This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Singapore, Singa-pour, Singa-poor

Back in April we booked our tickets using frequent flyer miles. We could fly anywhere that United Airlines went and have a one-month layover in Japan. We chose Singapore because it was the closest place to Indonesia.

When arriving in Singapore I did not know hardly anything about the city-state except that it is very clean -- the stewardess on our flight announced that chewing gum is illegal in Singapore. From searching hotels online, I could deduce that it was not cheap. The only rooms under US $65 were in the red light district. Our hotel was in Chinatown. We take a shuttle from the airport that passes between a very large port on our left and tall, glass and steel buildings on our right. There are many cranes which means money for construction and development. We also pass right behind the brand new 2,500 room Las Vegas Sands hotel and casino (see above photo). It is dark by the time we get to the hotel.

We settle into the room and decide to go for dinner. However, our hotel is actually on the outskirts of Chinatown and we would have to take a bus. It is raining. We are a bit disorientated as to where we are in the new mega-city and not quite sure how to manage public transportation. Also, we forgot to buy ponchos or a small umbrella in Japan. Luckily, in the hotel parking lot an American guy says he is heading in our direction and offers us a ride. It ends up that he has been in Singapore for ten months on business and has been living at our hotel because apartments can be ridiculously expensive ion Singapore. He also says that Singapore is very safe. He feels safer here than in the neighborhood of his US $1.5 million home in Virginia Beach. Yes, he quoted us his home price. He drops us off in Chinatown and kindly loans us an umbrella.

Now very hungry we snack at a stall selling fishballs on a stick for S$1 (US $.75). Mika also gets a giant steamed pork bun. Passing red lanterns and stores selling every type of Chinese knickknack we find a small touristy restaurant street, but none of the stalls have customers. So we go to a very busy sidewalk restaurant selling rice pooridge.

The next day, July 3, we make our plan to see some outdoor sights, but it is just dumping rain outside. So we change plans to head to Orchard Road. Singapore is a shopping mecca. On the city map Orchard Rd. alone has thirty-eight shopping malls! The rain has let up, and the street is quite busy. I am not sure though who is actually shopping because everything is very expensive compared to the US, Europe or even Japan. Mika thinks that it is tourists from other Asian countries who do not have stores like Zara, Mango or Uniqlo, a Japanese clothing chain. We eat lunch in a great food court with all Asian stalls. The first time ever I have been to a mall food court without pizza or Chick-fil-a.
We have our fill of window shopping and people watching, so we hop on the ultra-clean subway to hunt out Merlion, the symbol of Singapore. The subway stop lets us out in an area with beautiful colonial buildings. We follow a canal and other tourists to Merlion and get our glimpse of a four-foot tall statue of a lion head with a fishtail spouting water from his mouth. That’s it? The great symbol of Singapore! Oh wait,behind this little guy is something much larger encased in scaffolding and a blue tarp. The sign from the Singapore government says that “Merlion is taking a shower.”

Mika wants to go up the casino to Sky Garden and I want to go see the famous Raffles Hotel and have their signature drink, the Singapore Sling. The casino is a long walk from where we are, the sky is very cloudy, and it costs S$20 (US$15). We go to Raffles Hotel. A colonial style building founded in 1887 and named for Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore. But we actually just see the shopping plaza and courtyard. Only hotel guests are allowed in the immaculate reception area. To keep out gawkers, like us, from the $800/night lobby they have moved the famous hotel bar. At the bar, a Singapore Sling costs a whopping S$29.50. At the courtyard it is a bargain at just S$25. I may be somewhat of a miser, but I can also splurge for the right occasion. However, on principle alone, I cannot pay over US$20 for a cocktail. Mika is a bit miffed, but we must stand by our principles. Plus this is the same woman who boycotted our nearest supermarket on principle for over a year because of terrible customer service she received once. We leave Raffles Hotel. Outside a parade is soon starting. We wait and wait and wait in the rain under our umbrella for a parade that except for a few tanks rolling past us just never gets started. We take the subway back to Chinatown for a hotpot buffet dinner. Every table has a gas stove. They bring a large pot of broth to the table. In the restaurant are large quantities of meat, seafood and vegetables that you get yourself and cook in the broth.
On Sunday morning, we go to my friend Louise’s for brunch. I know Louise from my Japanese class in Tokyo. She and her family have now relocated to Singapore. They live on a very busy road, but their lovely gated-community feels like an oasis away from the constant Singapore bustle. After brunch we take a taxi to the airport. We vow that when we return to Singapore for our return to the US that it will be for just one night, with no shopping, we will go up to the Sky Garden, and that we will splurge for a fancy hotel but definitely not a US$20 Singapore Sling.


  1. Singapore has just been taken off my must see list!! Hopefully, by now, you have found some peace and quiet in Bali.

  2. In my opinion, Tokyo, Bangkok and Hong Kong are much more vibrant Asian cities. Seoul is on my must see list. Bali has been good, thanks. Not quite sure about "peace and quiet", but we have definitely adjusted to the flow of the island.

    Thanks for your comment!