Imagine cramming 5.4 million people into Lake Taupo? And on top of that, keeping it clean? Singapore does just this! It may be a small country, but it’s a massive city!
Given the hugely concentrated population, it was amazing how spick and span this city was. The people were so respectful towards the environment it was a bit of a shock coming from Malaysia where basically everything is dirty and people just throw rubbish on the ground.
During our stay we got up to all kinds of adventures, some free, some cheap and some more expensive – this city was the most expensive we have visited so far, but we managed to stick to budget, just.
SIGHTS AND ADVENTURES:
During the scooter tour (free with the hostel) we saw two light shows, one in the Gardens by the Bay and one on Marina Sands Parade. The first was spectacular – we lay in a circle under beautifully lit up trees, music started playing and coloured lights danced to the beat, musically illustrating the story of Singapore. The second one projected a film onto water spraying up from the bay which was very effective, but it was a weird video about a family growing up.
Around the same area is a massive ship. The ship is on top of 3 huge 57 story hotel towers; Marina Bay Sands. It’s an amazing piece of architecture that we had to see more of, naturally we got cocktails on the bow under the starlight. It cost $20 to go up, but you could then put that towards a drink or food and the view alone was worth it. I wanted to lean over the edge and scream, “I’m on top of the world!” Like Leo in Titanic, but I thought Neil might get embarrassed.
There are several museums in Singapore that we were advised to go to, the Art and Science Museum won our attention when we heard about the Future Exhibition they were running.
When you first walk in, there is a dark room filled with colourful moving, growing flowers and butterflies fluttering around – digital of course.
This led into the next room which Neil called, “Singapore’s idea of a day at the beach”. We plopped down on the big bean bags on the floor to watch the show projected onto all the walls surrounding us. The waves slowly got bigger as islands appeared, the sun was shining the whole time, suddenly, everything on the the screen was sinking and the room was filled with digital waves – trippy as.
My favourite part was seeing our drawings came to life! In a big hall there were massive screens covering all the walls and floor where animals, trucks, UFOs and plants moved around you. We sat down at a table to watch when we realised everything was drawn by the people coming through so we grabbed some crayons and paper.
Neil drew Optimus Prime in truck form – he got so excited when Optimus started driving along the walls, “Kyra, look! Optimus is going hard!” – I drew a butterfly and a shark, the shark was my favourite, other than Optimus of course.
One of my favourite places in Singapore was Raffles Hotel, the home of the original Singapore Sling. A huge white building, older looking than most of the city, full of history with a sneaky bar down the back and up some stairs called Long Bar. Mr Ngiam Tong Boon created the drink in 1915, why? The bar used to be down on the road and the men would drink outside watching the women, who rarely went in, go by. Boon noticed this and decided to make an alcoholic drink that looked like a fruit juice and didn’t taste like alcohol – it worked, the ladies loved it, the guys too I suspect.
Visiting the Long Bar now is like going back in time, the wooden interior, the old school décor and the fact you are encouraged to throw the shells from free bags of peanuts on each table on the floor was just marvellous darling.
Coming in at a close second favourite was the National Orchid Gardens or should I say wonderland? Neil’s dad, Kev, told us we couldn’t miss this spot and man were we glad we explored it. It took about an hour to walk through the beautiful well cared for home of 60,000 orchid plants. At one point it poured down with rain, but rain storms don’t last too long in Singapore. The garden has over 1000 natural species and over 2000 hybrid “experimental” species all in three hectares. I would go back in a heart beat.
Neil has a a few good mates from Dental School living in Singapore who invited us around to their place for dinner one night. Oh, how the other half lives. Most of the people in Singapore live in massive apartment buildings that go up up up and down under ground. The friends we visited lived in a flash complex that included a spa, two swimming pools and a gym. They put on a feast for us and we had a spa after dinner, it was a wonderful night seeing some familiar friendly faces.
On our last day in Singapore we crammed in two big adventures that I would advise, if you plan on coming here, you should really take a day to do both.
The first was the Tree Top Walk just north of the city centre. We walked through a massive rainforest to get to the canopy walk, which is totally free. It took us a few hours in total and we forgot to take water! Luckily the rangers office just before the the canopy started had some. This place had the most monkeys we have seen in one place yet. One tried to jump on my bag, but I moved just in time, another pulled a girl’s hair behind us and the cheeky things stole as much food as they could get their fingers on.
After getting all hot and sweaty in the jungle we rushed to our second adventure and caught a cable car to Sentosa island, a total tourist hub. Man made beaches, lots of cable cars to ride, Universal Studios, a big water theme park, heaps of food and some cool history. I think Neil’s photos tell the story of how awesome this place was.
Apparently the best part of Singapore – according to everyone we talked to before coming here. We had to get amongst!
My first meal in Singapore was a delicious cottage cheese Indian curry, eaten traditionally. This meant no utensils (hands only) and off a banana leaf. A little odd at first, but sooo good. Neil loves this way of eating as he can be as messy as he wants. The food only got better from there.
When Neil left his job at Waikato Hospital to marry me and travel around the world his awesome work mates booked and paid for us to go to Straits Kitchen in Singapore. This was amazing! It had four different South East Asian cuisines: Indian, Malay, Chinese and Peranakan. I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to eat due to my coeliacs #glutard as it was buffet style, but the head chef, Kenny (awesome dude), noticed my concern and personally assisted me the whole night, making me feel very special.
– All of the Indian curries, and they made a great murtabak
– Beef Rengang, sayor Lodeh
– The satay grill – charcoal makes everything taste great
– Classic fried rice, roast duck, braised chicken
– The famous wok fried crab – had fun cracking into this
– Prawn Mee soup
– And to finish up: mango pudding, Gui ling Gao (herbal jelly – not our thing at all!), min jiang kueh and some fruits.
I think we had about six rounds of the buffet – safe to say we gained a good few kgs and couldn’t walk afterwards.
The rest of our meals were all at Hawker Centres, massive food courts filled with heaps of styles of foods cooked in traditional ways. They were awesome and really cheap! It was $5 for a main – something you’d normally pay at least $20 for back in New Zealand. I had plenty of Vietnamese and Indian food at these places (safe to assume these are usually gluten free) and Neil had pretty much everything he could – his favourite being the good old Char Kway Teow.
People keep asking me how I’m finding the place when it comes to this. I have to admit that most of the time I get a blank look and no one knows the word gluten, but I haven’t let that stop me. When I scour the menu I look for what seems to be gluten free and if I like the look of it I have two main questions, do you use flour in this? And, is there soy sauce? I haven’t been sick yet so it seems to be working!
After spending the night in the airport – worst sleep ever – we touched down in Cebu, Philippines last night and are off to our first island today! We have almost a month here and it’s the one place Neil and I have been most excited to see so far. Hopefully we will have some more good stories for you soon!