Asia in the rear view mirror

It’s been a little over a week since we’ve left Asia and I miss it already. Each country we visited had its own little quirks. We unexpectedly fell in love with some of the places we visited. The most pleasant surprise of the trip, so far, has been Malaysia. I don’t want to take anything away from all the other countries we visited – India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam and even Singapore, they were all great in their own way, but we really hit it off with Malaysia. No country is perfect, but Malaysia treated us well, we warmed up to it quickly, felt really comfortable there, and hope to return someday.

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Singapore at night

Overall, the countries we visited in Asia are very affordable places to travel to and live in. Things are considerably cheaper but there are trade-offs. The main ones that come to mind are water, toilet paper, and bath tubs. In most places in Asia we cannot drink the water that comes out of the tap. For the past 9 months we have been filtering, boiling and buying water – every single day – for everything from drinking, to cooking, to brushing our teeth. Remember to keep your mouth closed tightly when you shower in order to keep the tap water out of your system. Toilet paper is the next trade-off. In most of Asia the toilet paper does not go into the toilet. Period. It goes in the bathroom trash, which for obvious reasons, is emptied way more often than back at home. If you are fortunate enough to find a bath tub in Asia, treat yourself with a hot relaxing bath.

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Monitor lizard in a Singapore park.

These trade-offs are balanced with an abundance of friendly, welcoming people, really tasty, really affordable food, and a potential adventure around every corner. Most of the time in Asia I felt safe. We went out at night many times for walks or for dinner. There are lots of places I would go back to and would recommend you also visit.

When we were preparing for the next leg of our adventure we decided to go to South Africa, specifically Cape Town. After a little digging we discovered that there were direct, non-stop flights from Singapore to South Africa. Singapore is a city, a state, and a country – all in one. It’s right next to Malaysia, and in fact was part of Malaysia for a few years before deciding to venture out on its own. So it’s a fairly new country, a hugely successful one at that. It gained independence in 1965 and according to Wikipedia “has become a global commerce, finance and transport hub. It has been recognized as the most “technology-ready” nation, top International-meetings city, city with “best investment potential”, world’s smartest city, world’s safest country.” We thought we’d give it a try for a few days before shipping out to Africa. I’m glad we did. We bought a 3 day metro pass and checked out different parts of the city. There’s a Disney-like park at the waterfront, a nightly outdoor display of lights and music that would give Pink Floyd a run for its money, a “Little India” area which is always a bonus for us, a nice public park/green space with a lake, and some very friendly helpful people. The first night we were there and trying to find our way back to our place and were having no luck, someone stopped to help us. They couldn’t give us exact directions but flagged down a jogger, who after 10 seconds of conversation told us she lived in our building. Most people speak English and are really friendly. Problem solved. 

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Sculptures on the waterfront.

Singapore is not as affordable as the other Asian countries we visited. We found prices to be more on par with western prices. We stayed for 3 nights, just enough to get a taste of the city/country and to have some great conversations with the locals, one of who encouraged me to re-brand my Yoga business in Singapore and then expand into the rest of Asia. Once established in Singapore, he told me, you’ll have great credibility in Asia. Not sure if I’m ready for a move like that yet.

The fight from Singapore to South Africa was on Singapore Airlines, who like the country are great at what they do, winning awards like world’s best airline, etc. The 10 hour flight was very comfortable and the staff professional and got us over to another continent, non-stop. We opted for this more expensive, but much shorter flight, to skip the hassle of flying north to Ethiopia, changing planes, and then heading south to Johannesburg. It would have been 2 really long flights instead of just 1. I believe we were the only Americans on the plane. The senior staff guy approached us toward the end of the flight, gave us an email address to send feedback to the home office, and gifted us 2 decks of Singapore Airlines playing cards.

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Hooded sweatshirt, layers and scarf weather in South Africa.

We stepped off the plane in South Africa into a 40 degree, very chilly evening. It was a stark awakening coming from 9 months of 100 degree, humid weather. It was downright cold. Our hotel was within sight of the airport. We checked in to a Protea Hotel, by Marriott, for 1 night, as we were headed to Cape Town the next afternoon. Yes, I was missing Asia already, but within minutes South Africa had my full attention. We can drink the water from the tap. We can flush the paper down the toilet. And there, right in the middle of the room, was a huge bathtub, with a supply of hot, hot water. I neglected my duties for the next 12 hours and sent the time taking advantage of all these newly rediscover luxuries.

Next, we’re off to Cape Town. Stay tuned.

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Next stop, Cape Town, South Africa.
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