Singapore was one of the most dense travelling experiences that I have ever had. We had a very short amount of time in the country and there is a lot to see and enjoy here. Accordingly we had a very full day and a half getting acquainted with all that Singapore has to offer.
After getting lost in the business district of the city several times (it seemed like all roads led back here) we managed to make it to the Esplanade. Simply because their architecture is durian-inspired and I was travelling with a durian enthusiast, these buildings had made it onto our must-see list. They are located in a lovely part of the city known as the Marina Bay. Like all of Singapore, it is immaculate. The combination of waterfront, cityscapes and unique architecture made this a great stop. After wandering through the buildings, which are primarily used for concerts and performances, but are also home to some stores and restaurants, we made it to the waterfront. We chose to go through the buildings because they are very well air conditioned and Singapore is HOT, even in December. On the waterfront side of the Esplanade, there are more restaurants and beverage carts.
Our final city stop for the day was Chinatown, which wasn't anything like what I had expected. I was anticipating something along the lines of NYC Chinatown. Singapore is a different world, however. What I found was more of the interesting tropical/colonial architecture, with colorful buildings and well-kept store fronts selling everything from traditional Chinese medicine to dried seafood. While the surroundings were traditionally Singaporean, the contents of the stores were what you would expect to see in Hong Kong. Very interesting.
It was here that we found one of the most interesting foods that we encountered on the whole of the trip: the durian pancake. This stand was located in a food court as near a subway station. While they also sold crepes with more traditional flavors like chocolate, I only observed people ordering the durian version. We had plenty of time to observe since the line was VERY long. The pancake itself was thinner than a french crepe, almost crispy and the durian filling was durian on steroids. Durian concentrate. For the true durian lover only.
There is some great Chinese food on offer here. Every food court had tons of great options for the budget traveller. The food courts also offer stalls that sell bowls of sweetened, flavored ice. These are a wonderful way to beat the heat and there are dozens of colorful flavors to choose from. If I had a month in Singapore I would have tried a different one every day.
After enjoying our ices, it was time to go to the Night Safari, which I will write about in more detail. Suffice it to say that it was worth the steep admission price.
The next morning we had several hours to kill before our flight left. We left our bags with the front desk and headed out to Orchard Road. It seemed that all of Singapore was out shopping. I thought I was used to retail paradise in America. I was wrong. There are stores upon stores here. Escalators and elevators and sales being advertised everywhere. Also strange was the preponderance of Christmas advertising and music. The whole city was decked out for a holiday that is only meaningful to a minority. I suppose it's a relic of colonialism kept alive by retailers looking to give people a reason to buy. It is a lively atmosphere and a great place for us to spend our last hours in the city.
After this we picked up our bags and headed off on a crowded subway ride to the airport. The ride wasn't overly long and we had a little time to spend at Changi, which is a truly impressive airport. After this little taste, I do hope I can return to Singapore and see some of the (many) things I missed. Sentosa and the Singapore Flyer are waiting.