Travel: Singapore 2015
Our trip to Singapore was a whirlwind of sights, food and good times. Normally, when a travel group gets bigger, it gets exponentially more difficult to plan and see everything you want to. I can honestly say though, it was an absolute pleasure to travel with my friends, Benz and Michelle. Somehow, with no real planning, we pulled off one very epic trip. SO MANY SELFIES.
We left for Singapore on an early flight out of Hong Kong and set ourselves up for a one-night stay at the Marina Bay Sands (MBS), an expensive hotel that we justified booking because of its impressive array of amenities and impeccable service (SEE: INFINITY POOL ACCESS).
For lunch that day, we went to the Maxwell’s Food Centre, arguably Singapore’s most famous hawker centre. Hawker centres are quintessential dining spots in Singapore. Almost every neighbourhood in Singapore has their own, a place that gathers the area’s best food stalls, usually with at least one must-try stall per centre. You could eat street food in Singapore for months and never get sick of it due to the sheer variety.
After lunch, we noticed it was very dark outside. “Wow, Singapore must get dark earlier than Hong Kong!” We quickly realized how stupid we were, and that the darkness was coming from an endless overcast filled with dark clouds and rain – it was monsoon season in Singapore, and we were caught in a torrential thunderstorm flood with no umbrella. With no taxis available, we waited out the storm for an hour and returned quickly to the hotel.
We spent the rest of the day at the infinity pool, walking around the Esplanade & Bay Area, eventually had Fish Head Curry for dinner (a national specialty) at the Swisshôtel, The Stamford, and then a late night visit to the MBS Casino and rooftop bar, Ku De Ta. When you finally understand the concept of the Marina Bay Sands it seems so strange. The hotel that defines Singapore’s skyline is frequented by very few Singaporeans. They can’t use the infinity pool because only hotel guests are given access and Singaporeans must pay $100 SGD to enter the casino. It was great relaxing at the MBS, but weird to think we were having an experience with barriers to entry for most locals.
The next day, we were determined to get more of a “local” perspective of Singapore and see as much as possible. We started with breakfast at Killiney, Singapore’s well-known Kopi Tiam Chain (think Singapore’s version of MX or Café de Coral if you’re from Hong Kong). After breakfast, we briefly visited the Singapore Botanic Gardens, then checked into our new Airbnb digs.
We then met up with up-and-coming Singaporean artist, Gareth Fernandez, who showed us a pretty cool spot, Telok Ayer Market, also known colloquially known as Lau Pa Sat Festival Market, a historic food centre downtown. After a good chat, we went to check out Haji Lane, a fashionista-cum-hipster street popular with tourists.
That night we had dinner at No Signboard, a very famous, upscale Chili Crab restaurant Michelle’s friend Gabrielle and others. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera for this leg of the journey. I’m crying on the inside as I write this – I really wish I had pictures of the crab, as it was a pretty orgasmic dinner. No Signboard invented White Pepper Crab, a variant on Singapore’s famous Black Pepper Crab. Restaurant’s inventing things? You know its good. Later, we all went to have Bak Kut Teh, aka, Pork Bone Soup, aka, the Crack Cocaine of drug-free Singapore and one of its national, celebrated dishes. This stuff was so good, we had to have it several other times before leaving Singapore. We then later took a trip to Clarke Quay for drinks at the Beer Market, a really cool bar where the price of the beer reflects the demand – just like a stock market! It’s a pretty cool dopamine-added bonus to know you’re drinking beer that cost three times as much just thirty minutes before. (Addendum: For those in the know, CHUPITOS AFTER.)
Day three started with breakfast at the local food centre in Havelock, near Orchard Street. For some reason, atmosphere-wise, this was the simplest yet most satisfying meal I had the whole trip, without taking anything away from all the other amazing meals we ate. It was the process of walking down the street with other locals, ordering a Nasi Lemak, and sitting in the hot sun, enjoying our first meal of the day. I felt really connected in that moment, staring out at the road from the food centre, like I was truly living the life of another Singaporean.
After the meal, we accomplished a frightening amount of walking, at least for me, since my achilles heel was still sore (BROKEN? TORN??!!) from the hike last week. We had lunch in Chinatown, saw Little India and checked out the famous Masjid Sultan Mosque. The coolest thing I noticed was how distinct each district in Singapore is. There aren’t too many places in the world where a city is so integrated, yet nationalities, religions and neighbourhoods are still so distinct and rooted. For example, I felt Little India (which is actually HUGE) could very well have been a proper area in an Indian city!
Day three’s dinner was back at the Havelock Hawker Centre, where we ate the famous Black Pepper Crab, as well as tried their fish head curry, to see if if lived up to the one we had at The Stamford. Although the flavour of the Fish Head Curry was arguably weaker and slightly diluted, it was definitely worthy of the famous fish head curry namesake, and definitely worth its sticker price, considering it was about half the price of the dish we had at the fancy hotel. We also had our second round of Bak Kut Teh at Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh Eating House, a place frequented by the likes of many Asian celebrities (Stefanie Sun, Jay Chou, JJ Lin, Shawn Yue) and even the Prime Minister himself. Hey, if it’s good enough for the PM, right?
Walking home, we witnessed a really cool moment of some random family having a religious ceremony for their dead ancestors. They were setting ablaze a yard’s worth of sacrificial paper offerings. Was this legal? We’re not completely sure, as they left in quite a hurry, but it made for some very interesting pictures.
Later that night, we went to Singapore’s most famous club, Zouk, and finished at a Singaporean post-drinking restaurant staple, Spize. Definitely a great Singaporean night life experience with new friends.
The next and last day of our trip, slightly hungover and hating the sun, we summoned the strength to finish Singapore on a strong note by getting some “soup of vigour,” aka Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh and continued on. The last day was spent in Sentosa, the resort, beach and theme park area of Singapore. Bookending the trip with pure tourist destinations worked out quite well. We went to see the SEA Aquarium, which was actually quite interesting, and purportedly has the largest indoor aquarium in the world (really need to fact check this – I feel like I’ve seen bigger). The hidden highlight was this random video about typhoon shipwrecks they showed us at the end of the museum tour that cost $2 SGD extra. Best two dollars I’ve ever spent and highly recommended for its comedic value! We ended the trip with a trip to Tanjong Beach, which we wish we had discovered sooner and allocated an extra day in our vacation plans for. Maybe next time.
We were rewarded for our sweaty and exhausting trip back to downtown Singapore by Michelle’s friend Bobby to a very legit frog congee place, Eminent Frog Porridge & Seafood, where he claims to eat at least once a month with friends. Vivian and Janelle also came by to see us off! I’m certain we would have not found this place without Bobby’s help, and it was easily one of the most satisfying meals of the trip – and I don’t even like frog! We then had some AAA durian from some random fruit market in Geylang, Singapore’s red light district. These are definitely not places you just stumble across as a tourist, so I was very, very grateful we had the experience.
Definitely an amazing trip with some great peeps.
I have no regrets. I have spent my life, so much of it, building up this country. There’s nothing more that I need to do.
At the end of the day, what have I got?
A successful Singapore.
What have I given up?
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