Singapore, Apr 1 – 16, 2017: Big Fun at the Little Red Dot

There is no city I know better than Boston, except for maybe Singapore. I have been to Singapore seven times now, but I have yet to write about it. I first visited in 2011 and have subsequently gone each year since. This tends to happen when your girlfriend-now-wife is from a country. During my MBA program I spent five months on the tiny island. So it is a glaring omission that so far none of my blog posts contain much about Singapore. I intend to rectify that absence.

Recently, I was given the opportunity to work remotely from my company’s Singapore office. I also figured this would be a great opportunity to actually write about the country, since I have been inexplicably avoiding it. During this trip I did not do much sightseeing. It’s not because I am some snobbish travel who only looks for “real” experiences, we just did not have the time. Fortunately there is still a lot to see and do, even while there for work.

Sunday April 2
One of my goals for the trip was to eat as much Asian food as possible, or at least non-American food. Back home in the US, I live in what I consider a food desert. There are only fast food and restaurant chains available. They aren’t terrible, but it would be nice to have something different than a burger or pizza every once and while. Singapore is known for its variety of international cuisine so I figured it would be pretty easy to eat something different.

After a joyful reunion with Trina I immediately wrecked my food plan when upon exiting customs the first place we ate at was a Burger King. Something about being on the plane for 20 hours made me want to eat a greasy burger. When I staggered to the counter I noticed that for some reason there were only double portions on the menu. In any event I wolfed into a double whopper without a second though. I still consider it something different because unlike the fast food in the US, whenever I eat a quick served meal in Singapore I don’t get sick afterwards.

So after an auspicious start we headed to our AirBnB near Great World City. I have never used an AirBnB until this trip. Coincidentally, I never tried Uber until I came to Singapore. I am really behind the times. The unit Trina found was a small loft with some high tech card activated locks. It was a pretty cozy room, not out of place in some big US city. While this was the first time we a were using an AirBnB it will be the last time we use one in Singapore. Recently the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Singapore Parliament passed legislation banning short term rentals. We’ll have to stick with hotels in the future.

After settling in, which I did by taking a nap, we headed over to Great World City for food. Of all the malls I have visited in Singapore, Great World City is the most like the shopping centers in the US. The office towers attached to the mall contain a lot of multinational organizations, so a lot of the shops and food cater to westerners. As we strolled around Trina pointed out that it was not crowded by Singapore standard, meaning we weren’t packed in like sardines between shops. I guess that made it something like an American mall too, since most in the US are becoming less and less frequented. We found a nice Donburi pork stall and enjoyed a nice meal before doing some grocery shopping, a task Trina mentioned to be decidedly un-Singaporean since most people there buy their food at food stalls.

After eating a hamburger and shopping at a grocery store I realized my acclimating to Singaporean lifestyle had gotten off to a rocky start.

Monday, April 3
Trina and I both went to work this day. This was the first time both of us were going to work while I was in Singapore. My company has an amazing office near the Raffles Hotel and the WWII memorial. It also has a stunning view of the Singapore Flyer and Marina Bay Sands. During lunch I opted for a simple Mango Chicken Salad Wrap at nearby Raffles City. It took me some time to navigate the crowds. There were were a lot of places that looked like it had great stuff. Fortunately, I would have two weeks to explore.

After work Trina and I met at Orchard Road for dinner. To get there I got to use the lovely MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) system. Having grown up in Boston I became quite use to antiquated and slow public transportation. The MRT is anything but. The trains are completely automated, no drivers. They come frequently and on time. The first train was opened 1987 between Toa Payoh and Yio Chu Kang. It has expanded to five lines plus several neighborhood monorails. And it is still growing. There are construction sites for new stations all over the island. I am not sure where they are going to put all those subways on that tiny island. The buses are also easy to use and on time as well. It is so easy to get anywhere in Singapore, just don’t bring any Durian on board, you’ll get fined.

Okay, back to the trip. For those who like food and shopping Orchard Road is a paradise. Not surprisingly there are a number of embassies nearby. Being stationed in Singapore as a diplomat must be like hitting the jackpot. The whole of Southeast Asia is relatively peaceful, the city of Singapore is in a tropical climate, many people speak English and there’s food and shopping everywhere. What would be the main diplomatic concerns be? That there aren’t enough Prada shops?

