I spent a week in Singapore in 2003, visiting gardens, the zoo, museums, Chinese and Malay neighborhoods, food carts, restaurants and temples. Despite the oppressive heat and humidity, I like Singapore. And the fact that reflexologists are everywhere offering foot massages.
We took a city tour so Keith could see highlights, but the real reason for our two-night stopover was to stay at Raffles, a world-renowned, 125-year-old white colonial hotel with courtyards, verandas and 98 suites.
Even though we were staying in standard accommodations (all are suites), we were welcomed like longtime clients in a top suite. Standard was more than good enough; our accommodations lived up to expectations, with creaking hardwood floors, Oriental carpets, ceiling fans, antiques and silky sheets.
As I took a Diet Coke from the mini bar, Keith said, "Wait! It's 9 Singapore dollars," or about $7.33 U.S. The exchange rate had changed considerably in 10 years. I didn't open it.
A staff member confided that a grocery store across the street in Raffles Mall sold Diet Cokes for 90 cents, so that's where I indulged my soft drink habit. We ate Chinese dishes at the mall food court too, and I nodded off during a $44, hourlong foot massage at Reflexology Co.
Singapore to Tokyo
Singapore Airlines, 6 hours, 30 minutes
Hotel: Courtyard by Marriott, Ginza
Why? We wanted to see Tokyo again after 25 years.
There's a certain freedom in revisiting a city; you don't feel pressured to see everything. Except for a day getting lost on the Metro on the return trip from Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine in a huge park, we mainly stayed in Ginza, eating at department stores and window shopping outside designer shops.
The best — and most expensive — tempura was said to be at Ten-Ichi. Bill Clinton's face grinned from the front window, but inside the décor was traditional Japanese. Two men in black suits and two women in navy kimonos bowed a welcome.
A young chef cooked lightly battered tempura for us and four men. The least expensive, a $95 set lunch menu, included two tempura fish, two tempura shrimp, two tempura asparagus, miso soup, salad and green tea. Obviously enjoying the experience, I took iPhone photos and smiled at the chef. After the others left, he gave us more tempura. "Shrimp." "Squid." "Eel." Finally, "Last one." I bowed and said, "Arigato." Thank you.
Tokyo to Honolulu
United, 6 hours, 30 minutes
Hotel: Turtle Bay Resort, North Shore of Oahu
Why? We liked the low-key ambience we experienced here on a day trip in 2005.
Tooling around Oahu's North Shore in a red Mustang convertible was our grand finale — total relaxation. Turtle Bay's six-story hotel is the only high-rise, and food trucks are among the recommended restaurants. The aroma of ubiquitous garlic shrimp drifts toward the beaches.
The North Shore is filled with surfers wearing flip-flops and carrying their boards to Sunset and other beaches. We shopped with them at Foodland. We swam in our hotel's pool with Australian families and their toddlers. We walked Waimea Valley, a lush park with a garden path to a waterfall. We will return.
Honolulu to New Orleans, by way of Houston
United, 9 hours, 34 minutes
Home. Sleep. Remembering. Thanking Queen Latifah. The reality was better than the concept. And now we know it. Oh, how we know it.