I step from off the flight into a wall of humidity. The walls and windows lining the airport terminals are draped in exotic tropical flowers, heavy with a scent I can’t place. My nose twitches, before being overwhelmed with the realisation that locals are chattering in a language that I don’t understand.
This isn’t Kansas anymore Toto.
Having never flown solo anywhere before, stepping onto the Tarmac of Changi Airport Singapore, the realisation hit me that I was alone, in another country and my fate was entirely in my own hands. Head heavy from jet lag, arriving at 11pm I managed a 16 mile (or so it seemed) circuit of Changi airport, before sinking gratefully into the in-airport hotel bed.
The next morning I’d like to say my young self sprang out of bed but that’s a complete lie. I awoke to the slowly dawning realisation and excitement that this was the moment I truly began travelling. Gathering all of my paperwork (in triplicate, plus copies at home), my bag and my guidebook, I walked past AK-47S armed airport security, tourist shops and overpriced restaurants to emerge blinking into the heavy tropical atmosphere of an imminent Monsoon shower. Hailing a cab (every step of the way thinking “Oh my god I’m in SINGAPORE”) I threw my stuff into my hotel room, impatient to begin exploring properly.
I didn’t know how to pay for the bus (Singapore adopted a contactless card option very early on), had never stepped foot on a complicated train/tube network or walked roads that needed to be traversed by taking escalators and using bridges. All very strange to my little Kiwi self. Without any proper plans for the day, I made my way to Orchard Road and marvelled at the beautifully dressed women and busy men bustling about their work. Hunger pangs struck, and though wandering into the 7Eleven shops and grabbing a sandwich appealed to the cowardly me, I decided to strike out for a local trader market, bearing in mind the warning to make my way intentionally to the busy stalls as they are ones locals favour.
I eventually made my way to little India, a quarter of markets, open-air butcheries and the most indescribably beautiful smells, to watch the sunset over the country I had conquered. I began the day a travel newbie, but ended the day beer in hand chowing on food that I didn’t know the name of (opting for the travellers choice of pointing to a menu item that looked interesting) that tasted of the exotic flavours I had been dreaming of, working towards and planning for more than a year.
A fish out of water I most definitely was; female, on my own and totally under my own steam. And this was only the first leg – I hadn’t yet wrestled the London Underground on a bus strike day in the rain toting a huge broken suitcase, come a-cropper with European greeting kisses or conquered the lack of an established social network. See, Kiwis CAN fly.
Ahhh, memories. This month’s travel linkup with Kelly & Rebecca is themed ‘Fish out of water’ experiences, suggested by the ever lovely Lady loves Cake, Kat. As usual, it’s a chance to stretch our typing fingers, travelling feet and wanderlust minds from the 1st to the 7th May, so get cracking, adding to the linkup & chatting!