Trip Start Aug 06, 2007
20Trip End Nov 17, 2007
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First of all, Singapore Airlines kicks ass. I say this as a somewhat seasoned traveler too (well as much as one could be at age 30). I can honestly say I think we are really becoming professional travelers when we can shrug off an 8 hour flight as "no big deal". Honestly, the flight from Sydney to Singapore was a breeze - flew by like nothing. We were in coach and we got blankets, and pillows and each had our own little tv and remote where we could watch hundreds of different movies, play video games or gamble, listen to music CD's and so on. Not to mention the 5 page menu option for all the food and beverages you can choose from. In 8 hours we got 2 full meals, 1 snack and they come around about once an hour to see if you want drinks. We enjoyed Singapore Slings and some good wine. I can only imagine what it must be like flying first class on this airline
They say that the Singapore Changi airport is rated the best in the world...I can certainly understand why. There are orchid gardens everywhere and it is the most efficient airport I have ever seen. There are so many shops, spa/salons, a gym and tons of restaurants and cafes. It took us 20 MINUTES from the time we got off the plane until the time where we had our bags and were ready to go. Complete and total opposite of Sydney which requires extensive scrutiny through both customs and then quarantine.
The airport is a nice preview of what to come. This is one heck of a futuristic city. Everything seems so clean and modern and efficient. It is a huge city with sky scrapers everywhere, yet there are flowers (mostly orchids) and trees everywhere too. They say that over 80% of people who live here live in some sort of skyscraper complex. They call it the "Vertical LA". Singapore is the closest city to the Equator in this part of the world, so it is scorching hot year round. Yet - everything is air conditioned to the max. There are a ton of outdoor malls and restaurants and they are all air conditioned (outside). They have these little fan like appliances up in the air and they blow cool air down on you as you sit and eat or drink.
We took a subway today
Singapore consists of Malay, Indian and Chinese people and is a shopaholic paradise. Today we spent the day walking down Orchard Drive. There are over 30 malls and 20 hotels in this area. It is just constant shopping for about 50 blocks or more. You could spend a good week just in this area alone, but of course you would not since that would not leave time for the other good areas like "Arab Street", "Little India" or "Chinatown" which we will check out in the next day or so.
Jeff and I have a common love of ethnic food and trying different things which is definitely needed here. This is the first place where it truly is starting to get hard core with regards to the ethnic food. I actually was a bit apprehensive with some of the things we tried last night while walking around the Chinatown outdoor bazaars last night
We are staying in a hotel right off of the Chinatown area and right now is their annual mid-Autumn festival and the big thing is the "moon cakes" that the Chinese eat during these festivals. We noticed super long lines for some sort of "pie type thing" last night so I asked one girl what it was everyone was willing to stand in line for hours in the sweltering heat for. She explained about the moon cakes, and I figured we better try one. So after a long line, I ordered a moon cake and somehow ended up getting (and paying for) 2. They are very different. Basically some paste stuff backed in a really hard pastry shell that has some sort of designs on the top and they have different significances (something to do with the moon or planets I think). Jeff surprisingly did not like them. He normally is the one who can stomach really different things, and I am the wimp. But this time I was ok with them. People are going nuts over these moon cakes. Wherever you go here there are super long lines, people almost pushing people over to get in to get a moon cake. I guess I don't see what the big deal is. It must be an acquired taste.
We also got to see one of the many "lantern festivals" in Chinatown
We explored both "Little India" and "Arab Street" which, next to Chinatown where we are located are the other 2 of the 3 big ethnic sections within the heart of the city. Little India was awsome, but in some areas a little hard to handle. Singapore as a city at whole is clean, modern and totally immaculate. The only exception to this, I found was at the "wet markets". Now I do not know what Wet Markets actually mean or how the term was coined but I can only assume it has something to do with the fact that the floors are wet from all the digestive and other bodily fluids and so on that come out of the meat and fish and other food that is being chopped and handled all over. Basically these are huge massive markets in the open where the food comes directly from the butcher or fishermen and this is where all the chopping and preparation is done, and as such everything is dirt cheap since this is where everything gets packaged and you certainly are not paying for any ambiance or nice packaging or a nice store or anything. I could barely stomach it. The smell was quite overwhelming
In both China town and Little India, little old men gather to drink their Toger beer around tables in the open (alcohol is permitted in open, public food areas) to chat and laugh and many had their little birds with them (in cages). It was hilarious.
Many customers in the Hawker food markets (like a cheap but super hard core ethnic food court) would buy donuts and other items and leave for the Gods while they lit incense for the mini temples that are built around the area. The insense helped mask some of the smell from the Hawker food court but of course that is not the intent of the incense at all, but just a nice side benefit.
In little India we ordered what we thought looked like an icecream/sno cone kind of dessert with some candies and sauce or something on top. Boy, were we in for a surprise. It is like those little Russian dolls where each time you open the doll there is a new little doll....each layer of the "dessert" had a new little "surprise" in store. First layer was ice chips with flavoring and colorful little tapioca like balls covered in some sort of kiwi sludge. Then you get into the corn layer where there is actual kernels of corn, then there is a bean layer where there are kidney beans, then there was some lychees (we think), followed by some black things which we have yet to identify but we suspect they may have been jello
We had more exposure to the moon cakes that are made and purchased in preparation of the mid-autumn festival. Moon cakes were everywhere and all these people running around with their little boxes of these beautifully decorated little pastries.
We also went on a riverboat tour and that was a great way to see the bulk of the big buildings surrounding the harbour. Singapore is very picturesque.
My friend James from Aon, Bermuda who moved to Honk Kong was able to meet us in Singapore for dinner one night since he was in the city on business and it was nice to catch up with him. He loves it here and I can understand why.
Our flight leaving Singapore was delayed a few hours, but we did not mind one bit as the airport is just so amazing. There are 3 levels that are mostly shops, food courts, free internet and spa/salons. Because our flight was late, Singapore airlines gave us food and drink tickets for free, and so we enjoyed our free stuff and free internet. The shopping in the airport was to die for...Almost wish our delay had been longer. Had we had more time, I would have gotten a massage of facial at the airport. Singapore Airlines is in my mind the best airline out there.
Overall, Singapore is a great, wonderfully clean, modern, dynamic place with amazing shopping and food and a harmoneous blend of various Asian people. We would definitely come back here!