Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sweet Sunny Singapore...

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!”

Singapore is known for it's vast mixture of cultures and ethnicities. Due to the diversities, Singapore actually has 4 official languages, with English being the first language! This was a breath of fresh air to Nick and I, especially since in Japan everything is in Kanji! In Singapore we could actually read the train maps, street signs and EVERY restaurant menu!

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!)

Tiger Beer is a famous beer that Nick and I had never tried prior to coming to Asia…it originated in Singapore in 1932! I am no beer drinker, but given this beer is local and has won so many awards, I too had to try it…. head!

After dinner, we took a train to Chinatown... Since it was New Year's Day, the lights were still lit, but the streets were empty!

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!
Cherry Blossom lights...they lined the streets of pretty!

One can never run out of things to do in Singapore...there are so many different districts each with such diverse themes, that you won't run out of options for dining or entertainment!

Since Chinatown was dead, we headed over to the Clark Quay area...

The Clark Quay area reminds me of Downtown Disney in Orlando Florida…it’s a “colourful kaleidoscope” of modern buildings with lots of lights and a strip of wine bars, restaurants and retail shops clustered together next to the Singapore River! A good place to be at night when there’s music and entertainment...we weren’t disappointed!

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!

Thanks to my friend Plappert, I got my pool time! He stayed in a ritzy hotel (InterContinental) a few blocks from ours where the pool overlooked the city! The view was great, but the sun was even better....after months of cold weather and being bundling up, I was, oh so happy, to be soaking up some sun!!!
Later that night we enjoyed the perks of Plap's hotel once more...they have cocktail hour for their guests (and friends)...
It was Rebekah and I with all the men...we were a little out-numbered!
Then we headed over to the ever-famous Raffles Hotel!!!

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!)

Singapore Sling:
30ml gin
15ml cherry brandy
120ml pineapple juice
15ml lime juice
10ml Cointreau
10ml Benedictine herbal liqueur
15ml Angostura bitters
Shopping in Little India was on the agenda for Saturday...though as it appears in the picture below, Saturday was laundry day for many Singaporeans!
I LOVED how rich in color the streets of Little India were!

One couldn't go very far without seeing a mosque or temple...The one below is Singapore's largest...the grand Sultan Mosque

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 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!

Did I mention that this place was cheap?

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 meal might have been pricey and the portions small, but it was delicious nonetheless!

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!

Swan Lake...hence the name
Nick pronounced half-way through the gardens, that he would rather see animals than plants....which is why he got excited and thus took a million pictures when we got to Swan Lake and saw swans, turtles and fish!
We were told prior to visiting Singapore that the food was “amazing” and would most certainly leave us in a “food coma”! Well this statement was true, but we were also excited at the prospect of eating at two VERY American fast-food joints that we do NOT have in Japan…Dairy Queen (otherwise known as the Texas Stop-sign!) and Wendy’s! Yes we did eat at both! After a week of curry and Indian food, a juicy burger and fries is what we were both craving!!!

Last stop on the Singapore tour…a ride on the Singapore Flyer!

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!

From the top, you can look clear out towards Indonesia and Malaysia!

From Little India to Chinatown, Sentosa Island to Orchard Road...all the districts of Singapore can be viewed from the Flyer making it a perfect way to end our trip!

One last dinner at a cute little Bistro near our Hotel…The Black Sheep CafĂ© 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!

After dinner I had to say goodbye to sweet Singapore as well as my sweetheart!

Adieu adieu Nicholas Lee, come home safely to me! And to Singapore my new friend, until we meet again!


  1. I LOVE your and Rebekah's dresses at Raffles! :) Looks like a fun trip!

  2. I love reading your blog Brit!