We woke from a delirious night, but not from partying. Our arrival in Singapore was marked by nausea from suspect Dairy Queen blizzards in Siem Reap. Lynn also felt sick once she got home, and we determined that the almond matcha blizzards were the only thing that we ate but Marina didn’t.
We met in the morning for breakfast at Ya Kun, the same chain kaya toast and kopi restaurant we’d visited at the airport, hoping that it would be simple enough to eat. This time around we tried kaya peanut toast which was simple enough, and it felt good to get some food down.
We left the mall where we had breakfast and went for a walk through Little India. It started to pour so we bought some cheap umbrellas and passed by restaurants that sold prata, curry, and all the Indian dishes we’d been so excited to try. The streets were lined with jewelry shops, and Lynn told us how a lot of people visit Little India to buy gold.
Singapore is a vibrantly multicultural city-state. Last summer, Lynn told me about the 7:3:1 Chinese: Malay: Indian that the country maintains in the government and public housing. Different parts of the city were intended to house different groups when the British arrived and colonized, but certain areas were too expensive and groups moved around. Chinatown, for example, was only affordable for merchants and other Chinese moved to Geylang.
We continued onto Kampong Glam, a more Malaysian part of the city. We sat outside Masjid Sultan for a bit and people watched, waiting for it to open to visitors at 2 PM. With the humidity and food poisoning, though, we ended up heading back to our hotel and taking a rest for about four hours.
After traveling on a strict itinerary for a few days, we realized that regardless of the food poisoning, we were in need of rest. When planning an intense, long vacation, it’s good to build in time to relax (which we ended up doing in Taipei, more on that later though). Rested and recovered from the humidity, we set out for dinner at Telok Ayer Market. We split plats of satay, sambal stingray, veggies, and the classic Singaporean chicken rice. Everything was spicy and flavor-packed, and my biggest regret from the trip was not eating more of the satay. The chicken and sauce were the best things I ate on the trip, and I wanted to eat so much more of it. In any case, the chicken rice,was easy to eat, and we found a classic dish that’s easy on the stomach.
Full from dinner, we hopped over to Gardens by the Bay for the nighttime light show. We were visiting on May 4th, so they had a Star Wars themed show. The trees and music were quite impressive, and though it was crowded, it didn’t compare to crowds at Angkor Wat and was thus much more relaxed. At the end, the trees shot lights into the sky that wandered up improbably high.
We walked through the famous Marina Bay Sands, a Singapore icon and hotel built on reclaimed land in 2010. The hotel has a rooftop pool and casino and caters to big-spending international tourists. In fact, the casino heavily taxes Singaporeans who enter to deter citizens from gambling but bring in foreign money.
We continued through through a fancy shopping mall and walked along the water where Lynn pointed out the Fullerton Hotel and old city hall, buildings that touted Singapore’s grandeur to arriving boats during the colonization. From an ice cream stand, we got Singaporean ice cream sandwiches–blocks of ice cream between two graham cracker biscuits. We took these on our walk over to the Merlion, the other famous symbol of the city.
Lynn always gives the Merlion a bad rap, but when we saw it I agreed that it is a bit ugly. As a symbol of the city, it also was chosen superficially and maybe ignores the country’s complex and layered history.
Marina Bay Sands shows a Singapore that’s an important global contender. The glitzy hotels and light shows are impressive, not too plastic but tasteful. On the other hand, because it’s an international business hub, many people only summon these images when they think of Singapore and neglect to explore and learn about the country’s many cultures.