Monday, October 16th, 2017
I never thought I’d feel like I was so far in the past and then feel so propelled into the future within only a matter of days…
The other day I went on another excursion to my favorite temple, Pura Lempuyang. This is the temple I visited during Galungan back in April. It was when I was at this temple during vacation that I knew I would someday come back to Bali in the future. It was a magical experience during the largest ceremony of the year. Lempuyang is one of the oldest temples in Bali and is also known as the Gateway to Heaven. I can understand why…
Back in April, Lempuyang was bustling with locals. Hundreds of them everywhere for Galungan, all praying and honoring their ancestral spirits returning to Earth. This time was quite different, though. Only a handful of locals and two other tourists. Golo and I practically had the entire temple to ourselves.
We sat down inside the temple and a holy man walked over and began the prayer ritual. Incense, canang, prayer, holy water, and rice. It was a very special day – and the cherry on top was that I was wearing the sarong my Mom made for me.
The next day, I was invited to a cremation. Yes, a cremation… Cremations and weddings are the two largest ceremonies that happen in Bali. For some reason, I wasn’t nervous or hesitant at the thought of going to a ceremony where a deceased person gets cremated in front of everyone…
It began early in the morning and there were all sorts of traditions that I was trying to keep up with. We trekked all the way to the top of Lipah Bay and out of about 200 locals, I was the only white person. I was trying to look around and observe everything going on, but any time I looked a different direction, I’d make eye contact with a local and they’d quickly divert their eyes to hide that they were staring at me. But I couldn’t stop watching the holy man praying…it was about 2 hours of praying and various rituals.
After a couple of hours, everyone got up and started gathering the offerings and getting on their motorbikes to head back down the hill. There were about 100 scooters, everyone was honking their horns, whooping and hollering, and I don’t know if this is okay to say…but it was actually kind of fun. We were all following the truck with the casket to the beach. There was a group of men with sticks lifting all the wires and tree branches to protect the casket.
We finally got to the beach and hundreds of people huddled close together in whatever shade we could find. More praying, more music, and then a man who was clearly the torch expert began the fire. It was amazing to see so many people gather and celebrate this man’s life. When a Balinese person passes, they are cremated and then sent off into the ocean. It was an experience like I’ve never had before and it was wild to see the traditions (for examples, men must carry the casket in a circle three times on the beach). For a lot of these traditions, I’d ask about the meaning, and the locals would reply, “We don’t know. It’s just what we’ve always done for years and years.”
Within 24 hours, I went from watching a cremation rich with tradition, to a laser show in Singapore…
My Visa was coming to an end, so I had to leave the country to remain a legal traveler. I decided to come to Singapore because it is close, affordable…and completely different than Bali.
I’ve never stayed in a hostel before, so I was excited for yet another crazy, new experience. And if I’m going to stay in a hostel, might as well stay in a pod! I keep learning throughout my walks how hard it is to find what you’re looking for…or maybe I’m just not that intelligent. My driver from the airport told me to take a left and look for #51. So I walked down this ‘road’ and looked for #51. I actually thought it was kind of cute at first. “Ohhh, it’s like a tiny Italian cobblestone street! But instead of cute cafes and apartments, it’s a plethora of doors and air conditioners! Ooh la la!”
I finally found a door with #51 written in chalk. Seemed sketchy… The door wouldn’t budge and the construction workers were staring at me because they knew I was f***ing up. “Shoot. Within minutes of getting to Singapore, I’m lost, confused, and don’t know how to get into my hostel.” Thankfully, it was only a temporary brain fart and I quickly realized that, oh you know, I was wandering in the back alleyway. I walked along the other side by the river and finally found the door, complete with sign, distinct address, unlocked door handle and everything! [pat on the back]
This is the “pod” I stayed in.
And my thoughts after my first night in my pod? Welllllll, not sure if I’m a big fan of hostels… Just because I was in a futuristic pod doesn’t mean it’s still not a hostel…
Around 11pm, a couple men came back from whatever they were doing and came into the sleeping area and proceeded to talk as if they were still in a noisy bar. They talked about potatoes, cancer, and vaccines. I really, truly don’t understand people that don’t respect spaces with other people in them. These men had zero regard for the fact that there were 6 other people trying to sleep. There is a common area meant for talking late at night, but I don’t know, maybe they wanted everyone to hear their opinions on the best way to eat potatoes (they settled on mashed). Thankfully, I remembered I brought my ear plugs so I was able to tune them out – I thought about asking them to be quiet or move somewhere else – but since I’ve never stayed in a hostel before, I thought maybe this was normal? I was worried they’d look at me wide-eyed and say, “Hey Princess, this is a hostel. If you can’t handle people chatting, stay in a hotel.” Turns out, that’s actually what I’m doing for my second night. The hostel was completely booked up tonight, so this Princess booked a hotel room. DARN. Plus, those pods get zero air circulation and I woke up with a nasty sore throat. Okay, I’ll stop now. <rant over>
So, back to the future…
Look at this!
