After weeks of waiting (weeks? Months? Years? Honestly, it feels like I’ve been back at work for a lifetime!), I’m finally writing about my trip to Singapore.
As you know from my previous post, What I am Actually Most Excited to do in Singapore, my trip was primarily to visit my mom and step-dad, D’Arcy. I got lucky that my mom had business in a crazy cool country like Singapore and I was able to tag along.
You may remember I had four full pages of things to do when I started planning my trip a few months ago. While I didn’t get to everything on my list (I was on vacation, not a scavenger hunt!), I managed to hit most of my top activities. The others? Well, they slowly fell of my top list in favour of other things (like learning how to eat in a Singaporean food court – it’s a real skill!).
I decided to change things up with Singapore. Rather than write a list of things to do (which I will … eventually), I want to share my 7 days in Singapore in more detail.
It started out as one post, but as you may have realized by now, I can always find more to say. So, it’s now going to be a series. How many posts will there be? Good question. I’m not sure yet. We’ll just have to wait and see!
To kick us off, it seemed like a good idea to start at the beginning (didn’t Maria Von Trapp say that’s the best place to start? Oh no, my musical nerd is showing!).
So off we go, on a series of Singaporean adventures!
I arrived in Singapore around 8:30 pm, after flying for 10 hours without any sleep (damn middle seat!). Singapore is 5 hours behind New Zealand, which meant my brain was lost somewhere in the foggy land of 1 am.
I have to commend Singapore though, getting through customs was a breeze! The lines moved quickly and the customs people weren’t too chatty, so I was able to get out of the airport in record time. Changi Airport isn’t the kind of airport most people want to leave, with its butterfly garden, waterfall and museum. But I had places to be and people to see!
It was all I could do to keep my eyes open on the cab ride to the city centre. I vaguely remember glimpses of skyscrapers lit in a variety of colours and circling a giant fountain. But any beautiful first sights would have to wait until the next day to have any real impact on me.
Mostly I remember seeing my mom and D’Arcy standing in the lobby waving at me. I half-ran half-walked into the building, trying to keep my duffel bag and purse from strangling me, so I could give them both a hug.
I think the adrenaline of seeing them was the only thing that kept me awake to chat in their hotel room while eating leftover seafood fried rice.
By the time I got back to my room, I barely managed to stay standing in the shower before collapsing in the bed.
My first day in Singapore was D’Arcy’s only day with us, so I wasn’t about to waste it sitting in a hotel room trying to sort out my jet lag. (At that point, I was also in complete denial that I was at all jet lagged.)
After what was probably the most elaborate buffet breakfast I’ve ever had in my life, we headed out for our day’s adventure. (I’m not going to get into how INSANELY luxurious the Ritz Carleton was and what a fantastic time I had at the hotel, because it deserves its own post. Which I will manage to write one of these days!)
Armed with sun hats, horrible fake-coconut smelling sunscreen and mini hotel water bottles, we headed into the incredibly humid heat of Singapore. It was like walking into a wall of heat. After a summer in New Zealand that reached 30 C, I thought I’d be prepared, but I was so not ready for Singapore’s temperatures.
My mom and D’Arcy had been to Singapore before. D’Arcy had been doing business there for years and had seen the metropolis slowly bloom into what it is now. Walking with them across Helix bridge and over to Gardens by the Bay was like having two private tour guides. They pointed out the new barrage that went up in the last year, explained the history of the city-state and added their own stories.
The Flower Dome
We started with the Flower Dome, wandering through the last day of the cherry blossom exhibit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen real cherry blossoms before. I happily clicked photo after photo of each new flower I found, while my mom tried to convince D’Arcy of new things to add to our gardens back home. (Apparently he’s already built a greenhouse in the backyard since the trip, so who knows what will be in the garden come summer.)
It’s a miracle my allergies held off long enough for me to make it through the flower dome without literally sneezing my head off. Maybe it’s part of the magic of Singapore. Or maybe I was so jet lagged my senses weren’t even able to function.
Regardless, it meant I was able to enjoy our time in the air-conditioned dome, so I was happy.
My phone is full of photos of the intricate wood carvings of Alice in Wonderland, dragons, Winnie the Pooh and horses that were hidden amongst the blooms. I stuck my face into a few of the brighter blooms and kept trying to resist the urge to touch the mini cacti in the succulent exhibit.
Adult supervision is probably the only reason I didn’t.
The Cloud Forest
I had seen so many photos of the waterfall inside the Cloud Forest that I knew I desperately wanted to visit. Something about the indoor mountain they’d created fascinated me and I wanted to have a look.
Luckily, it was also on D’Arcy’s list for the day so I didn’t have to wait to go inside.
It was so weird to leave the humidity of the outdoors to step into the wet rainforest indoors. Although we’d missed the misting by 30 minutes, there was still a dampness to the air.
