Destination: Singapore, Singapore

Saturday, June 08, 2013

M is stopping by Singapore on her way home, and asked me if I could recommend her where to go and what to see. Hmm.. It's been so long since I'd visited Singapore city!

I visited Singapore way back in 2008, on my solo Asian trip to Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea. Singapore is the perfect stop over city, due to its convenient location. Stop by on your way to Europe, to America, to Asia, ... to New Zealand!

My friend K was studying at the University of Singapore at the time, so I got to stay with her. She didn't have any air conditioning in her room though. I remember it being so stuffy, even with the fan on, haha. Otherwise, the three-day trip is kind of a blur:

But here are the things that I remember I loved about Singapore:

  • Marina Bay
This was the first night destination in Singapore, right after I had dumped my luggage in K's room. I had just come from three days in Malaysia, but it seemed more humid in Singapore, somehow. The famous mythical mascot Merlion gets lit at night, like everything else here.

K and I took a cruise around the Marina bay, and got to see an overview of the night life, as well as some Asian drama being filmed. Some things to see and do:

  • random outdoor concerts,

  • shopping - it was nearing Christmas when I was here,

  • food & drinks at Telok Ayer Market, aka Lau Pa Sat.

I didn't do much shopping, really, because I found the Singaporean dollar expensive, especially seeing as I'd just come from Malaysia. 

On the whole I found the food culture to be similar to Malaysia. I had just learnt about Kaya toast - coconut spread - and loved it so much that I bought bottles back to my family as a souvenir. Foods are best enjoyed the local way, and in the case of South-East Asia, this is in the streets. Hawkers centres are best for cheap dishes such as Hokkien Mee - noodles with prawns, pork, squid. Chilli crabs also seem to be a must-eat. For dessert, ice kachang, for sure! Kachang in malay means 'beans', and it is what is says it is; shaved ice with red beans, plus jellies and other additions as desired. They have a similar thing in Korea, too, called pat bingsu, which means exactly the same. Nothing like ice kachangs to cool yourself in humid weather - beware for brain freezes, though!

At the time, the Clinic bar on Clarke Quay was famous for its unusual hospital theme. I suppose it'll still be there? The bar has hospital beds and wheelchairs for seats and you get to sip from IV drip bags hanging above you. A fun way of drinking your Singapore Sling, I guess. The Clarke Quay is definitely one of the night life places in Singapore. 

Speaking of Singapore Slings, did you know the cocktail was a creation of a bartender at the Raffles Hotel Singapore? The gin-brandy-lemon juice concoction has many variations, of course. Just a short walk from Raffles Hotel is the Ritz-Carlton Singapore. Apparently you can go in for free to admire its fine collection of contemporary arts, with its self-guided podcast app. Otherwise, how about giving Garden by the Bays a go? It opened just recently, and seems like a huge botanical garden, luxury style. Best to go at night, when everything is lit up prettily - as I said, like everything else near Marina Bay.

Okay, so we've got the night time activities sorted, but what about during the day? On the second day I visited the Chinatown and Little India. Plus Bugis Village. 
  • Chinatown
    Don't go too early. I did, and they were just setting stalls up. Hmm, maybe a good idea if you want to avoid the crowds. It may also have been a Sunday. Another popular shopping area is the Bugis Village, the longest shopping street in Singapore with a shady past. 
  • Little India
    I remember it still being really early and not that many people being around. There were a few street markets with the merchandise on the floor near the metro stations. For reasons I cannot remember, I wanted to visit this temple in the picture above, out of the many in the area. For me it was quite a shock to see the HUGE Buddha - 15 metres - filling most of the building. You can also go inside the Buddha round the back, and you get to see other Buddhas sitting and lying on his sides. Quite an experience for me. The temple is a national heritage site with historic backgrounds, serving as a refuge and secret message postal office during the wars. While its official name is Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple, it is more affectionately known as the Temple of 1000 Lights - pretty! Perhaps it was the name that lured me to the place. I'm glad it did.

Singapore has a reputation for being a very clean city. You are not allowed to bring in chewing gums into the country, for example. Singapore is a very fine city - a pun illustrating their strict rules on keeping with the clean reputation. There are signs of various fines everywhere. No smoking or eating or drinking in public. No littering, no bird feeding, no durians... haha. But thanks to the heavy penalties, you will enjoy the city that much more!
Singapore, for me, in three words: clean, new, almost-artificial. When it gets too unbearable in the humid heat, head indoors, where the air conditions are on full blast. 
Bon voyage, M! Have heaps of fun in Asia, and see you back in Chch, soon! :)

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