Room 788, Grand Hyatt Hotel, Singapore
We're all done. This morning was our website presentation, which earned an unprecedented small round of applause. This afternoon, we unplugged, packed, or dumped everything in our office. And tonight, with all official responsibilities either behind us or waiting to be picked up back in Honolulu, Sharon, Bernice, Sylvia and I headed out for some guilt-free R&R.
Our first destination, of course, was back to Orchard Lane, the Boardwalk (or Kalakaua Avenue) of Singapore. As bustling and imposing as the strip in Las Vegas, but only a tenth as tacky. The stores were starting to put up their Christmas decorations, and the city had already strung nets of lights over the roads. The fashion quotient was unusually high, the crowds decidedly cosmopolitan. It was magical.
Not magical enough for Bernice, however, who discovered halfway down the block that she was exhausted. While Sylvia shopped for a bra accessory (as requested by an intern back home), Bernice decided to call it an early night.
The surviving three of us, also feeling our energy running out, decided to seize the moment and grab a cab to Boat Quay (pronounced 'kee'), the "must see" (if not somewhat touristy) spot on this side of Singapore island.
We knew immediately when we got there. It was a city waterfront, Singapore style. A strip of loud bars, restaurants, and outdoor cafes. As we walked down the river, we checked out the cuisine, admired the full moon and illuminated advertising airship overhead, and tried very hard not to talk about work.
Every single restaurant had two or three people standing out in front with flyers, urgently trying to lure us to a table. It was about as pushy as we'd seen anyone get in this town. As we walked, we had to say every six seconds, "No thank you." (Trust me, there was no avoiding or ignoring these people.)
Eventually our hunger got the best of us, and we tried to choose a spot to eat. Of course, stopping to look at a menu worked the flyer folks into a frenzy, and it was as if we suddenly had signs on our foreheads that flashed "SUCKER!"
We decided we wanted lobster (or more specifically, Sharon decided she didn't want much else), and picked the first spot that had a picture of lobster on its sign.
After waiting too long for a server, we were informed, "No lobster. Try some fish!"
We decided we'd just order drinks, which we also waited too long for. And we waited too long for our bill, too, as our server decided to join a party at the next table.
And when we got our bill, we realised we were charged for the chips on our table. Charged more, in fact, than we paid for any of our drinks.
We should have noticed earlier that no one else was eating at that place. So we used the size of the crowd as the determining factor for our next stop, which proved to be a good strategy.
They had lobster. Lobster twenty different ways. We could barely choose. And it was great.
So we sat, out on the waterfront, and talked. A little about work, but mostly about our lives, our families, our hopes for the future. At some point, I don't know how, it turned into a counseling session for me, the conclusion being, maybe I shouldn't rule out leaving Hawaii and UH just yet.
Maybe they were just being nice, but I didn't mind. I like to fantasize, think the same things myself that on the mainland I'm worth three times what I'm being paid, that I can find a job with a company that would pay me to finish school (not just let me finish), that there are different ways to do the "responsible thing."
But the main order of business was to have fun, so we decided to cap off our evening with a ride on one of the little boats we'd watched putter past us all night.
We paid SG$10 each (US$5) and got a boat immediately and all to ourselves (although it could seat 20). As it pulled away from the pier, Sharon, Sylvia and I settled back, watched Singapore city go by, and didn't say a word.
It was beautiful. We'd admire the shiny towers and glistening lights, and just when we thought we'd seen it all, we'd turn a corner or go under a bridge and emerge under a whole new skyline. We saw other sections of waterfront, most much more classy (and thus, in a way, more generic) than the one we started at, and to our surprise we also saw one of Singapore's few and celebrated Merlion statues.
Head of a lion, tail of a mermaid, it's the symbol of Singapore. I know there's a great story behind it, but unfortunately I don't know it.
Eventually we were back at Boat Quay, and set about finding a cab back to the hotel.
It turned out to be a bigger challenge than we expected. Although lots of cabs were around to drop people off, none were interested in picking anyone up. In fact, everywhere we went, there were groups of people futilely trying to hail them like us.
We tried a curbside queue outside a gay bar. No luck. We walked partway into town and tried to catch them on major roads. No luck. We even tried a number of hotels, but sadly we seemed to have ended up in the low-rent end of town, and the only taxis in sight were there because someone had called for them.
We finally did find a hotel that attracted the occasional cab, and finally beat another couple to one when it drove up, and finally made it back to the Hyatt.
And that was when we realized we hadn't gone souvenir shopping. So, shortly before midnight, the three of us walked back up to Orchard Lane.
And found it closed.
Closed except for one, tiny, hole-in-the-wall, underground trinket store that advertised second-hand watches.
And fortunately, it was the last-minute-tourist's dream. Anything and everything you ever wanted with a Merlion on it, they had. From shirts and shot glasses to socks and golf balls. It was clear this tiny shop found its niche with late hours and Merlion merchandise overload.
I was able to spend most of the SG$150 I'd changed upon landing in Singapore.
As soon as the three of us walked out, they shut down the store, and we headed back one last time to the hotel.
And here I am. One hour 'til I have to drag my stuff down to the lobby. Better get packing.