The lady on the two-wheeled Lazy-Mobile asking if you want anything to drink.
My first impressions of Singapore were not as delightful as I would've wanted after experiencing stern and unforgiving officials going through customs, but thank god that quickly changed when I got out of the airport. After that, I rarely crossed paths with authority figures. If you don`t know anything about Singapore, you should know this, pay attention to what you can and can`t do because it is your fault for not knowing. The government runs on a "You should have known better" type of motto. Having said that you could understand why I felt a slight bit of anxiety, but nothing so far as to ruin my visit. It was just the little things like no spitting, no smoking (except in designated areas), no littering, no stealing, etc. Of course some of these things were obvious, but the penalties were not.
Little India at dusk
I met a guy whose friend was fined for spitting. The fine was $450SGD or $330US! Don`t even try stealing or you might lose a hand! Now do you see what I`m saying?
Luckily my whole experience wasn't like that. I had a great time kicking off my first night by meeting my friend Alia`s boyfriend´s brother, Joe from Portland, who was extremely nice and unforgettably welcoming. We met at the city center called Raffles Place. From there he helped me book my bus ticket to Kuala Lumpur. Then I got a bird`s eye glimpse of the city from his apartment and met his friend, Dana, visiting from the US as well. After contemplating the galore of food choices, Singapore is well known for its diversity when it comes to delicious grub, I let him or forced him rather to make a decision seeing as I`m the most indecisive when it comes to food.
Some kind of festival in Little India where are the Indians just get out of their houses and stand in the streets? Not really sure exactly what was going on?!?
He decided on chicken rice, a famous Chinese dish, near East Coast Road. The meat was savory and fell apart as I brought the fork towards my mouth. It was complimented with steamed veggies cooked with fresh garlic and deep-fried fish cakes. An excellent way to start the exploration of the Singaporean palate. Afterwords, we decided to have a drink in the Arab area at a hip jazz bar called Blu Jazz. This is what Taipei was missing with indoor and outdoor seating giving off a great vibe for a chill evening. Joe was an excellent person to meet not only because he was so hospitable, but also because he had so much good information to share, about six years of living there worth. He turned my map into Anne Frank`s exclusive journal of all the hot spots in Singapore. When he finished all his last details, I just stared in aw and studied it figuring out what I could do in the time I had.
Finding a place to stay was fairly easy. I headed straight for Little India
because there were some good options in an interesting neighborhood. I settled with Footprints on Dickson Road and was thoroughly satisfied with the place even if it was a 12-bed dorm room for $12-15US per night - another reason I missed Indonesia. They did provide breakfast for free as well as 20-30 minutes of free internet access (WiFi free). The people were nice and they even had a small lounge area with comfy sofas and a TV with a good DVD selection.
The next day I met up with Bart whom I met in Bali. We just happened to be traveling in the same direction, which was nice to meet up with someone to do some exploring of the city.
He decided to change hostels, so we met up in Little India. There was a place in the guidebook with a popular local bar underneath with a hostel above it called Prince of Wales. It was very laid back and homey feeling. We contemplated on what to do/see and decided walking would be a good way to really see the city in the short amount of time we had. Walking was the plan and walking we did! We basically conquered most of the city center starting in Little India walking to the Arab district down Beach Road towards the river which brought us to La Pa Sat which is a food center/court with cheap, but very delicious food, just what needed after all the walking. There was a plethora of choices, but just as soon as I saw the Korean flag and some Hangul (Korean) written on the sign, I was interested.
A church in Little India
Bart had never tried Korean food, a little surprising being a chef and all, so I had to persuade his tastes buds into trying it and in doing so, I started to really miss Korean food, so I ordered some as well even though I felt like I should've tried some Singaporean dishes. What can I say? I have Korean blood in me and missed kimchi! With full bellies, we walked a bit more until we got to China Town. Predictably, there was a lot of hustle and bustle just as you'd find in China - Chinese people, Chinese food, bright lights, lots of shopping, and tiny walkways packed with people. It's always interesting to see. Getting a little tired at this point lead us to Clark Quay
by the river where we saw an interesting dragon dancing competition with the backdrop of the river glowing with bright lights.
Buying flowers for some kind of traditional practice.
We grabbed dessert, mint ice scream sandwiched with a crispy waffle outside for a whole $1SGD or $0.50US! The river area was so cool; a ton of really hip choices in a central area with lots of diversity. Although it seemed like a pretty expensive area, I thought it would be a nice place if you lived there and had money. Singapore is probably one of the most interesting and unique cities I've traveled to for the sheer fact of its diversity. So not homogeneous like many other Asian countries. Everyone can speak English well because it's required in their schools. All the signs are in English, but strangely mixed with words that range from English, Chinese, Dutch, Malay (Bahasa), Hindi and mixtures of those, but they are all written in English! So as Joe explained his first house was on the intersections of Butterfield and Joo Chiat Rd (the second is not exactly right, but just an example).
The next day I went to Sentosa
, which is a small island to the south. I got up a little late and spent my lunch chatting with a couple of locals who were super nice. Then I took the train to Harbor Front and then the Monorail for $3SGD or $1.50US both ways. The island itself kind of resembled a small amusement park with really nice beaches along the edges. There was a lot of construction and developing going on. Someone told me they're building a Universal Studios. Since I planned on meeting Bart at one of the museums in the city, I didn't have a lot of time to just sit and relax. I walked around checking out the different beaches, about three in all, and stopped to watch all the people playing volleyball and frisbee.
I was dying to play, but was a little shy and had no time. Oh, how I miss Korea and playing beach volleyball every weekend! The beaches were really nice and spotless. They were unique for the fact that they were surrounded by little islands close enough to swim to. They also had a zip line you could fly across the water from one of the high points on the island.
Later I met Bart and we trekked around the city again this time walking around the shopping district on Orchard Road. The one thing I can definitely say about Singapore is that the people love to shop! There are shopping malls everywhere and they are always full of people. I suppose that is Asia in general though. On the map the area didn't look too bad in terms of walking distance, but it was quite a long way, a long way of shopping, shopping, shopping! While walking I spotted a Forever 21, one of my favorite shops at home, and resisted the urge to just look because I knew it wouldn't be good, especially for Bart! We ate at one of the food courts.
I tried Laksa, a semi-spicy coconut soup with noodles and fish cake things that I didn't eat. Bart tried the prawn noodle soup. Both were different and delightful. While we were eating, a lady on one of those new two-wheeled "lazy-mobiles", as I call them, came around and asked if we wanted anything to drink. It was quite funny actually.
On Sunday, I got up early and went to the Art Museum featuring a Filipino exhibition. It was educational at the same as enjoyable because it portrayed a lot of the history in the Philippines. There were also works from other artists from Singapore too. I was up early enough to walk through the parade of people on a typical Sunday morning worshiping and doing other things. Seeing as there are people from all over who live in Singapore, it's not a surprise there are many different religions and places of worship.
It is interesting to see the differences in the practices as well as the various architectural designs.
Later that night we had planned on going to the Night Safari, which was supposed to be pretty cool, but after catching up on some internet time we were a bit too late. Singapore was nice after the initial unwelcoming and I would definitely consider visiting again. It could be a cool place to live for awhile too!