Happy March to everyone interested in our great SE Asia adventure. Many of us woke up this morning wondering where February went, having spent most of it in the relentless heat and humidity of Singapore’s urban jungle. As I began to write this I wondered about what I was doing one year ago, on the first day of March 2017. I was likely studying for midterms and waiting anxiously for spring break, but of course, like many days, I couldn’t remember anything interesting or remarkable about that day.
I won’t forget this day. One of the beauties of this trip is that most of our experiences here begin with zero expectations. Today was no exception. We started off with a visit to the offices of PSA International, the corporation that is primarily responsible for operating the Port of Singapore. The Port of Singapore is the busiest port in the world by many metrics, and is an incredibly important hub for global trade in addition to being central to Singapore’s economy. Unfortunately, PSA wasn’t able to give us a tour of the port as they had done in years past, but they did invite us up to the reception area at the top of their office for a presentation and a 40-story view of their port. The sheer scale of the port is impressive and a sight to be seen. The port handles as many as 1,000 container ships a day, each carrying 10,000-20,000 containers. Dr. Dan asked how often containers were misplaced. Our tour guide shared the official position of the port: “Never.”
Next, we were picked up by Mr. Lim in the tour bus. He drove us for about 45 minutes to Bollywood Veggies, a restaurant and urban farm in the Kranji area of Singapore. We were greeted by “the warrior”, the owner and operator of the farm. She was an interesting woman with a very interesting perspective on life. Before eating, we were given a guided tour through the 10-acre farm by a Welsh character named Anthony Hopkins (who described himself as more handsome than the famous one). He was very knowledgeable about the plants on the farm and pointed out all sorts of interesting things—bananas, cacao, coffee, papaya, mangos, and many medicinal plants. We had lunch together before getting back on to the bus.
After the warrior farm, Mr. Lim drove us across Singapore to the Punggol Coast. We stopped for a few minutes to look across the river at one of Malaysia’s container ports. Dr. Dan was hoping to walk us down a boardwalk, but construction (a continuous thorn in his side) intervened. The boardwalk had been demolished since last year and was now a construction site. Next, we found our way to one of the strangest businesses I’ve ever seen. Riviera Prawn Fishing is an open air, concrete building with some snacks, cheap beer (by Singapore standards), and four large, square concrete tanks full of prawns. People go and pay by the hour to rent fishing poles and catch prawn out of the tanks. As if that business model isn’t strange enough, they are open 24/7/365, in case you need to get your prawning in after dark.