Our final stop in Southeast Asia was Singapore. Singapore is definitely not the most budget friendly place in the world, but luckily, Samir has a cousin there who was nice enough to let us crash with his family for six days!
I really liked just walking around the central part of Singapore. I liked the interesting buildings, the harbor front, the random durian looking theaters and even the Marina Bay Sands area. Everything is so clean and well planned but so new that it perhaps lacks a little character. Overall, there wasn’t much to ‘see’ in Singapore – which was fine with me! By the time we got to Singapore, we were both so tired of sight-seeing (we had been cutting back on the sightseeing as we went along!) that just walking around the city was fun. We also had an excellent tour guide for one of the first few days in Samir’s friend from college, Alice. More interesting than what we did was learning about the history and current way of living in Singapore – but I’ll get to that later!
We got into Singapore on Thursday evening and Samir’s cousin met us at the airport. Thursday evening we basically just hung around the house and caught up with cousin and his family (his two sons were so entertaining!). On Friday, we made plans to meet up with Alice for lunch so we took the MRT (subway) to Dhoby Ghaut station. After we found Alice, we took the subway to Bugis Street, an area of hawker stalls (food stalls). A little background… Singapore is about 65% Chinese, with Malays and Indians predominantly making up the rest of the population. There are four official languages there – Mandarin (from China), English, Malay and Tamil (from South India). Since we were looking to eat some Chinese food, Alice introduced us to different Chinese hawker foods and a couple items I’d never had before! We then made our way around the city.
Insert by Samir:
We stopped off at the Supreme Court building, which was rather impressive in its size and looked like it was very well-maintained. Then on to the National Museum, which had an exhibit on the first ten years of Singapore’s statehood. From what we gathered, Singapore was the slums of Malaysia. At some point, Malaysia didn’t want to deal with Singapore’s problems anymore, so they were just cut off into a new country altogether. One political party united behind one leader led to substantial, progressive reforms that, in less than 50 years, has transformed the country into a leading developed nation.
How do they prevent traffic congestion on roads? Limit the number of cars on the road to just 3% more than last year. Every year an auction is held for the right to own a license to drive a car. Recently, the auction prices were going for 90,000 Singaporean dollars (about 70,000 US dollars). After paying that “fee” to the government, you still have to buy the car, separately. The license is only valid for ten years, at which point, the government re-possesses your car, crushes it, and you start over at the auction. It’s no wonder many people there rely entirely on public transit options. The transit system is pretty good though, and we never felt lacking.
Back to Rachel:
From the Supreme Court, we walked around and saw Alice’s campus and then a sort of river walk at Clark Quay. I found it amusing that in the park they had statues of prominent leaders of India, China, etc.
Our plan was to walk from there to the Ferris wheel and the Marina Bay Sands area. Had a cool view of the Marina Bay Sands and the bordering Natural Science Museum along the way as well as the durian shaped performance halls.
I really liked the atmosphere of the performance hall – we inquired about shows, but there weren’t any that evening in English (though the theater at Marina Bay Sands was playing “Chorus Line” and had recently finished “Wicked”).
We originally planned to take a ride on the ferris wheel but it was about $30 each so we decided to pass. I thought it was interesting though that they had options for dining in the ferris wheel and even had catered events – one of Alice’s friends even got married in one! Instead, we met up with Alice’s husband Jasper and headed over to Marina Bay Sands.
I was amused by the fake ice skating rink (plastic instead of ice) and the canals in the mall (you can take a boat ride like the Venetian in Vegas!). We also went to the casino – definitely not as glitzy as Vegas and no free alcoholic drinks (boo) but Samir and I played a little roulette and won J However, the restaurants were expensive so we headed back to the center of the city for a quick dinner.
The next day, we were a bit tired from running around the city with Alice so we just relaxed during the day. At night, we headed to the Night Safari – a little further out from the center of the city. We got there around 8 and planned to leave around 11 – though even this ended up not being enough time! The safari’s main attraction is a tram ride around the different parts – they had lions, tigers, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, zebras and all kinds of other animals from around the world! The other main attraction was the Creatures of the Nights show where they have some smaller animals come out and do tricks – they even had sea otters come out and show us how to recycle! They literally came out, picked up a can or plastic bottle and put it into its respective recycling bin – highly amusing! After, we walked around a couple of the trails to get a better look at the animals (the tram kind of went along and didn’t really stop too much). We only had time for one of the trails before we had to get back to catch our bus though.
Sunday morning, we met up with one of my old coworkers who lives in Singapore, Michelle, and her family at their regular Sunday brunch spot, Marche. After some catching up and seeing their adorable baby girl (only two weeks old!) we left to meet up with Alice and Jasper to watch the Avengers (fun movie). After the movie, we walked around the mall and had some Singaporean desserts called iced kacanga and chen-do.
Continued by Samir:
Sunday evening, we headed to an Indian restaurant in the mall for a Mother’s Day dinner. They had a great spread for the buffet, and after stuffing ourselves, we went up to the roof of the mall and walked around. They had small pools, and a balcony overlooking the harbor – on the roof of the mall.
Off in the distance, I saw a cable car; inquired about it; and next thing I know, we’re speed-walking to get there. We manage to get there about 10 minutes before they closed for the night. We rode the cable car over the harbor, seeing a great view of the city. There were so many ships anchored in the harbor, each with their own lights shining in the distance. It was the first time for my cousin’s two sons to ride the cable car – they were both scared pretty much the entire time, which we all got a good laugh out of. Unfortunately, under low-light conditions, my pictures all came out blurry, though here are a few:
Monday, another day of relaxing, though we went out in the evening to Harry’s Restaurant on Clark Quay for burgers, fries and drinks (alcoholic). It was a nice evening out on the town, and the subway ride both ways was fairly pleasant.
Tuesday, we decided to skip Universal Studios and we headed to the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which we’d heard some good reviews about. The gardens were expansive, though each thing being showcased was so far apart that after an hour of wandering around; we gave up and headed out. Later, we headed to “Arab Street”, where we had a delicious Mediterranean lunch at Café Le Caire. Stuffed, we headed home, packed up, and then flew back to India.