More of a stopover than a full destination, nevertheless visiting Singapore was a much-anticipated destination for me. For years I’ve had in mind wanting to see one of the rapidly growing, mega Asian cities. Perhaps spurred by movies like Blade Runner along with all the sci fi and apocalyptic fiction I’ve read of late. Not a great setup I know, but trust me it’s a place I was really interested in seeing.
Another motivation was all the ‘street’ food available there. Have read for years in travel magazines about the hawker centers (open air grouping of food stalls selling quick, inexpensive food). Then watched too many Anthony Bourdain episodes set in Singapore and throughout Asia where he slurped down delicious looking noodles, rice, etc.
So yes, a combination of anthropological interest in super modern cities and food craving drove me to Singapore.
We arrived at about 7 am from Frankfurt. As noted on my last post, I don’t believe I slept for even 5 minutes, so started our quick trip in a very floatey state of being. That feeling of having been at sea for a few months and not having your sea legs.
First pleasant surprise came upon check in. I’ve booked countless hotels for this trip and they all seem to blend into one another. Somehow I remembered booking a very basic place for Singapore, so had no expectation of anywhere nice, even though the word “spa” was in the hotel title. Words are easy…
Thankfully I had completely misremembered (aided by the fact that we got a great price). We arrived at the One Farrer Hotel & Spa by about 8 am, well before 2 pm check in. Expecting nothing but hoping for an available room, we were first disappointed. The very nice clerk, in a shirt with really great buttons (white with multi-colored stripes), kindly informed us the only room ready had twin beds, which wasn’t going to work. I went off to the bathroom to change and Jeff prepared to have our bags checked while we went off to find some hawker food. By the time I got back, Jeff had worked a miracle and got us both a room upgrade and an immediate check in.
We unpacked and cleaned up a bit, then headed out to explore the city and attempt to stay awake. Singapore is not exactly laid out on a grid, and we managed to turn ourselves around several times in our short outing in Little India. We wanted to find the Muftasa Center (huge department store with everything under the sun) and get some food. Managed despite ourselves to find the center and found a great little open air restaurant that had fresh juices and “kopi” and “tei”. Took me a while to figure this all out, but basically, I think, “kopi” is coffee. Drank a lot of that in our three days here. Also had an egg roti, a yummy egg and bread snack. Then tired and a bit snappy both of us, we decided to head back to the room and take a nap. Could have knocked us out for the day, and it was incredibly hard to get up after a couple of hours, but did a world of good.
So began our pattern for the next couple of days. We headed out to a hawker center, ate some good food then wandered around with some destinations moderately in mind.
Our first afternoon we circled the central business district waterfront area. Here absolutely was my big, futuristic city.
With very expensive oysters (good thing I had a lot in France, that’s about $78 for a dozen).
Made our way across the DNA Bridge to the top of the ‘ship’ building (looks like a big boat on top of three massive towers). Drank a tasty if spendy rum drink and enjoyed the views 57 stories high.
From there ended up on a much, much longer walk than expected to get to another hawker center, East Coast Lagoon (maps don’t always convey distance well). But the chili crab was worth the journey (sadly Jeff isn’t a crab fan, so ‘suffered’ a bit more than me…).
Next day got off to an understandably late start. I slipped down to the pool for a short bit then we ate chicken congee in our room. We took off again into Little India, festive in the preparations for Diwali and found a recommended biryani place for lunch (yes, we basically ate the whole time we were here…).
Wandered through some markets and shops, and then went to the botanic gardens. The place is enormous, with some beautiful and interesting displays (sadly the toxic plants section of the medicinal plant display was closed…). The highlight was the orchid garden.
Ended up too tired and footsore this night to trek out to any of the recommended hawker centers so followed the masses to a food center at the bottom of a huge shopping mall. Had some good if not spectacular noodles. Seemed to me there was a higher local to tourist ratio here than at any of the hawker centers we visited.
Had a harder time in Singapore than expected finding interesting local artisans. This is not to say Singapore doesn’t have them, as I know there is some amazing design coming out of this area. But it wasn’t until the last day, when we had to be at the airport by 4 pm, that I started to put together where to best search. I found two stores that curate (mostly) local designers and saw some beautiful products. Threadbare and Squirrel carry the line Emblem for example. Colorful shoes that are unbelievably light. Would probably go perfectly with some of Silke’s French bathing suits. The General Company curates a number of local and regional brands with great design taste. Along with a great coffee shop. Next time in Singapore, I will make it to Haji Lane and Arab Street. Plus a few more hawker centers…
For now it was off to the airport and a series of flights on Thai Airways that would lead us to four days in Perth, Australia. Or was it that we were back in Portland? So many similarities. Stay tuned.