Today is the day we leave the sterile environment of Singapore and jump with two feet into SE Asia.
am and we are waiting for the restaurant at the Mercure Bugis to open so we can grab some breakfast. The Silk Air (a regional carrier of Singapore Airlines) flight is supposed to have a meal but we don’t know at what time we will be fed and even if the food will be to our palates. I am reasonably fussy and Debbie has some food issues. So we stock up on the food we know.
As 6.30am, our appointed airport shuttle time, closes in both Debbie and I have butterflies. In the past we have sat and waited for other shuttles far past our comfort zone time and we did not want to have that happen today. 6.28 am and there are lights on the driveway and the shuttle appears. Butterflies calmed.
The Singapore airport experience is a bit weird but seems to be a lot more friendly and efficient than other airports in the world. The strangest part is the security x-ray machines are at the entrance to the gate lounge, so every lounge has it own security. This has the inefficiency of having staff for each bay but the line up is way shorter and moves quite quickly. The Singapore airport is a shopping mecca and feels like a luxury mall.
Upon arrival at the airport in Manado, Indonesia Debbie’s (and mine) angst rose to about the highest level possible. We had to check our dive gear as the airline’s carry on criteria is quite restrictive. My bag appears on the trolley in the 3rd or 4th bunch of luggage. Then we wait for Debbie’s. There is a screen with live video of the baggage handlers as they unload the luggage. We wait, and wait, people leave and we wait. The guys outside are down to the last cart and there are many bags on it but where is Debbie’s dive gear? There are very few folks left and only 20 or so bags to come when the Aqua Lung bag with blue accents pops through the shredded rubber curtain. Dodged a big bullet on that one! We don’t check bags for fear our dive gear will be misdirected to the Sahara and today that fear welled up huge.
As we leave the airport arrivals area we are, as expected, accosted by, ‘need a taxi’. Today ,we in fact do. I had done my research and it appears my findings are somewhat misguided. First they are somewhat dated and second our hotel is 1/2 again as far passed Manado, which of course will cost more. One can bargain in Indonesia and I did. I think I do an OK job and after checking at the hotel what a taxi should cost I hit the price right on the nose.
We check in to a fairly funky place in what seems to be a strange area for a nicely appointed hotel. Don’t know why anyone would locate themselves here. We chose the place because of the good vibes we got while emailing back and forth prior to booking. The hotel is the S Loft Hotel has an arty decor, well appointed rooms and super friendly and accommodating staff.
A short rest and we head out on the street. Lots of traffic, an incredible number of motorbikes, crumbling infrastructure, heat, dilapidated buildings, and beeping car horns. Although there are surprisingly few of the latter. We did notice one thing, the locals are all starring at us. Seems there are very few tourists, at least white ones, in this neck of the urban woods. Truth is I don’t know why tourists would come here anyway.
Once we gather this in we start to say ‘hello’ and get a huge smile and a hello in return. As with most people in the world, the folks are extremely friendly. People here have not been tainted by tourists or tourism and are as curious about us as we are about them. We wander through parts of the ‘hood’ and are not once shunned. Even had a couple of people indicate I should take their picture, and of course I oblige. Not having to be sneaky about taking someone’s photo is my preference.
I like places like this. So much different from our home life. There is always an opportunity stop and talk to someone and maybe learn and maybe get rid of the first world ideas of what is necessary to sustain life.