Welcome to Singapore, where the only seasons are humid and humider.
24.06.2014 - 26.06.2014
First off, it's fairly imperative that I start this post by making an ammendment to my last post. I mentioned that I am going to the conference with "a doctor I work with" and then later stated that the NP coming to the conference is "fantastic". So, Bev should get an adjective to, or else she will tease (torment?) me for the rest of my days. So you should all know that Bev is a wonderful doctor that I have gotten to know well and work closely with over the past couple of years. She also happens to be a Wisewood alumni, and actually was very good friends with our family friend Shelly Robinson (nee Dworkin), so we have that too. So in summation, I am looking forward to getting to spend some fun times with Bev and Karina, who are both just great, in Singapore. They think that what happens in Singapore stays in Singapore, but you all know that's not how I roll.
Okay, so as a public service announcement, I'd like to formally recommend that no one decide to fly a 24 hour flight path only 4 short weeks after they just returned on a 24 hour flight path. Especially if it involves waking up at 3:00 am. I'll spare you the boring, usual details, but I will tell you that by the time I arrived at my hostel last night, I was beyond excited to be horizontal. Who knew that could be such a luxurious feeling? I will mention a couple "high"lights, though: On the flight to Singapore from Hong Kong, I was seated next to a man who emitted highly offensive odours and noises throughout the flight, despite my very pointed disgusted look. You know the one, if you've ever seen me before my morning coffee. This man was undeterred, however, and even somehow managed to stand behind me in the customs line emitted said disgusting noises. On the other hand, I was quite distracted in this customs line as the litle girls in front of me had Anna and Elsa dolls (it's time to talk about Frozen now; feel free to skip if you don't care for that movie, AKA have no heart). The older girl chose Elsa, of course, and wouldn't share with her sister, who in exchange for having to get Anna got to have the Olaf doll as well (for those of you who don't know, Olaf is a snowman who likes warm hugs. On a related note, I don't know what everyone's got against Anna. Girl's got a mad sense of humour and likes sandwiches and snowmen). The older girl (Olivia) came up with a great way to share, though: she would get Elsa in the morning, and then her sister (Annabell) could have Elsa in the afternoon, and then Olivia would get her again for the "evening and night time", and then repeat daily. When their mom told her that wasn't fair and wasn't going to be the plan, Olivia leaned over to Annabell and said: "Mummy thinks that's not how we're going to share. But it actually is, ok?". As you can tell, I'm a big Olivia fan.
Anyways, I got to my hostel and easily found my bed, which was all set up for me, including two pillows (one feather, one foam), a down comforter, a fluffy towel, earplugs and a bottle of water. This was set out in my "signature Adler cabin bed". I won't tell you much more, but in case you are curious about a "Luxury Hostel", I implore you to check out the website: www.adlerhostel.com and tell you that it certainly is luxurious, the staff is lovely, and the location is amazing. I hope luxury hostels start popping up in more places because it's an awesome concept. It's nicer than most hotels under $200/night, if you can get past the fact that it is an 18 bed dorm room (although you never see the others, as each cabin in quite large and has a privacy curtain).
This morning, I woke up bright and early (it wasn't jet lag though. You know I don't believe in jet lag, ok) and decided to get going on this little adventure. After free breakfast at the hostel (more than toast and cereal, Lani!!), I made my way through Chinatown to the MRT, their underground train. All I have to say is that Singapore sure knows how to keep it clean and efficient. And although people will tell you there is nothing inexpensive in Singapore, most trips on the MRT cost less than a dollar. Take that, all other public transit systems in all the various cities I have lived in! I shortly arrived at my morning destination: the Gardens by the Bay.
The Gardens by the Bay were opened in 2012, and sit on the Marina Bay, just across from the ridiculous feat of Singapore ridiculousness: the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
Aside from their proximity to the silliness that is the Marina Bay Sands (it's also a casino and mall and blah blah blah), the GBTB are a weird, but extremely beautiful mix of nature and modernity. For example, take the Supertrees Grove, which are clearly fake trees, but are also living gardens that generate energy to power the gardens.
