*Day 90: Bittersweet Farewells

Trip Start May 20, 2008
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Trip End Aug 19, 2008


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Flag of Singapore  ,
Tuesday, August 19, 2008

At 4am, a wake up call came knocking on the door of our Khao San guesthouse room. It had been two hours since I first climbed into bed, so this call was obviously not welcome, but I had an Air Asia flight to catch and little margin of error in which to do so. I stumbled around in the dark packing the final nick-knacks into my rucksack, put said rucksack on my back and the school bag on my belly. Jeff, light sleeper though he may be, somehow slept through all this. I tapped him on the shoulder to wish him faretheewell (his flight was leaving later that day from Bangkok, whereas mine was from Singapore) and a safe flight, and his head cocked up for a moment to grunt. I took this grunt as sleep-speak for "Thanks Charles, you too! It's been fun." And fun it was. Thus was ended the Jeff-segment of this adventure.

Shoulders loaded well over capacity, I scrambled out to catch the first airport express bus, actually a van at the early hour and crammed to the teeth with fellow backpackers and their backpacks. There was some funny audible frustration at this one girl who didn't know if she was on the right van:

(Israeli accent) "What the f%ck is she doing? F%ck."
(Brit accent) "I have a plan to catch!"
(2nd Israeli) "(unhappy Hebrew mumbles to fellow Israeli)"
(3rd Israeli) "(more Hebrew grumbles)"

As soon as she was aboard, the driver TOOK OFF at what must have been three times the "speed limit" or rather the speed everyone else on the highway seemed to be sticking to. I don't think I've been more terrified by a car ride since stepping into one with David at the helm early Freshman year. The terror was worth it though, I had only an hour until my flight left and probably wouldn't have made it had the driver been less insane. This means of course that I made the flight and landed in Singapore safely, with a comfortable five hours to accomplish my mission of rescuing Dan's suitcase from storage in the hostel I'd stayed at here 6 weeks ago after first leaving Nepal. This city almost feels like a second home, having now done a third tour of duty providing relaxation, transitioning and rebooting to a battered Charlie.

I didn't bother with any sightseeing... after three months on the road, what difference would one more pagoda make anyhow. Instead I settled down at a Muslim food court near the hostel and "splurged" SGD$5 on a huge feast of deliciousness including Singapore's specialty fish-head curry, gross in appearance but heavenly in yer mouth. Yousif, the obese mustached cook of either Malay or Arab origin noticed my luggage and gave me a free dessert on the side: "You have a long journey ahead, please, it is my pleasure!" I'm gonna miss hospitality like that, it's hard to come by back home where all the fast food is owned by this and that evil corporation. No disrespect to the UV Subway's trusty sandwich artists but them all got nothing on the charms of Fat Mustached Arabian, Mr. "Would You Like To Twy Sum Pwrwawn?" from Vietnam or half the other charismatic if untrustworthy vendors of these Eastern lands.

With my tray now stacked full with the biggest feast in weeks, including one final boba drink, I took a seat and chowed down on the glory. The meal took almost an hour and a half of solo, steady measured nibbling to conquer and came close to detonating my stomach, but my was it worth it. I was in no rush. This was my last supper, the final meal of the trip (airplane food doesn't count)... it deserved to be savored. Only after it was deep into my stomach could coherent thinking start again. After sinking into my chair in a digestive coma for a few minutes, I thanked Yousif and began the same five block walk to the hostel I trotted six weeks prior.

It was a nice feeling to be back here, bringing the journey full circle and all. I remembered the thoughts that went through my head the first time around, fresh off the plane from two months in Nepal; the giddiness of being back in the "developed world," the mystery of what might lie ahead... and now it was all over. There would be no more haggling, no more chickenbus rides, no more worry if I'll find a room in the next city or even navigate my way out of the train station. The pressure was gone completely. The only thing left to do now was crack open a can of Tiger Lager with hostel owner Mr Lum and wash the bittersweet taste of the moment down. An important chapter of my life was about to end. Important in what way, I'm still not sure.

5pm rolled around, I cashed in my remaining MRT cards, got me passport stamped... the airplane engines kicked in, and I made my peace with Southeast Asia.

---Vital Signs---
Feet = In Heaven! Finally got my sneakers back.
DBA's Suitcase = Rescued
Wallet = Written off till Spring '09
ETA to Home = 20ish Hours
Flight Transfer in = Taipei

FOOD POISONING = NONE... Thank you Portland Street House!! Thank you thank you.
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