Traveling: Singapore Days 3, 4, & 5

© J // Washing Rice Blog

A view of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel from the waterfront.
© J // Washing Rice Blog

Hopefully you were here for last week’s post!  Today’s entry is where the heart of all the action is.  Read on for lots more Singapore sightseeing highlights and pic spam! 😀

Day 3

Originally I’d planned and made a reservation to participate in a Singaporean cooking class at Food Playground, but due to lack others joining the class, it got cancelled.  So in light of that, the night before I’d promised to meet my tourist gal pal at the National Orchard Garden of the Singapore Botanical Gardens, which is a vast nature ground located near the British Consulate.  It’s off one of the bus routes that passes by the condo so it was a breeze getting there, but the real trouble was finding my friend.  The gardens were a lot larger than we had both anticipated, and we didn’t factor into our meet-up time how long it actually takes to reach the orchid garden from the botanical gardens entrance.  After a bit of wandering around we finally spotted one another, did a few more rounds, finished up our visit with a trip to the cool house.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

Gal pal had to run off to switch hotel rooms, and I convinced her to join me later for a live room escape game session I’d reserved for later than afternoon.  In the meantime it was back to the National Museum of Singapore for me, to join my host’s wife and her friends for lunch at the museum restaurant, Flutes.  Lunch plates were quite reasonable and enjoyable, though not exceptionally memorable.  But seeing as drinks will set you back a pretty penny, and strangely enough everyone except me came down with a stomachache later, this might be one place to skip.

My host’s wife and gal pal met up with me later at Lockdown, located inside the mall at Clarke Quay station exit F.  Like most room escape games you can play on your smartphone, there are clues you use to solve puzzles for access to vital tools, and you have an hour to figure out (with the help of staff if you get really stuck) how to break out of the room.  We did the easiest room, Bail Out, but we didn’t beat the clock.  Some of the clues were really out there, and without a lot of help were nearly impossible to figure out!  The staff was really supportive, and despite not winning we had tons of fun picking our brains while handcuffed together.  Try it out with a group of friends or family; you won’t regret it!  I was sad to say goodbye to gal pal at the end of our game, who was moving on to other parts of Asia with another tour, but glad we were able to make the most out of our last time hanging out.

The heat was starting to get to my host’s wife and I, so we returned back to the condo for a rest.  The previous guest had returned to pick up the small amount of luggage he’d left at the condo, and we all had a good chat over some sugar cane juice my host had brought up from a nearby stand.  The previous guest departed, my host and his wife left to attend a dinner party, and I left the condo later to catch the iLight Festival going on near the Marina Bay Sands hotel.  There was supposed to be a flea market going on as well, but I never did find it…  That said, it takes about an hour or more depending on how fast you walk to make a complete loop around the bay, so it’s possible I didn’t walk far enough to spot it.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

I camped out beside the famous Merlion statue while waiting for the show to begin.  It wasn’t as spectacular as I’d imagined it to be from the reviews so don’t make the mistake of going out of your way like me to see it like I did, but if you’re around the area at the time it’s something nice to do.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

Somehow just taking random buses from the area I managed to get back to the condo without much of a hitch and immediately showered/crashed.  You’re starting to notice a pattern here, aren’t you?  😉

Day 4

My last full day in Singapore!  This was the day I had to do everything on my list I hadn’t already gotten to.  I woke up as early as I could physically drag myself up (8:00 a.m. because I’m not a morning person) and set about getting ready to explore the “happening” side of Tiong Bahru.  There’s a lot of little boutiques, bookstores, and cafes located southeast of the station, and it sounded like my kind of place.

I took the bus from the condo and alighted (British English word Singaporeans use to mean getting off) at what I thought was the right stop.  As I was trying to find my bearings, this really creepy guy spotted me and came over babbling something in Chinese over and over and trying to hold my hand.  He followed me a good while until I darted off to a more public area and finally lost him.  Problem was I also got myself lost in the process.  Housing block terraces in Singapore often ended where another began, and finding the proper exit was often felt like trying to navigate a maze.

