I have been away, in case you hadn’t noticed, and don’t feel bad if you haven’t. I don’t expect you to follow my every step. It seems like I’ve been gone forever but it was about 10 days including 2-3 extra for de-jetlagging after a combination of flights equaling a 27 hour trip home…yes you read that correctly. Sitting straight up at full attention, unable to cross your legs or turn on your side just a bit is a miserable way to ride home for 27 hours. I was a heap of flesh and bone when I was finally poured through my door by a friend. But it was all worth the pain! Travel is like that – it rewards you in great abundance for your travel inconveniences.
I thank those of you who decided to subscribe to my blog in my absence and then wondered why nothing happened!
While in Singapore I stayed at a charming 5-star place, full of charm and character, where the accommodations were impeccable and the personal attention was top notch – my daughter and her husband’s home. They moved to that most sparkling of cities in order to grab some career opportunities that were too good to pass up, and they love it there. Singapore has been a more than pleasant hub for them, affording them the opportunity to visit many other exotic nearby places…Viet Nam, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Thailand and Cambodia to name a few. Singapore is an island – four or five days worth of sightseeing there and you still have time to move on to some nearby destination and soak up a second culture. We chose Thailand.
Singapore is like a beautiful, English speaking lady – thoughtfully put together, extremely well groomed, polite, organized, elegant and dressed to the hilt. Her aroma is both sweet and spicy; she is well spoken and she sings many songs of life. Singapore is especially stunning at night, dazzling with bling the likes of which you have never seen, and yet she wears it tastefully. The cab driver announced immediately and unapologetically that Singapore thrives on good manners, efficiency, tidiness, order and calm. She hates disorderly conduct and chaos. Don’t plan to misbehave publicly in Singapore; do have somebody put aside bail money if you think you might. Sing will entertain you endlessly in gorgeous, jet-setty environs, but don’t be rude or crude – be nice.
Singapore is known for its spectacular cutting-edge, award winning architecture which contrasts starkly with the charming, ancient shophouses, mosques, temples and restaurants in those neighborhoods – walking miles a day as we did, becomes a constantly entertaining lesson in the juxtaposition of the old and the brand new. Be sure to see the gigantic infinity pool that spans and connects the very top of the three structures that comprise the Marina Bay Sands resort hotel – the view from atop that surfboard-like pool is breathtaking and unique. The Super Trees – well you must see those – and the Marina Bay Mall is out of this world and dripping with designer names and jewelry. We visited the local shops and markets in Chinatown, Arab Street and Little India. The street food, the music, the people watching and the merchandise were all fascinating and entirely new to me.
We also spent two nights in Bangkok, Thailand, and if Singapore is an elegant lady, Bangkok is a loud, fun-loving, rowdy broad who loves a good party, or in our experience, a well-rounded “market party” just the way markets ought to be – lively, shocking at times and riddled with quirky characters. The Chatuchak Market will keep you entranced for an entire day. We bought some wonderful, inexpensive lightweight dresses to wear with flip-flops, we bought jewelry and gifts and table linens – and then you must have a foot massage to stop the throbbing. Because you are going to want to go back again. You must try the sticky rice with sweet coconut milk and mango for a refreshing treat.
In Thailand the name Jim Thompson brings smiles of gratitude from the people and conversations about theories for how he might have disappeared and why. Jim Thompson was an American who had such an appreciation and love for the Thai culture that he devoted his energy and time to saving the silk industry from near extinction – he revitalized a dying art and built an empire of the finest silks in the world which has continued to thrive many years after his mysterious, clueless disappearance. The lovely home and gardens where he lived, located right in the center of Bangkok, are testament to his appreciation for art and the finer things in life. The silks and the silk products resulting from the weaving of the magical threads are derived – literally spun – from the cocoons of the lowly silkworms on the Mulberry trees in the Thailand countryside. We were fortunate to tour his home, see how the silk was spun, and yes spend our money on a selection of the many colorful products resulting – fabrics by the yard, purses, tote bags, travel bags, clothing, bed linens, men’s ties, pillows and more. Each item is more beautiful than the one before, and you want to know more about this tall, nice looking man who is responsible for it all. I immediately ordered a book when I arrived home to read more.
Traveling brings illumination and epiphany. Light bulbs turn on, understanding grows, people come to know each other and humankind expands its awareness in leaps and bounds. Individual faces are remembered – eyes meet eyes and connections are made. You must come home changed – you must. There is no other way. You understand the universality of emotions – what is funny to one is also funny to a person who lives halfway around the world. When a man such as Jim Thompson disappears off the face of the earth, everyone wonders how that could happen and the same possibilities run through hundreds of minds. Food is a common love of all people, as is music, dance, beautiful scenery, art, adventure – we are all one. How could we not be? The planet has grown small with technology, but what unites us all is the human bond. The sharing of times and places and stories all feeding the universal, collective soul of people everywhere.