Sunday, February 13, 2011
Saturday, February 12, 2011
As I type this it is snowing outside...quite a different scenery than where I was a week ago in "Sunny Singapore"! Back in Japan it might be chilly and white outside, but in Singapore it always feels like summer!
This was my first visit (and hopefully not my last) to the gorgeous country of Singapore! The ship Nick is deployed with pulled into port in Singapore making the perfect excuse for me to fly out there and meet him! Best decision ever! We got 5 days together in a romantic place with delicious food and even better shopping!
Prior to the trip I didn’t know much about Singapore, but with many tips from other Navy spouses (port calls to Singapore are not uncommon!) and an exceptional guidebook, I felt ready to take on Singapore with gusto! (Thank you Mari for letting me borrow your guidebook… Lonely Planet’s Singapore Encounter written by Matt Oakley…was Nick and my go-to the entire trip!)
We stayed in a quaint B&B in Little India…not exactly my first option, but with the money we saved, we were able to fully enjoy our trip! The Perak Hotel might lack a swimming pool (for a beach girl such as myself, pools are a big deal!) but it did have excellent service! And bonus…we were super close to delicious Indian food, which we took full advantage of!
Little India is a neighborhood of Singapore that feels like just that…little India! The smell of curry fills the air, while hundreds of Tamil immigrants flood the streets – either shopping, selling or socializing! The street venders call out to you as you pass by, “pretty pashmina for you, I give you good price!” Or, “you want souvenir, I have very special thing for you!”
Nick and I just so happened to be in Singapore during the Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year is the “most important of the Chinese holidays,” marking the end of the winter season! They don’t take this holiday lightly…pouring money into decorations, parades and festivals! Singapore too has a large Chinese population, thus making it a popular place for another Chinese New Year celebration!
The Asians are full of superstition and tradition. Not surprisingly, tradition surrounds the Chinese New Year celebration as well. For example, the color red is significant to Chinese New Year because, legend has it the demons are afraid of red…therefore red lanterns and paper decorations were hung throughout the city as ritual! Also, firecrackers are set off at night…to ward off the evil spirits!
This year is the “Year of the Rabbit”! (The 4th animal in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac) The rabbit is lucky! So this should be a lucky year, right?!?!
There were rabbit decorations everywhere and children had bunny ears on top their heads! (It felt like Easter came early this year!)
For dinner our first night in Singapore we attempted to eat at a restaurant, which I am sad to say, was not open due to the Chinese New Year! (A reoccurring theme for our trip…One shop owner told me, “You come at a very bad time! Everything closes for Chinese New Year!” Thanks Mister…as if it were my choice??!) Nonetheless, Anthony Bourdain (a famous chef and television personality) has a list of the “13 Places to Eat Before You Die”…it just so happens that #5 is in Singapore! Sin Haut Seafood Restaurant…look it up, it is apparently, “worth having!”
Instead we ended up going to another well-known restaurant on our list…Banana Leaf Apolo, and had AMAZING Indian food! The food was served on banana leaves, making for a unique dining experience. The guidebook (as well as the menu) prompted us to try the famous fish-head curry! We did just that…though the thought of eating something that stared back at us was not appealing, the spices had our mouths screaming for more! Yum, yum, yum! (PS…Alka-Seltzer is needed after consuming this fiery dish!)
New Year’s Eve, (February 2nd) Chinatown was madness…with firecrackers, lights, and throngs of people. New Years Day, everything was pretty dead…shops and restaurants were closed, because the Chinese were home celebrating with their families!The boys picked up some Chinese souvenirs and created their own parade down the street!
Clark Quay has a little bit of everything…from coffee bars to tapas and themed restaurants to ice cream parlors. We chose a little spot right in the middle of it all, where you could sit outside and smoke hookah or shisha as it is called in Little India!
The Raffles Hotel is extremely old (1887) and exceedingly romantic, but what brought us there that evening was the Singapore Sling! This drink is famous all over Singapore, but it originated at the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel! Not one to let something historical pass me by, I too had to order this ridiculously priced cocktail!!!! (and keep the glass as a souvenir!)
That night was a little more low-key because Nick had watch/duty - meaning he had to patrol the area and make sure there wasn’t any trouble....no problem, the guide book gave us a suggestion for a place to dine in the area where Nick had to be!
Hawker centre’s (an open-air complex where many stalls are set up, selling a variety of inexpensive food) are abundant in Singapore. We were told Newton Circus was the best, known for it’s carrot cake and fishball noodles!
The “carrot cake” isn’t the sweet carrot tasting cake from the States, in fact there’s no carrots in it whatsoever! It’s actually fried eggs, radish (which tastes like hash browns) and garlic! The name was deceiving, but the dish was delicious!
The fishball noodles (which are just that, fish noodles made into balls and served in soup) are famous in Singapore, but I could do without eating them a second time! Once was enough for me!
The last night we got dressed up and went to the Swissotel for dinner at Equinox on the 70th floor! It was worth the view!
The lights of the city can’t be fully appreciated from many other places…but 70 floors up we simply stared out the windows throughout our meal enjoying seeing Singapore as a whole!
After dinner, we made our way over to Sentosa Island…still another part of Singapore, we had yet to enjoy! Sentosa is a world of it’s own, and honestly we could have stayed our entire trip there and still not had time to see and do everything! It’s got gorgeous beaches and loads of entertainment venues, including Universal Studios!
We got there late enough that most of the things were closing, but the Casino was still booming! We sat down at the bar and watched a couple shows…little Asian ladies doing dance moves like they were in their teens (seriously, we were astounded) and then Asian young men doing Kung Fu fighting! Very entertaining! (No pictures because cameras weren't permitted in the casino)
My last day, I was fortunate enough to get a late flight out of Singapore, so Nick and I spent the entire day soaking up Singapore scenery and sun! (and maybe some smooches too!)
Once inside Singapore's Botanic Garden (admission is free), you can pay a little extra and see the National Orchid Garden! Both are full of lush greenery and beautiful flowers!
This is no regular ferris wheel, it is a 30-minute ride on the world’s largest observation wheel! Again we were able to see the sights of Singapore, but this time during the day!
One last dinner at a cute little Bistro near our Hotel…The Black Sheep Café shouldn’t be overlooked, the food is prepared by a former chef of the Raffles Hotel!!! For a ¼ of the price, you can eat delicious food in a much quainter location!