DAY 1: SINGAPORE
Updated: Dec 13, 2019
It didn’t quite occur to me that apart from a brief trip to London, England about 5 years ago, my last trip off the continent was nearly 20 years ago. I have tried to take some time off on occasion over the past few years but I realized that in the commotion of certification and professional development courses, work and personal life that I had not taken more than a week off in quite some time.
I first signed up for the 2019 Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon over 7 months ago on a whim. Ever since I started having running aspirations, I had been wanting to register in a race outside of North America in order to experience the running culture overseas. Coupled with the fad of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ set in Singapore and the fact that my mom grew up there, Singapore made perfect sense. Even in the lead up and during all the training, it never quite dawned on me how big of a trip this was going to be. It wasn’t until I was packing up this morning that it really settled in. Months of training and preparation was culminating in a 7 day countdown until race day.
When I arrived at YVR Airport, It was already clear that this was going to be a busy trip. The line leading up to the ticketing counter was nearly a hundred people long! Luckily for me, I didn’t have to rush as I had arrived with more than enough time. The next few hours however, marked a continuous assembly line as I got my boarding ticket and shuffled through the various international security/customs checkpoints on my way to Singapore.
Xiamen, China was the first stop on our layover as we had a 4-ish hour rest to pseudo-scout the city that we would be returning to after the Singapore leg of our trip was over. But just like Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ it was clear that we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Signage, layout and architecture were noticeably different, and it was evident that language barrier was going to be an issue almost immediately. While working as a Physiotherapist in Vancouver, BC ensured that my Cantonese was serviceable, there were not a great number of opportunities to learn mandarin growing up. We decided to use our time to rest and relax as much as possible however, because we knew we had a long day ahead of us.
When we landed in Singapore, we spent some time exploring Chiangi airport which is known for its wonderful exhibits, decorations and grand atmosphere. From the waterfall, to intricate designs and numerous shops, you could spend hours and not see everything there was to offer. We decided we would try and leave some time on our departure date to explore the airport a little more.
As we checked into a quiet little hostel in Chinatown, I decided to spend the first evening in Singapore with my aunt and uncle as I hadn’t been back to Singapore in over 20 years. We head out to Two Chefs Eating Place on 116 Commonwealth Crescent, #01-129 for dinner as they were a highly reviewed, yet little known food stall just off the Queensway. I met up with the rest of my group after dinner but most were exhausted due to the long day of travelling so no plans were made to head back out. Being the night owl that I am, I took this time to explore the city. I grabbed my runners and went off to scope out the city while doing my last run of the week before the marathon.
I jogged down to the financial district and towards the waterfront to see the famous Marina Bay Sands and along the way, stumbled onto an observation deck where I found the prominent Merlion statue. The nighttime streets were full of people, tourists, runners alike. It was an experience to breathe in the humid air as I ran and could definitely get a glimpse of how the heat and humidity would affect me come race day. Your lungs flared harder just to move air through and you could feel the heat penetrate your skin as the breeze hit you like a wall.
As I ran through the city passing bystanders, the crowds slowly dispersed and became quieter. I navigated my way along the waterfront and eventually found myself in the Gardens by the Bay and paused in awe of the neon lights. With almost no one around, I spent some time walking around the vibrant foliage and under the vast expanse of trees that I had read so much about and seen so many pictures of. It was an unreal feeling to finally be here after planning this trip for the better part of the last 8 months. Everything sunk in as I slowly walked back to the hostel. This was the city that my mom grew up in. The city I hadn’t visited in over 20 years. The city that I was going to run my very first overseas marathon in. Despite the long day, I barely got any sleep that night because of the excitement of what awaited the next few days.