During our first evening in Singapore we went to Chinatown for dinner. We thought we would check out some of the many hawker stands they had there. This is something you must try if you visit Singapore. The hawker stands are “food courts” that can either be outside or inside. You will see many of these hawker stands on one floor in most of the larger malls (usually in the basement but not always). The hawker stands in the malls typically have a combination of chain food sellers along with unique family owned businesses. There are dozens of outside hawker stands in Singapore and most all of these are small family owned businesses selling their unique types of food. You will see many types of Asian food offered at these stand with Chili Crab and Grilled Stingray being some of the local specialties. We tried these two delicacies for the first time while we were there and they were delicious. While the crab is somewhat costly, most of the other food options are very inexpensive. You can watch your food being cooked while you wait. Many of the hawker stands even have pagers now, so you can go out and look for your other selections while they cook what you ordered. You order based on picture menus posted on the stands or the tanks of fish, crabs and other seafood that you can directly select your meal. Don’t go to one of these outside hawker stands thinking you can walk around looking at things and then buy a hamburger and fries because your only selections are a myriad of different Asian types of food (Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Malay, Thai and others). You might find a burger place in the indoor hawker stands but that isn’t guaranteed either. There are plenty of McDonalds, Burger Kings or Subways around the city if you want American food but why do that when you are in Singapore. During our first night when we stopped in Chinatown, we ended up selecting an outside sit down restaurant versus a hawker stand. We picked some great entrees and side selection and ate a great meal. Every subsequent dinner after that, we went to outside hawker stands. Our favorite place ended up being a place over by the harbor which had been recommended by Sharon’s Pickleball friend in Singapore, Janet Lye. It was called Makansutra Glutton’s Bay.
Besides food, Chinatown is a great place to do some shopping. They have a tremendous selection of inexpensive souvenirs or jewelry. There are clothes stores everywhere and you can get a custom made suit or shirt there. There are stores with uniquely crafted items such as wood or jade carvings. Some of the shops are set up like dollar stores which you can buy 10 purses or refrigerator magnets for a couple of bucks. There are pharmacies there although they have more natural Chinese remedies than over the counter drugs. If you want a cheap massage, this is your area to go to. You will find small little massage places intermixed between the shops where you go up to the second or third floor for your massage. Also located in Chinatown are various temples. You will find both Hindu and Buddha temples here. We have been to several in the past and went into one during this trip. They are really fascinating to view. This area also has many hotels throughout the area and most of the people live in small residences either above their shops or around the area. It is a small town within the larger city of Singapore.
We also went to Little India in Singapore which is much smaller than Chinatown. It has its share of shops but it is very different than what is offered in Chinatown. We went there primarily for lunch but we just wanted to look around. We ended up finding a very nice little restaurant and had lunch. This was one of Chris’ favorite meals in Singapore and he wanted to go back again but we never had an opportunity to get there again.
Our second day in Singapore we spent on Sentosa Island. We had been there before but never really explored much of the island. This time we bought a cable car ticket that also included a ride on the luge. The cable car took us to the center of the island and we got some great views along the way. You could see Universal Studios which has a park on the island and you could see the Singapore Aquarium with its many pools of dolphin swimming around. We took another cable car to the end of the island where we walked along the Skywalk over to Fort Silosa. We learned a little about the Japanese invasion of Singapore during World War II and how this fort played a key role in this attack. From there we walked along the beach and watched the zip liners fly across the beach and water. There was also a bungee jump where we watched a few people jump off of a 150 foot tower to a swimming pool below. The bungee cord stopped them within a few feet of the pool. It looked like a pretty exciting jump that none of us decided to do! After this we did our luge ride which was fun. A lift took us to the top of the hill where we rode these luges (sleds on rollers) down a winding track. Our ticket included two rides which we enjoyed. We then started making our way back to the cable car and along the way we came across the giant Merlion Statue on the island. This Merlion is much larger than the one in the harbor and more importantly this one wasn’t being renovated. We took the cable car all the way to Mount Faber where we walked around the park getting some great views.
One day we took a walk around Gardens by the Bay. We have been there before but always enjoy wandering around looking at the beautiful plants and landscaping. It is most known for the tall, artificial and self-sustaining trees in the area. These trees are around 100 feet tall and have hundreds of plants placed in the trunks of the trees. The trees collect rainfall and pump this rain water via solar powered pumps to the plants. There is a path around 50 feet off the ground that you can walk around from tree to tree to admire the area and the city skyline. There are also two enclosed “greenhouses” in the area where you can look at different species of plants in some very unique landscaping. We stopped at the local hawker stand in the gardens called Satay by the Bay where we had a small snack before heading to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. We had been told to go up to the top of this tall hotel to see the city at sunset. For $22 you can go up to the Ce La Vie Bar and have one drink while sitting down and admiring the view from the 57th floor of this spectacular hotel. Unfortunately, there were too many clouds to see the sunset but we did get some great views of the city in both the daylight and night time. We also watched the light show from this unique vantage point. If is well worth the $22 for this experience. If you do try out this experience make sure you go to the bar area by the pool and not the area at the far end of the hotel. The views are next better by the pool and you can get a table right on the edge of the hotel.
The last day of our visit we played some Pickleball with the players in the area. Thanks Janet Lye for your hospitality and setting play time with another group of players. We played at one of the many local clubs and the players were very good. They have been playing Pickleball in Singapore for around 30 years and have 30 or 40 clubs around the city who play the sport frequently. Unfortunately, they play indoors WITHOUT air conditioning. With the high temperatures and humidity this creates some very difficult conditions to play this sport. Chris and Greg struggled more with these conditions than Sharon but we all had fun.
We had a great time in Singapore and took our flight back to Sydney where we boarded our last 7 night cruise to New Caledonia before coming back to the US.
Greg & Sharon