It wasn’t always designer fashion and global cuisine here. During colonial times in the 1830’s Orchard Road was known for the various pepper plantations and fruit orchards. This was also the sight of several Chinese, Sumatran and Jewish burial grounds. Those were all removed as the area was modernized with shopping centers and underground tunnels in the post-colonial times.

It was in one of these modern tunnels that Trina and I met, outside of a Krispy Kreme no less. I have a sever weakness for donuts, especially fresh baked ones. Usually, I can resists desserts and sweets, but not donuts. My coworkers know this and bring in donuts to break me down when they need something from me. Before I could start stuffing my backpack with those sweet fresh baked honey glazed donuts we headed over to the Mandarin Gallery for some very tasty Ramen. We ended the night with a movie at one of the nearby theaters.

Tuesday, April 4
Surprisingly, by this point in my trip I had settled into a routine at work. Taking advantage of the multitudes of food offerings at Raffles City became easy and I opted for a Bulgoggi Seoul Roll. It was sort of like Maki, but stuffed with Korean Kimchi and barbecued beef. Even though it was pretty small it filled me up quite nicely. After a day of work I met with Trina to try her spin class. It was pretty fun, though I needed a lot of assistance from Trina to make sure I was turning the resistance to the right. I “mistakenly” turned the knob to the left quite a bit. Despite my ascertain that I am more athletic she ended up beating me in overall power generated, like we are trying to turn on light bulbs or something.

To replenish our bodies we looked for food at nearby Boat Quay. When Singapore was first turned into a British Colonial port the Chinese merchants and traders utilized the mouth of the Singapore River for their shop houses. A lot of them were built in the 1860’s, some of which are still preserved. The whole Colonial District in Singapore is dotted with classical architecture, which makes for a stunning contrast with the more modern skyscrapers in the nearby financial district. In addition to Boat Quay the other Quays were turned into bars, clubs and restaurants, which cater mainly to expatriates, tourists and financial district workers. At night the area becomes extremely lively. Whenever I come here I like to refer to it as “Expat-ville”. It was funny until I realized that I was frequenting “Expat-ville” too.

Trina had found a Thai steamboat restaurant for us to try. Basically, its a cauldron of boiling water covered by a metal hubcap. We have to put various raw ingredients on it and the surrounding soup to cook the food ourselves. Sort of a do-it-yourself meal. We must have put a whole menagerie on that hubcap: prawns, beef, pork, chicken, and fish ball. For some items like the prawns we weren’t sure where to put them and they kept sliding off. We also had veggies, but who cares about that? After eating all that soup and grilled food we sauntered off back to our apartment.

Wednesday, April 5
Day three was Chicken Teriyaki lunch and after work I went with Trina to go to the gym at NUS. I have a lot of fond memories at NUS, where I spent five months as a part of an MBA exchange. The most unforgettable part was all the hills. For some reason the architect decided that the campus would be on the most hilliest part of Singapore. This made walking a few 100 feet quite an ordeal. As a result of this rugged terrain one could get a real work out strolling, or rather climbing, between classes. At the NUH food court I had one of my favorite dishes Beef Hor Fun. This flat noodle dish is not exactly the best to eat after a workout, but it’s so tasty. One thing I noticed that was different in the food court were the food healthiness ratings. Apparently, the food court managers thought it would be helpful to indicate if the food selections were either healthy, okay, or not healthy, with green, yellow and red stickers respectively. Strangely enough none of the food choices had a red sticker.

I gave up on looking for a red sticker and headed over to Vivo City with Trina. Yes, Vivo City is yet another shopping plaza. I feel that even though shopping malls were invented in the US, as early as 1916, Singapore and the rest of Southeast Asia have raise shopping malls to a form of art. Singapore in particular has many different types of layouts and plans, each one more eclectic than the next. They also seem well designed to handle large crowds and encourage a chi-like flow. Vivo City is unique in that it is serviced by the MRT, a Cable Car, a Monorail and Cruise terminals. Vivo acts as the main entry way onto Sentosa Island, a planned resort/residence. Trina and I frequented this area quite a bit, especially when we run out of things to do. We just head over to Universal Studios to ride the Spaghetti Chase ride, though I kind of wish there was the Jaws ride. The rubber shake always amuses me. This day we opted for just a fruit tart and a movie instead of go-karts, roller coasters, aquariums, casinos, or man made beaches.

