Micah in Singapore

Micah will spend the summer working as an intern for Bergesen Worldwide Ltd., an international shipping company.

Roar of the Lion City

July 31-August 3: Catching up on Singapore

There are some places in the world where time seems to stop, and a few days ago I found such a place. It’s off the coast of the Andaman Sea, in Phga Na Bay, on the golden shores of Railay Beach in Krabi, Thailand.

Micah-pic%202.jpgHere you’ll find turquoise waters and tall limestone cliffs in the midst of a vibrant jungle. The sand is golden soft, and nearby there are many island to explore. If you’re familiar with the movie The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio, then you might recognize some of the photos because they filmed the movie not too far from Railay.

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I arrived on Tiger Airways (which is Singapore’s equivalent to Southwest Airlines) and was then driven from the airport to a nearby dock. At this time it was night, and completely dark as the moon was blocked by the clouds. A few others and I walked down what looked like an abandoned pier and then met a small man at the end who helped us load our luggage onto the kelong (boat). Once on the kelong we spent about 20 minutes cruising until we pulled to shore.

The evening is just as enjoyable as the day. The wind picks up causing a slight breeze to greet you as you eat your dinner in the outdoor restaurants. There are small kids running around, having races from the shoreline and back. And of course, right now I’m writing this blog overlooking the beach, at night, on a deck chair. It’s wonderful.

Micah-Pic%203.before%20boarding%20plane.jpgI have seen many wonderful things in Singapore, and this has been an experience that will never leave my heart. Not only have I experienced an entirely new country, but I have also experienced an entirely new essence of myself. Traveling has a way of making one appreciate new cultures and gain a new sense of independence as one explores the unknowns of a foreign country. Singapore is a beautiful city where people take pride in keeping their city the best it can possibly be.

In closing I just want to thank all my friends and work colleagues I made on this trip. My experience wouldn’t have been complete without being treated so well. And finally, special thanks to my parents who provided me with full support and love, despite being so many miles away.

As I board the plane, I’ll try to look back on everything I’ve done this summer, and I know that by the time the plane takes off, I’ll have nothing but a smile on my face as I realize I’ve had the time of my life! The Roar of the Lion City (Singapore) is quite a beautiful sound … one which I’ll never forget.

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Postcards from the Wild City: Bangkok

Some call it the “Venice of South East Asia,” but in essence, Bangkok resembles very little of any European city. In fact, this city was like none other I had ever traveled to, although driving from the airport, the views outside my cab window mirrored similar city landscapes, but as I got deeper into the streets, I began to realize that this city was quite special.
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My first stop was to one of the city’s famous Royal sites, and speaking of royalty, the Thai people REALLY are in awe of their King, Bhumibol Adulyadej. All around you can find huge billboards, posters and monuments dedicated to him, and it’s considered very rude to say anything negative about him, so be careful!

Anyway, my journey began at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, which is beautiful. It’s fairy-tale-like architecture consists of gold roofs and towering facades, with geometric patterns lining the ornate temple walls. The level of detail is extraordinary; tiny shapes of motley colored glass are woven into the outdoor palace, and the faces of statues are quite grandiose. The highlight of the Grand Palace is the famous Wat Phra Kaew, where one will find the Emerald Buddha. When you enter the temple you will see a band of gold statues positioned in a pyramid shape, with a small emerald Buddha at the very top. It’s amazing and the entire palace is unbelievably grand. The temples have been kept in great condition, and it’s evident that the people take great pride in taking care of its preservation. As you might have guessed, it was very hot, and you’re not allowed to wear shorts or any kind of skimpy clothing, so be prepared to break a sweat.
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To get to my hotel I took the water taxi. Bangkok is located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River (which I suppose is where it got the Venice analogy). The river is used as a major mode for public transportation, and for 13 baht (around $0.38USD) you can get around the entire city. One of the special things about taking the water taxi is you get a glimpse of Thai lifestyle. People live right along the river in the tiny wooden shacks that are built upon thin, crooked stilts. You can see inside their living quarters and see clothes hanging from thin lines of string or people washing dishes/taking baths using small buckets of water. There are even some markets that are right along the river. Although the water isn’t in great condition, the sights along the river are the real attraction.
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My hotel was in the Silom area, where there is always a lot going on. Nearby is a well-known weekend market, Chatuchak. It’s a good idea to do some shopping because you can literally find anything (jewelry, clothes, puppies, great food, pirated DVD’s, art, furniture, more great food like Tom Yam Soup) for jaw-dropping bargains. It’s pretty crowded on the weekends and the sun’s heat doesn’t provide any relief throughout the day (it’s also kind of smelly), so another option is to shop at the Suan Lum Night Bazaar. Around 7pm many shops and boutiques open up, and it attracts a lot of shoppers, but the alleyways are wide and the night air keeps the temperature bearable. I did most of my souvenir/gift shopping there, and I also bargained like crazy!
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Come nightfall, Bangkok becomes a definite eye-opener. Sidewalks are lined with food sellers cooking things like fried crickets and chicken feet. You’ll find clothing vendors nestled under tiny tarps and crowded booths selling fake designer sunglasses and Louis Vuitton bags. Of course, I walked down the infamous Patpong Street (aka the Red-Light District). It’s just like everything you’ve heard on TV and more. Along the street are these neon-lit Go-Go bars that feature women dancing in bikinis. I won’t go into too much detail but let’s just say there’s a lot more offered than just dancing. Continue walking along and you’ll eventually spot some women all dressed up, sitting along the street in front of their respective clubs. These aren’t Go-Go Bars, but more like pseudo brothels, and for a price you can “spend some time” with one of these Thai ladies. There’s also locals who hackle anyone who walks by to witness special X-rated, circus-like shows. There is literally a menu you can order off of to see some pretty crazy things. It’s funny, I actually ran into a guy from San Antonio wearing a Spurs shirt. He was with a young Thai woman. He told me he was on “vacation” and the woman he was with looked like a local. There was this awkward silence and he definitely looked embarrassed. Looks like the Las Vegas motto applies to this city too: What Happens in Bangkok, Stays in Bangkok.
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Whether or not you’re into the hustle and bustle of Bangkok nightlife, it’s important to at least see what’s it like, because I guarantee it’s nothing like you’ve ever seen!