The indoor waterfall fell about 8 stories and peppered you with droplets if you got too close. Around the waterfall, the mountain was covered in flora and fauna. Mom pointed out some orchids, but I otherwise had no idea what it all was. Little plaques named some of the species, but the words were meaningless to me. I only recognized the flowers I’d seen in Auckland months ago that reminded me of ballerinas or fairies.
It was comforting to see a bit of New Zealand when I was so far away from my new home.
In the Cloud Forest, an elevator takes you to the top of the mountain. From the inside, you make your way down on a walkway that extends outside of the mountain and over the other plants. Every few feet someone was taking photos.
Often, that person was me.
The Supertree Grove
You can’t visit Gardens by the Bay without seeing the Supertree Grove. The iconic structures stand above everything else in the park. Even if you don’t head over to them, you’re bound to catch a glimpse of the metal branches above the trees.
I kept looking up at them in awe as we walked beneath them. The purple metal was covered in greenery that faded towards the top of the structures. People were clambering along the walkway that was suspended midway-up the trees. I added that to my list of must dos during my trip.
But not that at that moment.
Food and a nap were calling us. Walking slightly above the ground wasn’t going to win out over those two things.
A Break from Exploring
Lunch was surprisingly delicious sushi from a small restaurant in the mall attached to our hotel.
Afterwards, I could barely keep my eyes open and passed out on top of the covers of my bed for an hour. My plans to write my blog post abandoned when I woke up fifteen minutes before we needed to leave.
Old Friends and Little India
D’Arcy met Kean through work. They become close friends and make sure to meet up when the other is in town. Luckily for us, Kean had just gotten back into Singapore. He has played tour guide for my parents before. Now I was finally getting to go on one of his famous city adventures.
Kean took us and another workmate to Little India, a part of Singapore none of us had been to before.
Kean was a wealth of information. He answered every question we could think of about Singapore, Little India and the weird vegetables in the food stalls. He even managed to find my mom some peppercorns to take home. I can see why my mom always tells me about the trips he takes them on around his city.
The streets of Little India were packed full of people. Apparently, Sunday is a day off for almost all of the migrant Indian workforce in Singapore. Without places to entertain their friends, they hang out on every available surface in Little India.
I’m not a huge fan of crowds and my jet lag kept trying to tell me it was time to go to sleep. The whole place was sensory overload on a good day. My brain couldn’t keep up. I didn’t even attempt to take photos.
Even wandering through a temple – something I would usually be extremely interested in – couldn’t make me stop fidgeting. It wasn’t until we sat down for coconut juice and fresh lime juice, away from the crowds, that I felt better. Finally, I could move my arms without touching another person and I could really listen to Kean’s stories.
Lesson learned: don’t go to little India on a Sunday!
Jumbo for Chilli Crab
We went to JUMBO Seafood, a chain restaurant, on the waterfront for dinner. It’s a ritual for my step-dad: come to Singapore and go to Jumbo for chilli crab.
We sat outside, looking out on a sea full of tankards. I’d never seen so many in one place before. The heat wasn’t fading, although the sun was starting to set. Even the fan I kept angling myself towards wasn’t helping.
At that point, the sugar in my Sprite was the only thing keeping me from falling asleep on the table (like a young girl two tables over).
Kean ordered for us. I only recognized two of the dishes he chose: chilli crab and cereal prawns. They were on my list of food to try in Singapore.
I just hoped I could stay awake to eat them.
Chilli crab is famous in Singapore. It has Chinese and Malaysian roots, but is utterly Singaporean. The crab is served in the shell, but cut into pieces. It’s sitting in a red sauce that I managed to cover myself to the elbows in while devouring the crab. I even sliced open my index finger trying to get the elusive bit of crab meat from the joint. The sauce is a mixture of spices that bring on a pleasantly slow burn as you eat. It’s not overly spicy, but your lips are tingling by the end of the meal.
It’s a must have when you visit Singapore – for good reason!
We also had black pepper crab (I think it’s inferior to chilli crab, but my mom prefers it), deep fried buns that are slightly sweet, fried rice and some sort of green vegetable in a thick, dark sauce.
I’m drooling just remembering it all!
I went back for seconds, then thirds, then fourths, until I was the only one at the table still eating.
Marina Bay Light Show
The giant windows by the elevators at the Ritz look out onto Marina Bay, providing a perfect view for the nightly light show. We arrived back just in time to watch the second show of the evening.
Mom rushed to the decorative couch when she realized it was starting. I sort of flopped onto it and tried to keep my eyes open as lights flashed on the Supertrees.
It didn’t feel worth staying up for at that point, but seeing my mom pressed against the glass like a kid at the zoo kept me there. I didn’t want to miss out, even if I couldn’t muster the energy to match her excitement.
I was just happy to be there with her after so long apart.
The end! Of day one anyway.
As you can see, we did a lot in one day. We ventured across the city, walked over 25,000 steps (according to my phone) and ate our weight in delicious food three times over (four if you count the honey pork dumplings I scarfed down alone in my room before my nap).
Don’t worry. This isn’t the end of my Singapore adventures!
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