Thursday, April 6
I was beginning to get used to the foodie lifestyle. I noticed an interesting Thai noodle place between Raffles City and work. Partly because I was tired of walking I opted for this place and ordered Chicken Pad Thai. The chef had packed the food in a very weird container that separated the bean sprouts and peanuts from the noodles and chicken. It was a bit perplexing to pry off of the lid with out spraying the peanuts and bean sprouts everywhere. Since I had brought the contraption back to work I was trying to be cool about it. I exerted a lot of effort trying to get the lid off. Needless to say I failed miserably in unpacking my food in an effortless manner. I just want to drop the subject now.

For dinner I met with Trina for easier to eat Chinese food at Crystal Jade at Great World City. It was a bit odd that they were closing early around 7 pm. I guess it was due to the fact there was another Crystal Jade restaurant just one floor up. I suppose the one we went to was used more for lunch. That was okay since I had a phone call for work that evening. Working in a different time zone like Singapore’s made me feel like I was always on the clock. Emails from the US start flooding in around 9 pm and don’t end until 5 or 6 am. Then I get a bit of a break before receiving emails in Singapore at 9 am. That gradually tapers off until about 3 or 4 pm when I start receiving messages from London and Europe. Even phone calls can be a bit weird. Unfortunately, my phone call never materialized because it was so early in the US that people forgot. So while it is cool to work abroad it can get incredibly cumbersome.

Friday, April 7
One of Trina’s many talents is the ability to find cool eating places. One such place she recommended was a Japanese Tendon place near Boat Quay for lunch. It was about a 20 minute walk from my office, though it felt a lot longer in the Singapore sun. When I got there Trina was the first in line. There were people queuing up behind her. Queuing is an art form in Singapore. I am convinced if I put a bunch of stanchions up anywhere in the country and wait in people will start lining up behind me. Back to the food, After waiting another 20 minutes the restaurant opened for lunch. It was a pretty cramped inside, so the place filled up quickly. We both ordered Shrimp Tendon, a tempura and soup combo. It was extremely tasty, especially the the breaded flakes. When we were finished there was a line extended a block down Circular road. In Singapore you can always tell if a food place is good based on how long the line is. The turnover for restaurants is extremely high. If the food isn’t good the place won’t last, though it appears based on the long queues that people are willing to wait for their food. Trina and I both headed back to our respective work places and agreed to meet later for more food.

 

After a fun filled day at work I met up with Trina for dinner back at the Riverside Hawker center near Great World City. For those who don’t know hawker centers are open air food court consisting of a variety of street food. When Singapore was modernizing in the 1950’s and 60’s the government ordered the mobile street stalls to congregate in designated centers. This was primarily to help with city and food hygiene. In the 1990’s many of the centers were upgraded to include running water. Glad I didn’t visit before then. The food stalls usually consist of different types of southeast Asian dishes such as satay, roast duck, and noodle dishes. While the food can be really cheap it is also the location of some of the best food in Singapore. There were even two stalls in Singapore that each received a Michelin star. While the Riverside Hawker Center wasn’t the location of the Michelin star stalls it did have a great Char Kway Teow (we could tell because of the line). The best way to describe this Singaporean/Malaysian dish is that it is a medley of flat rice noodles, prawns, cockles, baby squid all stirred together in a dark chili sauce. We happily slurped up out Char Kway Teow and then sauntered off to a art and crafts market.

Each month the Red Dot Design Museum hosts an arts and crafts fair called Market of Artists and Designer (MAAD). It consists of a lot of student artists displaying and selling their crafts. There are also specialty food stalls and music. Some of the designs were really neat. There was a stall where a girl sold leaves that were pressed in books since the 1980’s leaving only a delicate leaf skeleton. Trina and I tried some flavored marshmallows that the vendors heated with a blow torch. We meandered around and away from some live performance music that could only be generously described as “noise”.

Just as a side note about the name Red Dot. Back in 1998 the former prime minister of Indonesia B. J. Habibie, was rumored to have quipped that Singapore was a “Red Dot”, when being compared to Indonesia. While the comment was initially taken as an insult, Singaporeans later embraced it. The aforementioned museum was named after that comment, t-shirts were made, and the logo for the nations 50th birthday celebration was a red dot. So it is nice to see it as cause for pride rather than insult.

