I’ve been wanting to visit Singapore for a few years now, since I first read about Supertrees. I wanted to see them in person, and to Eat All The Things.
Lucky me, Aaron’s team has an office there. I tacked on a week of vacation to his week of work.
Aaron picked me up at the airport. He made me the best sign evars. <3
And now, a recap of All The Things.
Supertrees! What the heck are they, and why am I so excited about them? They’re giant, they generate electricity, and they’re vents for their super awesome greenhouse neighbors. Also, they’re covered with plants and you can walk from tree to tree 160 feet in the air.
We visited them twice, once during the day and again at night. They totally lived up to the hype.
Cloud Forest & Flower Dome
Like the Supertrees, the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome are part of the Gardens by the Bay. They’re two separate greenhouses with totally different growing environments. It’s fairly frigid inside considering how hot it is outside, but amazingly the buildings in conjunction with the Supertrees are carbon neutral. I have no idea how they do that. Magic.
Also, wowowow this Cloud Forest waterfall:
I don’t care if you don’t care about plants. You have to see the Botanic Gardens. It’s one giant public park and something like 20 completely different types of gardens, all meticulously maintained, almost all free to the public. You can learn there, stroll there, paint there, do tai chi there, take wedding photos there. Just go there!
My favorite garden walk was through the rainforest, which is actually a preserved parcel of land, because Singapore is, well, practically on the equator.
Not a specific garden, just a really nice lily pad pond:
Because 20 free gardens in a national park is not enough…
East Coast Park
The entire southeastern coast of Singapore is one long park. You can BBQ, camp, take your kids to the playground. You can rent bikes and ride for miles, or take your kid over to the Road Safety Community Park to learn the rules of the road on their little bikes. Don’t like bikes? There’s also a skate park and a cable-driven wakeboarding lagoon. They continuously making improvements, because the government wants to create outdoor spaces for family and friends to gather.
The View from the Sands
Everyone says to go to the observation deck at the top of the Sands.
They know what they’re talking about. If you go to Singapore, go to the top of the Sands. It’s an amazing view, and will give you a great idea of where many of the sites you visit are relative to each other.
Yes, it was a great view, but my biggest surprise? The number of vessels in the Singapore Strait. It’s like this as far as the eye can see.
No visit to Singapore is complete without meeting the Merlion. Why? Because why not?? Does your country have a mythical water spewing mascot of the sea?
I didn’t think so.
I didn’t think I’d enjoy this as much as I did. The museum lays out the history of Singapore, and it’s super fascinating. My big takeaway, though, was how far the country has come in its short history as a nation. Its infrastructure, financial standing, and society are a model for other nations. I am truly impressed.
I’m generally happy with public transit in most big cities outside of the US. Singapore is no exception. It’s convenient, clean, and doesn’t allow durians. The thing that really impressed me, however, were the public service ads and videos. They’re all focused on encouraging people to be good members of society. There’s the ad that teaches people how to help blind persons. (Don’t grab their arm, offer them yours.) The ad that says, “My grandmother has dementia but I still love her.” The video about an emergency situation and how people stay calm and help each other.
I also liked the video about what to do if someone molests you on the train. Call for help! Bystanders detain the offender! Drag him off for caning and jail time! This “outrage of modesty” will not be tolerated.
Kaya toast. You have to get this for breakfast at least once, because how can you not like bread and butter and coconut jam? Also, it comes as part of a common Singaporean breakfast: kaya toast plus kopi (local style super strong coffee poured with flair, plus condensed milk) and a couple runny eggs with dark soy sauce. We went to a couple local chains for this. I loved Ya Kun for the toast, and Toast Box for the soy sauce.
Teh tarik. The tea version of kopi. I already have an afternoon English milk tea habit, so naturally I loved this as well.
Durian. I didn’t eat fresh durian, but many things here are available in durian flavor. I enjoyed some pungent durian ice cream on day one, then a durian cream puff for breakfast a few days later. I might not normally choose this flavor, but it was deliciously appropriate given where I was. Aaron was grossed out.
