Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Singapore: Merlions and Robot Trees

Lydia wrote this post and my hilarious yet informative quips will appear in [brackets].

Our first goal of the day, as usual, was food. Singapore is well known for Hawkers, similar to food courts. We stopped at a place near our hotel, Food Republic Wisma Atira.

[Our hotel wasn't half bad.]

Singapore has very few national cuisines, but our book suggested a dish of noodles and fried prawns, so that’s what we ordered. Pretty tasty.

Our second course was chicken and pork kabobs dipped in a delicious peanut sauce.

On our way out, we stopped by the drink stand. John ordered lychee juice and I had lime juice, both were very fruity. John’s even had whole lychees floating at the bottom.


Back outside, we wandered down Orchard Road, known as Singapore’s commercial center. There were malls on malls on malls. They were full of fancy stores like Gucci and Prada. It seems safe to assume there are a lot of rich people in Singapore!

[My favorite was this artsy hipster place full of funky stuff.]

Singapore has a lot of really nice landscaping. There were trees and flowers in every direction.

We eventually made it to Raffles Hotel, home of the Singapore Sling. The drink was invented by the bartender Ngiam Tong Boon sometime before 1915 and meant especially for the ladies. At the time, it wasn’t socially acceptable for women to drink in public, but the Singapore Sling is pink, so I guess that made it okay.

Of course John and I had to try one. It might be the most expensive drink I’ve ever ordered at about $25.

Outside of Raffles Hotel is Singapore’s colonial district. We passed by the Old Parliament House, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, City Hall, and the Old Supreme Court all of which surround the Padang, a cricket pitch. Most of these buildings have been repurposed as theaters and museums. What’s weird is that none of them really look very old. I guess it’s because they’re just really well kept and constantly repainted.

I really liked the architecture in Singapore – it’s so futuristicy.

["Press for the Green Man" seems like something out of a dystopian future.]

We crossed a bridge and found the Merlion Statue. Just as you’d expect, a merlion is part mermaid, part lion. The Singapore Tourist Board developed this strange creature in the 60s. There is a baby Merlion and a big merlion.

It turns out Singapore is hot! We cooled off with some ice cream nearby. I was brave and had the durian flavor. Durian is a stinky fruit native to Southeastern Asia. It didn’t taste very good – kind of oniony.

We were able to find Internet outside of a nearby hotel, so we Ubered it across the bay to the Gardens by the Bay. I was most excited to see the Supertrees. According to wikipedia, “supertrees are tree-like structures that dominate the Gardens' landscape with heights that range between 82 ft and 160 ft. They are vertical gardens that perform a multitude of functions, which include planting, shading and working as environmental engines for the gardens.” There’s a walkway between two of the trees providing an aerial view of the garden, and of course I had to do that. It was pretty scary up there. Even John thought so.


We did a little more wandering and took a break at McDonald’s. They seem to be really into Angry Birds over here, and half the menu was Angry Birds themed. John ordered the Red Burger.

[It was spicy and had an egg on it. Nothing too crazy.]

We then bounced over to the Marina Bay Sands resort area. It’s pretty much just another big shopping mall. There’s a casino too, but they require passports for entry (and exit), and we didn’t have those on us, so we just looked from a distance.

Once we’d enjoyed our share of air conditioning, we Ubered our way to Chinatown. Singapore’s Chinatown is heavily influenced by Dutch architecture, so the houses are very narrow similar to the ones in Amsterdam. [I hadn't really thought about it before but our guide told us that the reason Dutch buildings are so narrow and deep is that buildings there were taxed by width.]

We had a tour scheduled of the Baba House, a heritage house owned by the National University of Singapore and run as a museum of Peranakan culture. The Peranakan people are Chinese immigrants to the Malay archipelago who came between the 15th and 17th centuries. The Peranakans were well respected in the community and typically wealthy traders.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside of the house, but it was filled with fancy furniture that mixed Western and Eastern design. Our guide explained that several generations lived in the house at once, and men often had more than one wife, so at times the house held more than 50 people.

Another fun fact is that the wives in the house enjoyed spying on their husbands, and there are several peep holes from the upstairs looking into the living room.

We ended the day with a nighttime view of the city from the top of Marina Bay Sands.

[My impression of Singapore is a good one, but I must admit that I find it kind of sterile. There are lots of malls and nice buildings, but I felt like the place is light on history/culture especially next to a place like Japan or even the more comparable Hong Kong. Nice place though.]

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