A quick glance of Bangkok, Thailand

A quick glance of Bangkok, Thailand

There are a few things that make Thailand unique and my latest visit to Bangkok has reminded me of a few I’d like to share with you.

Sidewalks.
If you plan to walk in Bangkok, wear sensible walking shoes. Sidewalks will often start out as such but will often veer off and then reappear. In addition, you will encounter utility poles, trees, signs, awnings, motorcycles and even restaurant seating on the sidewalk. These are all in addition to the many street food vendors who also conduct business on the sidewalks.

Tuk Tuks and more.
There is no shortage of TukTuks, motorcycles, scooters, taxis, and cars on the street. Traffic jams seem to be a way of life and driving is not for the faint of heart. Often interspersed with the traffic are pickup trucks with loudspeakers blasting some sort of message or music. Just in case that is not enough confusion, there is no mistaking when an emergency vehicle is present; loud is an understatement.

Massages.
Yes, Thailand is famous for their massages, and yes, they are quite cheap when compared to western prices. If you are not searching for a spa experience, you can get a full body massage for around $5 US at many local places. Just be prepared for although the experience may be wonderful, you get what you pay for and may be right next to a stranger in the same room.

Street food.
Street food in Thailand is not just fast food. You will be able to get fully prepared Thai dishes such as mango salads, curries, pad thai, or even soups on the sidewalk or local markets. A plate of the local dish pad thai may cost 10 Baht or the equivalent of 30 cents US. However, be prepared for the results if you do not have a strong constitution.

No Chopsticks needed.
While you are still in the East, chopsticks are not the utensil of choice in Thailand. Meals are often served with a fork and spoon. No knives are usually present, and one learns to cut food with the side of the spoon. Most use the fork in the left hand and the spoon in the right.

No religion.
Although often associated with Buddhism, Thailand has no official religion. Thais are free to worship any God or religion. The main religion followed is Buddhism, but there are also Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Sikhs in Thailand. Despite having no official religion, temples are plentiful. They all have religious significance and visitors must cover their shoulders and knees. You cannot wear shorts or sleeveless shirts.

These are just a few glimpses of Bangkok and Thailand, there is much more, but I always like to keep my blog posts short and informative. If you want more information, please comment, and let me know below.

Singapore revisited.

Singapore revisited.

I spent twenty-three years in the airline industry as a flight attendant. In many of those first years, I was often the only person of color on the crew. Therefore, my experiences in being looked at differently have been more than eye-opening.   Being back here in Singapore has once again opened my eyes to the possibilities of a multicultural society.

Singapore is a multicultural society.  Chinese, Malay, Indian, and others (CMIO).  Here in Singapore, I am other, and my color is not as noticeable as in the US. Here I am simply different.  Different in the kind of way that’s the same but different.  Here the racial harmony that’s supposed to exist is reflected in the many cultures that co-exist.  

Singapore became a sovereign nation in 1965.  The following year the four racial groups CMIO were expected to be treated separately but equally, and there was to be no discrimination or favoritism of any race.  In Singapore, all races, religious practices, customs, and traditions are accepted. As I came to understand it, the Singaporean way is reflected in the appearance of social harmony.

In Singapore, I see co-existence but not people that intermix with each other.  Here race is downplayed yet elevated at the same time.  As a black ex-pat, I often get mistaken for African descent, and the distinction is a relatively common occurrence here.  When I go into public spaces, I’m seen as other.  When I speak, the recognition of my racial identity becomes apparent in the subsequent interactions I have.

I have experienced many acts of travel bias and microaggression.  My experience here in Singapore is much the same but different.  Often, my experiences have left me with a less than pleasant travel experience.  Multiculturalism is embraced here in Singapore, and the diversity I see here tends to be an aspect of Singapore I simply love about Singapore.

My first excursion in Singapore to end my quarantine was with a taxi driver. A typical Singaporean whose first attempt at conversation is not unlike many I experience. “Where are you from” I’m often asked? As an immigrant, my answer can be as deep or varied as I decide. I’m from an island like this. I’m from the Caribbean. I’m an American.  All are true, just as with the many aspects of Singaporean culture I experience— Chinese, Malay, Indian, Singaporean, ex-pat.  My story is unique and varied.

We’re all different, yet the same. A friend once told me to see the human race, not black people, not old people, not Asians, not fat people, not old people.  I choose to do that, and here in Singapore, that is ok.

