Saving the best for last.
With 3 weeks in Singapore, I was determined to be a little more adventurous with my eating and try more local fares. Even though I cooked most days (we stayed in an apartment complex, so there is a kitchen), I did manage to get a taste of Singapore. During our excursions into the city, we often ate at hawker centers – they’re open buildings with tables in the middle and stalls along the sides selling all kinds of food. These are sometimes combined with a market, but often they just serve as food courts. The food is cheap (well, compared to a restaurant meal) and authentic, and there are a lot of choices.
There are so many dishes that I didn’t get to try them all. Others I didn’t try because they’re too expensive (chilli crab, hello) or sound weird (like carrot cake, which is not a cake and doesn’t contain carrot). But below are some of my favorite:
The one dish I had but never enjoyed was chicken rice. I don’t understand how it can be considered the national dish of Singapore – it’s just steamed or roasted chicken on top of rice cooked in chicken broth. That’s it! Sure, it’s cheap, but I’d like something with a little more taste (not to mention vegetables), thank you very much.
Finally, this is unrelated to food, but I think it would be appropriate to close out my Singapore posts with a mention of the Merlion. If you’ve read my account of my previous trip to Singapore, then you’ll remember that I didn’t see the Merlion last time. This time, during our city tour at the beginning of our trip, we did go to the Merlion but it was all covered up because, according to the sign, the Merlion was taking a shower! Luckily he was done before we left, so I came back on the last day and finally got a super touristy photo.
And that was it for my Singapore trip! Until next time…
Singapore is known as the “Garden City”, so I thought it would be fun to have a post on the contrast between the modern, even futuristic-looking architecture and the pockets of nature in the city (no wonder they shot a sci-fi film there.) During my 3 weeks there, I revisited the Botanic Garden (and the National Orchid Gallery, of course) and did some short hikes/walks around Mount Faber Park and Sungei Buloh, a wetland reserve near the Malaysian border. As fun as the city is, it’s great to get out once in a while and just lose yourself in nature.
It was raining heavily while I was at Mount Faber, but it was super relaxing to simply sit (there is always a covered rest area along the way) and listening to the rain or enjoying the incredibly sweet and refreshing smell of the tree. If my shoes weren’t soaked through, I would’ve stayed longer.
There is still one more Singapore post left, so stay tuned!
One of the things I didn’t get to do during my previous stay in Singapore was to visit some museums, which I love to do whenever I travel. This time around, I rectified it by going to the National Gallery and the ArtScience Museum. The National Gallery was newly opened in the former City Hall and Supreme Court – it actually looks a lot like the National Gallery in London. It houses a large collection of Singaporean and South East Asian art, and I was excited to find some Vietnamese artists amongst them. While I was there, it also had a special exhibition on the relationship between Britain and its colonies (Singapore being one of them) and how this relationship influences art, so there were quite a few pieces borrowed from the Tates Museum as well – which is great, since I didn’t get to visit the Tates while I was in London!
ArtScience Museum is the funky building (supposed to be in the shape of a lotus or a hand) in front of the Marina Bay Sands. As the name suggests, it contains exhibitions on art & science with a focus on technology and media. I saw exhibitions on NASA and Escher, and had a great time in the interactive Future World (it’s mostly for kids, but there are fun/beautiful things to look at as well.) The admission is a little steep though (35 SGD, 40 on Fridays and weekends).
Also, as a part of the exchange program, we were given a tour of two interesting places – a water treatment center (water treatment is a big deal in Singapore since they have no natural reservoirs) and a studio on the nearby Indonesian island of Batam. The water plan was very informative and has some trippy-looking exhibitions, and it was pretty fun to see the sets of some HBO Asia shows at the studio, plus Batam itself is beautiful. I wish we could’ve stayed longer.
The set for “Serangoon Road“
A part of the “Half-worlds” set
Also, I think it’s a rule to always have at least one cat shot amongst my travel photos, so here’s one we met in Batam:
I may have gotten my museum fix, but there are still others I wish I had time to check out – like the Singapore National Museum or the Museum of Asian Civilizations. Maybe next time 😉
I didn’t put this in with my “Old Favorites” post because even though Gardens by the Bay was an old destination for me, it was also new. This time I finally got to visit the two conservatories, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest, and catch the light show at the Supertrees Grove later at night (which I missed last time.) The light show was fun but not exactly memorable, but the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest are well worth their admission price (28SGD). Imagine two giant glasshouses, one filled with colorful flowers always in full bloom regardless of the weather outside, and the other with the lushest, greenest tropical plants. I could spend a whole day in there. I burned out two – I repeat, two – camera batteries because I was photographing everything. I only went out reluctantly because I forgot my scarf and it was freezing inside (as usual with everywhere else in Singapore, the air inside the conservatories is kept cool.)
