Merlions and Tigers, Oh My!
Singapore Travel Blog› entry 3 of 17 › view all entries
Today was great. We had orientation from about 9-1. We got all of our identification stuff, ate lunch (catered for all of us by NUS....had some interesting stuff like chicken satay on a stick, dumplings and all kinds of weird desserts). Then we went on a campus tour. The tour was only about 45 minutes...we went to the bookstore, athletic center, library...all of the main places we might need to go while here. Campus is gorgeous. It all seems pretty hilly, I now see why it is nicknamed the National University of Steps. It is definitely what I would imagine a university in the tropics to look like. Palm trees, interesting architecture and the humidity. Oh, the humidity. It is generally around 90 degrees here and it is about twice as humid as Atlanta. It is almost pointless to shower in the morning because as soon as you walk out the door you are sweating again.
After the tour we all bused it back to the dorms to quickly grab our passports and photos so we could go to Immigration to apply for a student pass. We already have visa's for Singapore but if you are going to travel at all on the weekends and leave and reenter the country you have to apply for one of these passes. We all got taxis downtown...it is only about $3 to get downtown if you fill a cab with 4 people. The subway is also semi-nearby...you ride the NUS bus to the Subway station and go from there. It only took about 30 minutes to apply for the passes, we have to go pick them up early next week since we are planning to go to either Malaysia or Thailand next weekend.
Since we were already downtown at Immigration, we decided to do some sightseeing when we were done (around 2:30 p.m.). Professor Zhou suggested that we take the Subway two stops to City Hall and walk around there and maybe end up at the Boat Quay. We took the subway down and ended up in the bottom of the Raffles Mall...across from the Raffles hotel. Both are named for the English guy who founded Singapore. Great architecture on the hotel...we are planning to go get the famous Singapore Sling there sometime this week. The subway was so clean. Not like the U.S. at all. We could definitely take some tips from the Singapore DOT. Anyway, about 6 of us broke off in a group and started walking towards an area that looked pretty populated. We wanted to find a restaurant and sit down and eat and map out what we wanted to do that afternoon/evening. We ran across a place called the Hong Kong Restaurant and decided to go in...seating looked comfortable and air conditioned. Another meal of interesting food. Mom, you wouldn't last 10 minutes. The food is definitely not anything that you would be used to! I had some interesting chicken that was definitely not cleaned in a way you would approve of.
After lunch/dinner, we decided to head towards the Esplanade (the performing arts theater) in downtown. The buildings of the theater look really neat. They were made to resemble the durian fruit, a spiky green fruit that apparently tastes as bad as it smells. Hopefully we will be able to get tickets to a show or something at the theaters before we leave. We took a bunch of pictures by the theater and walked over the bridge over the bay to Merlion Park. The views were great. You could get pictures of the skyline and the theaters and the huge Merlion that is the symbol of Singapore all from one spot. There are some great pictures.
We walked around the park for a while and took even more pictures with the Merlion (half mermaid, half lion -- the symbol of Singapore) and then headed through the financial district to Boat Quay. All of the buildings were huge! I have never seen so many bank headquarters in one place. You could also see large manufacturing facilities from the port, very neat. Especially for a bunch of IE's. We ran into the Quay which ended up being a bunch of bars and restaurants right on the water. You could see Parliament across the bay and a couple of the larger museums. It looks like a great place for nightlife. We confirmed that later in the day.
While we were walking through the main bars and restaurants we ran into about 18 other members of our group and we all decided to go get drinks and a bar someone had heard of -- eski. I am pretty sure that eski is short for eskimo as the bar was really cold. When you first walk in it is like walking into a walk in freezer, complete with the plastic hanging from the entrance. There were even frozen piles of ice on the bar. The back room wasn't as cold as the front so we all sat down and got some drinks for happy hour. Tiger beer is the local drink and it is pretty good. Light and kind of a sweet aftertaste. We stayed at eski for awhile and then someone had the brilliant idea of going to the Karaoke bar they had seen down the street. It was pretty much empty as it was only about 8, but the 24 of us pretty much filled up the bar. We had a lot of really bad karaoke to great hits such as "I Will Survive" and the Backstreet Boys "I Want it That Way". It was pretty hilarious.
We headed back to campus kind of early (around 10 p.m.). We would have stayed out later but we had all been walking for about 8 hours. Plus, it was only our first night here and we have class at 9 a.m. tomorrow. It was pretty hard to get a taxi on the way back...we waited in a pretty long line and it took almost 30 minutes. Hopefully some of us will get local phones soon and will be able to call the taxi when we need it.
Altogether, a great day. I have over 70 pictures, actually. However, none of the photo servers are really cooperating with my internet connection. I have tried uploading pictures a couple times and I am going to try again tonight. Hopefully I will be able to get some of them up soon!
Well, we actually have class tomorrow so I should probably get some rest!