Leaving Vietnam was definitely bittersweet. Tom and I had some great times there; I’ve made some potential business/ education contacts; and I grew to love the country and its people even more than I could have imagined.

This trip to Bintan, via Singapore, has been quick. I arrived in Singapore around 1:00 the afternoon of the 14th; took the subway and walked to my hotel in Little India; grabbed some great Indian food and explored a bit; then collapsed into bed early.

I chose to stay in the Little India area of Singapore because I hadn’t seen it on my last trip through and it looked interesting. It was easily accessible to the subway and would be a short taxi trip to the ferry terminal when I left for Bintan.

Wednesday I woke up with a plan to explore Little India and Arab Street and to possibly buy a watch to replace the $10 Target watch I had already broken. I wandered through the “market” streets, headed towards Mustafa Centre, a 24-hour shopping mall. On the way I stumbled upon Veerama Kaliamman, a busy Hindu temple in the heart of the area. The temple was vibrant and beautiful, teeming with colorfully-dressed devotees and drab tourists. Monks made devotions to the various deities inside, and musicians played music that pierced the incense-laden air.

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I continued on to Mustafa Centre which was GIGANTIC. The first section I saw was full of watches of all brands and price points for as far as the eye could see. If I couldn’t find a watch here, I wouldn’t find one anywhere.

Although there were some watches that I had never seen at home, all the big brands that we have in the US were there, and in massive quantities. I kicked myself for not just buying a more expensive watch when I was at home, forgetting that the prices displayed were in Singapore dollars, exchanging at a rate of about $1.23 to the American dollar. I looked at every watch in my price range that might fit my criteria – tough, plastic and water-resistant, and settled on a Swatch of all things. As I put on my new watch I had flashbacks to the 80s, when we used to stack 2-3 Swatches and any other tacky wrist wear from hand to elbow. Chuckling, I left Mustafa Centre and headed back to my hotel for a quick minute.

Hungry, I consulted Trip Advisor and headed out to eat a delicious chicken curry that thoroughly filled me up, one again, I knew, ruining my dinner.

A brief glance at my tourist map and I was off to Arab Street and Haji Lane – an area known for its textiles; shisha bars; and boutiquey shopping.

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The area was small, clean, and exactly as described in my tourist map. I stopped in a small clothing boutique where the shop owner immediately engaged me in friendly conversation about my travels. When I told her I had some time at the end of my trip that was not yet planned, she enthusiastically suggested that I visit Burma (Myanmar), her home country. She detailed what I should see and do there, should I go, and gushed about how wonderful her country and its people are. We exchanged contact information and well-wishes, and I headed back to my hotel for a little relaxation.

Following the advice of many friends and tourist resources, I walked down to Raffles Hotel in the evening for a drink. Now, everyone says that the drink of choice is the Singapore Sling; at $28 that was a bit out of my budget. Little did I know that the two Tiger beers I would have paid 50 cents each for in Vietnam would end up costing me more than my flight from Dalat to Ho Chi Minh City. As I’ve said before, I can’t wait to come back to Singapore with a MUCH bigger budget. Right now I feel like every time I’m in Singapore someone turns me upside down to empty my pockets.

This morning I was going to take rapid transit to the ferry terminal and, with the help of a woman at the front desk of my hotel, had the route all mapped out. I got up early to allow more time than a taxi would take, and was down in the lobby ready to go with ample time to spare. Little did I know, in my room with no window, that it was raining quite hard. Walking to the MRT and transferring to a bus were out of the question, so I called a taxi and was at the ferry terminal TWO HOURS early.

The ferry ride was quite comfortable and uneventful.

My friend Ranan who has been the Indonesian contact for these teacher training gigs was there with Dina, the principal of my first school, to pick me up. I was nervous but excited.

I had a great first day which is going to take a good deal more time to detail than I have right now. I’ll add photos to this blog and update ASAP – it was a great day and I’m really looking forward to working with these teachers!

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