All good things must come to an end, and unfortunately that means our Spain & Portugal odyssey. But, our last hurrah is a two night stopover in Singapore to decompress and break that awful flight.
I’m quite fond of Singapore. It isn’t all this:
Singapore is graced with a terrific metro system – frequent, clean, easy to use. You can buy a ticket that lets you put 6 trips on the card. After trip 3 you get the 10 cent cost of the card back. With trip 6 you get another 10cent discount. Each trip is purchased individually from a very simple ticket machine. Easy peasey (I’m looking at you Myki – why on earth did Melbourne feel it had to reinvent an already round wheel??). The only glitch is that you need to have small money – the machine won’t accept notes higher than $5 for trips less than $5. This means you have to hope there is a manned Service Booth (which more often than not there is) so you can get change for the $50 notes that come out of the ATM machines.
Getting to and from the airport is super easy – train from Changi Airport two stops, then walk across the platform to catch an East West line train (and then change to another line if needs be). It cost us $2.40 each to get to our hotel.
We ended up using the MRT a lot this trip (last trip we walked everywhere) due to a combination of the smoke haze, the heat and the very high humidity. So, we did spend a lot of time underground.
The other thing that makes Singapore so easy to navigate is signage. Boy, these people leave nothing to chance. Trust the signs and you will find your way anywhere. But, not happy with just signage they also have things that light up (on the trains) and/or talk to you (always with beautiful diction and enunciation) – the train talks, the platform talks, the lifts talk. Just a bit of overkill me thinks.
We stayed at the Adonis Hotel (http://www.hoteladonis.com), a small hotel in a heritage building not far from Raffles Hotel. Perfectly located a couple of blocks from Bugis MRT stop, which is on both the East West line and the Downtown line, and also easy walking distance to Clarke Quay, and in the other direction, the Arab Quarter, and Little India.
The staff were charming, and better still, from 5 – 6.30pm they have free drinks! Bonus. But, when they name a room Quaint Queen, be warned – Quaint is a euphemism for Tiny in Singapore. Our room was very pleasant but very small. To get in and out of bed I had to climb over Pete. And, his bag had to sit on the shelf above the bed. But, this is Singapore – accommodation is very expensive, and $ doesn’t always give you space. But, we were expecting this, so we managed.
Our first evening
With luck we arrived at the hotel in time for the free drinks, before walking down to the river front and the Makansutra Gluttons Bay hawker market (sits between the Theatres in the Bay and the Singapore Flyer), where of course we ate too much, but it was all delicious. The night was balmy and as an added bonus we nabbed a table facing the water so were able to watch the light display on Marina Bay while we ate.
The rain didn’t clear the smoke haze which is covering the City thanks to the fires in Indonesia, nor did it reduce the humidity. After a late breakfast we headed off to find the coffee house we had found 5 years earlier in Kampong Glam, in Kandahar Street to be exact. I was desperate for a good coffee after 7 weeks away, and much to my delight Maison Ikkoku ( http://www.maison-ikkoku.net) was still there, and still making a great coffee.
Caffeinated, we wandered around the Arab Quarter and Kampong Glam. There are wall to wall cafes, both old school catering for the locals, and more hip and happening places, catering for young Singaporeans as well as tourists. I had booked us into an afternoon food tour of the area but unfortunately we had received an email the night before cancelling the tour as we were the only ones booked on it. Disappointing as there looked to be some very interesting places to eat. We had to content ourselves with smelling and looking and thinking of what might have been.
In the meantime, there was some street art to admire:
Then it was back underground to train it to the Gardens by the Bay, which were under construction last time we were here. Incredible concept really – a zoo for plants. How on earth they managed to get what in some cases must be over one hundred year old trees to a) Singapore and b) to survive is beyond me. And, just like a zoo, it made me feel a little sad to see ancient olive and boab trees in this false environment. But, as Pete says, what an amazing gig for a horticulturist.
As well as plants there are also sculptures scattered around the gardens.I was particularly taken with this one, by French sculptor Bruno Catalana, called La Famille de Voyageurs (A Travelling Family):
After several hours wandering the different zones, we again hit the MRT, this time to Chinatown for a late lunch, and a bit of a walk around the area. It was just starting to get going (in terms of boutique hotels and cafes) when we last here – more have sprung up since then.
Time then to get back to the Adonis for drinks, before heading out to Chin Chin Eating House. A laminex table, plastic chopsticks, quick service, crowded with locals, noisy restaurant just a few doors up from the hotel.
We opted for their signature dish of Chicken Rice, plus stir fried vegetables and a dish called Fish Salad, which turned out to be some sort of fried fish covered in mayonnaise. Once we had scraped the mayonnaise off, it was actually very tasty.
After all that food we needed to walk it off, so wandered back to Kampong Glam to see what was happening with the groovy people. The cafes were packed, there was some live music in the street – it was indeed a happening place.
On our walk back to the hotel we stumbled across Parkview Square, one of the many tower blocks in Singapore, but this one is an attempt at a re-creation of the Rockefellow Centre in New York. It is an office block and houses several embassies but downstairs there is a bar. The wine rack is like a towering library bookshelf, and the wines are accessed by a young woman who is winched up in the air, Peter Pan like, to retrieve the bottles. Very very bizarre.
The final day is always awkward when you have an evening flight – you have to juggle a midday checkout with your desire not to arrive at the airport all hot and sweaty. Our solution, spend most of the time in a restaurant!
So it was a leisurely breakfast, then checkout, followed by a walk back to Maison Ikkoku for coffee before taking the train to Marina Bay Sands where we had a 1pm booking for lunch at David Thompson’s newish restaurant, Long Chim (http://www.longchim.com.sg).
To fill in time we had a bit of a wander around the shopping complex. It’s disgusting really – nothing more than blatant branded consumerism. It defies belief how there can be so many shops in Singapore – are there really that many people who just want to buy, buy, buy???
And then we had to be exposed to the horror of the gaming floor of the casino as Long Chim sits within the Casino at Marina Bay Sands. Luckily, you only look down on the floor as you walk to the restaurant, but that was enough for me.
But of course, when you add in 2 glasses of wine each, the bill came to S$167!! However, the food was terrific and we enjoyed the experience. Next time maybe we will go the whole hog and do the tasting menu for S$88.
Banana roti and Mango Sticky Rice (both very yummy):
Then it was time to collect our luggage and head out to the airport. So, that was our Singapore Stopover – food, and more food basically. Would you expect anything else?