Fortunately another nice, local mom came to the rescue, pointed me in the right direction.  I can see why so many younger Singaporeans flock to the area for a bite or some peace and quiet; it was like all of the shops had mastered the balance of being trendy and upscale, but without sacrificing their familiar, neighborhood atmosphere in the process.  I could have spent the whole day wandering there, but I’d already made a reservation at a restaurant in Dempsey I’d been looking forward to dining at, and getting lost had cut out some of the time I’d allotted to spend hanging around.

I took advantage of what little time I had and quickly browsed and bought a few books at Books Actually and Woods in the Books.  Books Actually specializes in finding and locally publishing Singaporean authors and poets, as well as stocking a hodgepodge of republished or store-selected classic/modern novels.  Woods in the Books, on the other hand, is mostly for children’s literature and whimsies.  I picked up a few locally authored reads at the former and some kids books for work at the latter, including a cool illustrated culture and history book on Tiong Bahru.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

Great drinks and dessert to be had at Plain Vanilla Bakery.
© J // Washing Rice Blog

Then I chilled at the Plain Vanilla Bakery and had one of their absolutely to-die-for chocolate tartes with some iced fruit tea.  Seriously, that tarte was one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten in my life.  Go there; you won’t regret it!  Seating was sparse and right next to other customers, but everyone respected the personal space bubble and it was perfect.  I had to literally pull myself away, and ended up hailing a last minute cab to Dempsey.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

The White Rabbit, the restaurant I had made my reservation for, was on my list of must-sees because of its conception in the theme of Alice in Wonderland.  I arrived right on time. 😀

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

The interior is a remodeled chapel with an outside area and bar that leads into the rabbit hole pathway and “animal” (hedges and decorations) garden.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

I found out after making my reservation that it fell during the World Gourmet Summit held there, with special guest chef Sang-Hoon Degeimbre cooking up an original three or five course menu.  I went for the three course, which was as follows:

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

This ended up being the fanciest meal I’ve probably ever eaten, or at least paid for, not counting that one time a good friend hooked us up through one of his acquaintances with dinner at a private island resort club & hotel in Hatsushima.   Every dish was wonderful and meant to engage all of the senses, but the bill came to $100 USD by the time drinks, taxes, and tips were added, and like most rich people food places, the portions were teeny tiny.

The staff were all very friendly even though I imagine a single diner, like myself, at a busy event like the one they were putting on probably put them out some.  The owner came over at several points to make sure I was enjoying the food, and to explain the ingredients and concept of each dish.  He even encouraged me to explore the grounds and had my dessert put on hold to allow me to do so, eventually joining me outback and leisurely having a chat with me on different wines labels, including good Japanese wineries, and future restaurant development plans.

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The rabbit hole
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I felt like some sort of celebrity, and really struggled to be attentive and make a good impression despite being too ignorant to really contribute to at least half of the conversation.  Maybe he thought I was a food critic or a rich single lady/housewife.  Either way, he left me his business card to get in touch if I ever needed any wine recommendations.  Should I ever find myself in over my head entertaining a bunch of fancy dinner guests, I’ll know just who to contact. 😉

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

After my fine dining experience, I hopped a bus over towards Chinatown to check out was supposedly the best view in Singapore from the 50th floor of The Pinnacle @ Duxton.  Entry is through the small opening by the 7-11, and you need at least $5 SGD credit on your EZ-Link card to purchase a floor access ticket.  They’ve got patio furniture set up outside on the rooftop to lounge or picnic on as you enjoy viewing the Singapore skyline.  The view didn’t disappoint; you could see the whole city thriving from above!

© J // Washing Rice Blog

Awesome view of the Singapore skyline.
© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

View of the harbor area and Malaysia in the distance.
© J // Washing Rice Blog

Next stop was another trip to the beachfront area, this time to take a picture of the Merlion during daytime and go up to the top, ship deck floor of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

According to rumor, if you said you were going to the bar instead of going up for the view, you could avoid paying the admission fee and just sneak your way in.  Apparently they’ve caught on to this tactic, because now bar visitors aren’t allowed access anywhere but the bar.  It wasn’t a total wash, though.  The view from the bar is just as stunning, and the bar itself, called the Ku-De-Ta, offers a cool, easy atmosphere to just hang, people watch, or read a good book over a drink or two.  I got lost in one of my Books Actually purchases over a Quencher cocktail.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

You can also catch a glimpse of the hotel guest-only rooftop pool from the bar deck, too.  Fancy-schmancy, no?

