Monday, August 23, 2010

Singapore

Our first stop in Southeast Asia was Singapore. It's an easy staging point to the rest of the region and a good starting point to enjoy the comforts of a developed city before diving into some of the less developed areas. We were also lucky enough to have a friend from Northwestern living in the city to show us around and take us to some of the top eateries in town.

Being a small island-city-country, Singapore doesn't have a huge number of tourist sites, but it's a very clean, modern city and seems like it would be a nice place to live. For a budget traveler like myself, it was a little on the pricy side, but there is still a lot to see walking around and exploring. Our first night we walked around the river area and met up with our friend Dylan.

Singapore Skyline with Lion Fish

Singapore Skyline

One of the interesting things about Singapore is the mix of people and fusion of a lot of the Asian cultures. From a western perspective, it might not be what we would normally consider diverse, but upon closer inspection, it's extremely diverse in the Asian sense. There's a mix of Chinese, Indian, Malays, and other Asian groups, with everyone speaking English as one of their native languages (although with a slightly funny accent the locals call Singlish).

The mix of Asian culture and cuisines also makes Singapore a great place for eating. Under the same roof of one of the food courts or food centers in town you can get Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Thai, Indonesian, or other types of food.

Food Republic Food Court

Wes Eating Some Singapore Foodstuffs


Albert Center Food Court

Fruit Shakes

We spent the next day wandering around the city, seeing Chinatown, Little India, and the new Marina Bay Sands casino. We got rejected at the casino because we were wearing shorts and sandals, but with the heat and humidity in Singapore we didn't have any regrets about wearing shorts that day. We joked around that Singapore is one big mall, since it seemed like every block had a huge, air-conditioned mall, but at least it was a nice break from the heat. 

We didn't run into too many of the strict rules in Singapore, such as the no chewing gum law. Apparently you can bring gum with you into the country, but can't buy it in the stores there. The casino did have kind of a funny rule, though, in that for foreigners it is free to enter, but for Singapore citizens it requires 100 Singapore dollars (~ $75) to enter. Pretty pricy, but ensures they're mostly soaking the tourists and the rich at the casino. 

Little India

Temple in Little India

Mango Lassi in a Plastic Bag (Yogurt Drink)

Marina Bay Sands

Singapore Skyline

Marina Bay Sands

That night we did a night safari at the zoo in Singapore. It came highly recommended and was actually really cool. You walk around on paths with just a few lights lit up to see the animals. Besides the most dangerous ones, most of the animals are not caged, although you'll be separated by a ravine or some barrier. The best part was the flying squirrel and the fruit bat areas. Those areas are sectioned off so that the animals can't get away, but you can walk inside the cages where the animals are. When we were in the flying squirrel area, one of the squirrels jumped from a tree and hit a girl, making her scream pretty loud. The fruit bat area was pretty cool, too, with bats zipping around your head and stretching their wings out in front of you.

Fruit Bat Area (See Bat on Banana)

That night we had one of the best meals of our trip at the Newton Food Center, one of the "hawker centers". It's basically a big open air food center with all different kinds of food available. Some of the specialties in Singapore are the Chili Crab and Sting Ray, both of which were delicious. Our favorite ended up surprisingly being the Sting Ray, which was really tender and mild in flavor. Our friend Dylan took us there with his wife and treated us to a great meal, after which we were all stuffed to the brim.

Wes, Jaslyn, and Dylan

Newton Food Center

Chili Crab

Sting Ray

Dessert

One other "delicacy" in Singapore is the Durian fruit. Durian has a really pungent smell and you can often catch a whiff of it wafting through the air throughout the city. It must be such a big problem in Singapore that they've outlawed it on the subway to avoid people getting asphyxiated in a confined space. I've tasted it before in China, but it doesn't seem as prominent there as in some of the Southeast Asian places we went. I really don't mind the taste, but it does leave an aftertaste for a long time and will result in Durian flavored burps for the better part of a day. It's supposedly very healthy for you and in China they always call it the king of fruits.

Durian (Although a Small One)

No Durians Round These Parts

We definitely enjoyed Singapore, especially the eating part of it. It was probably some of the best food we ate on the trip. It's a nice city and worth a visit.

2 comments:

Chris said...

Nice post bro...it's almost like revisiting photos from our trip there as well, especially since Dylan took you to the exact same places (rightly so). Glad you had a chance to hit up the Food Republic and Night Safari and they lived up to the rep. We didn't have a chance to do the whole Merlion, downtown skyline, durian escapades though, partly since we damn near killed ourselves in the club (see item: Dwei), but I totally agree that the food is the star of that vast malled island.

Derek said...

Great Pictures. I need to try the sting ray.