Jan. 24th- 27th
I know I am behind on the old Patagonia posts (and the rest of 2016), but it’s a new year right? I will still slowly be working on my old posts, but I figured I should write on our current travels while everything is still fresh.
Year #2 of our travels started with Asia, Singapore being the first stop. While planning our first accommodations before we left, I was surprised of the prices and availability. We knew Singapore was going to be slightly more expensive, but didn’t know the reason for such limited options almost a month out. In doing a little more research, Uriah had booked our flights two days before the start of the Chinese New Years. Having flash backs of our Rio New Years experience, I started to get worried. These worries were mostly subdued after reading many sources on Singapore being one of the safest countries, but a little lingered in the back of my mind up until we got to the airport. But let’s get to the story…
We had a “layover” (10 days) in Hawaii, to spend some time with family, before flying to the other side of the world. We enjoyed being able to visit O’ahu again, previously in 2014, to relax and spend time with Uriah’s cousin who recently moved there. Shout out to Branden and Kayce for being awesome hosts in their adorable apartment.
Soaking up all the sun we could, we soon set out on our new adventure. We had a long, comfortable, 19 hours of flights and layovers. Arriving to the airport, we were greeted with the color red and roosters everywhere! Chinese New Years was just around the corner and for those of you who aren’t familiar with the holiday, it is the BIGGEST of the year for Chinese cultures! Luck and good fortune trinkets are everywhere, not just for the tourists, but largely apart of local tradition. We flew into Changi airport which is one of the largest in Southeast Asia and voted “best airport” for multiple years now. One thing to note about Singapore is when they do something THEY GO ALL OUT. The biggest, brightest, and most organized everything. That being said, we didn’t explore the airport much but in hurrying out, there were trees towering over the second floor escalator….inside the building….
We had a little bit of a scuffle with the immigration process. Sidenote: Every country has it’s quirks about getting that stamp in your passport. Some countries won’t even look at your picture and others make you show accommodation, bank statements, proof of onward travel, etc. Singapore was kind of in the middle. The standard visa-on-arrival is 30 days for US citizens, but possible for up to 90 days. We were interested in 60 days, in case we wanted to stay longer (always better to have a little more time available than not enough). Handing the immigration officer our form and passports, she quickly pointed out that we didn’t have an address listed for where we were staying. Normally this hasn’t been a problem, but Singapore seemed a little more by the book. Since we didn’t have the address handy, we stepped aside to complete the form, then waited back in line. Sent to another agent, he quickly pointed out we left the name of the hotel blank and asked if we were staying there the entire 60 days. We explained we were booked at an Airbnb, which we found out later is actually illegal, but only had 1 week booked and were going to “play it by ear” after. He didn’t care for this answer and had a few follow up questions, which after answering, he hesitantly stamped us in for the full 90 days (I guess its either the 30 or 90)
Being much more prepared than last years shenanigans, I had all the google directions saved on the phone and offline maps as well, just in case we couldn’t find service. We breezed in with strong LTE and a super efficient metro (MRT) that was connected to the airport and lead us right to the stop by our place of stay. The signs were easy to follow and we bought our tickets to our stop using an automated machine. We probably looked like tourist robots on the MRT because we had heard stories of the plethora of things you can be fined, arrested, caned, and even executed (the old fashioned noose way, no lie) for. Some examples are: having/selling gum, singing, spitting, not flushing the toilet, feeding pigeons, connecting to someone else’s wifi, j walking, my favorite…littering (my favorite because it makes the city so clean and beautiful), etc. So again, robot mode on the MRT. We waited at the bus stop outside of our MRT station for our host to pick us up. A short drive later we were at our place. Nothing too fancy, we found one of the cheaper places ($30 a night), and had a pleasant stay overall with a nice family. We couldn’t figure out how to get the hot water to work on our first night (ended up being a switch on the wall) and took quick, brisk, cold showers. Our jet lag caught up to us and we fell asleep almost right away and slept for 15 hours.
A little groggy of a wake up and we immediately started to wonder what the city had to offer. As I said before, they have a lot of “the biggest and best” of things, but that also means expensive for Southeast Asia standards. We searched Groupon and some similar local sites to try and find bundle packages for various things we wanted to do. After hours of searching online our brains were fried and we needed some fresh air. Our place was in a good location where we had a beautiful distant view of the city, but were still close enough to walk to various things, including the most important…FOOD. Southeast Asia is known for it’s delicious, cheap, and various food options. So many of the travelers we met in South America raved about this and we were dying to try it. We were about a 10 minute walk from a popular hawker center (basically a big outdoor food court with tons of different food options).
We bad assly j walked, along with about 10 locals, and quickly realized the strict laws are mostly hyped up. The Newton Food Center wasn’t poppin yet because we got there early, but still had plenty of options. Although English in the primary spoken language here ::thumbs up again:: , a lot of the signs were in foreign languages. We opted for our fool proof method, the place with the longer line. With some freshly roasted duck hanging in the window, head and all, we got a couple of options, totaling around $7 USD.
