Cultural Notes and Observations: Singapore

  • Fast paced
  • Metropolitan
  • Extremely clean and safe
  • The transit system is efficient and not overly expensive
  • Expensive for backpackers
  • Lots of rules. For example: no eating or drinking on public transit – $500 fine
  • The city is filled with nature (parks, trees, and gardens)
  • Chewing gum is outlawed
  • Hawker food is extremely cheap compared to restaurants
  • Wifi is hard to come by
  • Outlets are a little tricky to find to charge your electronic devices
  • AMAZINGLY fast internet
  • You can drink water from the tap!!! – The first time I had been able to do that in 3 months!
  • Great luxury shopping
  • Multicultural: Chinese, Indian, Malay, Euroasian, etc

Food I Tried:

  • Chicken rice
  • Traditional Singapore Laksa
  • “Refreshing White Fungus” drink – a sweet tea with white fungus. The tea was good but I wasn’t too fond of the fungus.
  • Beef and chicken satay with peanut sauce
  • Fried Kway Teow
  • Fried Hokkien Noodle
Advertisements

Jan 31, 2017 – Gardens by the Bay and Meeting my Mom in Bangkok

dsc_3888

Gardens by the Bay

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskNYbn4C

I met Melissa for lunch on my last day in Singapore. We ended up walking to a hawker centre on the other side of Gardens by the Bay which is a beautiful park in the city with several man-made “Super Trees”. They are 25 to 50 meters tall and sparkly with hundreds of lights at night. The shape of them reminds me a little bit of the photos of trees I’ve seen in Madagascar.

At the hawker centre, the two of us sampled fried kway teow, fried hokkien noodle, and beef and chicken satay with peanut sauce. They were all delicious! I also got a traditional Singapore Laksa (I had been aching to try) to-go for dinner later. The laksa tasted like one I had tried to make at home once that had ended up a disaster. This one was one hundred times better.

After lunch, I caught my flight to Bangkok to meet Barb, my mom. I haven’t see her in about four months. Barb has never been outside of North America before (with the exception of Mexico) so I was excited to see her and explore Thailand together. After exiting the airport, I took the metro to the city and then hailed a motorbike to take me the rest of the way to the Ramada. I checked in and at reception and was provided with a refreshing glass of juice. Yum!

I opened the door to our room on the 14th floor with an amazing view and waited. Less than an hour later my mom popped her head in the door. We had a warm reunion and chatted for a couple hours before heading to sleep at 2:30am.

 

Jan 30, 2017 – The Cable Car and Botanical Gardens of Singapore

32511650772_31c495dbac_o

The Singapore Cable Car

See more photos here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/140043503@N03/33dp3i

The Cable Car is a great way to see a different perspective of Singapore. According to the company, it is “the only Cable Car in the world that goes over a forest and highway, through an office building, over a cruise bay and into a resort island in 15 minutes”. Quite impressive if I do say so myself. I boarded the cable car on Sentosa Island and rode every different lines they had to offer. My last stop was Faber Peak, a popular scenic spot with a nice view. Beside the restaurant atop Faber Peak is a railing filled with hundreds of bells and one large bell that you can strike to receive good luck. It rained while I was at the top so I didn’t spend too much time there.

Once the rain stopped, I took the metro to the other side of the city to meander through the Botanical Gardens.  It was one of the largest parks/botanical gardens I have ever visited and it reminded me a little bit of Vancouver’s Stanley Park. I walked until I found the National Orchid Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I had never known that orchids are one of the most plentiful flowers in the world. Additionally, I also learned the difference between a bromeliad and epiphyte. According to one of the signs posted in the National Orchid Garden, “Bromeliads may be terrestrial (living on the ground), epiphytic (growing on the branches and trunks of other plants, or lithophytic (growing on bare rocks). Therefore, an epiphyte is a type of bromeliad. An example of a bromeliad is a pineapple plant.

It started raining again and I was incredibly grateful for the umbrella Melissa had lent me. Many people cleared out because of the rain but I was not deterred. It was a great chance to photograph some flowers with raindrops on them. I also viewed the “VIP Orchard Garden” which displays orchids named after famous people who had visited the orchard garden such as Nelson Mandela and Prince William.

As I was walking back to the metro I encountered a group of photographers with telephoto lenses. They were attempting to photograph a rare hornbill when it returned to its nest and hidden beside the nest sat  an adorable owl!

Jan 29, 2017 – Universal Studios Singapore and Lion Dancing

32620214805_1cc725da8d_o

Beware: T-Rex Crossing at Universal Studios Singapore

See more photos here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/140043503@N03/Yc1B25

I do not regret going to Universal Studios one bit! I bought my ticket at the tourist office to get a discounted rate the day before. The different worlds that were featured included:

  • Far Far Away
  • Madagascar
  • Hollywood
  • New York
  • Sci-fi City
  • Ancient Egypt
  • The Lost World

Looking at the lineup at the entrance gates, I was a little anxious that I had not purchased the more expensive Express Pass. However, once I got inside, it was smooth sailing for the rest of the morning. Several rides had priority lines for single riders which was perfect for me.