So after the market we sauntered up to Redhill, where there were many night revelers enjoying the bars and restaurants. For some reason I wanted to saunter away from this crowd. Safely away Trina and I opted for some Prata and Satay in Chinatown. Another interesting area in Singapore, it was created when the city founder Sir Thomas Raffles made a city layout for the British colony in 1822 in response to overcrowded living spaces. This led to Kampongs for Bugis, Arabs, Indians, Malay and Chinese residents. Among the food stalls are a number of historical sites, such as a Buddhist temple containing one of the Buddha’s tooth. While we would have liked to have done more sight seeing we opted to go back to the apartment instead.

Saturday, April 8
Trina and I started our Saturday off with a trip to the gym. We then had some tasty Japanese chicken curry at Star Vista located in the Buona Vista area. Trina has done a lot of work in this area since it is the location of Biopolis an international research and development center for biomedical sciences. Every time I come to visit Singapore we make numerous stops at Star Vista. This open air mall consists almost entirely of food places. There must be five restaurants for every store. Another unique feature of the shopping center is that on top of it is a church, called New Creation Church. I am not quite sure what denomination it is, but i do know it can seat over 5,000 churchgoers. We would find this out after we completed our lunch, when the whole area became flooded with people.

We then headed over to Orchard Road to try out an indoor trampoline park. We had done something similar in the US, where we would jump on trampolines with our friends and play dodge ball. When we got to the Singapore equivalent it was complete pandemonium. There were little kids everywhere. There was a basketball hoop with kids jumping from the trampoline to dunk. There were also an obstacle course and a general open bouncing area. There was even a dodge ball court. All the adults were pretty much at the snack bar watching their children jump up and down non-stop. Trina and I decided not to join the kids since it might be a little weird for two grown adults to be firing Styrofoam balls at children’s heads in the dodge ball court. It would have made a great Youtube video though.

Instead, we chose to have some high tea at the Mandarin gallery. I had something that was called Himalayan Snow Tea. We both shared a super sweet banana walnut bread filled with Nutella. We planned on doing a painting session so we were busy looking for art inspiration on our phones. After we picked our potential masterpieces we went to the art and tea place. Basically, patrons can use acrylic paints to make art and order drinks. Being a simpleton I drew an outline of a cat and painted in various shades of green. Trina opted for a more complex tree. It was definitely a way more relaxing way to spend our day than jumping on a trampoline.

For dinner, we went to one of my favorite restaurants: Din Tai Fun. Every time I come to Singapore I make sure we stop here for the pork soup dumplings. I could spend all day eating those. The restaurant is a Taiwanese chain and it displays a super efficient serving and food preparation process. The wait staff and hosts fly all over the place with head pieces coordinating guests to their seats. Meanwhile, as you wait to get your number called for a table you can watch the kitchen staff make the dumplings in a dedicated room. There was another kitchen where the other food is made, but the dumplings were the stars of this restaurant so they were front and center. I must have counted nine workers creating the dumpling skins and assembling the little tasty creations. I am proud to say that I have gotten so good at eating soup dumplings that none of them break when I pick them up with chopsticks. Feeling satisfied with art and dumplings we headed back to rest.

Sunday, April 9
After working out in the gym Trina and I decided to reward ourselves by eating Sushi at Star Vista, the highlight of which was a mango lobster roll and the fatty tuna cuts. We then headed back to Great World City for some really tasty Coffee and an Oatmeal cookie at a non-chain coffee shop called Jewel.

We then headed over to one of the main tourist sites in Singapore, Gardens by the Bay. When I first visited Singapore in 2011, Gardens by the Bay was just a giant dirt pit of reclaimed land next to the stunning Marina Bay Sands hotel. I bet the hotel at that time had more customers opting for the city view. Since then it has become a magnificent garden with super trees that are over 50 meters tall. They are also solar powered. In 2013 Trina and I ventured up them. It was a lot of fun for Trina to see me inching across them since I am absolutely terrified of heights. She definitely said it was worth the $5.00 SGD.

Besides the super trees there are two greenhouses. One is called the Cloud Forest, which consists of an indoor waterfall and tropical plants. When we saw it in 2013 it was always misty inside, due to the large waterfall. The other greenhouse, which was our destination, is the Flower Dome. Inside, it is always springs and consists of flowers in perpetual bloom. During our visit they had a tulip exhibit. When you enter the Flower Dome you are immediately relieved from the Singapore heat. Even though it was spring weather it felt very chilly. That’s when you know you have acclimated to Singapore’s oppressive tropical weather.

