I arrived at my hostel feeling like I had been hit with a ton of bricks. I was struggling to keep my eyes open, but I knew that I had to fight off the jet-lag after the almost 40 hour journey from the states. I sat in the kitchen and drank several cups of coffee before heading out to tackle the sites of Singapore.
|Typical wares in China town|
After grabbing a map, I wandered around the streets of Chinatown, where I was staying, to familiarize myself with the area. Shops were lined up and down the street selling various Chinese wares; lanterns, rice carvings, paintings, statues, silk robes, clothing and just about every generic souvenir item you could think of.
I was overwhelmed by the options, and, as usual, when I see the same thing over and over again, nothing seems attractive to purchase. I stumbled upon a beautiful temple and found myself drawn inside. A security guard handed me a wrap skirt and scarf to cover my “scantily clad” body (skirt and tank top) so I could wander around the temple.
|Buddhist Tooth Relic Temple, Singapore|
The Buddhist Tooth Relic Temple was beautiful. It was my first time getting to see a building with Chinese architecture, The upsweeping roof called me inside. A simple, giddy happiness overtook me as I felt the "being" in Asia.
Statues lined the walls, floor to high ceiling. Each one appeared to have different hand positions or animal body parts. I did not understand how one could ever learn about all of the symbolism I am sure was represented within each figure.
|The worship hall in the Buddhist Tooth Relic temple|
I found people worshiping in an extremely beautiful and ornate hall with three enormous statues and a thoughtful alter set at the front. Columns wrapped in gold carvings framed the hall, and many people came to kneel and pray before the deities.
After wandering around the temple for some time, I returned to the street and weaved back through another street of trinkets and knick knacks. Sales people tried to sweep me into their shops, and I examined some jade jewelry, and made no purchases much to dismay of my newly made best friends. :)
|Dressed temple appropriate|
The temple had all sorts of amazing paintings on the ceilings, and people making offerings to various deities again. Men were rubbing chalk on some peoples foreheads and offering blessings, but tourists were not allowed to go past many of the entrances, so I stood and watched from a distance. Occasionally, a trio of men would play mystical sounding horn instruments and drum, building up a rhythm and then stopping.
I then decided to tackle the MRT system, Singapore's' subway/train system. I found it incredibly easy to navigate. I made my way to the Singapore Botanical Gardens.
|Beauty at every corner of the Botanical Gardens|
|Just one of the hundreds of orchids|
This botanist had found her place. The gardens were ENORMOUS. Inspiration lie around corner and I found myself lost in the trails meandering through different themed gardens. Foliage gardens, healing gardens, native gardens, ponds, bonsai gardens, orchid gardens, ginger gardens, formal gardens, rainforest, cacti, you name it, there was a garden themed around it. There were large yard spaces with people lounging about, and it seemed to go on forever. I was overwhelmed with beauty.
After a few hours, I realized I was famished and completely dehydrated. Looking at a map, I had several miles to make it back to the trail so I hopped into a restaurant near the Orchid and Ginger garden. The food was very expensive, but I really had no choice at this option, so I ordered a lotus root, bokchoy, and honey glazed fungus salad. It came inside a puffed bread and was elegantly topped with various flowers and greens. I also ordered a spicey coffee with ginger and cardamon. The whole meal cost me about $35, but it was delicious and completely satisfying.
|My fancy salad at the botanical gardens|
|Hidden waterfall at the botanical garden|
After my meal, I wandered around the gardens for another couple of hours, taking photographs and just letting the beauty seep into myself.
Once I finally made it back to the MRT station, I could feel the jetlag catching up with me and I forced my eyes to stay open until I made it back to the hostel. I chatted with a few fellow travelers about what they had done and found out there was a spectacular laser show on Marina Bay each night. I had another cup of coffee and took off walking. It took me about 30 minutes to reach the Bay, and I stopped to enjoy the views and the iconic MerLion, Singapore's icon.
|Merlion and Marina Bay Sands, Singapore|
Spewing water out of his mouth into the bay, the courtyard surrounding the merlion was packed with tourists taking selfies. In fact, all of Singapore is full of people taking selfies. The “selfie-stick” which holds a camera or phone in a way that allows for better selfies, is common. I found myself stuck on paths and walkways constantly waiting for people to finish taking selfies.
Completely exhausted after walking another few miles around Marina Bay, I knew I did not have it in me to stay up for the light show. I wandered through town back to the hostel and found myself in bed by 8pm. I slept for 12 hours, and finally felt rested when I awoke the next day.
|Threading: no walk in the park|
For my second day, I explored the quaint streets of little India. The neighborhood is full of people selling food, spices, electronics and textiles. I was happy to be surrounded by vegetarian food and wandered into a little cafe for lunch. At one point I ran across a small sign for a beauty parlor and I walked up some dark stairs to a second level. I wanted to knock something off of my bucketlist, threading. For only $15, an Indian woman took a piece of string and placed one end in her mouth. She created a triangle shape with the string in her hand and proceeded to use it to rip all of the hairs out of my face. I did not even know I had that much hair on my face, but I sure felt it as she pulled them out. The worse parts were my upper lip near my nostrils and the edges of my face along my hairline. She laughed at me as I made horrible faces. Afterwards, I felt baby smooth. She told me it would last for about a month.
|THE SUPERTREES ARE MY FAVORITE!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE|
After viewing another Hindu Temple and doing some window shopping, I hopped on the MRT and went to explore Gardens by the Bay. These gardens were home to the Supertrees, which I had been wanting to see for years.
I found myself having one botanical orgasm after the next. Gardens by the bay was simliar to the botanical gardens in that it had many areas and themes and you could wander down beautiful paths for hours. Gardens by the Bay had more cement structure and less lawn area, but it was fantastic nonetheless. I found myself mesmerized by kids running though a fountain playground, jealous that I had not packed appropiate clothing to get wet in.
