast enough to get out of them. Once they are wet, they are wet and uncomfortable. How anyone can wear jeans in that humidity is beyond me. Many do, though. Jeff and Jude are Americans and although they have been in Singapore for three years have made the decision not to buy a car. It is prohibitively expensive. The car alone costs much more than anywhere else they have lived - a small five-seater, used Kia costs $43,000 and then you have to have a "license to own and operate" the vehicle and that costs another enormous amount. A Honda Accord costs $85,000. Forget that it is very expensive to buy / have a car. There is NO parking! Public transportation is much less expensive and very easy to use. Everyone takes the bus, the train [subway] or taxi-cabs. Jude had already gone and gotten paid bus cards for us so we were all set.
The view from the terrace at Jeff and Jude's flat:
I should have taken more photos of this from my camera. There are more on the other camera. The "flat" over looks a huge park and a school. As well as the "shipping lane" where there were massive, huge ships coming in and going out.
We spent our first late afternoon and evening catching up with our dear friends and enjoying time together over wine and beer. Jude made dinner that night and when she went to do the dishes I offered to help. What? No dishwasher? They are available and some "flats" have them. It is not however a common kitchen appliance. Most flats do not have them. No biggie. I'll help you do the dishes. Jude says, "No. Sit and relax." Okay. I do. It was not until the next day that I learned that it is also NOT uncommon to NOT have hot running water in the kitchen. Okay. Everyone has electric kettles and you heat water to do dishes. Just an interesting concept. How is it that you can have hot running water in the bathrooms for showering and bathing, but no hot water running to the kitchen? Interesting concept, indeed. We are talking nice "flat" housing. $4,000 a month NOT including utilities. Three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms [with hot water], kitchen, living room, dining room, maid's quarters... Marble floors. No hot water in the kitchen. You learn to deal with it and live with it. [Oh - there is hot water running to the washing machine, as well, which is outside of the flat in a back area which is open from the "inside of the building to the outside."]
These "holes and poles" are the "inside to the outside." It is like a "common" atrium area for the entire building. Open to the fresh air. This is where everyone hangs laundry - unless, of course, you hang it on your terrace. Jude prefers to use her dryer. I don't blame her. But, again, even electricity is very very expensive so unless you want a massive $800. electric bill, you hang everything.
Jude was not kidding about bringing shoes I didn't care about to walk in. We did a lot of walking and we did quite a bit of walking where it was wet. If it wasn't raining, it had just rained. You WERE going to walk through puddles. Nothing stops for the rain. Everyone just carries on. If you stopped everything for the rain - the outside shops, the outside workers - nothing would get done. We spent our first day wandering around and going to the outdoor shops and I'm pretty sure I had my camera with me at the time but was just awed with ALL that was going on around me and took no pictures. It just didn't occur to me to do so. Just watching the people. There are 4.2 million people in Singapore. All confined on a teeny, tiny little island. High-rises abound. Shopping malls and not spread out and sprawling. They are six and eight stories tall. Huge tall beautiful modern glass and crome buildings interspersed with "art deco" buildings. It is very attractive. And, again, incredibly clean.
Wandering through the indoor food court - I saw these signs:
No. I was not brave enough to try any of this. And although I don't eat red meat or any poultry I will eat pork. But not "Deep Fried Crispy Pig Intestine." They may well be quite delicious. I will never know. Ditto for the "Pig's Liver and Stomach Soup," and the "Braised Pig Trotter and Egg." [Trotter? Feet.]
We finally headed back to the "flat" for cocktails and to go to dinner. We went to the hawker stands in the park for dinner. A MUST DO experience. It was wonderful! The photos for this are on the "other" camera and I don't know how to download them from that. Next post. Tomorrow.