A lot of other people were there taking shelter from the heat as well. There was just a mob of tourists taking selfies with the many different tulips. Some of the flower displays were even arranged to look like Van Gogh paintings, though you couldn’t tell from up close.

Afterwards we walked across the Millennium Bridge to Suntec City. I am not sure why we thought that was a good idea. After almost completely drying off at the Flower Dome, we became drenched in sweat halfway across the bridge. Thankfully, we found an MRT entrance on the other side and quickly took cover from the sun. At Suntec City, which is a office/mall complex designed to look like the palm of a hand, we went to Bali Thai. There we enjoyed tom yum soup that was too spicy for me, basil chicken which was less spicy and Kang Kong, which was just right. We partook in another favorite Singapore past time, shopping before going to watch a movie.

Monday, April 10
So we started another work week. Each day on the way to work I would pass a Baja Fresh. Since I haven’t had Mexican food in a while I opted for this place for lunch. After a long walk through some historical areas I made it there. The food was good but over priced, so I figured I wouldn’t be considering this option for a while.

Later, I met with Trina to do some shopping for baby gifts. She mentioned that we would be driving quite a distance away from the city center to visit a friend, so I ate an Onigiri from a 7 Eleven at Plaza Singapura before hoping into an Uber. I have to say Onigiri are my favorite snack, and usually put together in an odd way. They are wrapped so that the seaweed isn’t touching the packed rice. By following the instructions one can unwrap it and then have the seaweed touch the rice. Ingenious. After visiting her friends after a long drive we opted to go to IndoChili near our apartment. There we enjoyed beef Randang, Sate and Tauhu Telur. After that delicious meal we called it a night.

Tuesday, April 11
Tuesday’s culinary adventure started with some good old fashion Vietnamese Pho at Suntec City. I keep forgetting that a lot of places don’t offer paper towels or napkins, so dealing with a soup dish could be hazardous sometimes in Singapore.

For dinner I met with Trina near work at the Raffles Hotel, one of the most iconic landmarks in Singapore. Initially, built in 1887, it has gone through a tremendous amount of renovations to be the international luxury hotel it is today. When I first visited Singapore in 2011 Trina and I went to the famous Long Bar, a favorite of celebrities such as Somerset Maugham, to have a Singapore Sling. I was a bit disappointed with the Singapore Sling, it tasted a lot like cough syrup. Perhaps being pre-made didn’t help either. Back in the present day Trina and I met up at the front of the hotel, then we went through the arcade and the gift shop to get to the other side.

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Trina had found two places that served good Chicken Rice, which is something of a national dish in Singapore. The two restaurants were on the same road and and had almost the exact same name, Zheng Swee Kee and Sin Swee Kee. I don’t know if they could compete anymore against each other. Maybe their kitchen staff gets confused about where they are working? In any event, we opted for Zheng Swee Kee since there was a crowd of students in Sin Swee Kee and both Trina and I were in a curmudgeonly mood.

After a great meal that Trina said tasted home made, we hung at at the National Library on Victoria Street. It was really crowded. Lots of people browsing through the public selections. Trina and I checked out a Shakespeare exhibit highlighting theatrical performances in Southeast Asia. We did some drawing for a bit and then went to Spin class. Overall a very productive day, especially because of the food.

Wednesday, April 12
Of all the days during this trip, I ate the most food on this one. It started off innocent enough. For lunch I got a huge serving chicken Shawarma, pita bread, hummus and salad at Suntec City. I hadn’t eaten Middle Eastern food at all where I live in the US, and this place looked very appetizing. I had to wait a while for my food, partly because the pager they gave me didn’t work. I had to look helplessly at a bag food that was clearly intended for me sit across their counter. Eventually, the manager took pity on me and gave me my serving. The combination of the wait and the taste made me really wolf it down. It was such a huge portion that I felt pretty full around dinner time.

I met up with Trina and her friends at Segar, a Halal Zi-Char restaurant at Star Vista. There we ate salted egg with squid, steamed bass Hong Kong style, chicken Sambal, and hot plate bean curd. I avoided the steamed bass, mainly because it was staring back at me. I never like it when my food can see me. Instead I had a good helping of salted egg with squid, which I thought was friend chicken for a while. Afterwards we had a brownie and Mille Crepe at Awefully Chocolate. By the end of the night I felt like a balloon. I swore that I would work out during the my remaining days in Singapore.

