01 May 2012


Today was just one of those days – one of those days when a perfectly simple plan can get foiled over and over to make one’s day unbearable and, at the same time, a pretty good story to tell.

When I woke up, I had a list of tasks to fulfill between the time that Paul left the house to fly to Malaysia and the time he was expected to be home for a late dinner. I needed to do some research for work, call my mom and my gran, enjoy a hike/workout somewhere, drop a letter at the post office, buy some flowers and make an exchange at a hotel, buy some food at the grocery and at least start some laundry. If you think I was able to accomplish this list today, you must have missed the title.

The morning thunderstorm told me that I would not be hiking, so I did my research and made my calls. Three items I checked off the list. Then, I decided to shower and head into town in search of a super nice flower arrangement that would be delivered to our new friend’s hotel as a thank you for the wonderful day on the water last weekend.

I left the house and had a smooth trip downtown. I had previously researched flower shops in the neighborhood and found one within a couple blocks of the hotel but I was quickly reminded that in Singapore finding what you need is not always as easy as it used to be back home.

Finding my way to the location proved to be difficult but, with the help of Google Maps, I was able to put myself in the map like Joey Tribbiani would. I eventually figured out where I was and I found my destination. There was just one problem.

Like many places in Singapore, this one only existed on Google Maps. The flower shop was nowhere in sight and the business was not included on the building directory. Awesome. So I stood in the lobby, Googled a few more locations and called one that looked professional and promising.

The guy on the line very nicely told me that he did not have arrangements pre-made since his business mostly focused on events but he could put one together for me if I gave him enough time. I asked him if he could recommend any other shops around Bugis Junction, a shopping area a block or so from me, that sold arrangements. He advised that there was one but he did not know where it was located. I thanked him, hung up and then gave up.

I went to the hotel where I needed to pick up an item that was left for my husband and me. While I was there, I asked the guest services staff if they could recommend a florist. I advised that I wanted to purchase an arrangement for a guest and that I was having a difficult time finding a flower shop in the area.

A staff member asked if he could take me to a local shop and I was delighted to accept his offer. What great service, I thought, since good customer service is almost nonexistent in Singapore. On the way, he pointed in the direction of one shop and indicated that he preferred the one downstairs because the flowers were fresher and cheaper. How nice – a quality recommendation, even though price was not an option today.

My feeling of delight dwindled, though, as we approached our destination. As we got closer, I just kept telling myself, “He’s not really going to take me to Cold Storage. No, he can’t be taking me to Cold Storage.” Yes, my friends, he took me to the grocery store.

As we walked through the opening, through the line of registers beeping, I kindly advised that I did not think Cold Storage would have what I needed. They did, to my surprise, have a few nice, little, pre-made bouquets in the tiny flower section, but they were nothing like what I was hoping to find and I knew that from the time I saw the Cold Storage sign approaching.

This arrangement was to be a gift to say thank you for our wonderful weekend on the boat and to send well wishes to our new friend’s wife who had not been able to join us that day. This needed to be a fabulous display of flowers with a little something extra.

After tiring of attempting to convince this guy why grocery store flowers would not work, I asked to see the other place, another mistake. The shop was tiny and filled with tacky stuffed animals and giant Hello Kitty paraphernalia were popping out everywhere. Again, a few arrangements but nothing close to the level I needed. I turned to walk out, thanked the staff member for the suggestions and advised that I would try another location.

I called the event place and asked if he would be willing to put something together for me. He advised that he would and so we set a time to meet. I had just enough time to pick up some chocolates and some fruit that the couple happens to like so that they could be added into the gift box. I then pulled out the Google Maps and headed to the next location – my fourth flower shop attempt. OK, technically three B since I had called this guy earlier.

Google said the shop was within walking distance so I proceeded on foot – and by “on foot” I mean “in my heels because I did not intend to be on my feet all day.”

I made it to the destination but, again, could not find the business name on the directory. I rolled my eyes, let out a big sigh, walked all around the square and did not see a sign with the shop’s name. I even stopped to ask a member of a restaurant’s kitchen staff walking nearby if he knew where the shop was. No, he did not. Maybe, he advised, the shop could be in the mall across the street.

Since I was five minutes passed my stated arrival time, I called the guy, apologized for being late and asked where exactly he was located. Not there. He gave me the address, I found it on Google Maps and headed in that direction – on foot.

My feet were done. The inside lining of my shoes had begun to wear and so the bottoms of my feet started to ache. I took off one shoe to see if I could walk barefoot but confirmed that the heat from the sun, now out in full force, made the sidewalks too hot to touch.

I finally made it to the HDB area where I was directed and began following the signs to look for 01-36. After five minutes I decided to give up. I took one turn, pulled out my phone to text the guy I was done because I was tired, my feet were sore and I was not sure what I was about to walk into. And then, I found it.

The place was a diamond in the rough, jam packed with flowers, vines, decorative planters and fabulous chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. It was beautiful. I instantly felt better. The flowers in the shop were beautiful and I was confident that this guy would do me proud. I gave him my budget, we talked over his recommendations and I gave him the card and goodies that I had collected.

He asked if I wanted to have some lunch while he worked and I decided that would be good since it was 2 p.m. and I had had nothing other than coffee and a handful of stale granola the whole day.

Since I was in an HDB, I walked the short distance to the hawker center and surveyed my options. I decided to order Singapore’s official local dish, which I have not eaten in quite some time. I selected the roasted chicken rice (boiled chicken is more traditional but I like the flavor of the roasted better) with kailan.

This is the typical spread: the roasted chicken, sliced with a cleaver right in front of one’s eyes; the kailan, prepared in a chicken broth and then drizzled with oyster sauce; the soya sauce, thicker than anything you will find stateside; the rice, seasoned so perfectly and the chicken broth with sprinkled chives. The iced lemon tea pairs quite delightfully in my opinion.

I relaxed, gave my feet a rest, enjoyed the breeze from the fans above and serenely enjoyed my lunch. By the time I walked back to the shop, my arrangement was finished. I was beyond impressed with the outcome. The flowers were so beautiful; deep reds, purples and greens worked well together as bits of white brightened the arrangement. The berries and chocolates were displayed to the right and our card was stuck to the top. Everything sat in a deep, almost grey, violet and silver shimmery satin box that just made everything perfect.

I have to be honest - the picture does not do this justice. Props and sincere thanks go to Elite Flora.

Without even attempting Google Maps again, I asked for the nearest location where I could grab a taxi and I set off, feet screaming the entire way. I found a cab within a block, hopped in the back and dictated my destination. The driver said, “OK,” and drove on. Less than a minute later, I recognized the scenery and realized the journey was complete.

“That was only a couple blocks,” I said. “Why didn’t you tell me I was so close?”

“It’s a hot day,” he replied, and I handed over my $3.60 – only 40 cents more than the starting fare. Oh well, I saved my feet three blocks.

I suffered another trek to the bus stop that made me think of the mathematical limit theory and how I would never really reach my destination and made it home to count my blisters, change into some sweatpants, grab a pair of flip flops and head to the grocery store so that Paul and I would have something to eat for dinner.

My day was crazy, my feet hate me and I am continuing to do some research before bed but it was all worth it. The gift was such a success, Paul received a personal gratitude call.

Today was just one of those days when you really need to know that’s it’s not always easy to find what you are looking for in Singapore. Though stressful and challenging, I suppose that makes for some fun adventures as I come closer to being Singaporean. 

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