Singapore stopover

Me and the Merlion!

En route to Australia, I flew through four countries in 22 hours, landing in Singapore for a three-day stopover. I arrived just after midnight, took the convenient hotel shuttle from the airport (leaving the airport every 15 minutes, approx $7USD) to my hostel doorstep on the fringe of Little India. I crept into the female dorm in the dark, scaled up to my top bunk, and crashed.

The next day, I poked my head out to explore nearby Little India. There are many ethnic groups represented in Singapore, and many have enclaves in various neighborhoods. When I got hungry, I followed locals to the grungy but cheap and tasty Tekka Center food court and found myself a plate of veg curry for $3SGD.

One of the highlights of visiting S’pore was catching up with a old high school friend I hadn’t seen since graduation. She and her husband have been living there for four years. She and I took a sunset walk along the water, chatting about ex-pat life, dipping into hotels when we needed a blast of AC, and introducing me to the iconic Singapore Merlion. I squealed when I saw it from afar! The skyscrapers and luxurious hotels and shops–the Louis Vuitton store along the water, sparkling in the sun–in the prime marina district were night and day from the gritty Little India neighborhood of my hostel.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel, across from Merlion Park.

For dinner, she took me to her favourite hawker markets, Lau Pa Sat. Recently remodeled, it is one of many food stall markets that provide a way for street food to exist but be regulated. This corralled system appears to work, offering the benefits of cheap and tasty food with stronger supervision than can be achieved with chaotic independent street food. (But it does lose some of the personality…) We dined on a few local foods she said I must try: laksa (a curry noodle soup, like a spicier ramen) and fried white carrot cake (not actually carrot, instead it is turnip cake scrambled in with fried egg topped with onion and chili). Both were tasty, but more significant about the evening was enjoying my friend’s company.

Fried white carrot cake and laksa dinner.

I zipped home on the seamless subway (loved it), hunkering down and sleeping at odd hours for the next day. I confess I didn’t get to know Singapore as well as I should have. My general impressions were that it feels of but also not of SE Asia. Prices were on par with the US, contrary to other cheaper places in SE Asia I have traveled. I was surprised when walking around Little India and Kampong Glam (the Arab quarter, nearby) how quiet the streets were. Not nearly as much life out on the streets as Thailand, Vietnam, or Cambodia. It didn’t feel as vibrant. Things were very orderly, almost sterile.

During my stay, I fell mostly victim to jet lag, travel adjustment, the easy-flowing AC in my hostel, and an early bout of homesickness. Also, a budding addiction to my new luxury item for this trip: a Kindle paperwhite! I am in love with it, and am so happy I finally took the plunge into e-books.

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