My eyes popped wide open. The room was pitch dark. I looked at my phone… 3:30am. “Well shoot,” I thought. So much for a good night’s sleep. Following our flight we didn’t arrive to our room until nearly 11:00pm. I drifted back to sleep for a while, only to wake several more times before finally getting up at 6:30am. I wasn’t alone. Makayla had experienced the same. She was wide awake as well, already checking notifications from the world we left 14 hours behind us.
Not to worry, though. I firmly believe if you’re going to explore a new city, you might as well be up and at ‘em early! First item of business: breakfast. We had the option of going to the hotel buffet but we were excited to see what the city had to offer. We searched for nearby cafés and found one that sounded appropriate for our goal. Eat Me was the name of this little gem. We mapped the route on our phones and off we went.
I had read beforehand in my research that you can acquire a hefty fine, if not jail time, for jaywalking. To my dismay, there were no marked crosswalks across the winding streets that lead us to the café. We decided to watch everyone else, and after some observation, found they were crossing anyway. We later concluded it must be the marked crosswalks where you can’t jaywalk.
We found Eat Me quite easily. Unfortunately, it was closed. Starving and irritated we sat at a picnic table outside and I pulled out my trusty pocket wifi from Keepgo to research other options. After about 10 minutes, one of the two men who were smoking at the table behind us got up and walked into Eat Me. As it turns out, they were employees who closed for a (lengthy) break. Makayla asked the remaining man if he worked there. When he replied, “yes,” she asked if they would serve us. He just laughed and got up to let us in. Though slightly annoyed, we were relieved we didn’t have to find a different option. We ordered an amazing breakfast, some coffee and pressed juice to energize us for the day.
Once we finished eating we started walking in the direction of the Marina Bay Sands hotel – an iconic landmark in Singapore. With no timeline restraining us, we veered off here and there to check out things and places that peaked our interest. We walked along the riverside and through the Quays. We found beautiful murals that told stories of Singapore from long ago and today.
We stepped into the old Parliament House and admired all the greenery. Floating down the river was a boat with two men who were using a net to clean debris out of the river.
As we entered into downtown, we saw sculptures and the Chicago Bean’s babies. As we walked by the shiny balls, there were men spraying them off and wiping them down with a towel.
Anyone who knows anything about Singapore knows two things: 1) they have unique and strict laws, and 2) it is one of the cleanest, if not the cleanest city in the world. Regarding the latter, I found this to be 100% true. The next time you’re walking down the sidewalk, look and see if there is trash, or any debris on it. You won’t see either in Singapore. Singaporeans take great pride in their city and do all they can to keep it clean. The morning after a storm we walked by a green area next to the river and there were already 4 large bags filled with broken limbs and leaves that the wind had blown off.
I even saw someone buffing the cement around a sculpture. In my 2 days of exploration I only spotted 2 pieces of trash. Regarding the strict laws, some of these are an effort to keep the city clean. You will go to jail if you’re seen littering. You will be fined handsomely for spitting, and chewing or even possessing chewing gum. I even read you can be fined $150 SGD (Singapore Dollars) for not flushing the toilet after use in a public restroom. I’m an advocate for flushing, so I can’t verify the validity of the last bit of info.
We neared closer to the water, winding in between the towering modern skyscrapers above us.
Though mostly overcast, the clouds offered little refuge from the hot sun above. The temperature was mid-80s, and the humidity was a ridiculous 89%, which certainly didn’t help matters. We trudged on, sticky and sweaty, to the prize. We emerged from the shade of the high rises, and there it was; Marina Bay Sands in all its glory, and even more fascinating in person with the accompanying skyline than in the pictures.
To get to it, we’d have to walk around the bay. We snapped a few photos and continued walking. On our way we discovered an underground mall, so of course we had to check that out. We were pleased to experience air conditioning, squatty potties and cupcakes. I’d heard tales of these squatty potties, commonly found in Italy and other parts of Europe. In all my travels I’ve never seen one – until now. It was everything I’d hoped for, and more.
Slightly more exciting than the squatty potty was the delicious cupcake I devoured. The baker was a sweet woman who offered a mini cupcake to Makayla when she realized I was the only one who would be making a purchase. As if her cupcakes weren’t delicious enough, her generosity made the cupcake all the more amazing. What a happy people we would be if we all aimed to be generous to others – friend or stranger.
