With the piano safely ensconced home again in its dazzling reincarnation, I moved on to the next item on my “live life” list (suggested to me as a more positive way to refer to “the bucket list”). Two days after Akemi got home from Boston for the summer, we took off for a long-awaited adventure in Singapore and Bali.
My brother Bob has been in Singapore for 7 years as vice dean of eduction for Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School. About 13 years ago, he built a home on the scenic Ayung River near Ubud, Bali. Over the years, he has constantly offered that we come visit, and the year he and his family lived there, I wanted to go. But Indonesia was on the State Department advisory list then and Bing was uneasy. Maybe he knew something, as the bombings took place later in 2002 and 2005. When our schedules aligned with Bob’s for the last two weeks of May, I took it as a good sign, and bought the tickets.
Singapore struck me as a compact, clean, English-speaking Hong Kong, with a little Sydney thrown in, both former colonies having had time to blur the edges of their colonial identities. Akemi and I were entirely good with the Singaporean culture of constant eating; good thing we did so much walking and availed ourselves of the gym in Bob’s apartment building. Trooping around in steamy weather, I realized I would not have had the stamina for this trip even five months ago.
My brother’s place is located across the street from a major subway station interchange and we marveled at the tech “smartness” of the MRT system.
Our first night, we attended a contemporary opera produced by a good friend of Bob’s. The performance and chance to talk with a couple of the singers at the post-party were special treats, and we had only just arrived. Over the next three days, we enjoyed the profusion of orchids at the Botanic Gardens, the largest orchid garden in the world, and viewed the skyline from the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, the “Flyer” observation wheel, and the Marina Barrage. Akemi’s favorite was the Peranakan Museum about the “Straits Chinese,” the Southeast Asian mixture of Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, Pilipino, and other heritages. We are solid fans of Straits cuisine. As a “place” and “lit” person, I enjoyed learning about the evolution of the cityscape and especially liked the Raffles Hotel. I imagined Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, and Joseph Conrad walking those same courtyards, and yes, we had to try the requisite, albeit virgin, “Singapore Sling” there.
With our glimpse into the daily life of my brother and niece Kenzi, we were back on incredible Singapore Air, headed south of the equator for Bali.