Rested up after an easy first day in Singapore, we were raring to go on our second day. We met for breakfast at a food court in Lavender near the metro stop. We split some noodles and had kopi, grabbing some awesome curry puffs before heading to our next stop for the day. A word to the wise: no food, drinks, or durians are allowed on the subways.
We first stopped at Haw Par Villa, the stuff of Lynn’s childhood nightmares. This park is full of statues depicting scenes from Chinese mythology. The Ten Courts of Hell are particularly jarring with gruesome depictions of people being tortured in the afterlife. Each scene is accompanied by a plaque which describes what crimes people are sent to that court for and what their punishment is. Sometimes it can seem quite severe as people who misuse books face the same punishment as those who escape from prison. Once they have atoned for their sins, they get reassigned to another life and drink a tea served by an old woman to forget everything.
Statues throughout the park tend towards derpy with crooked eyes and lopsided faces. We each rubbed the stomachs of different wise men statues for prosperity, longevity, or wisdom. One of my favorite areas was a pond with human and sea creature fusions. A woman beckons from inside a shell. Another woman’s head is on a crab’s body and summons Breaking Bad.
Once we’d finished exploring the park, we next stopped in Chinatown. Lynn explained how this Chinatown was too expensive for the Chinese during British colonization. Only wealthier merchants could live here, and poorer Chinese moved to Geylang, which we visited that evening.
We first stopped inside Sri Mariamman temple, the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore. The statues outside were many and full of color. Inside, we looked at vivid paintings on the ceiling. We then continued to the Buddha tooth temple–a Buddhist temple which claims to have a tooth from the Buddha. Inside, people walked around with dishes of coins, distributing one in each shrine as an offering.
For lunch, we went to the Maxwell Food Center across the street. It was Friday afternoon, and people met here on their lunch break. Lynn told us that this market is much more of a local one than the market we’d visited the night before. The booths haven’t all been aesthetically unified, so it has more mismatched, unique character. Here we split some more great dishes like prata, rojak, and amazing bean curd pudding. We overdosed on a Milo dinosaur, a chocolate milk drink then topped with heaps of cocoa powder, and then tried lychee juice instead to drink something that felt a little less teeth-rotting.
Still feeling woozy, we went back to the hotel, this time for a shorter rest, and then set out again for the afternoon. We first stopped at Antoinette’s in Lavender, looking to splurge on their famous earl gray cheesecake after skimping on food throughout the Singapore leg of the trip. The cheesecake is made to order and we’d have had to wait an hour, so we decided to pass.
Instead we visited a grocery store nearby and stocked up on souvenirs (for ourselves) like Singaporean and British chocolates and kaya jam, which I’ve been using for breakfast or supper–a Singaporean late night snack after dinner.
We took the train into Geylang to eat durian, Lynn’s favorite fruit. We found a stand and got a carton to split, and all of us loved it despite its smell. Geylang has a reputation as Singapore’s seedy red light district. Many tourists stay away because of its reputation, but it was good to see Singapore for all of its sides, from Marina Bay Sands to Geylang to Hotel 81. We found a dim sum restaurant for some light dinner after walking around, and we also picked up amazing coconut tarts and sesame buns that would become breakfast at the airport the next day.
While I loved Siem Reap and Taipei for so many reasons, I think the first I’d hope to revisit of the three countries is Singapore, mainly because we had to slow down on this leg and there’s so much food I still want to try.