Indulgence complete, we continued walking toward “the trees”. These trees are a part of Gardens by the Bay, a botanical garden full of beauty, education and wonder. We realized we were on the back side of the gardens, but ventured in through a manmade path. We sauntered through, stopping frequently for photos.
The overcast sky was beginning to look a little darker, and soon we found ourselves under the trees as the rain poured down. As quickly as the storm came, it was gone, leaving increased mugginess in its path. We debated taking advantage of some of the exhibits but opted to be satisfied with that which was free. We crossed over the Dragonfly Bridge, which provided great opportunities for more photos, and connected in the middle tower of the Marina Bay Sands hotel. We followed the signs to get out of the hotel, but found ourselves in another mall. Unlike the last mall, this one was full of high end retailers all well out of our budget, but fun to peek into as we searched for some lunch. We came upon a food court offering mainly Asian and Indian fare. We sampled a bit of both, and then decided to head back to the hotel for a nap.
Our route back to the hotel was carefully chosen so as to experience new things along the way. We saw the Arts and Science museum, a floating Louis Vuitton store, the Olympic Youth Park from the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and and the Floating Stadium, which is used for concerts, ceremonies and community events. We continued down the promenade and indulged once more in some delicious coconut ice cream.
We finally arrived to the hotel. We rinsed off the stickiness and laid down for a quick nap. I laid my head down around 5:30pm and woke up 2 hours later. We had grand plans to enjoy a nice dinner, rooftop bar and light show. Unfortunately, when I awoke I still felt completely exhausted. Perhaps it was the heat, or maybe the jet lag. Maybe it was our 11+ mile walk. Regardless of the cause, my body needed rest, which was quite apparent the next morning when I realized I had slept 12 hours.
Initially bummed to have wasted one of our only 2 nights in Singapore, I couldn’t deny the need to listen to my body. Determined to make up for it on Day 2, we sprung out of bed bright and early again. We learned the day before that few eateries open before 11:00am. Rather than search for another place to have breakfast, I opted for the closer and more convenient hotel buffet. It was great! We stuffed our bellies and set out for Chinatown.
When we arrived to Chinatown, we were welcomed by a giant and colorful cock, (read Rooster). The Chinese New Year celebration just ended and 2017 is the Year of the Rooster. Incidentally, we saw multiple cocks throughout the city. Big cocks, little cocks, fat cocks and skinny cocks. There was a giant sculpture that resembled part of a foot/toes with legs and a “belly button”. When we got to the other side of the sculpture, we realized it was a cock and the “belly button” was actually an anus. It made much more sense from that side.
When I saw all the Roosters, I was sure it had to be The Year of the Rooster, but I Googled it just to be sure. In doing so, I also learned the Rooster is my zodiac animal. In fact, the article I was looking at had a link: “Why 2017 is unlucky if you’re born in the year of the Rooster.” Great. Apparently I’m at risk for offending the Tai Sui (the God of Age). I guess it’s a good thing I don’t believe in all that.
We walked down the sidewalk in Chinatown seeing several shops with more pork for sale than one could ever eat in a lifetime. It was still relatively early in the morning – about 9:00am, but pork patrons were many. Soon we got to the market where we browsed through cheap, overpriced souvenirs. We saw products that intrigued us, carvings and artwork that stunned us, and a lot of things that brought about a good laugh. I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw a group of men watching what appeared to be a very intense checkers game. It reminded me of that day in Ljubljana when I watched the men play their bocce ball game. It brought fond memories of my previous trip, and effectuated a deep appreciation for the opportunity I’ve received (yet again) to peek into the daily lives of a foreign culture.
We spent a fair amount of time here before we became tired of it. We strolled through a food court, but weren’t hungry enough to stop and eat yet. At one end of the food court was a wishing tree where you could write your well wishes for friends/family and tie it to the tree. The tree full of colorful ribbons brought a smile to my heart, knowing it was full of love, positivity and optimism.
As we were leaving for Little India, I found a massage parlor and was really needing a foot rub from the day before. I was able to convince Makayla to let me do it, and she decided to join. They offered 30 minutes of reflexology for $20 SGD ($14 USD). The place was a little sketchy, and for a moment I thought we were going to be stuck in a very small, stagnant elevator, but the service was well worth the diversion and I was easily persuaded to add on a $10 SGD neck and shoulder massage.
