It had been years since my first brief visit to this small country, and after continually promising my friend Ash I would come and visit, I finally followed through, it only took me three years. I had enjoyed myself the first time, but never had a good reason to return, however that changed after meeting Ash. Our story goes back to my first visit to Pai, where our paths crossed thanks to a mutual friend Amy and while we drifted far apart after those few days we always made a valiant effort at staying in touch.
Actually, we were lucky enough to reunite just about 6 months ago, once again in Pai where our story began. I was on the tail end of a trip to Myanmar and looking to get another tattoo, so of course a stop in Pai would be required. Ash on the other hand is a Pai regular, so it wasn't too bizarre, my being able to meet him there. It was during that visit that I had once again promised to stop by Singapore on one of my bouts through Asia, and Ash assured me that when I made it happen there would be a home waiting for me.
Fast forward a few months, after a brief trip home to see the family, and an impromptu tramp through Costa Rica and I was once again back in Asia. Funny enough my travels started again in Thailand, I really do love that country, before a whirlwind tour through Korea, meeting old friends along with meeting new ones, before really throwing myself headfirst into a new setting in Sri Lanka. If I know one thing it's how to tire myself out, and the combination of country hoping, friend visiting and ever flowing drinks and overflowing food did just that. Thankfully, my time in Sri Lanka slowed the pace of life back down, but I was still ready for a semblance of home, and lucky for me a visit to Ash's fit into my plans - not that I ever really have any.
I planned for a 5 day visit, not wanting to set down and take off in too much of a hurry, but didn't actually want to burden his family the entire time. I opted instead to book a hostel for my first two nights, letting myself adjust to the new city, maybe do some sightseeing and then hit the suburbs for some family time. I recalled particularly enjoying Little India when I had visited the first time and thus opted for accommodation in that part of town. I was so happy to be in a clean, organized city, and while a price tag usually comes with that, Little India provides many budget friendly alternatives.
Ash and I met up on my first day in town and spent most of our time catching up on what we'd each kept busy with since last crossing paths, and also some of our travel plans for the future. Any conversation with Ash is always a good one, he's got an open mind and free outlook on life. Never wrapped up in the particulars of life, but rather just going with the flow and enjoying the ride. Thanks to my hostel's location in Little India, Ash and I easily enjoyed lunch at one of his 'go-to' restaurants, and it was one of those places I would have been lost without him. There were so many choices of what to oder, a buffet of pre-made options as well as a menu (which I never saw) so I was thankful to have my guide. I took a guess that not many tourists made it this way as I received many stares, especially when I aped Ash and opted for hands rather than silverware.
We spent the day wandering through town, in and out of a few shops including the Mustafa center, which was an experience in and of itself. This store sells everything, and I mean everything. There's no way I would have heard of, or had the inkling to go in were it not for Ash. The streets surrounding the center are jam packed and each and every entrance is stuffed with people, but for good reason, everything inside is dirt cheap. Before entering I was confident I wouldn't be buying anything, but I did wind up with some new toothpaste, lotion and on a return trip a few days later new Tiger Balm and vitamins. I guess this is a bit of proof as to what kind of spender I am, go to Singapore and come out with toiletries, but not one piece of new clothing. For dinner that evening Ash promised me one of the best burgers he's ever had, and being the budget minded travelers we are asked for them to be wrapped so we could grab 7/11 beers and a bench rather than spending $10 on one at the restaurant.
After our day of adventuring together I returned to my hostel for some quiet and planned to meet Ash the following day in the afternoon to move to his house. I was happy to have my own little cubby to sleep in, but did spend close to an hour chatting with one of my roommate, ironically enough a guy who was leaving for Sri Lanka the next day. Upon waking my second day, knowing I had most of the day to myself before meeting Ash, I opted for a lazy morning. I started with rooftop yoga before fighting the crowds of other travelers for the free breakfast and finally settling in for a while with my book, again back on the roof. I decided there wasn't much of Singapore I wanted to explore, especially with the heat, after all I was just here visiting a friend.