This afternoon we are heading into the city to explore the Little India,The Malaysian Neighborhood (Geylang Serai), and the colonial district. We spent the morning on Singapore’s Palawan beach, a spot claiming to be the southernmost tip of the continent of Asia. We just played in the sand and swam while the tide came in. Jie-Jie received her first barnacle cuts and I almost swooned with pride. You see, I grew up on a small island off the coast of Portland, Maine. The ocean was a very large part of my early life – taking on a range of roles from barnacle-bespeckled playground in the summer, just as Palawan beach served that function for my children today, to the dark expanse that stood between myself and my friends on the mainland during high school. The ocean was implicated in everything – the cooler summers and warmer winters, air currents, recreational opportunities, etc. The place where I am from, Peaks Island, is a summer destination of sorts. As a year-round islander and member of a well-known island family, a perpetual employee at the island’s ice cream and candy shop, a staple performer in the annual island talent show, and one of the many kids often at the beach and jumping off the pier, I am sure that I played a minor part in some of the “summer people’s” island stories. I grew up understanding that most summer people lived outside of the history of the island – a history that consisted of a small community of islanders who worked like the dickens to make money in the summer and got by together the rest of the year.
This particular personal history colors the way I experience trips to tourist destinations. In general, the mild disdain for tourists that I developed as an island child leaves me feeling pretty awkward when I am a tourist myself. I seek to blend in and hide my outsider status. When possible, I avoid the whole “tourist scene” which is why I usually engage in off-season travel (e.g. Alaska and Seattle for spring break). Past experiences also lead me to want to know what the “real people” do and where they live whenever I am in a new spot.
In other words, I am not a resort person but I am an ocean person. While I am enjoying this trip, I would be even happier if the hotel was surrounded by a mildly touristy fishing village as opposed to being situated on an entire island developed to be a tourist attraction (think Seward, Alaska versus Hilton Head, South Carolina). Secondly, in my opinion, visiting a resort is a pretty inefficient way to get to know a place, in this case the city-nation of Singapore. If that goal takes priority over getting a chance to lounge around, then it seems to me that it would be best to stay in the city, making a day trip to the beach or to divide the time between the city (you can still stay at a hotel with a pool for the kids) and the immediate coast.
So, anyway, that’s where I am at on the whole resort thing. We’ll see how my thinking evolves as the year progresses.