Singapore – The Prize Jewel of Order in Asia
It had been a long time coming but we were finally out of the country. We sold all of our stuff in sunny San Diego, California and packed what was left in our tiny Prius and left it with my family in Arizona. From there we downsized to backpacks and left with one-way tickets to Asia and no plans of when to return. The feeling of liberation was unbelievable. I had forgotten how much joy I could get from so little; a bag of clothes, a few books, some cameras… Forget the constant struggle to work with no end in sight and the urge to consume, consume that pulls us all deeper into the system (“American dream”). We were over it.
So we had a quick night’s layover in Taipei, Taiwan, where we got to eat once and stay in a hostel and that’s about it. Taipei Youth Hostel and Capsule Hotel was space age with sliding Star Trek doors and computerized toilets. There was hope that a typhoon would hit us and force us to stay a few more days, but the weather went north and left us with just a rainy night.
Sleep was hard, our internal clocks always urging to us to wake up. Before we knew it it was morning and we were back in the airport.
Five more hours on the plane and we touched down in Singapore, Asia’s model city of cleanliness and order. We purchased three-day unlimited metro passes that were good on a variety of public transport options. It was so easy to navigate and the metro and buses were some of the easiest and cleanest we have ever seen. We soon met some friendly cartoon characters posted on all of the train cars reminding you how to not be a jerk as part of the Singapore Thoughtfulness Campaign–Stand Up Stacy, Bags Down Benny, Move Back Martin, and others showing off their perfect traveling etiquette. We soon arrived at our CouchSurfing host’s apartment. She wasn’t there but we met her children and her helper lady who showed us to our room with a view of the city. With Singapore being so expensive having a Couchsurfing host was a life saver. Our stomachs were grumbling so we headed out on the bus then the metro to the downtown area looking for a food hawker center, which is like a food court which serves all the delicious things at affordable prices. Unluckily for us the entire downtown was sectioned off for the Formula 1 race, one of the biggest events of the year. Huge track walls blocked all the major streets and it was a pain to find a way to cross it. Eventually we found an awesome food center under a shopping mall where we had our first of many, many delicious meals of the trip. My chef brain was going crazy with the new smells and layers of flavors. I couldn’t wait for more.
After eating we went to look at the skyline. The Marina Bay Sands hotel with its three towers and rooftop garden connecting the buildings was definitely dominating the view. There was also the brightly and colorfully lit Merlion that looked over the bay, watching over the city.
For our first night we were tired though so returned home pretty early. Sleep was again rough; jetlag is real folks.
Day two was a busy one. We had purchased unlimited metro passes for three days at a cost of $30 Singapore. When you leave you can sell back the card to get $10 back. Our first stop of the day was for traditional Singaporean breakfast, kaya toast. This is sweet coffee along with soft-boiled eggs and toast. The toast has butter and coconut (kaya) jam on it and you dip it in the eggs after you put soy sauce and white pepper on them. It was delicious of course.
Our next stops were our first of many temples on our journey. We went in Hindu and Buddhist temples that were near each other and the toast shop. You take off your shoes at the front and make sure you dress appropriately, females especially. The Hindu temple was my favorite with its intricate designs and wall paintings of the various deities.
We walked and walked and metro-ed too. Our next stop was Little India where we found The Teka Center, a food hawker center near the metro station. Hawker centers, like food courts, are THE place to get food in S.E. Asia. There are usually at least 20 stands selling various things and your senses go crazy. We got some biryani that was spicy spicy and roti canai (stuffed pancake) with bananas and we were in heaven. It started raining hard as we ate so we slowed our chewing to make it last through the storm.
Our next destination was the Islamic area, Kampong Glam. The shops were selling amazing textiles and we listened to the call to prayer from a massive mosque.
It was refreshing to see all of the religions existing peacefully alongside each other.
On the way back to take a nap we saw signs for a jungle trail in MacRitchie Reservoir Park and couldn’t resist. It was weird being in the city one second and feeling so far away the next. Signs warned of wild boars so we were slightly on edge.
Our Couchsurfing host was home when we got back so we got to chat about her experience as a French expat in Singapore. She was a personal trainer which was very popular in Singapore because apparently everyone wanted to be good at sports but no one was. She had been there for seven years and her two children had no real memories of France. It was their home now and they didn’t plan on leaving.
After napping we headed back into the city. We had to see the Supertree Garden and the nightly light show. We passed through the base of the Sands and what was probably the most extravagant shopping mall we had ever scene, exceeding even things in New York and Las Vegas. The joke was that shopping was the national sport of Singapore. It was more fact than fiction. We found the exit to the mall and walked through some cool lighted bridges in the impressive Botanical Gardens before posting up under one of the larger Supertrees. The Supertree Rhapsody was a 15 min long light and music show that played at 7:45pm and 8:45pm nightly. They played show tunes and the lights were very impressive, definitely the coolest thing that we saw in Singapore.
With the expense of daily life in Singapore, we had only planned two nights there. We spent most of the time jetlagged but still found time to enjoy ourselves. There are many, many more things to see, and we hope to someday go back there, maybe next time with a little more funds in our pockets.
Stay tuned for our ventures into Malaysia!!!