Sunday, February 20, 2005

Returning the Favor

Minnie and Gene Enjoying the Weekend in Singapore

My friends Minnie and Gene have often hosted me in Bangkok since I arrived in Asia more than eight months ago. This weekend it was my turn to play guide and entertain my friends who decided to come to Singapore for a long awaited visit.

After arriving Friday evening and checking into the Marriot, Minnie and Gene met up with me for some food, sightseeing, and always enjoyable conversation. Since Orchard Road was closed down for the festive Chingay Parade, which brings an end to Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore, we decided to take the subway to Clarke Quay. Gene and Minnie left it to me to choose a favorite restaurant, so I half-heartedly threatened to take them to a Thai place. Thinking that Gene was probably missing some western food, I decided upon Café Iguana, which is a favorite Mexican place of mine that sits right on the banks of the Singapore River and provides an excellent venue for people watching as well as Chimichangas.

Since all the outdoor tables were booked for another hour, we decided to cozy up to the bar and order a pitcher of Margaritas and a plate of nachos to share. Time flew by as we caught up on each other’s lives. We were soon seated at a primo table and were enjoying a nice change of pace from the typical Asian food we normally enjoy.

After dinner, we took a stroll down Clarke Quay and dared each other to try the bungee catapult ride that surely would have made us loose our dinner and then some. Bungee jumping was illegal in Singapore until July of 2003, so it is still a curiosity to on-lookers and thrill seekers alike. From there, we headed to Boat Quay for another drink at Harry’s Bar, where I have a VIP card that gets me discounted drinks. Harry’s sponsors my softball team, so my teammates and I enjoy a discount card that helps us “give back” our appreciation for their kindness in helping our team with our expenses.

To prove how small a country of 4.5 million people can sometimes be, on our way to Harry’s we ran into my co-worker Frederik and his wife Brenda who were entertaining some friends from Taiwan over beers. Brenda made me practice my Mandarin for her and her friends, which garnered a hardy laugh at my bumbling pronunciation. Guess, its back to the drawing board for more lessons.

Harry’s and the whole Boat Quay scene provided us additional chances for people watching and for Minnie to try her first inaugural Singapore Sling to fully initiate the weekend in Singapore. Although the service was poor, we enjoyed our time gazing upon the river and soaking up the evening breeze. From there, we walked down past the Fullerton Hotel, one of the fanciest hotels in Asia, and then on to the Mer-Lion which I have described in earlier postings.

Gene and Minnie had both been to Singapore before: Gene for just a day to get a work visa a couple of years ago and Minnie as a young girl. Both were thoroughly impressed with Singapore, its beauty, efficiency, tasty cuisine, shopping, and of course its renowned cleanliness.

On Sunday, we met up for Dim Sum in the morning to fuel up before heading down Orchard Road for some power-shopping. Minnie was the pro here, while Gene and I grabbed a cool liquid refreshment and a chat.

In the early evening, we grabbed a taxi from their hotel after checking out and headed out for my apartment. I gave them the nickel tour of my place and then we headed for the hawker center to fully indoctrinate them both in local Singaporean food. Gene snapped a quick photo of Minnie and me before we headed back to my place so they could grab their bags and head to the airport.

The time flew by, yet it was still fun to have close friends stop by for a visit. I think Gene and Minnie were enamored enough with Singapore to come back again for another visit and to fill up some more shopping bags. I told Gene that I appreciated his stimulus for the local Singapore economy via their purchases… now we can keep the streets clean for another day!