My release from Singapore SHN

My release from Singapore SHN

I finally got released from my seven-day SHN.  Because I was so prepared to stay in a hotel, but not knowing which hotel, 2 star or five stars. I had a lot of anxiety about my arrival in Singapore.  It was a pleasant surprise to spend my SHN at home.  However, not leaving the apartment was limiting, and I’m happy to say I am now officially released from my SHN.

Swab testing appointment

The first step in the process of being released from SHN is a swab test.  I was given an appointment and told to show up.  As I don’t have personal transportation in Singapore, I had to arrange with a designated taxi company for travel to the testing site.

Testing location

The location of my testing was an old school building.  When I first went there, more workers were present than people needing to be swab tested, which soon changed as the lines queue.

The process

The process was the same for everyone.  We were all given a sticker designating us as SHN.  We then had to verify our name with identification.  Answer health questions. Get our temperature taken, then once again queue for the swab test. The process seemed to move relatively smoothly.  Once inside, there was another checking of ID, medical questions, and then I was escorted to the swab testing station, where I again had to verify my particulars. Once my swab test was completed, I was free to return home.

Final release

Tracker no more

My final release from the SHN came the following day.  I had to wait for a text notification of my negative test results.  Once I received that text, I could then cut my tracking bracelet off and throw it away.  Officials picked up the gateway portion that came with the bracelet.

Now I am free to leave my house, but not go everywhere I would like to.  I must install an app that allows the government to track my every movement in Singapore.  In addition, although I have my vaccination cards from the US.  I will need to take a serology blood test to get a vaccination designation on my tracer app.  Unvaccinated people have limited accessibility.  I’ll tell you a bit more about that in my next blog post.

Getting into Singapore

Getting into Singapore

I highly encourage traveling, but I also strongly suggest that travelers do some research before traveling to any destination.  Even though I lived in Singapore for several years and was familiar with many of the rules and regulations, Covid had created many changes.  Even on a dependent pass (my husband lives and works in Singapore), getting into Singapore was not an easy process.

Traveling to Singapore

Singapore provides a checklist for inbound travelers.  While this is a great tool, entry requirements and health controls are different for each passenger based on each passenger’s travel history and profile.  Singapore provides an online tool that helps to determine a travelers entry requirement.

Vaccinations

Although not being fully vaccinated does not prohibit entry into Singapore, I highly suggest it.  In addition, vaccinations must be more than two weeks old to be considered fully immunized in Singapore.  Singapore follows the WHO EUL vaccine protocol, so be sure to verify your vaccine meets the requirements.

Covid testing.

While many countries require a negative Covid test at least 72 hours before departure, Singapore requires the test to be at least 48 hours. Since the Covid outbreak, travelers must present proof of a negative Covid test at airport check-in for all international travel.  It never fails that a fellow traveler will try to use documentation from a phone, and I have noticed where some places say a QR code is acceptable.  This was not the case for my flight, and I highly suggest printing out a paper copy of your results before heading to the airport.

Singapore arrival

Even though a negative Covid test is a requirement for Singapore, all travelers are still required to take another test upon arrival at the travelers’ expense. The test can be paid before arrival to shorten the process, and the traveler gets the results within hours.

Upon arrival, travelers are directed to specific travel lanes based on their application for entry.  I made preparations to spend 14 days in a designated hotel.  However, my entry coincided with a recent change for US travelers, and I was allowed to quarantine at home.  Airport personnel gave me a tracking bracelet and gateway, which I had to install and wear upon arrival home.  My stay home notice (SHN) is for seven days.  I have received a video call to verify that my bracelet is worn and that the gateway is activated.  An appointment for yet another Covid test at the end of my SHN has already been arranged.

After being away from my husband and dog for over a year, the effort it took to get to Singapore was genuinely worth it.  I have yet to find out if the required prepayment for a quarantined hotel will be refunded.  If Singapore is in your travel plans, research and preparation are an absolute must for a smooth travel experience.

I’ll update you on Wednesday’s blog about my release from SHN and the next steps I must complete to resume life here in Singapore.  If there’s anything you’d like to know more about, comment below.

https://safetravel.ica.gov.sg/arriving/overview

https://safetravel.changiairport.com/#/

The long trip home to Singapore

The long trip home to Singapore

I finally made it back to Singapore and my ex-pat life.  I left Singapore for one of my routine trips back to the US.  However, Covid and the many different guidelines set up by Singapore complicated my return. I hadn’t seen my husband or dog for over a year, and I finally made the long trip home.

