After a 24-hour bus journey across 2 border crossings we finally made our way to Singapore, the world’s only sovereign city-state that is also an island country. It is a melting pot of Chinese, Malays and Indians just like Malaysia but it is not a Muslim country. We coined it the Asian bizarro-world as you can drink from the tap, flush your toilet paper, pay with credit card and you get fined for littering. This does not happen in the rest of Asia and it tricks you into feeling like you are in a Western country. It is very orderly with futurist and utilitarian architecture.
The city is very expensive we so opted to finally try couch surfing. If you don’t know what this is there is a website called www.couchsurfing.com where you can register to host people at your home or to surf on someone’s couch. At first it sounds crazy but it is actually such a great concept, which allows one to see a city from a local perspective and save money on accommodation. We first heard of it when Zane’s sister, Diane, traveled Europe for a couple weeks couch surfing where it is very popular. The website allows you to view host’s profiles, references/reviews from other travelers who have stayed with them, and sleeping accommodation details. A perfect fit for us was found with a married couple our age who have been hosting surfers for 5 years. Ronald, originally from Hong Kong and his wife, Yayoi, originally from Japan were extremely welcoming and kind. They had a nice flat with an extra bedroom that was more than comfortable. Nearby was a complex with a huge swimming pool where we were able to do a workout one morning, which was a bonus. Their place was a bit outside of the city center but that was part of what made it so great. We were able to see more of the local action at the wet market in the mornings with elderly Chinese folks doing their morning exercises or having tea. Also, the best little Indian restaurant was at the base of their flat where we had breakfast each morning. They left to go to work at 7:15AM each morning so it forced us to get up early and be out exploring all day long.
Two incredible places we visited were the Garden at the Bay and the SEA Aquarium on Sentosa Island. The Garden at the Bay is in the Marina area and consists of 2 large dome structures the Flower Dome and the Cloud Dome filled with plants from all over the world in very unique glass dome structures.
Sentosa Island is basically a theme park island with Universal Studios, tram rides, indoor skydiving, artificial beaches and much more. The Aquarium was attractive because it has the largest viewing panel of any aquarium in the world. It was worth the expensive entrance price and blew us both away. Again, being so orderly and the train attendants waving to you with white gloves made it seem like we were in a different world.
Another unexpected surprise about Singapore was that Kelsey, an Aussie we meet at the Yoga retreat in Nepal was there with her family as she grew up there. She showed us Pub Street in Chinatown and Newton’s Hawker center. A ‘hawker’ is basically an outdoor food court where you have your choice of the local cuisines and the only decently cheap beers in town. Our taxi driver that evening was nothing short of entertaining, as he was a driving Google search. We mentioned Denver and he knew the I-25 was our main interstate then North Dakota came up and he knew where Fargo was and the average temperature there. He was one funny ‘uncle’ as they would call him. Calling elder men ‘uncle’ and women ‘auntie’ is a term of endearment and common practice.
We also wandered Arab Street, Little India, and walked the double helix bridge and getting pictures of the famous Singapore Flyer (large Ferris wheel similar to the London Eye) and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. It’s a relatively small city so we opted for 3 days only but there is a lot see and were impressed with the unusual character of this city/country.
Zane has added a lot of food posts in his FOOD page. You can get to it but clicking on the Food tab on our main blog page. Check it out!