An Epic 50 Hours

Jaye, Martin, Adam and I decided to take a little weekend adventure. At the time, we thought last weekend was going to be our last down-time of the trip. (Update - this current week is now free time, since the Korean government mandated students to return to school to make up for missed school during the MERS epidemic. More on this week’s adventures later…) But this time last week, we thought our last two days of non-Fellowship work and non-Fellowship travel were incredibly precious. With that golden opportunity of time in front of us, we decided to make the most of those days - we took an overnight bus to Singapore, toured Singapore for a half day, then flew to Bali, spending 24 hours there until returning to KL for a week-long young professionals workshop on Monday morning.

Every step of the way, it seemed as if our group of four was laughing about something - an experience, each other, or our fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants quick planning. I started jotting down some notes so we could remember this seemingly epic 50 hours together …. and I’ve tried to match the pictures in this post with the events below. Enjoy!

10PM - We left the celebratory dinner with the Malaysian high school students, inspired and enthused by their learning and the testimonials they willingly and voluntarily shared in front of the audience (including their parents). After changing and boarding our van, Adam realized he didn’t have his passport.

10:15PM - Actual departure, including all passports, to the bus station.

11:15PM - We lined up and tried to board our bus to Singapore. Jaye boarded, but I was stopped - apparently I was trying to board the wrong bus, but they didn’t catch that Jaye was actually on the wrong bus! We had to go pull Jaye off (who knows why she was allowed to board) to come back to wait in the boarding line with us.

11:20PM -  All of us boarded the correct bus, found our seats, and tried to get comfortable for the five-to-six hour bus ride. Jaye had a broken air conditioner and was freezing the entire time, and Jaye, Adam, and I were at the back of the bus - meaning, our seats didn’t recline. We contorted ourselves for a few hours of precious sleep while the wheels on the bus kept going ‘round.

5:15AM - After being woken up a few hours earlier to pass through immigration, we arrived in Singapore. The streets were light only be street lamps, we all were groggy with our interrupted sleep, and we didn’t want to carry our luggage (minimal as it way). Our genius idea was to beg an up-scale hotel to watch our luggage for us while we wandered. Seems logical, right? No. Not possible, despite our pleading efforts. Instead, we hung out in the hotel lobby to tap into free wifi to make our plans, all the while being entertained by a drunken couple trying to find (for nearly 20 minutes!) their elevator to return to their room.

6:15AM - We decide to take a taxi to the Gardens by the Bay. The website told us that the grounds open at 5:30AM. Upon arrival, however, the security was perplexed for why we’d want to just wander in the darkness. We must have seemed harmless enough, as he soon went on his way and left us to wander the grounds. It’s a beautifully curated landscape, and at night the trees were lit by LED lights. When exploring in the darkness, we found the Marina Sands hotel was close by. (For those who are curious, the Marina Sands hotel supposedly has the most famous infinity pool in the world.) In our sleep-deprived state of curiosity and excitement, the four of us hatched a plan to sweet-talk our way up to the infinity pool to watch the sun rise.

7:00AM - Our attempts to reach the infinity pool were real. We tried at the front desk, showing our Stanford and Harvard student ID’s, pleading that we were on a research trip and needed to capture pictures of the Singapore skyline from the infinity pool. No luck. We then snuck into an elevator and tried to sweet-talk our way past the security guard at the top floor. Again, no luck. So we went over to the restaurant adjacent to the pool, asking the workers there if they could help us get in for our “research project”. Again, no luck. But we were able to get a few solid views of the Singapore landscape. 

7:30AM - After going down to the ground floor in search of breakfast, we exited the Marina Sands hotel - complete with a security escort. I think our story had reached multiple people, and security was called to make certain we left the hotel without any further disturbances. Between our probably-less-than-credible-story, tired eyes, and should-bag luggage being lugged around, four Americans (the shortest of us at 5-foot 11-inches) definitely stood out among the crowds. We wandered into the adjoining mall, finding breakfast, a place for Adam to nap, and mapping out our next plan for the day. 

9:30AM - the Gardens by the Bay officially opened, and we were among the first to purchase tickets to the exhibit. After stowing our luggage in coin-operated lockers, we wandered through the exhibit that boasted an indoor waterfall and the most amazing orchids that I’ve ever seen. Afterwards, we toured the “tree walk” - walking along the manmade walkway between the tallest trees in the Gardens, providing us with tremendous views overlooking Singapore and the Bay.