In the Cloud Forest, you can also take the elevator up to the top of the “Cloud Mountain”, a six-story tower covered in plants and a waterfall, and walk down a path. Although, it may not be the best choice for someone who’s scared of heights like me. I was walking down with no problem when I made the mistake of looking down and immediately reacted like this. I spent the rest of the walk staring fixedly ahead.
After all that gorgeous nature, it was a bit anti-climactic to go to the Supertrees, to be honest. Still, it was interesting to learn that the Supertrees are not just for decorations but are actually a part of the Gardens’ eco-friendly design, used to collect rainwater and help with the cooling of the air. Beautiful and functional. Now that’s what I’m all about.
During my first week in Singapore, I spent most of my time with my students at the school, though we did get to go on a tour of the city to see all the prominent neighborhoods – Chinatown, Little India, and Kampong Glam (the Malay area). Last time I was here, I mostly just walked through these streets, so it was fun to see them with an actual guide and learn more about their history. Of course, I stopped by Haji Lane and checked out the shop where I got the cat brooch (The Dulcet Fig). This time they were having a sale on their brooches so I splurged and bought two. I even met the cat again!
And finally, here’s some gnarly-looking “medicine” being sold in Chinatown:
I’ll be back next week with new things I’ve discovered in Singapore!
This is the last post about my trip, I promise! And it’s more of a photo essay anyway…
As you may know, I’ve been getting into film photography for a while now. For my Euro trip, I decided it would be fun to bring my film camera along, even though everybody told me I was crazy for lugging around two cameras plus films (really, the weight wasn’t bad. The films are light, and since my film camera only has the 50mm lens on it, it’s not that heavy either.)
I ended up shooting 4 rolls of film during my 5-week trip. Here’s the terrible thing, though: only about a third of the shots came out! One roll was broken, which was my fault, I made a mistake when unwinding it. But for the rest, I think there was something wrong with the film – I bought expired films because they were cheaper, thinking it wouldn’t matter. Stupid me. (I refuse to believe I was that bad of a photographer, because in the same roll, a shot would come out perfectly while the very next one would be foggy/blurry/overexposed.) I’m only glad that I didn’t rely on the film camera, so I still had plenty of good photos from my DLSR.
In the end, here are some of the best shots I got:
This hasn’t put me off film photography while traveling, but next time, I’ll make sure to bring good films!
In my post about the Amsterdam Gay Pride Parade, I said there were two reasons I stayed an extra week in the Netherlands. One was the Parade itself, and the other was a book fair held on the first Sunday of August in Deventer, a town in central Netherlands. It is said to be the biggest book fair in Europe, with 6 km (!!!) of stalls winding all through the Old Town and along its riverbank. I knew I couldn’t pass up such a chance. So on Sunday, I got up early and took the train to Deventer (it takes 1.5 hours from Amsterdam, and the fair started at 9:30).
If you ask me what Deventer is like as a town, I wouldn’t be able to answer. As I left the train station, I followed the signs (and the crowd) to the main square, where the stalls began, and I didn’t see anything else after that. It was all books, books, books as far as the eyes could see. It was like Heaven. Of course, most of the books are in Dutch, but just basking in that atmosphere is exciting enough. After wandering around a bit to take it all in, I did find some stalls specializing in English books and spent the rest of the morning browsing through them.
Because of my luggage weight, I had to limit myself to 5 books. I ended up getting just three, but for less than 10 euros, I’m happy with my haul.
I couldn’t walk through all 6km of stalls, of course. By the early afternoon, my legs were screaming, so after a quick lunch, I got on the train again and headed toward Utrecht – it was on the way back to Amsterdam, and it was a town I’m interested in.
I didn’t spend too much time at Utrecht (mostly because I was exhausted), but I liked what I saw. I walked along the canals, visited the central museum, and finally settled down for a cup of delicious hot chocolate at the museum cafe. Utrecht has more of a scholarly air than other Dutch towns I’ve visited, and I also like that the canals there have stairs leading down from the streets, so you can walk along them. And of course, its most famous creation, Miffy (or Nijntje, as she’s known in Dutch), is everywhere.
And with that, my absolutely wonderful trip was over. It has reawakened the wanderlust in me, and now I can’t wait to plan my next trip. Where should I go?