I went on the Transformers ride twice, The Mummy twice, and The Jurassic Park ride twice. I thought the Jurassic Park water ride could have incorporated more dinosaurs or splashed the audience with more water. In the afternoon, I watched a performance called “WaterWorld”. It featured some cool fire effects, but I definitely prefer the other rides. I also watched the Universal Studios Hollywood Parade which was a lot of fun!

I rode the two large roller coasters called “Cyclone” and “Human” in the afternoon. I did have to wait about half an hour in line for each roller coaster, but it was well worth it.  By the late afternoon, the lineups in the Far Far Away and Madagascar areas were over 20 minutes long for the children’s rides, so I decided it wasn’t worth my time. Overall, Universal Studios Singapore was a blast!

Trying to find dinner by my hostel was cumbersome. Most of the restaurants and hawker stalls were closed for Chinese New Year, but I eventually found one serving Thai food! I got a delicious green curry.

On the way back to my hostel, I overheard drumming coming from a Chinese temple. I stopped by and saw a lion dance performance! I was offered green tea, sweets, and a spot inside with about 50 other people. Monks were on one side of the room and children were on the other, waiting for the dragon to give them candy. It was a lot of fun!

 

Jan 28, 2017 – Celebrating Chinese New Year with Melissa and exploring Little India & China Town

melissa-and-i

Myself, Melissa, and Monty the Beagle

See more photos here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/140043503@N03/PJAg3e

To fully experience Chinese New Year, my friend Melissa graciously invited me to her family gathering at her parents’ home. Melissa lives in Singapore, but I originally met her four years ago while we were both on exchange in France. At her family’s Chinese New Year celebration, I met her parents, siblings, uncles, aunts and cousins along with Melissa’s incredibly cute dog, Monty. I’m glad I decided to wear my red dress, because it is considered to be a lucky colour in the Chinese culture. All of Melissa’s family members wore a little bit of red. Melissa and her sister each brought two oranges which represented prosperity and gave them to Melissa’s mother. Red envelopes were also distributed and I was very thankful to not only receive one, but two!

Everyone chatted while tasting an assortment of sweets, cookies, and goodies (all very delicious) along with tea. This was to balance the “hot” and “cold”. For lunch we had chicken rice which is very popular in Singapore!

Melissa also mentioned that her and her friends partake in Lo Hei or Yusheng, also known as a prosperity toss. It is a tradition in Malaysia and Singapore, where people use chopsticks to toss pieces of a raw fish salad into the air. The higher the pieces fly, the more prosperous you will be in the coming year. It sounds fun and I would like to try it one day.Overall, celebrating with Melissa’s family was a great way to experience some of the traditions and customs embedded in Chinese New Year.

In the afternoon, I ventured to Singapore’s “Little India”. It’s composed of many crowded blocks with Indian restaurants, shops, temples, and more. I was so full from Melissa’s house couldn’t eat anything!

I continued walking and found Clarke Quay. Although, it is one of the main districts for nightlife it was pretty to see during the day as well.

When I reach Chinatown, it was decorated to the nines with lanterns, lights, and roosters. It was great to walk around there in the evening, especially when everything was alight. Unfortunately, many of the hawker stalls were closed there because of the CNY holiday.

 

 

Jan 27, 2017 – Singapore’s River Hongbao Festival!

32619623725_d70c71ee9e_o

River Hongbao Festival Fireworks Display at Marina Bay

See more photos here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/140043503@N03/D79gk4

I boarded my flight in Flores to start my journey to Singapore which included a stopover in Bali. In the air, I spotted several places that I had travelled to on Lombok, Nusa Penida, and Bali which was cool. Once I landed in Singapore, I found my bag, exchanged some cash, purchased a transit pass (a must-have in Singapore), and took off to find my hostel located half an hour away by public transit.

Once I arrived, I quickly checked in and headed downtown to The Float at Marina Bay to see the River Hongbao Festival. It was amazing to see everything lit up for Chinese New Year. The large scale lantern displays were terrific. Many stamps, balloons, lanterns, etc. had roosters on them because it is that animal’s year in the Chinese calendar.

I decided to try a shawarma and a tandoori chicken burger from the large amount of food vendors set up in the festival area under a large white tent. Both were okay, but not the best.

On the main stage overlooking the water, dancers, singers, and acrobats performed. For the grand finale a group of male gymnasts executed an amazing routine where they back-flipped through hoops of various heights. After that, the fireworks filled the air for about five. The event was a lot of fun and a great introduction to Singapore!