Wow, Singapore is really cool! Sean was there for a conference last week, so we decided that it would be fun for me to fly down for the weekend after his conference was over. By the way, Sean loved the conference, which was all about contracts. Sounds boring, I know, but he really enjoyed learning about the intricacies of contract writing and interpretation; he loves meticulous tasks like that!
I brought my suitcase to school with me on Friday morning because my flight out of Don Muang airport was that afternoon, and my school is super close to that airport. (My students were stoked to tell me what to do and see in Singapore!) It worked out great to fly out of the smaller airport and then fly back into Suvarnabhumi, the big airport, where Sean’s flight was taking him. Unfortunately, I came down with a cold on Thursday night, just in time for my vacation. Though my nose was running the entire time and I couldn’t hear out of my left ear for most of the trip, I survived! Not only did I survive, I had a wonderful time.
So the big defining characteristics of Singapore, in my opinion, are as follows:
– It’s really clean (those rumors are true!), very well planned, and the multitude of laws keep its inhabitants environmentally conscious (lots of recycling, etc.) and also mindful of the cleanliness
– It’s really expensive (well, compared to Bangkok; it’s probably comparable to a big U.S. city)
– It’s hot and muggy, and it rains a lot.
– It’s a big business center, so there are lots of skyscrapers; it’s also a major port, so there are lots of ships in the harbors
– There are a TON of malls, especially on Orchard Road
– There are a million things to do if A) you’ve got the cash, and B) you like shopping and water slides
– If A and B don’t apply to you, there is still much to do and see: botanical gardens, miles and miles of walkable sidewalks, many museums, the largest aquarium in the world, places to hike, and more!
Where We Stayed
Sean stayed closer to where the conference was held during the week, but then he moved into the Wanderlust Hotel the evening that I was arriving. My flight was delayed an hour, so I didn’t arrive until after 9PM. And being under the weather meant that I didn’t have the energy to explore that night, so I crashed before really getting a chance to check out the hotel. I did, of course, notice that our room was completely red. We selected the room type “Pantone”, knowing that our room would be painted and decorating in monochrome. The red was a surprise! The hotel also has yellow, blue, green, purple, orange, and white rooms. All are named after a song title — ours was “Red Light” by U2.
The Wanderlust Hotel is in Little India, about a 5-10 walk to the Little India MRT station. (The MRT, by the way, is fabulously easy, clean, and extensive.) I loved Little India. It was decorated for Diwali, at all hours it was hustling and bustling with Indian people wearing traditional dress, and of course there was amazing Indian food (one of my favorite cuisines).
Where We Walked
As I mentioned earlier, walking is a big part of any trip to Singapore, mainly because it’s so easy and nice to walk there. Anyone who’s been to Bangkok knows how much living here might make one appreciate a city’s walkability! On our walking tours, we saw (oh and note that I found Vietnamese coffee, my absolute favorite!):
We also walked around Sentosa Island, accesible by bridge, ferry, or cable car (we chose the latter, more fun choice!). Sentosa is a safe adventurer’s dream come true: water parks, a saltwater pool for snorkeling among tropical fish, a simulated surfing activity, banana boat-riding, volleyball, a mini-zipline, and the list goes on! The island also has a shuttle and a bus system, so it’s super easy to navigate. We had a great time just walking around.
What We Ate & Drank
Our hotel had a scrumptious free breakfast, so that’s what we did on our two mornings together. I had eggs and croissants with a baked tomato; Sean had that one day and homemade pancakes with chantilly cream the next. The coffee was also pretty darn good (Thailand, seriously, get your act together! You GROW coffee, so stop serving instant Nescafe packets everywhere! OK rant over.)
For lunch on Saturday we ate at a local Little India restaurant. It was packed to the brim with Indian people — we were the only Westerners — so we knew it would be good, and it was! Everyone was eating with their hands on huge banana leaves. We took their offer of forks and spoons, but enjoyed the food as much as anyone!
Saturday night we went to Sean’s favorite place in Singapore, Raffles Hotel. It’s just as grand and elegant as he advertised to me with an all-white facade, charming porches with ceiling fans, and beautiful, lush, tropical gardens. It was at the Raffles Hotel’s Long Bar where the Singapore Sling cocktail was first concocted, so we decided we’d better have one! At 27 Singapore dollars (about $22) a pop, we decided to split one! Long Bar is a really cool place where you can eat peanuts and throw the shells on the ground. We had fun just people-watching and savoring our Sling.
After our half-cocktail each, we walked to Clarke Quay (pronounced “kee”), a popular place with lots of bars and restaurants that’s situated right on the river. Above you saw photos of the dragon boat race — that was at Boat Quay, which is similar but quieter than Clarke Quay. We chose a sushi place for dinner. All about it was mediocre, but perhaps that’s what we get for going somewhere so touristy! If you’re ever in Singapore, Clarke Quay is definitely worth seeing, but maybe go off the beaten track a bit for dinner (or just consult TripAdvisor, which we failed to do!).
On Sunday we went a mall called Central and ate a restaurant called Real Food. It was all vegan with lots of gluten-free options, fresh-squeezed juices, and tasty raw desserts. I love finding places like this when I travel. Bangkok truly lacks this type of fare, and I honestly think there’s a market for it with all us ex-pats wandering around. Real Food was exactly what I crave while living far away from my California favorites like Gracias Madre, Real Food Daily, and Cafe Gratitude.
Singapore is a place that I would visit again in a heartbeat. If I ever go again, I want to be sure to check out some of the city’s museums. We saw art and history museums that looked fascinating. I’d also want to check out the botanical gardens (we would have, but it rained all day Sunday!).
Just as an aside, Singapore had its halls decked the second week of November, which would bug me back home but made me happy while in Southeast Asia! While homesick and far from home, Sean and I have decided to embrace the Christmas spirit a few weeks early.