Overall my trip to Bangkok was truly a memorable adventure. The other day I was discussing my trip with some friends over dinner at a steamboat restaurant. They weren’t surprised by my city tales, and laughed about the culture shock. Despite the different lifestyle it’s evident that people still love Bangkok just the way it is, and tolerate its rather different lifestyle. I myself found Bangkok to be one of those cities that you never forget; You’ll feel excited sending postcards to your friends. It’s a wild city.

By the way, at a steamboat restaurant friends can cook their own food in hot boiling water or along a small ring-shaped stove placed in the middle of the table. It was so neat, and really delicious too! Unfortunately, everything you pick up from the buffet must be eaten, or you’ll get charged. At my table, this meant everyone having to eat more than our stomachs could carry. Thankfully, nobody got sick.

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The Wave

Whether foreign or native, there are no distinctions amongst sports fans. In fact, as I realized this weekend, going to a sports event is a great way to rub elbows with the people. I was quickly swept off my feet during the second half of the game: Singapore was playing Australia and the home team was down by two. The crowd was anxious, and as time counted down we began doing “the wave” to express our fervor. Singapore just had to win! As time counted down things began to look grim. Several players kept getting injured, and the team was met with several unsuccessful shots at the goal. Nonetheless, the wave continued, and fans kept cheering and stayed throughout the entire game. Not only was this non-competitive match exciting, it was also the last sports venue ever to be held in Singapore’s National Stadium. The city will be upgrading to a new facility along the riverfront near Marina Square.

Stadium
Stadium

After the game ended there was a special presentation commemorating the great sports achievements in Singapore history. Soon the sky lit up with fireworks over the edge of the stadium, and for a minute I pretended this was my own personal 4th of July celebration. If I closed my eyes it would have probably felt like I was back in Texas: hot, noisy and humid. And it was at this time when I thought of home, but after being here for a month, without experiencing any homesickness, I’m confident to remain positive with my surroundings for another month. I have to admit; I will miss my 4th of July celebration tomorrow – hot dogs, fireworks, family, friends and all.

Singapore has its own version of the 4th of July. It’s called “National Day” and it takes place on August 9. On this day there is a national ceremony to commemorate Singapore’s independence from Malaysia. Like in the US, fireworks are the climax of the celebration. Because the parade is hugely popular, they have implemented a lottery system to combat overcrowding and ticketing issues. They give out about 50,000 tickets, and if you don’t have one, you watch the ceremony from T.V. or an expensive hotel room overlooking the Bay. While walking through the city I can sometimes hear the loud rumble of fighter-jets pass through the city as they practice their air routine. A few Singaporeans have also been rehearsing for the holiday. Similar to the US, Singapore shows much pride, appreciation and value for their independence.
Me

Like every newborn nation, Singapore had its problems with unemployment and economic struggle. A colleague of mine told me that if I wanted to see what Singapore was like in the 1960s, I am to go to one of the poverty-stricken islands of the South Pacific. Apparently the old Singapore was no utopia. After shifts of occupational rule by the British, Japanese and Malay, Singapore managed to break away and become an economic powerhouse with one of the highest standards of living. Like every great nation, Singapore has come a long way. From fishing village to thriving metropolis, things have definitely improved.

I think being abroad allows one to appreciate the accomplishments of not only your own country, but those of other countries as well. From struggle to achievement, I believe every country has a story to tell. I can only hope that my future travels will allow me to witness this same sense of accomplishment in other parts of the world.

Happy 4th of July! Enjoy the celebration and fireworks!

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