January 22-24, 2018
Arriving in Singapore’s amazing Ciangi airport
After a 14 hour flight to Beijing, 6 hour layover in the freezing cold airport and another 6 hour flight we arrived in Singapore to be greeted by Wendy. We never get greeted at airports so this was a real treat.
Wendy’s apartment is really nice and she spoiled us for the next few days. She gave us MRT cards which we used to visit various areas of the city. Singapore is so clean, well organized and efficient that it makes it easy for even a directionally challenged foreigner to get around.
China Town & Little India
We wandered China town one day and joined a free walking tour of Little India another. Free walking tours are usually great and this one was no exception. I find the guide tries harder as they’re paid with tips.
We learned a bit about life in Singapore. Public housing is fascinating and seems to work well. Homes are purchased, rather than rented. You have to be married or over 35 to purchase. There are ethnic quotas as well which is meant to encourage multiculturalism and prevents ethnic groups from living together and creating ghettos. Mortgage discounts are given to those who purchase a home near their parents, which encourages families to look after each other. 80% of residents live in public housing.
Botanical Gardens and the iconic Hainanese Chicken
The next day we spent at the Botanical Gardens. That’s a beautiful park and a definite “must see” in Singapore.
Sarah (a friend who’d recently moved to Singapore) met Wendy, Adeline, Sue and I for dinner. It’s always nice to connect strangers, and fellow travellers ALWAYS have something in common. The ladies took us to a restaurant specializing in the local dish of Hainanese chicken and rice which is REALLY tasty. Later we all headed down town in the rain to watch the light show on the parliament buildings.
We said goodbye to Wendy and Adeline and flew to Myanmar to continue our adventure. Wendy insisted we didn’t have to be at the airport 3 hours ahead and she was right. Even the airport is incredibly organised so there’s not so much waiting as everywhere else.
Back from Sri Lanka and on to the Gardens by the Bay
We’d spent the last two weeks touring Sri Lanka. The last 8 days had been with Wendy and Adeline and that adventure can be found here. Our flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka was uneventful. That’s the best kind of flight. Changi Singapore is easy to navigate, get through security, get your luggage and get out the door. Having learned that Grab had bought out Uber, I’d installed the GRAB ap on my phone and ordered a ride. We managed to find our way to Wendy’s without a problem.
With the 2.5 hour time difference, we thought maybe we’d sleep in. Nope. So we headed out to explore the Gardens by the bay. We should have written down Wendy’s instructions. All the names of places she’d talked about meant nothing to us as we had no idea what any of it was so it was all a jumble in my head. We took the MRT to Harbour front instead of Bayfront. They may sound similar but they’re VERY different places in Singapore. Oh well. We wandered around the Harbour front for a while and walked about Sentosa. It’s a pretty area as well and the place to go if you like amusement parks. It’s also conveniently near Wendy’s office so we met her in the mall and she guided us to a bus stop where we could get transport to the Marina Bay Sands. There we visited the flower dome, the cloud forest dome, walked the beautiful garden paths among the super trees and along the reservoir. If you only have a day in Singapore, that’s the place to go. It really gives you a good over view of what Singapore strives to be. At night there’s a light show with the super trees that’s just beautiful.
The MRT back to Bedok was much easier. After dinner at the hawker centre we got back to Wendy’s well after dark, exhausted and happy with all we’d accomplished.
The traveler comes to Singapore and leaves a piece him/herself behind
Japanese garden in the flower dome
The man-made mechanical forest consists of 18 super trees that act as vertical gardens, generating solar power, acting as air venting ducts for nearby conservatories, and collecting rainwater. To generate electricity, 11 of the super trees are fitted with solar power systems that convert sunlight into energy, which provides lighting and aids water technology within the conservatories below.
Free Walking tours are the best!
Tuesday we were out the door shortly after Wendy left for work. After breakfast at the Hawker centre, we took the MRT to Chinatown where we joined a free walking tour. Since you’re supposed to tip according to how much you liked the tour, we find these tours are generally really informative. So, if you really want to get to know a city, find a few walking tours. We sampled popiah, a local pastry that’s really good. There’s a lot to see in China town and a lot of interesting history there. Smith Street is better known as food street as it’s pretty much just restaurants.
Next we boarded the MRT again and got off at Bugis to check out the Arab section or Kampong. It’s completely different again. There’s a street with murals and trendy bars, a street with unique little shops and, of course, lots of restaurants. Even some with Turkish food.