Although prices were listed so we didn’t get the classic tourist cost, we were shorted our soups (which a lot of people did during our trip here). Not on my watch! I kindly went up to the counter and asked for them and was given about 10 sorrys for. Our roast duck noodle platter with some cool looking condiments (fire sauce to me) was bomb.
Having full bellies, and not a huge pep in our step, we explored the nearby “Orchard Road” which is one of the biggest shopping areas in all of Asia. It was neat to see all the posh shops, but not worth the walk in melting temperatures for people who don’t buy much. We found some AC in a tourist info center and had a fun time with the touch screen, build your own map computer. With our personalized free map in hand, we headed back home to have another extremely long nights sleep.
The next morning we woke up early and were ready to explore. We had a nice, although hot, walk to the Botanical Gardens. Free, 156 years old and a UNESCO World Heritage site, these gardens can easily fill up multiple days of light walking. Everything from a orchid garden (small entry fee) to a tropical rain forest hike, this place was amazing.
This city does not disappoint when it comes to greenery. Striving to be not a “Garden City” but a “City in a Garden” it is easy for the bustling city of 5.4 million to melt away. They also had different museums explaining all the past history of the gardens and why the orchids are so famous here. People watching was also quite interesting as well. Since it’s a free park there are daily joggers, yoga classes, wedding photographers, and nature lovers with huge big fancy cameras. A quick stroll turned into multiple hours, where my feet needed a rest and my belly needed filling. We headed over to the nearby Adams Food Center and got some well talked about Malaysian Nasi Lemak (which wasn’t my favorite because it was hella spicy), some prawn noodle deliciousness, and Uriah with his favorite roast duck noodle.
We were geared up for another couple hours of botanical garden exploration and the daylight faded. Our feet weren’t up for the mile and a half walk back home so we opted for the MRT instead, and of course, it put us right at the Newton Food Center during the dinner rush. Are you starting to notice a trend yet? 🙂 It was like a different world than the previous night. The diversity of the people in Singapore are amazing. Chinese, Arab, Indian, Malay, you name it, they’ve got it. It is so beautiful to see so many different types of people coming together in Singapore. Different people means different types of delicious food all within steps of each other. People with plastic gloves diving into fresh cooked soft crab, noodles, dumplings, veggies, prawn, uh, I’m getting hungry just thinking about it… This time some satay filled our plates (grilled meat skewers) with delicious peanut dipping sauce and was a perfect snack to end the night.
We had a leisure next morning and I could feel the previous day weighing down on my sore muscles. Off to explore little India we went! Nothing crazy here. A couple of mosques, tons of gold shops, and a small veggie street.
Heading over to a McDonalds, yes it was convenient, on the way back home to get ready for the big night out of New Year’s festivities. We headed downtown to Chinatown (haha). I’m happy we got there early because it was CRAZY! But in a very fun, organized, safe way. Stall after stall of red lanterns, small gifts, and food everywhere.
We stopped off at a small stand and got some fried calamari, curry empanadas, and chicken cheese balls. All were awesome and about $1 each.
We strolled around the alleyways and were mesmerized by all the foreign sites. Gummy candies, pork jerky (they call it pork floss), and my favorite, the dragon’s breath snack. This is basically a flavorless cheeto tossed in some liquid nitrogen so when you eat it, you can blow out the smoke and look like a dragon! Um…awesome! It was kind of hard to get since it was the must have snack and not every stall just so happens to have some liquid nitrogen laying around. The first stall we tried to scramble and push our ways to the front only for it to run out. Shortly after, we found a second stall which was much more organized with a line and a semi-show of how they make it.
The whole breathing smoke thing was harder than it looked and we probably were very entertaining to watch recording each other’s many failed attempts. Top it off with my maybe too flavorful Thai Iced Tea and we were set in the food area. We sat on some temple steps close to a stage and watched various acts ranging from bird dancing to opera singing. We had some time to kill before the party started so Uriah ended up falling asleep and I entertained myself with the show and people watching. The crowd of people started to dissipate as midnight got closer and we were wondering where they all were going. Walking around and getting turned around a couple of times, we ended up at another concert, but double the size. We couldn’t see the stage but luckily there were a couple of big screens to do the job. We were tucked away in the corner of the Chinese-only concert which was drowned out with the mass amounts of people. In front of us they were setting up what looked like to be large red ribbons. Nope totally wrong, at the stroke of midnight they lit those bad boys up and the cute flowy streamers quickly turned into ear deafening, ash throwing, jumbo sized fire crackers… It was awesome. (Video Here)
Sardining ourselves with the crowd to leave, we made our way to the MRT. Luckily we bought our return tickets earlier because the line was stupid long. We ended up boarding one of the first rides and made it home quickly. The wife of the family we were staying with shared some fresh homemade dumplings when we returned.
I guess it’s good luck to have them as your first meal of the New Year’s and we take all the luck we can get 😉
More on Singapore later when I can find some time to write 😀
Happy Travels from U & B!
Complete Singapore Photo Album Here