11:30AM - we made our way to downtown Singapore for lunch together, after which we roamed around downtown Singapore before heading to the airport. Delicious food, a place to rest our feet, and a way to gain energy to make our way to the next part of the adventure.

4:30PM - Our flight departed for Bali! The running joke was that we’d get stuck in Bali due to the volcanic activity happening. We didn’t get stuck, but the airplane did give us a tremendous view of the volcano spewing ash into the air.

6:15PM - We landed in Bali, and successfully found the resort driver to take us to our stay. The driver was a fun guy, and Jaye made a quick friend when she started asking about where to surf. (I’ll have to say, this trip was largely Jaye’s idea - she wants to surf in as many places as possible!) Along the way to the resort, we were (of course!) talking about food. The driver knew just the place to take us - an ocean-front restaurant serving fresh seafood. He said he’d never been there to eat, only to drop passengers off, so we invited him in with us! He was extremely grateful, and we enjoyed his company. Our table was situated in the sand, with a backdrop of waves crashing and the sunset fading into the night sky. A quartet of singers and instrumentalists went from table to table, serenading the newly-weds on honeymoons. (Again, all of their arrangements were of American pop music!). 

9:00PM - Our driver continued on our trek to the resort, and all of us were taken aback with the driving. Lanes seem to be only suggestions, especially for the motorcyclists (who rarely wear helmets). We all buckled up, kept focused on the road, and enjoyed the ride with impromptu karaoke singing in the car (again with the pop music!).  We went to a beach party near our resort around 10, though left around 11 just as things were starting top pick up. We needed showers and a good night’s sleep.

6:00AM - I woke up to catch the sun rise from Bali. It was an incredibly cloudy morning, but the sun’s morning light gave depth to the fast-moving dark clouds. The rest of the morning was lazy - a (very!) slow breakfast, lounging by the pool, and taking in the sunshine as the clouds gave way to a most scenic Indian Ocean.

1:00PM - We made our way to another beach, called Dream Land, where we planned to have lunch and relax until our evening flight. Our challenge? We had used all of our physical cash and no where on the Dream Land beach took credit cards. Martin’s keen eye found a resort perched high above the beach, and he negotiated his way in with one of the hosts. If we agreed to spend the equivalent of $15/each for lunch, they’d accept our credit card AND let us hang out at their poolside resort for the afternoon. SCORE.

4:30PM - We again called our driver from the night before, and he willingly took us back to the airport. (Jaye helped to arrange this during her morning surf, since he was there surfing with his friends.) We again had karaoke sing-along in the car … then decided we were still hungry, and ate dinner at the airport. 

7:00PM - I was a sight for sore eyes when we made our way to the gate. I hadn’t packed many “vacation” clothes, so hurriedly found some shorts and flip-flops at the mall in Malaysia before the trip. It’s important to note that finding American sizes is quite difficult in Asia, especially for a tall woman. Many of the stores I went into didn’t sell shoes in my size, and even the largest sized Asian shorts wouldn’t fit me. After two hours of searching the night before our departure, I finally found a pair of shorts and cheap sandals. The shorts weren’t worth their price - by the end of only 2 days of wear, they had stretched so much that I had to hold them up around my waist as I walked through the airport. They kept falling off! As for the sandals? They weren’t worth their cheap price, either - they had dug into the sides of both feet, leaving welts and cuts where they rubbed. 

12:00AM - Our flight was delayed, so we arrived later than expected back to Malaysia. After passing through immigration (and getting questioned as to why I had visited China…), the taxi line was oppressive. I took in one line, Adam in another, and Martin took off to negotiate directly with the drivers. Jaye was the go-between, and rounded us up when Martin scored a good deal. We made our way back to the hotel, quickly climbing into bed to rest before the Malaysian executive leadership workshop began at 9AM.

The weekend was filled with laughs, memories, and experiences that will last a lifetime. The photos that aren’t included are the ones we snapped of each other sleeping (an ongoing challenge … those pictures to be debuted at a later date) :-) Traveling with this group will always been a welcome adventure.