We met Adeline and Wendy for dinner and they suggested ramen noodles for dinner. I pictured the grocery store noodles in a cup but figured the ladies knew what they were talking about so agreed. In Singapore, if you need to queue up for a restaurant, it must be good. Weird. You ‘d think in a city with as many food choices as they have wouldn’t need to wait for food? Line up we did. The restaurant nicely had a barrel of ice cold barley tea you could help yourself to as you waited. Perfect after a hot day of walking the streets. The ladies helped us order as you choose how the noodles are cooked, what sauce, spiciness and toppings. It also comes with unlimited boiled eggs. Another great food experience in Singapore!
Great hiking and Sky Park
Wednesday we took the bus with Wendy. We had breakfast at the harbour front hawker centre. She pointed out where the path starts for the park walks and headed to work for the day. Sue and I walked up the path to the path built high in the trees, then through the Henderson waves, Hort Park and into Ridge park. There we hiked up again to another nature trail in the trees but it was closed. By this time it was 1 pm and we were hot, tired and very sweaty. We found the bus stop and headed back to Wendy’s for a couple hours to relax and cool off for a bit before heading out again. This time we got off at Raffles place and checked out that area before walking to the Merlion and on to the Marina bay sands where we picked up the tickets Wendy had ordered for us to the Sky park. The view from there is amazing! We did as she suggested and arrived just before dark to see it in the light, watch the sunset and see the city lit up. It’s a little expensive but worth it for the magnificent views.
At 8 pm we met the ladies at the waterfront and watched the laser light and water show over the bay. That too is a must see.
Adeline had made reservations at the No Signboard Restaurant. Yes, that’s what it’s called. It says that on it’s sign board. There we enjoyed another traditional dish of chili crab. Ironically they’d run out of the typical Sri Lankan crab so we had Canadian crab. Go figure.
Singapore is a walker’s dream. There are beautiful, often covered walk ways everywhere. It’s even more gorgeous at night when everything is lit up.
Apparently Mall shopping is required. Bedok Mall
Thursday we decided we needed a more “chill” day so we took our time and enjoyed a couple of cups of coffee before heading to the hawker centre for breakfast. Apparently it’s weird to come to Singapore and NOT go to a mall so we wandered the Bedok mall for a couple hours. We hit McDonald’s for our last Thai milk tea ice cream cone. We’ve become addicted to those things.
After walking back to Wendy’s and changing into our swim suits, we walked to the beach. We practically had the place to ourselves so enjoyed a couple of dips and a nice long walk. Of course there’s a hawker centre there as you can’t go far without finding food in Singapore. I found a Thai stall with green papaya salad. That’s one of my favourites and something I can’t get much at home. At another I got my last fresh pineapple juice.
We walked back to Wendy’s got cleaned up and packed and went to the Bedok hawker centre for dinner where we met Wendy on her way home from work.
You can take transit to the airport too but we splurged and spent the ten dollars on a grab ride as it’s just so much easier with luggage.
It’s been an amazing trip. We’re especially thankful to Adeline for organizing the Sri Lanka trip, her fun companionship and dinners in Singapore. Wendy was an amazingly generous, fun loving and hard working hostess and we were grateful to be able to stay with her. The ladies certainly helped us really enjoy and get to know their beautiful country (city, island) and we felt blessed to see Singapore from a local perspective. Adeline and Wendy’s pride in their country was evident and rightfully so. Singapore is wonderful. Make it more than a stop over. You can definitely spend a week or so there, especially if you like to walk or cycle as you can rent bikes everywhere.
Another amazing trip has come to an end and we begin the long journey home. A 6 hour flight to Beijing, an 8 hour layover, 14 hour flight to Montreal where we’ll over night then take the train home. There are shorter ways but hey, the flight was cheap 😉 No matter how you do it, the long flights in economy are tough but hey, if it were easy, a lot more folks would do it and travel wouldn’t be the challenging, interesting, unique experience it usually is.
Beijing airport. AVOID!
** Note to self: In the future, avoid Beijing as a stop over. Security is ridiculous. They make you take pretty much everything out of your carry on (batteries, cameras, etc). There’s nothing much to do. Shopping is all high end stuff and the airport is FREEZING cold. Staff were all wearing winter coats. Food’s okay but there’s not much choice. To top it off, the wifi is spotty and you can’t use social media at all. So, if you can, just stop elsewhere.