Thursday, April 13
So at almost two weeks in Singapore I have had a lot of Asian food. I did start having cravings for non-Asian food. For lunch I went to Mos Burger , a Japanese hamburger place that uses unique spices, Wagyu beef and rice buns. While it counts as American food I still had a craving for non-Asian food. Fortunately, that evening Trina and I were near Holland Village, one of my favorite places in Singapore. This is probably due to its predominately western residents. Holland Village was the site of British military barracks in the 1950’s. In the post colonial years this became a place for expatriates to live. Over time the neighborhood grew affluent, leading to early gentrification. Strangely enough there is no major dominant shopping center located here. As a result of this absence the crescent shaped streets have a number of small shops, restaurants and art galleries. In 2011 an MRT station was installed making the area much more accessible to the rest of Singapore.

With that history in mind it was no surprise that I felt comfortable in a place like that. Trina found a German restaurant/pub named Baden at the end of Lor Mambong. To get there we had to go through the crowded street of revelers. Thankfully, the road was converted into a pedestrian walkway. We made our way through crowds to the open air seating. It was a very festive night. Baden was pretty packed but we were able to get a cozy table inside. There we ordered Curry Sausage, a dark beer and Pork Knuckles. While the curry sausage and the beer were pretty good on their own, nothing compared to the Pork Knuckles. To be honest I am not quite sure what a Pork Knuckle is, only later in writing this blog did I find out that it “is the end of the pig’s leg, just above the ankle and below the meaty ham portion”. We got a few stares as our meal came out because the portion was pretty big. Trina and I took our time cutting of huge chunks and yelling at each other over the noisiness in the restaurant After a good amount of time regaining all the calories after our gym exercises we headed back to our apartment.

Friday, April 14
Both Trina and I had Friday off, so what do we do? Sleep in of course! But after we finally ventured outside we stopped by Punch, a favorite coffee place of Trina’s. Apparently they specialized in comfort food too. We had a tasty grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup. To wash it down I had an espresso tonic, basically soda water with a shot of espresso. The waiter tried to tell me what was in the coffee before mixing it with the tonic. I really didn’t follow him but I was impressed none the less. Trina had a Chemex coffee which is sort of a specially filtered coffee. She got a detailed descriptions from the wait staff too, but we only caught that there was tea in there as well. I guess it adds to the experience to tell the customer what their coffee is made of. In any event we were thoroughly buzzed after those two brews.

We wandered over to the National Gallery were there were some equally over caffeinated staff members. They were so eager to help us navigate the huge museum. The National Gallery is a relatively new museum, built on two historic buildings, the Former Supreme Court and the City Hall. The Former Supreme Court was built in 1939, but became vacated in 2005 when the court functions moved to a more modern building. The City Hall was built between 1926 and 1929 but was vacated in 2006. The Singapore Government took its time on filling these two historic spaces when it opted to build a national art gallery, which was completed in 2015 and contains the worlds largest collection of Southeast Asian art.

Inside was extremely spacious. After paying our admission fee, which is waived for Singapore citizens, we proceeded to one of the highlights when one of the staff members notified us of a tour covering Chinese water color art. Since it was starting soon we opted for that. Our tour guide was an extremely cheerful volunteer. I don’t think she stopped smiling throughout the entire hour of the tour. She talked briefly about the history of the museum at the beginning of the tour pointing out such features as the metallic “blanket” that connects the two buildings, the reflection pool on the roof that creates waves of light inside, and the ballroom where several historic events occurred such as the Japanese surrender to the Allies in 1945 and Lee Kuan Yew taking the oath of office in 1959. Our guide then proceeded to show us various Chinese water color art. I wasn’t too familiar with the genre but I was very impressed with the amount of detail that could be made with such a difficult medium to use.

We wander around the gallery a bit more after the tour. Trina astutely noted that there weren’t many people. Wherever we went the staff were overly helpful. We surmised that this might have to do with the fact that not many people were there. We did eventually run into a crowd, which was not surprisingly at the museum cafe and gift shop.

Feeling cultured out we headed over to City Hall shopping plaza where we had Bak Chor Mee and fish ball soup. It was a noodle dish with pork and liver. Really tasty, but by that point I had become adept at spilling food on my shorts, which to me is always a clear sign to head out, this time to do some shopping for gifts at Vivo City.