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

Other views from around the bar/deck:

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

Ready to face the heat again, I journeyed over to Haji Lane.  Now this is where the real hipsters in Singapore gather.  Indies cafes, tattoo parlors, funky boutiques, and indies fashion shops line the street.  Some of the fashion shops will even do bespoke clothing orders based on your own designs.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

Don’t pass up the CAD (Coffee, Art, & Design) Cafe located about halfway down the street under the sign for the adjacent Blu Jaz Cafe!  Beat the heat inside over a Cool Cat, a refreshing mix of cucumber-infused juice ,paired with anything they’re cooking up off the food menu.  Staff even spend extra time adding lemon and mint to the pitcher of free water left out for customers.  The cafe is small, but cozy, and there are a number of magazines laid out for customers to read if you haven’t brought your own.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

The next road over is Arab Street, which is made up of Muslim-friendly fashions and textiles, as well as other shops serving any religious item needs.  Now recognized as a conservation area, much of the original architecture has been restored as you can see on the right.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

From Haji Lane, I moved on to arguably the hottest shopping spot in Singapore.  Up until now I’d avoided getting tourist trapped by any of the commercialized shopping areas, but my host recommended visiting Orchard Hills at dusk/night and comparing it with Times Square back in the States, so I went to have a look.  (Sadly I haven’t even been to Times Square myself to have any kind of authority on comparing the two.)

© J // Washing Rice Blog

It tickles a bit when they nibble, so not recommended for the extremely ticklish. “Kenko” means “health” in Japanese.
© J // Washing Rice Blog

I still had some time on my hands until sunset, so I did a 30 minute session with the doctor fish at Kenko Reflexology & Fish Spa branch nearby.  These little guys feast on whatever dead skin is on your feet, and seeing as it’d been awhile since I’ve done one of those Baby Foot skin peels, I’m sure they had a lot to chow down on.  It was my first time trying this kind of spa, but interesting and definitely relaxing!

The sun was almost gone and the area began to light up spectacularly.  Tons of people coming and going, but not quite as bad as the onslaught of people outside of the Hachiko exit crosswalk in Shibuya. 😉

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

Singapore has a number of all-day-breakfast joints, and I’d made a goal of trying one before leaving.  After a bit of bumbling around some of the shopping malls, I found Wild Honey, located inside the Mandarin Gallery.  Everything looked absolutely delicious, but I settled on the Mexican breakfast .  I couldn’t help it, it’s the Texas girl in me.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

Salsa wasn’t great, but everything else was yum.  Too bad the portions were too big for me to finish!  Even I have to put the fork down at some point, lol. 😉

After a jam-packed day of blowing and going, I was spent.  I caught a cab back to the condo where sleep eventually won out over doing much to get ready for my departure the next day.

Day 5

I spent my last morning packing and having one last chat before saying goodbye to my lovely hosts.  My old suitcase busted a wheel on the way downstairs, and I didn’t want to deal with lugging a lame trunk to, on, and off the MRT, so I hailed a cab.  The problem?  I only had $28 SGD left in my wallet and a lot of Singaporean cabs don’t take credit cards, or if they do, don’t accept VISA.  (Master Card, on the other hand, is the preferred card choice of pretty much any place you go in Singapore and you can sometimes get a nice 10% discount when you book or shop with one.)

The third cab driver I flagged down said he thought I’d be good on cash but if for some reason it wasn’t enough, he’d wait for me to exchange the remaining fare, so it was settled and I jumped in.  It was rather surreal heading back to the airport; each day I spent in Singapore felt so so long, but somehow the trip so short overall.

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

I had the taxi drop me off at the terminal where Ya Kun Kaya Toast is located, and luckily had enough time and cash leftover from the ride to get their original kaya toast set.  I can’t explain just how good this breakfast set was; I’m going to be craving kaya toast until I ever get the chance to come back to Singapore again!

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

And that was that; it was time to check in at Air Asia and wait to board the plane home to Japanland. 🙂

 

Doesn’t all that make you want to visit Singapore for yourself?  I know it sure makes me want to visit again… as long as I let my mind slip about how hot it was!  I really wish I’d had more time to take a bus or train up to Malaysia for another day or two, but alas work.  Oh well, that’s just another good reason to return, right?!

– J

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