[words: Janice, pics: Mark]
Ahhhh Singapore. The cleanest, most modern, affluent and developed stop on our trip. Fortunately, we had the privilege of staying with one of my friends from university (thank you very much Toni) and she was the most gracious hostess. We also had the chance to catch up with a few other friends who also live in Singapore and even with their busy schedules, managed to find plenty of time to show me and Mark around the city a little and take us to some great restaurants (thank you Victor, Wendy and Carol).
Even though I lived in Singapore for 4 months in 2003 when I was on exchange, I couldn’t remember a thing. When I saw a few spots, it triggered my memory, but for the most part, it was a like a whole new city. In all fairness though, I spent a vast majority of my time on the school campus which was outside the city centre where we were staying in Toni’s place, and the city had developed so much in the past 7 years.
It was nice being in Singapore and not being a tourist – this was like our vacation from our vacation. we really didn’t do anything touristy other than walking around a few key sights like Chinatown, Little India, Arab Street, Raffles Hotel, the Esplanade, etc. Overall, we went out for a few good nights with our friends, woke up late, and then enjoyed the air conditioning in the many malls along Orchard Road. Mark insisted that we all go watch The Hangover 2 (which is based in Bangkok) one night so he could re-live our time in that city. It was funny enough.
According to my friends, Singapore is now all about rooftop al fresco drinking & dining, and they certainly know how to do it well. The first night we arrived, we partied on the 63rd floor of 1-Altitude, which was in the heart of the downtown financial district and had amazing views of the city. At sunset on our last night, we visited the SkyPark, which is the top floor terrace of one of Singapore’s newest mall/casino/hotel complexes called Marina Bay Sands. Although for hotel guests only, the SkyPark has this amazing infinity pool which basically looks like it drops right off into the skyline…never seen anything like that before. As strange as it may sound, the SkyPark is shaped liked this long cruise ship which sits atop 3 tall buildings (please refer to photos), and it is very cool. Needless to say, Mark took a million photos.
In terms of food, we did feast on the must-have chili crab one night, and I was definitely feeling a burn on my lips after each bite. We also stayed in one night at Toni’s place and made fresh home-made ravioli stuffed with arugula, shallots and goat cheese accompanied with a fresh walnut-pear salad. This delicious meal made Mark and I realize how much we miss just eating home-cooked food. Otherwise, we dined on everything from sandwiches & soup, to Shanghai dumplings, to sushi and of course, enjoyed Singapore’s many hawker food centres for cheap and greasy eats. On our last night, Mark and Victor sipped on Singapore Slings together (very pink drinks).
We arrived in Singapore on Friday night and didn’t leave until Thursday morning – as we were awaiting for our 60 day Indonesia visa which we had to apply for in advance and took 3 business days to obtain. The Indonesian embassy was a zoo – so frightening – and we almost didn’t make the cut to submit our request for the visa in time, but I whipped out my “about to cry” face and the guy behind the counter told us that he would let us slip in before they closed.
I predict that Mark and I are going to have a second round of culture shock as we leave Singapore and enter Indonesia, but we are definitely looking forward to our last country in south-east Asia as many of the fellow travelers we have met have claimed that Indonesia was their favourite country, although it is so large and difficult to travel around.