Hainanese chicken rice. This is something you can get in the US without too much trouble, but everyone said to eat this in Singapore so Aaron got it. It was good to try it in its transplanted native environment. Plus, I’ll never say no to rice cooked in chicken fat.
Noodles, noodles, noodles. Everyone here eats noodles. We did too. I’m pretty sure you could eat noodles every meal for a week and not have the same thing twice. They’re delicious, glorious, and cheap! And yes, we had laksa.
Black pepper crab. It was either this or chili crab. We had this at the Newton Food Centre (yes the one in Crazy Rich Asians) from Alliance Seafood. It was good and I’m glad I had it. That’s about all I can say about it, because I don’t go gaga over seafood like a lot of people.
Here’s Aaron getting his noodle on at Newton Centre like a Crazy Rich Asian:
Drinks such as tiger nut milk in my coffee, soursop juice (someone told me to try soursop, and juice stands are everywhere), and Milo Dinosaur (it’s basically an iced Milo with Milo powder on top). We also had a lot of boba. I’ve decided my absolute most favoritest boba drink evars is R&B’s Brown Sugar Boba Milk with Cheese Brûlée. It’s probably a good thing I can’t get this at home.
Ice kacang, a shaved ice mountain dessert. Cousin of halo halo.
Kueh pie tee and popiah. They’re little snack sized dishes with similar ingredients. Sweet, salty, nutty, yum!
Salted egg everything, especially chips. The most trendy brand right now is Irvins. It’s not just potato chips, you can get salted egg cassava chips, fish skin chips, and, my random airport off-brand favorite, seaweed chips.
Bakkwa. People call it jerky but it’s not really. It’s moist and sweet like Asian jerky, but cooked. And delicious.
Nouri. This is a restaurant, not a food. We went here for my birthday dinner, and I loved it. The food was top notch, but just as importantly, the people, vibe, philosophy, and experience were amazing. We got there right as they opened, and it was wonderful to interact with the crew before things got busy. But even after it got busy, folks still took the time to say goodbye as we left, including the chef.
I was without my travel notebook because I didn’t want to come off as a weird reviewer, so our server Chew brought me pen and paper to take notes. We’re Facebook friends now. Because yes.
I find Singapore to be thoughtfully planned and designed. From what I’ve seen, it’s a modern financial center that not only takes care of its people, but encourages its people to take care of each other. We could use more of that here.
The multiculturalism in Singapore is like in no other place I’ve been to. The seamless mix of languages and ethnicities is a thing of beauty. You can walk down the street and hear 4 different languages in the span of a minute. I actually started to sound weird to myself speaking English after a while.
The toilet bowl fountain at the Sands. Mesmerizing.
The mall attached to the toiled bowl fountain, a.k.a The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, feels like Vegas. Aaron pointed out that it IS the Sands, and in addition to the hotel and shoppes there’s also a casino.
Not like Vegas: The Mustafa Centre. It’s often referred to as a mall, but it’s not. It’s mall sized, but it’s like one ginormous department, gift, grocery, electronics, medical supply, jewelry, entertainment, global products, everything store. It’s also open 24 hours and insanely busy nonstop. It’s not like anything I’ve ever visited and all I can say is you have to go there to experience it yourself.
Non-fancy restaurants don’t provide napkins. You have to bring your own. I developed a deep appreciation for the menthol wet wipes from 7-Eleven. So fresh and so clean clean!
Something not generally associated with fresh and clean: squat toilets. They’re a thing here! Most restrooms have a mix of seated and squat stalls. I did not expect this when I stepped off my plane and into the restroom. What’s the first thing I did in Singapore? I used a squat toilet.
Dry eye problems with contact lenses? Not a problem when you’re someplace super humid like Singapore!
The problem is your clothes, which pretty much get drenched when you step into the sun. It may look like a city, but you’re actually in a tropical rainforest.
Electric scooters and monowheels are very popular modes of transport. This makes tons of sense because even though the city is super walkable, it’s super hot, so if you have to commute outside, lazy wheels are the way to go.
You can play Punch Buggy Supercar to pass the time when waiting for the bus. Punch Buggy Aventador!
Japanese restaurants and stores are all over the place here. Don don don, donnnki… Don don, donki…
Photo album here.