As soon as the sun went down, I wandered back to the center of the Supertrees, laid on my back and waited for the lightshow. Every night, a beautiful spectical of lights and music bounces across the supertrees; I was instantly transported to a fantasy land, surrounded by color and beauty. I wanted to just move into the supertrees and stay there forever. What a magical place.
|Light show begins!|
Once the show was over, I tried to make it back to the Marina Bay Sands hotel in time for the laser show on the bay. I arrived just as it was finished. I was disappointed to find out that another show would not be on for a couple of hours. I meandered around the pier, finding entertainment in street performers. A woman playing guitar, a man riding a bike with flashing lights and a boombox, and a group of Chinese people doing western line dances to slow melodic music.
Once again feeling the effects of the time change, I was unable to make it up for the late show, and decided to walk back towards Chinatown. I stopped for dinner at a Hawker Center, where food stalls are lined up next to each other in huge buildings. After making my way to the 3rd level of the food maze, I found a place with some veggie pasta. On the way out I bought some fruit that I had never seen before for breakfast the next morning. I hit my bed fairly early again.
I finally awoke the next morning feeling full of energy and well adjusted to the time change. I decided that I had been spending entirely too much money, which is very easy to do in Singapore, as it was recently declared the most expensive city in the world. Remembering the $18/day I was able to survive on in Peru, I looked for options to save money.
I made myself a large fruit plate for breakfast with Joomba, a redish pear shaped fruit that was crisp and sweet, and some brown relative of lychee which I have forgotten the name of. It was a round brown soft shell that you cracked open for a beautiful sweet white fruit. I decided to check out the last ethnic neighborhood, Arab street. A sultan had built a beautiful Mosque, complete with golden spiked orbs on top. Most of the wares available were silks, persian rugs, batiks and various fabrics. I resisted purchasing anything, constantly reminding myself that Malaysia and the Philippines would be much cheaper for purchasing gifts.
|The Sultans house on Arab Street, Singapore|
I had read online that Buddhist centers served free vegetarian food every day, so I made my way to the largest one in Singapore, The Singapore Buddhist Lodge. I walked in and found a wonderful buffet of about 8 types of food and filled up a heaping plate. I liked almost all the dishes except one, which was bitter and made me want to gag. I tried to hide my distaste for the dish, but my neighbors shot me some weird looks when the first gurgle came uncontrollably from my throat. Not wanting to waste any of this free food, I forced it down and followed each bite with something more pleasant from my plate. I wandered around the swastika-laden grounds and enjoyed the 3 story tall Buddha statues. I even kneeled down on a pad and bowed to the statue, quietly thanking them for my free meal and the serene setting. I lit some incense and added them to the large pot outside the door filling the room with sweet scents. The building had a few small gardens with pagoda statues and intricately carved stone walls. I spent about an hour just enjoying my surroundings while I digested my food.
Feeling quite and reflective, I decided to walk back towards town instead of hoping on the MRT. About an hour later, I found myself back in my room catching up on emails, booking flights and relaxing before my evening plans.
My boyfriend had visited Singapore when his father lived there a little over 10 years ago, and he had put me in touch with a couple of their old friends who still lived in the area, Mackie and Virginia. I met them both that evening and was instantly met with open arms and good times. They took me out on the town for dinner, shopping, stories and local insite. Makie met me the next morning at the MRT station, and guided me onto a bus to the Hort Garden near the South Ridges.
I spent another morning admiring beautiful gardens and wandering down hidden paths.
|The wonderous Star Apple!!|
I could never get sick of this. The hort garden was great because it had all sorts of suggestions on how to design certain things displayed, which has given me some good inspiration for back home. I made it to the fruit garden and one of the horticulturists encouraged me to try several of the things that were ripe. A peanut butter fruit, a few types of cherries, and my favorite, the star apple.
|Another fantastic orchid garden!|
The trail continues beyond the hort garden and into a skyway walk through the forest. I kept going for quite a while, hoping to find some Monkeys swinging from the trees, but, alas, there were none. I ended up walking all the way to a large University before hoping on a bus and making my way to Sentosa.
|Taking the canopy skywalk on the South Ridges|
|Not too shabby for a beach in such a large city!|
Sentosa is basically the DisneyWorld of Singapore; there is universal studios, resorts, the aquarium, insect and butterfly domes, indoor skydiving, you name it. Definitatly not my cup of tea, but I did have fun wandering around. It was complete tourist ville, and I had not desire to pay for any of the attractions. However, I found myself on a beautiful beach, sitting at the “Southernmost tip of Continental Asia” Since I was on an island, I didnt really understand how that was possible. I found a schmancey beach bar with lounge chairs and splurged; I paid $20 for a Singapore Sling, ripped of my clothes and sat in the sun with my bitch drink tanning in my panties. I slept in the sun for a while and had another beverage before waking up and making my way back to the hostel.
|Happiness is good beer, good views, and great company!|
For my last eve in Singapore, Makie and Virg met me again and took me to a brewery on the 33rd floor of one of the buildings lining Marina Bay. After tasting all the beers, and enjoying more fantastic company, both my wonderful local hosts had to leave for other plans. With an amazing view, I stayed for one more beer and watched the laser show over the bay from above.
|Lasers on Marina Bay Sands|
With a perfect end to my stay in Singapore, I headed back for a good nights rest before embarking on the next leg of my journey. I was off to Kuching, Malaysia to realize my lifelong dream of seeing the oldest rainforest in the world and the most diverse place on earth. A biological orgasm of sorts, I was off, to Borneo.