After the most budget long-distance flight I’ve taken to date (how do you not have any vegetarian food on a 12 hour flight, Level?!) and then the most luxurious flight I’ve taken to date (Singapore Airlines, you really are the best), Dom and I successfully arrived at part two of our travels! I imagined Singapore would be a cushy and orderly way to transition into our travels through the densest continent, and I imagined correctly. During our three days in Singapore, I marveled at the cleanest subway system I have seen in my life (riding on the train reminded me of sitting in a sterile hospital waiting room) and never once were we at a loss for proper signage. While at times walking its manicured streets felt similar to strolling through Disneyland, I enjoyed our time in Singapore and am curious if more city-states will form in the future.
We arrived in Singapore at 8am on Saturday and, after dropping our bags off at hotel #1 (more on this to come), headed over to Chinatown in a vain attempt to fight off jet lag altogether. Singapore markets itself as a successful multi-racial city (as opposed to Malaysia, which it separated from in 1965) and its various cultural neighborhoods are therefore some of the highlights. On Chinatown’s food street we ate at our first hawker stalls and I scarfed down what I happily anticipate was the first of many fried noodle meals to come.
In an attempt to bring some of South America to Asia, I took a
two four hour siesta before we headed out to the Singapore River Walk for dinner. While not super lengthy, the River Walk boasts many beautiful bridges and numerous (rather expensive) restaurants. Parts of it reminded me of Chicago’s Gold Coast, except fully pedestrianized. Why is the US so far behind in pedestrianizing large parts of city centers?!
During our three nights in Singapore, we successfully bifurcated our stay in two: the first two nights we stayed at the M Social (if not for the final night probably the swankiest lodging of our travels) and explored most of Singapore’s tourist areas while the last night we stayed at the Marina Bay Sands resort (yes, the one in Crazy Rich Asians—thank you, Mom and Dad, for the amazing Hanukkah gift!) and contained ourselves to its vicinity. This artificially-imposed barrier probably makes me view Singapore as two distinct areas when it’s not (our two hotels were realistically just a few miles apart and all of these areas were extremely wealthy and touristy), but nevertheless it was an interesting way to experience the city.
On Sunday we got an early start and headed over to the Botanic Gardens. We’ve been to many a Botanic Gardens in our time, but Singapore’s is a beast of an entirely different nature. Instead of gardens, think rain forest. And instead of paths, think canopy walkways. And think of all of these things on a massive scale. Then combine these thoughts with your favorite park you went to as a child for picnics. And multiply that park by tenfold. And then maybe, just maybe, do you have the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
After the gardens we hopped on the train to Lau Pa Sat, one of Singapore’s many food centers, for lunch. There are many things I loved about our time in South America, but food is not really on that list. Can I just take a moment to say I am *so* excited about the food for the remainder of our travels? More than 50 food stalls filled Lau Pa Sat and I pretty much wanted to eat at all of them. Some crispy prawn with rice and a fried egg won out this time, and after gobbling it all up I think it did deserve its medal.
With a full belly we happily wandered through the empty streets of Singapore’s Central Business District (CBD) and marveled at the greenness of its skyscrapers. We eventually made our way across the river to Singapore’s National Gallery, which did one heck of a job confusing me as to whether it was (a) an art museum or (b) Parliament or (c) the Supreme Court. The answer is an art museum, but I really think it shouldn’t be allowed to call parts of it the Supreme Court and Parliament given that’s the case. Directly across the street from the National Gallery we did find Parliament. Its nondescript gray stone building is dwarfed by the CBD’s skyscrapers in the background; it’s clear who runs the show here in Singapore.
When I finally reached my humidity limit for the afternoon, we sought shelter in the Singapore National Museum, which is essentially their history museum. In one of the exhibits they play footage from the 1965 press conference when Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew announces Singapore’s split from Malaysia. His earnestness is incredible; he desired so sincerely for Singapore to remain part of Malaysia and be a thriving multi-racial state, calling on the shared ancestry the people had before British colonialism of the region. But in what was essentially a defeat, he managed to twist it into a rallying cry for Singapore to rise above the segregation of Malaysia as they became their own state. I really urge you all to watch this clip—especially with the way things are today across the globe, I couldn’t help but feel pangs of nostalgia for a place and time I never inhabited.
After all our learning about what Singapore hypothetically accomplished at the museum, we met Stephanie (one of Dom’s old work friends who is from Malaysia but lives in Singapore) for dinner and drinks (technically drink, as alcohol is very expensive in Singapore) in Little India and peppered her with many questions on the subject.
And here is when the ridiculous part of our Singapore stay begins (and excessive pictures to go with it). Monday morning we checked out of the M Social and into the Marina Bay Sands hotel, essentially a mini Las Vegas strip on its own (it is owned by the Las Vegas Sands corporation, after all). After a fairly lengthy conversation with the front desk staff where I hastily scribbled down some of our South America recommendations (he’s embarking on his own 6 months of travel next year!), we made it up to our hotel room on the 42nd floor. And oh my goodness I now understand why rich people like being rich.
Before hunkering down within the hotel premises for the remainder of our time in Singapore, we explored the iconic Gardens by the Bay (conveniently located directly opposite the hotel). We also made sure to check out Cloud Forest, a massive glass dome mimicking the climate of, you guessed it, a cloud forest. The Disneyland effect was in full force once again but, like Disneyland itself, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.
After ticking through our must-dos in Singapore, we finally allowed ourselves to lounge about on the 57th floor infinity pool deck for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening.
We did escape once more to see the Spectra Light Show (this time conveniently located opposite the other side of the hotel) in the evening, but then went back up to the rooftop to enjoy a Singapore Sling before calling it a night.
Intent to savor every last drop of luxury, Tuesday morning I went to the hotel gym for what will probably always be the most beautiful treadmill run I will ever have. We then let the clock tick until our checkout time before saying goodbye to the most luxury we will ever experience, and also a final goodbye to Singapore.
After a lengthy but smooth bus ride, we have now made it to Kuala Lumpur. And now that I’ve finished this blog post, we are off to do more exploring!