We arrived to the Chinatown MRT station and purchased our EZ Ride card, which gave us 24 hours of unlimited use of the public transportation system. As could be expected from the standard Singapore has set with cleanliness, the MRT stations were no exception. They were spotless and easy to navigate.
Little India offered a similar environment to Chinatown. The markets mainly consisted of food and spices and beautiful flowery garlands, but there were still plenty of cheap souvenir shops.
We bypassed them all in a search of some delicious Indian food. A helpful woman overseeing a clothing shop recommended The Banana Leaf. We checked it out and found the food to be tasty, although the service was lacking. We’ve found poor service is not exclusive to Little India. In comparison to all other Indian restaurants I’ve been to, this restaurant was unique in that the food is served in a dish, which is to be removed and placed on the banana leaf in front of you. The banana leaf serves as a plate. Needless to say, it gets quite messy. Fear not – there is a hallway of sinks for you to wash your hands.
Following Little India, we made a quick trip to Orchard Road in search of a pair of jeans for Makayla. Orchard Road is considered the shopping district in Singapore. Initially impressed with the quality and quantity of stores, we soon found ourselves irritated at our inability to find the exit. We asked several people and no one else seemed to know where the exit was either. We finally found a stairwell with an exit sign. It stands to reason you should be able to exit a building through a stairwell, but in fact, we could not and instead found ourselves locked in the stairwell. Fortunately, the door was right next to the womens’ restroom so we were able to get someone to let us back into the mall. After some more searching, we finally found daylight and followed it to the exit. Exhausted and irritated, we set out on a sweaty 30 minute walk back to our hotel.
We quickly showered and put on some nice clothes as we’d made reservations at The Lantern. Placed strategically on the rooftop of the Fullerton Bay Hotel, The Lantern sits directly across the bay from the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Every night there are two light shows from the hotel, and we had prime seating. To our dismay, we didn’t realize when we booked the table that they only served lunch and evening cocktails. Having no food since our lunch in Little India, we were starting to get very hungry. We tried some delicious cocktails like the Jalapeño Margarita and the Dark & Stormy. You can’t visit Singapore, however, and not get a Singapore Sling, a gin-based cocktail invented in Singapore.
I immediately indulged in the Sweet Passion Sling, a potpourri of gin, dragon fruit, passion fruit, cherry liqueur, fresh orange juice and fresh lime. It sounds amazing, but it was ultimately underwhelming – especially for $25 SGD each (about $18). Checkmark in the box, anyway. We ate some truffle fries to hold us over until after the light show.
While the show was pretty, like the Singapore Sling it also left much to be desired. As soon as it was over we paid our bill and sent a text to our Uber driver, Alan, who had earlier brought us from our hotel to the rooftop bar. Alan insisted we must try traditional Singaporean food. Knowing we wouldn’t have an opportunity the following day, we took him up on his offer to take us someplace after the show.
Kiya: Hey Alan! The US girls are getting ready to head out and want some real Singapore food. We haven’t received our ticket yet.
Alan: Ok. What time?
Kiya: 10 min? Where do you want to pick us up?
Alan: 1 hrs
Kiya: Ok. What place would you recommend going to? We are going to leave now.
We didn’t hear back from Alan immediately, and knowing our bellies couldn’t wait an hour, we asked the server at the bar for a recommendation and went there instead.
La Pau Sat, considered a national monument and known for its unique octagonal design, is one of the longest standing hawker centers in Singapore. We found the area for true Singaporean food, and with the help of a fellow traveler, learned how to make the meal. First one must grab a bowl, and then go to the counter and choose a minimum of 6 items to put into the bowl. We chose a fish ball, some seaweed, noodles and a few other unidentifiable foods. We then handed it to the woman behind the counter who poured a hot broth in it, which cooked it. She handed it back to us and we sat at a nearby table with chopsticks in hand. It was absolutely disgusting. Except for the noodles. I’ve never met a noodle I didn’t like.
Following our meal, we went back to the hotel to turn in for the night. When we arrived at the hotel, my wifi picked up again and I found we’d missed several messages from Alan.
Alan: I can by food come to your hotel ok I can give you good massages
Alan: How ok
Alan: Send me your address
Needless to say, we never spoke to Alan again.
The next morning we took it easy, knowing we didn’t have much time to do anything before grabbing a taxi to the airport. We had a chill breakfast and packed our bags. I was sad to leave such a unique and amazing city, but at the same time I was excited to meet up with Barbara for the next part of the trip! Off to Bangkok!