Getting there

As an ex-pat, I am not a Singapore citizen or permanent resident. The first process for getting into Singapore is to get approval from the government for entry.  Planning the trip home took several attempts as my arrival had to coincide with the dates given by the Singapore government, the availability of flights into Singapore, and the availability of designated stay-at-home quarantine hotels.  Once all the pieces aligned, I could finally schedule my long trip home.

Travel options

As a former flight attendant and living in SE Asia for over ten years, I am accustomed to traveling long distances.  My first attempt at getting to Singapore had me transiting through Germany.  That route was ideal as an established travel lane between Singapore and Germany was established, and travel connections were perfect.  As I could not coordinate all the pieces for my travel, I transited through Istanbul, Turkey.   This route meant an 11+ flight from Dallas to Turkey, a 9-hour layover, and another 10+ hour flight from Turkey to Singapore.

Travel choice

With 30+ hours of travel ahead and my experience as a traveler, business class on Turkish Airlines was my preferred way to travel.  The benefits far outweighed the costs for me. I was particular in this choice because it meant having access to the airline lounge where showers, private suites, meals, and luggage lockers were available.  My preference is always to have a stopover as I do not have a tolerance for 18-hour flights.  I can only say that a hot shower between trips can make a difference between a good or great travel experience.

For me, travel is more than getting from one destination to another; it is about the travel experience.  If you ever must travel long distances, try to make it as pleasant an experience as possible.  Investing in your travel experience will make a tremendous difference in long-distance travel.  Have you taken long-distance trips? How was your experience? Comment and let me know.

p.s. I made preparations to spend my two weeks of mandatory quarantine at a designated stay-at-home hotel before being allowed to go to my home in Singapore.  However, I was permitted to spend my quarantine at home.  I will not be able to leave home for seven days and must wear a tracking bracelet.  In Sunday’s blog post, I’ll discuss more on the arrival process of getting into Singapore.

 

What’s your travel footprint?

What’s your travel footprint?

A travel footprint is an impact you make in your travels. As a flight attendant, I got to see the best of people and the worst.  With the recent uptick in travel, many travelers seem to be leaving footprints less than desirable.  Here are a few ways that you may unknowingly leave a negative travel footprint behind.

The Covid virus exemplifies how much of a footprint we leave behind unknowingly.  We are urged to wash and sanitize our hands often. It’s one of the first things I do when I leave a public space, and especially when I board an airplane.  Airplanes can fly an average of four roundtrip flights per day. There is no way for a traveler to tell who has been sitting in the seat before them. Leaving your seat area in total disarray is not a footprint you want to leave behind. Try to hand off your trash to a flight attendant. Do not leave trash stuffed into your seatback pocket or lying around on the floor.

Similarly, when you go to a hotel.  Know that someone must clean behind you.  There have been so many times when I have passed an open hotel room door and been amazed at how the guests have left the room. Leaving such a footprint is partly the reason why hotels have a check-in time afternoon or later.  It takes a lot to clean a hotel room after it’s been trashed, and the people who are waiting for that room want it to be as spotless as they expect.

When vacationing, travelers expect to be catered to and treated well.  Try to leave a positive footprint with the people who serve you.  Say please and thank you to staff.  Acknowledge others around you and how your actions and behavior affect them.  Be kind to the wait staff and be gratuitous when possible. Having been in the service industry for many years, I know how much an appreciative and considerate customer can impact someone’s day.

Travelers should always respect personal space.  Taking your shoes off and resting your feet in someone else’s space is just rude.  Be courteous and keep your feet in your space. Most travelers know it’s difficult for small children and toddlers to be still in a confined space. However, allowing children to kick the seat in front of them as entertainment is disrespectful.   Giving toddlers food to play with and not cleaning up after them is also ill-mannered.

We all expect an airplane to take us to our destination, and it usually does.  However, all travelers must consider that there may be extended delays where you spend much more time with your seatmate than anticipated.  Some delays will have passengers together for quite a lengthy time, and if your footprint is less than favorable, this can be a very uncomfortable time. In worst-case scenarios of turbulence or unplanned landings, sometimes your fellow passengers become an essential connection.  Try to leave favorable first impressions.

Have you thought about the travel footprint you leave behind? I’d like to know.