After partaking in the second favorite Singaporean pastime, shopping, we took an Uber to a batting cage place in Singapore. Trina had been using Uber quite a bit in Singapore, so much so that she is something of an expert. When we were looking for an available ride she noticed the closest one had a five star rating. Normally, she said, that’s not bad, but for an Uber driver to have a perfect rating means that they are new, so could turn out to not know what they are doing. Sure enough she was right. The Uber driver had an incredibly hard time finding our pick up spot, then she had a difficult time finding our destination. To confirm her newness I noticed that the car still had plastic wraps on the door handles and shades. So Trina was right on many many levels.

For the remainder of our evening we hit some baseballs at the batting cage. It was much more of a workout than either of us anticipated. It didn’t help that it was very hot out too. It was also neat that they had a live baseball game broadcasting. It was at this point that I realized that I had missed the start of baseball season in the US! We ended up heading back to the apartment to have hot chocolate at the local cafe we found at Great World City.

Saturday April 15
For my last full day in Singapore we started off with exercising. I am always adamant about exercising the day before flying, especially for a long haul flight. It helps me sleep. We then took a cab to Arab street for lunch. Arab Street, not surprising is located in the Arab Quarter, which was one of the original Kampongs. When Sir Thomas Raffles was creating a city layout, he designated this area for the Bugis, who were already settled there, and Arab traders. In 1825 this became the site of a Mosque. The Sultan Mosque that now stands there was built in 1925, oddly enough by an Irish architect, Denis Santry, that had an eye for Saracenic style architecture.

It was around here that we went to Hijah Maimunah a Malaysian food restaurant that had a Michelin star. It was a bit chaotic inside trying to order and even to pay, but there was a long line so that of course was a good sign. There we feasted on Tauhu Telur, Sambal stingray, fried squid, beef Rendang, fried vegetables, and iced Milo. It was extremely good, though extremely spicy, especially the stingray.

After lunch we visited the Sultan Mosque and wandered around the Arab quarter. We then went to browse a bookstore on Orchard Road and had tea. We were planning to do a cake baking class, but we were too tired at that point so we headed back to Great World City where I enjoyed one last noodle dish, Wonton Noodles, and Tutu desserts. After all that fun we spent the rest of the night packing.

Sunday April 16
The next day Trina and I glumly headed to the airport. I want to take a moment to say how much I love Changi Airport. Trina and I have had a lot of fun memories here. During my trips to Singapore we have visited Bangkok, Hong Kong twice, Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi, Lombok, Penang, and Siem Reap from this airport. We have said a lot of joyful hellos and sad goodbyes here. We have shopped here at its mall, eaten at its many restaurants and even slept in the terminal hotel. We have even searched for Pokemon’s and rated every flower bed display we could find in the terminals. We have ridden its dedicated airport shuttle from terminal to terminal just to eat at a different restaurant. You could spend a whole week at this airport and not be bored. I have never had any problem going through its security and immigration check. It opened in 1981, expanded to three luxurious terminals and is slated to have two more. It just keeps getting better. There must be hundreds of airlines that come in and out of it. To me it is by far the best airport in the world, and a lot of ratings would agree. And it was here that I had to say yet another tearful goodbye to Trina and get on another plane.

Okay, but on a lighter note when I got to Hong Kong International Airport I snuck in one last quality Asian meal, Pork Katsu. I definitely savored fried pork cutlet because I wasn’t going to get to eat something that savory again for a while.

As a postscript I want to note that, while I included some past experiences, there were many things I have not covered that warrant their own blog entry. The more notable experiences I shared with Trina while in Singapore are the following: River Safari, Night Safari, Singapore Zoo, Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands, cycling on Palau Ubin, Botanic Gardens, MacRitchie Reservoir, Sentosa, Universal Studios, the Aquarium, East Coast Park, Little India, eating Durian, hiding Durian on an MRT, Marina Barrage, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Jurong Bird Park, Peranakan Museum, Asian Civilization Museum, the ArtScience Museum, Lee Kuan Yew’s Funeral, Chinese New Years, eating Laksa, running 10Ks, Hot Yoga, musicals at MasterCard Theatre, Hot Pot, three types of Chili Crab, an excruciatingly hard job search, avoiding macaques on Mt Faber, overflowing food at an MRI workshop and experiencing Gold Class at the movies.

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