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We didn’t have much time to explore Singapore. I’d planned for us to be here longer but because one of our flights was changed, we departed Australia a day later than I’d hoped. Singapore is a city and a country. It’s a big city that’s safe, very clean, well maintained, with terrific public transportation, cheap taxis, good food. It’s easy if a bit contrived. Sort of like an Asian Dubai.
Clearly, there was more to do than we had time for. The flight from Sydney was about 8 hours and we flew all day. So we were a bit tired and hungry when we landed and excited to get to our room in the apartment I rented on Airbnb. It was my first time using the site, but certainly not the last. It was so much cheaper, seemed a lot friendlier and more interesting than staying in a hotel. We’re not on a honeymoon after all. The is homeschool for goodness sake!
Our hostess was extremely hospitable and available for questions and help when we needed it. It was only two days but after the first night it felt like we were coming and going home to our neighborhood. It’s pretty east to get around whether you are walking, riding the MRT or taxiing. We did it all with ease once I got oriented.
Here’s what we packed in to two days.
Our first meal was a late night dinner at the Newton Food Center a short walk from the apartment where we stayed. It’s a typical open air hawker market with food stalls. I had no idea what we were going to eat but I didn’t have to work too hard to figure it out. A local guy from one of the stalls must have taken us for tourists (imagine that) put a menu in my hand, sat us down and started bringing us food. My son says he ate the best fried rice he’s ever had in his life! Mom ONE. Hungry kids ZERO.
In our neighborhood one option for getting breakfast was at the Paragon Mall. I know this sounds totally lame. Believe me. But there was a place a friend had recommended for a local style breakfast Ya Kun Kaya, and they had one there. My kids are willing to try a lot of different foods and I am happy to say they have liked just about everything (so far the only loser was cow brain!). I definitely recommend you try the steamed bread. Get the “set” which is like a meal deal. My kids loved it too!
This may sound lame as well, but I have done the Hop On Hop Off bus on several continents and it’s always been a great day. Not only can you see the entire city, you can listen as you go to learn about area. I recommend you go to Suntec City to get on the bus. All the line originate there and you can buy your tickets, get a map and be on you way. It’s true that you can get on at any stop and just pay when you hop on but we tried to get on at another stop and it didn’t work out so well.
One of the things that makes Singapore such a fun city is that it has distinct neighborhoods, and when you are in them you will feel like you are somewhere else. Namely India, China or the Middle East. Singapore is ethnically diverse with people coming from all over Asia and representing various religions and cultures. I think to ask what it means to be Singaporean is like asking what it means to be American. It’s more an ideology than anything.
Our first stop, Little India. We had a look around and then parked ourselves at a corner restaurant and ate lunch. We also got off the bus later that afternoon in Chinatown. But we were enjoying just riding the bus so much we didn’t feel the need to get off much. We did end our journey on the bus at the highly acclaimed Gardens by the Bay. It’s a must see attraction if you can only pick one or two big things to do. The entire place is impressively well planned, which seems to be the norm with Singapore.
The project’s vision is not to simply add gardens to the city but to create the impression that Singapore is a city in a garden. There are several main attractions, but the top three are the Flower Dome, Cloud Forest and the Supertree Grove. All of these structures have a prominent presence in Singapore’s skyline (along with the Marina Bay Sands development). I was glad I didn’t buy tickets in advance. The domes are closed on alternating days for maintenance, so we couldn’t visit them both on the same day. We first saw the Flower Dome.
For dinner we met a friend who lives in Singapore – a family we met just weeks earlier in Fiji! How cool is that? We ate at the well-loved Din Tai Fung. We went to the location in the Marina Bay Sands shopping mall (Asians love malls what can I say?) because you can easily walk there from the Gardens by the Bay. Take your chances because you can’t make reservations and the place will most likely be packed. But the food is soooooo good! You won’t be disappointed.
After dinner it was back to the Supertree Grove for the 8:45pm nightly music and light show. This is the second of two shows and it was the perfect way to end our day. Take a seat, or lay down on the ground as we did, and look up and enjoy the show. It’s beautifully orchestrated. It was my favorite thing we did in Singapore.
We got a much-needed late morning start, then headed down to the Kampong Glam, the Malay and Arab neighborhood to have lunch with our friends again. We had delicious Thai-Indonesian food at Bumbu, in the heart of the action. If you go try the Tahu Telor and the Olive Oil Rice, both delish!
With just a couple of hours left we decided to see the Cloud Forest, since it was closed the day before, and because it is quite different from the Flower Dome. It was worth the trip. It’s such a unique place, being under the huge glass dome, looking out over the Bay and seeing all the tropical highland plants and the world’s largest indoor waterfall.
It was fitting that our last memory of Singapore wasn’t representative of any one ethnic group. Our farewell was spending time in a place that represents everyone who calls Singapore home.