Our first full day of our trip in Southeast Asia. While checking in late last night at the Wanderlust Hotel, the receptionist mentioned that since this Tuesday is the second public holiday for Lunar New Year, the city would be quite sleepy with many businesses closed. She suggested our best bet is to go to Sentosa Island.
We had heard that the beaches in Sentosa pale in comparison to those in the islands of Southern Thailand, our next stop for two weeks, so we hobbled together our own itinerary instead in quiet Singapore city proper.
Started the day off in Chinatown resplendent in year of the monkey style. Mischievous monkeys, plump peaches and red lanterns bobbing along everywhere.
However, the hotel receptionist was right in that many of the shops and food stands were indeed closed and it seemed like only tourists (like us) were walking around…
We were drawn to the Sri Mariamman Temple which was where most of the action was on this sleepy New Year’s holiday. The colorful Hindu temple towered over us. Inside worshippers lined up to observe the service. Musicians played loudly. Neither of us had seen anything like it before. Made us even more excited about going to India as the last leg of our trip!
I was excited to have worn a sleeveless dress today, knowing that of the countries we were going to Singapore had a lax dress code for women. However, I did have to cover up both my arms and legs here with some loaner clothes and was downright about to get heat stroke in the humid tropical heat. We are 1 degree above the equator after all. I think I’m still calibrated for the NYC winter. (Sorry NYC friends, if you’re reading this, we heard this weekend will be brutal!)
We later wandered around Chinatown some more, took a quiet stroll up Pearl’s Hill Park for some greenery and views and even got in a workout.
Followed the action to the area around Buddha’s Tooth Relic and Temple where many Chinese retirees spent the day playing games and chatting.
The temple itself was buzzing with people, many of which were tourists, but we can’t know for sure. Again I had to loan a pashmina and wrap skirt to cover up more modestly. The inside of the temple was air-conditioned, thankfully. The space opened up into ever larger rooms covered audaciously in red and gold.
Walked up and down Ann Siang Hill later which again like most of Chinatown (except the Hindu temple) was very sleepy so didn’t see many people there or businesses open.
Left Chinatown and walked Northeast to the Marina Bay area stopping for lunch first at the Lau Pa Sat hawker center. Sticking with the theme of the day, most of the food stands were closed. We wandered around for a while before deciding on an Indian food stand with a short line forming which included other Indians, usually a good indicator. The food was good and cheap but on the heavy side.
In this business district area, we started to notice that there seems to be a competition of “green” buildings. And when I say green I don’t mean eco-friendly / LEED-certified, I mean glass skyscrapers with actual trees growing out of the building floors themselves. Singapore is a very clean and manicured city with a lot of parks and street trees after all, why not extend that ethos vertically.
We then walked around the Marina Bay area, now this is where everybody seems to be hanging out. Maurice and I noticed many Chinese and Malay families (probably more tourists than locals) and groups of Indian guys (probably more locals than tourists), almost always four to a group. Thinking between here and the Little India neighborhood where we are staying, the Indian men seem to outnumber the women 20 to 1.
We gravitated towards the Marina Bay Sands mall aka The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, you know it’s upscale when they spell it “shoppes.”
This mall has its own canal with gondolas! What kind of Las Vegas-style wizardry is this? We got some fresh fruit juices at the food court and rested our toesies for a while. We had been walking nonstop all day.
Then continued walking through Gardens by the Bay, a family and kids paradise if there ever was one. Well laid out with picture-perfect gardens and water features for photographs in front of the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel with its cantilevered rooftop infinity pool. After leaving the Gardens by the Bay area, I regretted not going into the Cloud Forest since I later read online that it’s quite impressive with a giant indoor waterfall.
Went back to the hotel, our feet hurting the whole way. Took a long nap (still jetlagged) and then went to Clarke Quay area for a late dinner.
We walked up and down the strip of riverfront restaurants (many of which were closed!) and finally chose a Asian-style seafood restaurant which had an ample amount of diners eating there. The restaurant staff must have thought we were the most American people ever since we ordered pineapple fried rice and fried noodles at a seafood restaurant. Neither of us eat seafood and I don’t eat meat so we didn’t have much choice! As expected the food was just OK and pretty overpriced, understandably for the location.
Hoping that tomorrow when the public holiday is over, we’ll have better and more local food at this Southeast Asian foodie paradise.