This is the view from the smoking lounge at Changi Airport. The lounge is roofless, though a tarp covers about half of the space. There is a rule in Singapore that no smoking is allowed in spaces which are air conditioned. I agree with the wisdom of this, as there’s a nasty and unclean feeling when one enters an enclosed space smelling of stale cigarettes.
I am one of 6 Caucasians on the Philippine Airlines flight – the first leg of which stops in Manila. In a way, I love being on the outside – being white in the USA is hardly a distinction and though I understand that this confers significant privileges it’s certainly nice to be in the minority, if only briefly.
I have conflicting thoughts about Singapore. While there is a beauty to this place, it’s multicultural enough – and peopled with enough Westerners, specifically – that I can hardly view it as exotic. No, it’s similar to San Francisco, as if that familiar city sudden shifted south to the equator and was transformed from chilly fog to steamy heat. The skyscrapers, the high cost of living, the smokers huddled – illegally close to buildings – to satisfy a never-ending hunger, the prostitutes walking home as I walk to work – these are the familiar stories and images of my native city.
I’m expected to return next year and will plan a bit differently – well, I will plan as I had little time to do for this eleventh-hour trip – and bring a lighter bag, fewer things, and more realistic expectations.
The familiar isn’t bad. It’s just something that has been done before. Perhaps Taiwan will not enthrall me when I return.
It’s hard to know. And that is what makes a journey like this so interesting.