Also in the Supertrees Grove was a band playing me a welcome to Singapore song; namely Let it Go from Frozen. I just think some things are meant to be. Check FB for the video (I can't figure out how to upload vidyas to the blog, mkay?).
The greenhouses, the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome, are also extremely beautiful (and air conditioned) gardens which are full of nature's best. But in the Cloud Forest, there is also the world's largest man-made waterfall, and Singapore's only waterfall. Right, cuz it's totally normal to build an indoor waterfall. But I don't know what to tell you, it works, it's gorgeous, and I fell in love. Who knew I loved gardens? Maybe I need to visit the Muttart this summer? (Well, I have heard the brunch at Culina at the Muttart is fab so I'm in).
Once I emerged from the climate controlled loveliness of the GBTB, it was time to head to the Tanjong Pagar MRT station to meet for my food tour. I booked this tour a few days ago, after debating for a while between doing a cooking class and a food tour. In the end, as usual, eating out won over cooking for myself. I'm nothing if not predictable, in that regard. I arrived about an hour early so I wandered around that neighbourhood for a bit, which turned out to be a nice treat. Tanjong Pagar Road has lots of really adorable heritage shop houses, of an architectural style I wouldn't have previously associated with SE Asia. So that was cute.
Leo, our guide, was very worried when I wasn't at the meeting place at 1:29 (due to meet at 1:30, but Singapore is a very efficient place!) and set out looking for me in the train station. This made it difficult for me to find him, but I was pretty sure the large group of hungry-looking white people was my group. I turned out to be right, and it turns out that they were all from Australia. Huge surprise. Anyways, everyone was very nice, and Leo took us on quite a tour. Our first stop was the Singapore City Gallery, where we learned a bit about the history of Singapore, and the evolution of its industries, urban design, and tastes.
After that lesson, which helped us understand how Singaporean food came to be (heavily influenced by Chinese, Malay, and Indian foods, with unique fusions of the three found only in Singapore), we set out on the real mission of the day: Eat. Lots. And so we did. We went to three or four hawker food courts (set up by the Singapore gov't when they decided street carts were unhygeinic. Gooood call), and ate many delicacies, of which I can't remember the names.
We started with the quintessential Hainanese Chicken and Rice, and were lucky enough to eat the very recipe that beat Gordon "Hell's Kitchen" Ramsay in a "Chicken and Rice cook-off".
We also ate some delicious donut type things that Leo says there is usually a 30 minute que for (he also mentioned that while in line, customers stir the dough in the oil so it doesn't burn while the owner powders, bags and sells the donuts).
We also ate a deep fried banana, some shaved ice, curry noodles, roti and curry, Chinese rice flour cake thingies, Popiah rolls (like spring rolls but obvi better and not fried), and probably something else but I can't remember because I'm in a food coma.
I walked back through Chinatown and made a quick stop at the Sri Mariamman Temple across the street from the hostel. This is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, built in 1827, and the entrance tower added in the 1930s. I strolled through during evening prayers, and contemplated what an interesting place Singapore is. There is a Buddhist temple down the street, as well as a mosque and church. Scattered throughout the ultra-modern architecture that dominates the skyline are heritage Peranakan buildings, plaques remembering opium dens, coolie houses, and brothels where Japanese women were forced into prostitution at the promise of a land with "no snow". English is the official language, however, you are more likely to hear Mandarin, Cantonese, and a host of other Asian languages from the locals. The city is perfectly modern, efficient, clean and orderly, but somehow maintains the Southeast Asian feel: laid back, welcoming, and most importantly, delicious.
In the immortal words of Annie: "I think I'm gonna like it here!"
PS: My hair has exploded in this humidity. I'm not going to comment again, and when you see photographic evidence, I'd appreciate if you'd refrain from commenting, too. Thanks.