I had the best intentions at the start of my Asian trip to blog as I was traveling but then I caught a cold in Malaysia and writing fell by the wayside as I struggled to travel whilst fighting a hacking cough. To the people on the Seoul bound train, I apologize for my coughing attack and I understand why some of you felt compelled to put on a face mask. Fun fact: you can buy fashionable face masks with varied prints all over Asia!
Well, I am home now and almost fully recovered so want to write about my fantastic time in Singapore. It had been 10 years since I last visited Singapore. I stayed with my niece, Rena, who lives in the suburbs so it was interesting to see everyday Singapore from a local’s perspective.
I visited the giant Ferris wheel or Singapore flyer. It is located by the beautiful Marina bay and offered a grand view of the city center and surrounding areas.
I also met up with my school friends and was so fortunate that one of them, Jenny, had spent time previously guiding Japanese tourists so I also got a premium visitor’s view of Singapore. We spent a pleasant afternoon by river boat visiting Clark Quay, the famous wharf which is situated upstream from the Singapore River.
Based on my insistence we visited the Raffles hotel, home of the famous local cocktail the Singapore sling. You can’t miss the iconic Singh doorman who welcomes visitors to the historic hotel. He is tall, regal and resplendent in his military themed attire. This position is hereditary so it is understandable why the doormen take so much pride in their job and heritage.
The Long bar which serves the Singapore sling retains the remnants of its colonial history with the giant straw fans on the ceiling and its architectural style and furniture. The cocktail is delicious and refreshing on a hot afternoon but truthfully, the bar is a bit overcrowded, noisy and the drinks are definitely tourist priced. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience and thank you Jocelyn, for fulfilling this clichéd but fun tourist experience for me!
One of the best things about Singapore is the abundance of food courts which is situated conveniently and abundantly all over the city. The food courts are regulated by stringent health laws so you can eat and drink away with no trepidation.
First day in Singapore and I ate one of my favorites; kway chap which is flat, broad rice noodles served in a soy sauce based soup which includes pig intestine, duck meat, bean curd, and hard-boiled eggs. I am not going to lie, the pig intestine does stink and is definitely an acquired taste.
One of the must tries in Singaporean cuisine is Hainanese chicken rice, which is essentially boiled seasoned chicken served with rice and a chili sauce. It sounds simple enough but the execution of the dish and the taste is so complex and rich. The rice is so fragrant, the chicken so flavorful and the accompanying chili sauce is perfection itself. I tried the King of chicken rice at the Boon Tong Kee restaurant.
At the fantastic Chinese New Year food fair, I tried the juicy and flavorful local Ramli burger.
I had dim sum in Chinatown at Yum Cha, one of the oldest and best Chinese restaurants around.
I tried a delicious local favorite, Singapore Chili Crabs courtesy of my good friend, Crystal.
I tried prawn mee or noodles for lunch on my last day in Singapore. In the evening I ate Char kway teow or flat rice noodles stir fried in soy sauce. Rojak, a fruit and vegetable salad served with grilled strips of squid and we finished the night with satay.
I had such a terrific time in Singapore and the wonderful time spent with my family and friends there will always make Singapore so special to me.
I visited Singapore after my trips to Vietnam and Malaysia and it was so refreshing to feel so safe in oh so clean Singapore after the constant warnings of theft and crime in Vietnam and Malaysia. (No, I never got robbed and felt safe but warnings come for a reason).
However, I can’t help feeling that this safety, cleanliness, uniformity and rigidity comes at a price. The drive to succeed is reflected in their education system, long working hours, high cost of living and fast pace of life. It comes as no surprise then, that the country’s motto is Onward Singapore.
Singapore is a highly developed and industrialized nation well on its way to achieving its goal of economic dominance and power within SE Asia but I think that Singaporeans could benefit too from their more laid back neighbors.
Life in other SE Asian countries might not be pristine but perfection is an elusive goal especially where humans are concerned. Life is messy and that’s not always a bad thing.