The next morning we ate our hotel’s excellent buffet. It had a huge array of food, mostly western and Japanese and it was a great start to the day. We then hopped on the bus and headed out to expensive downtown area.
*Side note- Every souvenir shop sells a shirt that says “Singapore is a FINE city” and then has drawings of all of the different ways you can get fined in Singapore– spitting, chewing gum and many other things. On trucks, there are stickers laying out the fines for sitting too high up in the bed of truck to hanging things too far back in the truck. In the bathroom, there are stickers showing you how to wash your hands, how to aim in the toilet, how to keep the toilet seat clean and how to dry your hands after you wash them so that you don’t get the floor wet. I don’t think that they necessarily have more laws/fines than any other country, but they have PSAs on how to do things properly everywhere. And, although I am not a big gum chewer, I was quite craving it once it was illegal (and haven’t wanted it at all now that I’m in Malaysia!).*
Okay, so once downtown, we asked how to get to the restaurant that we had reservations for because we were in the area of town that the Lonely Planet guidebook said it was. The first person we asked said that it was too far to walk and that we needed to take 2 buses to get there. Many people in SE Asia seem love to tell you that a place is too far to walk (and then you find out that it is around the corner) so we asked another person who told us it was off the map, as in, it really was too far to walk. In retrospect, we should have caught a cab, but we decided not to go at all. An herbalist hears your ailments and then decides which herbs should be cooked into your food. Anyone who knows me, know that I have more days filled with ailments than not, so I was quite excited to try this place out… if we ever return to Singapore, I will surely go.
Anyway, we decided to walk to the Swissotel Hotel because it has a bar with an excellent view of Singapore for disappoinment number 2. We now know that David always needs to travel with at least 1 button down shirt, because quite a few places require them. Bummer. So, we headed to Raffles Hotel. Along the way, we watched a bit of a squash game, which I’ve never seen before and I still don’t understand from my limited viewing. We reached Raffles and walked around the gardens, which were lovely. Raffles was built in 1887 by two Armenian brothers who wanted to build an upscale hotel. It was the place to be in the 20s but barely made it through the Great Depression and the Japanese occupation of Singapore during WWII. It was updated in the 90s to look like it did in the 1915. We went to Raffles’ Long Bar to have a famous Singapore Sling in the bar that it was invented in. For one small drink, it had about 10 different ingredients (gin, lime juice, pinapple juice, grenadine and few other things) and was reddish pink (originally created for the ladies). It cost $21 and was not my favorite drink but was not a syruppy sweet as I was expecting and it was worth the cost for the experience. We then meander around town and went to a restaurant/shopping area that used to be a convant and that had many lovely gardens. We started the very roundabout walk towards the water front (perhaps there was a quicker route but we could see the giant hotel that we wanted to go to and just tried to walk towards it). We got to a mall and David was hungry so we stopped to eat in the food court. He ordered some chicken, noodle, curry soup item that was very delicious but gave me quite an allergy attack. Thankfully I go nowhere without my inhaler and benadryl, so we sat for a bit and headed towards the water again. We ran into tons of people dressed in red and white as we walked to the Singapore Flyer, the world’s biggest ferris wheel (we later found out that they were the Singapore soccer fans cheering against Malaysia). Although the flyer is so enormous that you can see Malaysia and Indonesia, we decided against the ride, since David is afraid of heights and I am a bit claustraphobic (the ferris wheel didn’t have seats but glass cages that you could walk around in) and 30 minutes sounded too long for both of us. We walked down to the water and watched some rowing teams competing and then decided we were too tired to make it to the hotel that we wanted to go to. We still don’t know what it was called, but it was 3 massive towers and it looked like a giant cruise ship was precariously perched atop them. You could see people mingling about the ‘cruise ship.’ Another thing to do for next time, I supposed. We headed back through Chinatown and ended up only getting some boba for dinner (those tapioca balls fill you up!) and did a bit of shopping.
Sunday morning, we had another giant, leisurely breakfast and headed to the hostel that we were starting our tour at. We dropped off our bags and were told that since it was too hot to go out, we could go hang out in the computer room upstairs. We decided to skip on that advice and headed to Little India. I love saris and love gold jewelry and if I were to come back in another life, I would want to be an Indian woman, just to wear their stunning outfits and accessories. There were jewelry shops with intricate gold jewelry everywhere, good sized shops with nothing but rows and rows of bangles and little stands with necklaces made of fresh flowers (used for weddings, celebrations and to go to the temple). We headed to Komala Vilas, a vegetarian Indian restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet. The restaurant was packed, mostly with locals (and a few other tourists, no doubt also LP owners). We ordered 1 plate each and 1 side of dosai, a huge and very thin bread. The food was incredible and we ate until we were stuffed and then ate some more and still couldn’t finish. It made me want to find a good Indian restaurant in San Diego. I highly suggest it if anyone ever heads to Singapore. After Little India, we head to Arab Street (which is the name of the main street and the Muslim area of town). Arab Street was very pleasant without all of the crowds of people in Little India and very few cars, a pretty mosque and nice facades and trees around the shops and streets. One of the streets was strictly fabrics, beaded appliques, buttons, trims and beads. It was fantastic and would surely be one of my favorite hangouts if it was in California. After that, we headed back to meet our group for the first time.
We met up with our Intrepid group for a meeting and dinner. There are 12 total in a group and they are from Canada, Holland, England, Germany, Switzerland, New Zealand and Australia. This group only stays with us for the first two weeks of our tour and the last week in Thailand we get a new group. Our leader is a 27 year old Thai (Molly) and she is quite darling and animate and she LOVES to eat. I love traveling abroad (for many reasons, of course), but one reason is because I will lose 10 lbs every times because of less snacking, eating fresh cooked food with lots of meat/fish and veggies and not snacking. First, at least in Malaysia, the portions are tons of rice and noodles and tiny bits of veggies and meat. Secondly (and the most influencing) is that Molly is a tiny woman with a huge appetite. She keeps us well fed and points out the delicious bakeries and food stalls when we are walking through towns. It’s become our joke that everyone will gain wait on this tour, although I’m pretty sure that is reality and not a joke.
We actually have been in Malaysia for a week now and leave for Thailand in the morning. Hopefully I will have time to write tomorrow night when we reach Thailand. Updates to come about Melaka (which we loved), Kaula Lumper, the homestay and Penang (sadly, a disappointment).