I was very excited to return to Singapore where I had visited on my first sabbatical in 1988. I remembered it to be the cleanest city I had ever seen and this did not change. The government has strict regulations which impose a fine and/or jail time about keeping public sanitation strictly regulated, therefore no chewing gum or spitting on the sidewalk; no drawing of graffiti; public transportation such as bus and subway are considered “non-food areas”; public places have separate areas for smokers, often without shelter; hack another’s wifi; and feeding the pigeons which can be a source of disease outbreaks or attract insects. Everything is very orderly and safe. It represents an amazing model of planning by this island nation.
We were very fortunate to have Yi Jung take us under her wing, the mom of Kat Stephan, both participated in our 2017 Milton Academy Jazz tour. Yi arranged an itinerary to honor and delight us. And once we were in Singapore, Yi’s brother and sister, who live in Singapore, treated us like royalty. Yi Jung, Kat Stephan and Yi’s brother and sister were amazingly generous and thoughtful in organizing transport and tours while we were in Singapore. Thanks to them, we were able to experience many places in a short period of time.
After being picked up by the family’s driver at the airport, we settled into the Oasia Hotel Novena. Although not centrally located, there was a huge mall with dozens of dining options and a subway stop easily accessible from the hotel. They also had a wonderful pool that we were able to enjoy.
On Friday morning, we were picked up by a tour guide with a tour van bus driver to introduce us to Singapore. We had a jam packed day experiencing Kampong Glam, Arab Street, Thian Hock Keng Temple, Peranakan Museum and the National Museum of Singapore. Our guide and driver were excellent and this was a great way to begin our stay in Singapore.
Saturday we were taken to the Gardens by the Bay where we visited Flowers by the Bay and the Cloud Forest This is an AMAZING experience. It is 250 acres of incredibly organized beautiful collection of flowers and trees from all over the world in an indoor setting. Stunning is an understated description of the exhibit. We loved our time there and Frances made a second trip back because there was so much to see.
That afternoon I joined forces with my good friend Aaron Goldberg. Aaron is a world class jazz pianist and got his start in Milton Academy’s jazz program. We had planned our Singapore stop to coincide with the JazzAsia jazz workshop. Although I was not an official faculty member, I was assigned a combo and Aaron and I co-taught a beginning adult jazz group and it was a lot of fun on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. We only had 4 students in the group and they were eager to learn. Not only did they make progress, but we laughed a lot. It was great to work with these exuberant adults and a treat to partner with Aaron in this workshop.
While I was with Aaron, Frances was treated by the Jung family to “Footsteps of Singapore’s Past with Afternoon Tea” at the Fullerton Hotel Singapore located in the Marina Bay. It was a delightful, delicious and relaxing time which included touring the Singapore River with stunning views of colonial buildings and bridges, learning out Singapore’s history, and ended with high tea in the courtyard of the Fullerton.
Later that night, Frances and I spent a wonderful evening at dinner with the Jung family. They warmly greeted us at our hotel and drove us to a private room at the Red House restaurant where we were wined and dined like royalty. This was indeed a gourmet treat. There was more than ample amount of food representing the best of Singapore. Among the memorable food items was an array of different local crabs. The food was delicious and we had enjoyed a special evening with our new friends. We have included a video of our feast below.
After teaching again Sunday afternoon, I met up with Frances at the Singapore Zoo where we went on a night safari and attended a dance and fire show after the safari. It was interesting to see the variety of animals in their natural environs. There were no cages or fences, but the animals were visible in areas where they were safely kept. It was a treat to spend a pleasant evening at the zoo.
During our Singapore stay, we were astonished to learn that Ammachi, one of our spiritual teachers would be in Singapore on the coming Monday morning of our visit. Amma is known as the hugging saint and travels 6 months a year all over the world from her ashram in India to offer hugs. She is one of the world’s greatest humanitarians. Her charitable projects include giving $42 million dollars to tsunami relief, building and giving away 175,000 houses and building a teaching hospital and university. I have been following her since my 2nd sabbatical in 2000 when I went on a month-long spiritual tour of India and first encountered Amma. Frances and I felt very fortunate to be able to attend her public appearance in Singapore and be in her presence. It was also a chance for Frances to have a set of beads blessed for one of our waiters in the Maldives, Amdad, who is from Amma’s village but had never had the opportunity to receive a hug from her. The beads were blessed by Amma for his intention and have been sent to Amdad, who works at Malahini, in the Maldives.
Our last evening in Singapore had us visiting the very impressive Garden Rhapsody show at the Marina Bay and then going to the ship-like structure spanning the top of the three hotels Marina Bay Sands. If you saw the movie Crazy Rich Asians you will recognize this complex. It was quite spectacular and a fitting way to end our most enjoyable stay in Singapore.