. And orchids being my favorite flower, I shelled out the S$5 to check it out. They were all quite absolutely gorgeous, but there was this one area called the VIP orchid garden which was particularly interesting. For each of the foreign dignitaries that had visited the gardens and I guess made some sort of impact or goodwill gesture, there was a special species (or flower equivalent) named after them. As I perused the various flowers, feeling kind of bad for those people who got the small not as pretty ones, I just got caught up in the idea of a flower beging developed in your name. I mean, how cool would it be to say, yeah, that's the Lacey Orchid! I think that I no longer want to be a sailor. I think the way to go is to be some sort of important political figure, or marry a prime minister or something, and then come visit the gardens to get an orchid created in my honor. To be forever immortalized by an orchid is a pretty special thing. The rest of the day in Singapore I got really badly lost about 5 more times while trying to find the Singapore Art Museum, this really cool little cafe I had heard about, and the main street in Little India. But one of the times, wandering around too proud to take out the map, I saw a huge mass of people crowded around this one temple. And since jetlag had caused me to fall asleep and miss Chinese New Year, and I really wanted to experience some part of the festivities I decided to follow the tide of people hoping for a New Years market or something. What I saw was so much better. I had no idea what was going on, but as the wave of people pushed me further down the narrow street, the air started to fill with smoke and the smell of incense. I was the only white person and obvious tourist around, and everyone else had these two foot long sticks of incense which they would light at various fires set up along the road, then hold them above their head and walk towards the temple. At the temple people were praying outside and then going inside with the incense
. I managed to discreetly get one picture, but the whole thing was quite amazing and the feeling I got from stumbling upon such a beautiful and special place and event was something that a camera could never capture and something I will never forget. I didn't need to see a dragon dance anymore.
The next day I left Singapore for Kuala Lumpur and to see Dad for the first time in almost four months. After a seven hour train ride through little towns, banana tree forests, and farming areas, I finally made it. And as I rode up the escalator, there was Dad, camera ready, welcoming me to a place he had once called home 31 years ago. The first day, both of us tired and a little jetlagged, we decided to go up the KL Tower and get an introduction to the city. Donning our little headsets, we walked around the lookout area on all the skyscrapers, gardens, and religious buildings. That night I was introduced to Malaysia's famous noodles at a little place that named all of its plates things like "Daddy's special" and "Mama's favorite". Then we retired to our rooms at the Shangri-la where I just sunk into my real bed with pillows more than a cm thick and marvelled at my own bathroom and room with a view. And as I could feel my back already beginning to recover from its beating in Australia hostels, I knew that his was heaven.
And then the next day was just incredible
. Ragavan, a friend of Dad's from Kota Bahru, picked us up and took us to his home for the day. There we met his wife, Devi, who looked exactly the same as the pictures Dad had shown me earlier that morning and who ended up being one of the most warm and friendly people I have ever met. She is truly a lovely person! Sitting in their livingroom Ragavan and Dad remenised, Ragavan told stories of his early days teaching in Northeastern Malaysia, Devi and Ragavan explained the matriarchical society in Kerala from which the both came, they told about their arranged marriage, their children, and their life in KL. The day passed quickly, the talk only interrupted by songs from the past, a huge delicious lunch, and the serving of Malaysian tea. As evening came on, their son, Prakash, joined the group. He gave us tips on places to go in KL, told us about his travels, and of course, we all talked politics. Over dinner we talked about different customs in different parts of Malaysia and between different cultural/racial groups. And, I should definitely add, that I am absolutely fantastic at eating with my hands! Devi was very impressed that I didn't resort to using a spoon and that I didn't spill any food at all. So even though chopsticks still give me a bit of a hard time, and probably always will, I can eat curry and rice with my fingers any day. After dinner it was time to go, ending a truly special and utterly amazing day. As Prakash drove us home, we took a detour along a road where Dad's favorite bars and hang outs had been. Looking out the window at the passing city aglow with neon lights and Chinese lanterns while Bobby Darren's "Beyond the Sea" played on the stereo, it finally sunk in...I'm here, I have arrived, and the adventures are just beginning.
So here I am in KL, in Malaysia, the country Dad has told me about for as long as I remember. And I must say, it's quite surreal, though probably more so for him, going around to his old haunts and meeting his old friends together. It's a very different city than the one he knew 31 years ago, but there are a few reminders of the past. I love wandering around cities and doing what I do best - getting completely and hopelessly lost. My last real day in Singapore I decided that I didn't need a taxi, I didn't need the MRT (Mass Rapid Transport), that I would walk and really get to know the city. First stop was the botanical gardens, a huge park with an orchid garden, rainforests, lakes, and huge open areas...and I somehow managed to walk right by it. Leave it to me to walk a good couple kilometers past it before realizing that I was beginning to walk out of the country/city. But when I finally found my way there, literally dripping in sweat in the midmorning heat and humidity, it was great. I wandered around along the paths looking out onto the mirror lakes and kids playing on the grassy areas under old, exotic looking trees, and soon found myself at the orchid garden