Since I’m in Singapore for only a couple of days, I have been filling my time with trying the local fare. After reading a few articles and blogs, I had a list of meals and restaurants I wanted to try. My first meal was dim sum.
Getting to this particular restaurant, Tim Ho Wan, was almost an impossible mission. Singapore has much wider streets, taller buildings, and it is a lot hotter than Bali. Walking isn’t as enjoyable here as I usually find it because of the heat. I searched around for this restaurant for about 20 minutes and then asked someone at the Singapore Recreation Center to help me. He directed me to an area that was the complete opposite direction of where I was supposed to be. 15 minutes later, I ended up back in the same spot with the same man, attempting to decipher the map again. He finally said, “Eat here! We have dim sum!” At this point, I was starving, frustrated, and sweating like a pig. I walked upstairs to the restaurant that I was way underdressed for and looked at the menu – “Dim Sum Lunch: $300.” GULP. A woman walked over and said, “I’m sorry, we stop serving lunch at 2pm.” It was 2:15pm. I was actually thankful this was the case because that could be my reason for leaving rather than admitting that I couldn’t afford lunch there. “That’s too bad; maybe next time.” Riiiiiight.
Luckily, the woman knew exactly where Tim Ho Wan was, so 10 minutes later, I was finally sitting in a restaurant ready to eat!! I was noticing the huge contrast between Bali and Singapore here. In Singapore, everyone (and I mean everyone) is on their phone or computer – usually with a selfie stick. Everyone is very proper, clean, and wearing the most expensive designer clothes. Lots of heels, YSL handbags, and business suits. And I noticed there was a lot more PDA amongst the couples – one couple never stopped holding hands, even while eating.
As for the service, in Bali, everyone becomes your friend. In Singapore, I couldn’t get anyone to even look at me. So I marked my order sheet for various dim sum dishes and handed it to the one server that noticed me. I was definitely out of my comfort zone, but when I took my first bite of the pork dumpling, nothing else but that delicious morsel of flavor mattered. I devoured all the dishes and wanted to slurp whatever sauce was left.
And then, just like a movie, I became the center of attention. My elbow hit one of my plates and it crashed to the ground, crumbs and my unfinished BBQ pork bun scattered all over the ground. The entire restaurant went silent and looked at me in unison. I noticed the perfectly polished, hand-holding couple give me a sort of pity-look. I was wearing my workout shorts, a sweaty tank top, and I gave a large Shrek-like grin. Oops. “Hello, barbarian American right over here!” I seriously contemplated picking up the bun and finishing it, it was that good…
Later in the night, I walked to Merlion Park to watch the nightly laser show. It was INSANE how many selfie sticks and drones I saw! Singapore is a mix of futuristic architecture and nature. I’d walk through a park, but instead of kids swinging on swing sets, I’d see kids in flashing, LED rollerblades or playing on their iPads.
More proof that Singapore is in the future was the laser show… This dazzling show of bright lights, water displays, and cinematic music happens every night and the entire river walk is full of spectators. I joined the masses and ooh’d and ahh’d, feeling like a kid at Disneyland.
This morning, I got up extra early to get out of my muggy pod and try another famous Singapore meal: kaya toast with kopi. Kaya is a type of jam made from eggs, sugar, coconut milk, and pandan leaves. I walked about a mile South and found Tong Ah Eating House (it’s a miracle!). I’ll be honest and say I looked up how I’m supposed to eat kaya toast – you’re served toast with two soft-boiled eggs and articles mention that locals pour soy sauce over their eggs and dip the bread in the eggs. I don’t know why, but I was nervous. That’s a lie. I do know why. I was surrounded by locals who knew exactly what they were doing and I wasn’t even sure if I should order at the counter or if a waitress would come to take my order. I asked one of the women working and she didn’t say a word, instead giving a quick point to the man cooking. I finally placed my order and when the food came, I was still nervous. The eggs were cooked, but still in their shells. “Okay, do I use this little spoon to crack my egg and pour into the empty bowl? The eggs are so hot, I can’t simply use my hands to crack them, right?” I was thinking too much and being a little Princess about it. I shook it all off, cracked the eggs with my hands, and poured soy sauce on top of my eggs.
I have no idea if I ate this meal correctly, but OH MY GOSH, so good. The savory egg mix combined with the sweet jam was divine. Plus, yet another addition to my “Cheaper Than a Starbucks Tall White Mocha.” $3. YUM.
I have no idea what other local meals I’ll be trying while I am still here, but I’m determined to keep stepping out of my comfort zone. That is, until I’m in my air-conditioned, quiet hotel room tonight…