The past few days have been a blur. A wild, crazy, amazing blur. I have been trying to keep up with writing blog entries, but ever since I left Dallas on Monday morning, I have hardly had the time and finding a place to plug in my laptop has been difficult.
Since this is my first blog entry, I suppose I should introduce myself. I’m Philip, a third year Management Information Systems major studying abroad in Singapore. Why did I choose Singapore? I really don’t have a straightforward answer to that question. I really wanted to dive right in to another culture that was completely different from my own, and I have always loved Asia. Singapore has a wonderful mixture of cultures, with a significant portion of the population being foreign. The four major groups in Singapore are Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, and Indonesian. As a result, Singapore has become known around the world for its incredible food. More on that later. Singapore is also the best place to serve as a home base while traveling Southeast Asia because of its central location and the cheap budget airlines that enable weekend trips to places like Bangkok, Phuket, and Bali for as low as $50 round trip.
I didn’t just come for the food and fun, though. Singapore is one of the best places in Asia to get an education. The universities here are consistently ranked as the top universities in Asia and even in the world. And as the world’s fourth largest financial hub after New York City, London, and Tokyo, Singapore is one of the best places to study business.
From McCombs there are four of us that were accepted into the Singapore exchange program this fall: Judy, Katherine, Alan, and myself. Judy and I booked our flight together, so we have been spending the past few days exploring the city together, while Alan and Katherine were not able to arrive in Singapore until yesterday. I have so much to say about the past few days that I hardly know where to start. I guess I’ll begin with the disastrous flight over here.
Journey Around the World
Judy and I were scheduled to leave Dallas at 9:30am Monday morning. From there, we were to fly to Atlanta, from Atlanta to Tokyo, and from Tokyo to Singapore. The entire trip was supposed to take around 26 hours. It actually took about 56 hours.
Our flight from Dallas was delayed by about 30 minutes, which was just enough time to make us late to our connection to Tokyo. We were running up to the gate as they were shutting the boarding door and sent us away. We were then rebooked on a flight from Atlanta to New York, from where we would fly to Germany and then finally to Singapore. We didn’t really care as long as we got to Singapore, and we were even a little excited to be able to check out the airport in Germany. But then our flight to New York was delayed… by 5 hours. We obviously missed our flight to Germany, and we asked the airline if we should continue to New York and rebook our flight there or if we should stay in Atlanta and fly out from there. We were told that if we flew to New York, we would be put in a hotel for the night and would fly out the next afternoon. That meant we would be arriving in Singapore a lot later than we had planned, but we didn’t have a choice, and we thought it might be fun to hang out in New York City for a day, anyway.
But that flight to New York was delayed again, this time for about two hours. We didn’t arrive in New York until two in the morning, at which time we were told it was too late to put us in a hotel and we would have to spend the night in the airport. Wonderful.
Finally, after fourteen hours of wandering the airport in search of coffee, food, and random things to do, we boarded a plane to Tokyo from where we would finally fly to Singapore. We arrived in Singapore at one in the morning on Thursday. Accounting for time differences, we were trapped inside airports and airplanes for 56 straight hours. But none of that mattered anymore: we made it to Singapore as happy as could be, and Singapore was just as happy to welcome us with bright, beautiful, amazing arms.
First Day in Singapore
Rather than checking in to our residences on campus, Judy and I chose to stay in a hostel for a couple of days while we explored the city for the first time. The first day we were here, we just explored the area around the hostel and got acquainted with the public transport system. The public transport system in Singapore is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my life. If it was up to me, the trains here would be considered the 8th Wonder of the World. They are enormous, each one holds several hundred people, they are always on time, they come about once every two or three minutes, and the fare system is one of the most genius things I’ve ever used. You buy a little card that has an RFID chip inside it, and you can use ticketing machines to “top up” or put money on the card. Whenever you enter a train station or board a bus, you swipe your card, and then swipe it again whenever you exit the bus or leave the train station. And instead of paying a flat fee for each bus or train ride, you are charged based on how far you travel. Three kilometers will set you back about 75 cents, while a short ride down the street only costs five. It’s a simple, genius system that works better than anything I’ve ever seen or heard of. Actually, that should be the motto of Singapore: simple, genius, and just works.
The other major thing we did our first day was check out the food scene. In Singapore, there are these places called hawker centers which are basically enormous food courts. At the hawker center we went to there were maybe 20-30 different food stalls (small, simple counters where someone takes your order and has a delicious hot plate of food in your hands within seconds) and each food stall has 9-10 different plates to choose from. There were literally hundreds of different things to eat, and the hawker center we were at is apparently a small one. It’s going to take the entire semester to try all of the food.
I didn’t intend for this post to be this long, and I still have so much from the past few days to write about. I’ll save all of that for my next post, though, and hopefully I will be able to upload some pictures as well.