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November's Singapore Trip Report

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Hey everybody - first of all, thanks for all the advice and help in planning this trip. Overall it went wonderfully. We went to Singapore and Bali - I will post seperate trip reports for Singapore and for Bali since they were so different.

Days 1 and 2 - Wednesday and Thursday:
My husband and I left for Singapore on June 11, arrived around midnight on June 12. We flew through Hong Kong, with a couple hours layover. Long flights, but overall not too bad. The flight from SFO to Hong Kong was 14 hours, and the plane (United 747) didn't have seatback TV screens and we couldn't see any of the common streens from where we were sitting, so that made for a particularly long flight. Clearing immigration and customs in Singapore was pretty quick and easy.
A friend picked us up at the airport and took us to the hotel. Then we went out to get something to eat. We were pretty hungry and way too antsy to go to sleep right away. We went to a place called 3 Monkeys and sat outside to people-watch. I had a noodle soup with fried fish and a coconut broth, which was pretty good, and a couple Tiger beers . We met some other friends whose band had just finished playing at Harry's Bar across the street.
Our hotel was the Robertson Quay Hotel (http://www.robertsonquayhotel.com.sg/), which was ok, but nothing special. It was a decent budget option though. We unknowingly planned our trip during the Great Singapore Sale, which apparently is a really big deal in the shopping world that we had never heard of (big surprise, right? LOL). A lot of people come to Singapore for this sale and hotel rates are high. The best thing about the Robertson Quay Hotel is the location - right next to the Singapore river, near plenty of restaurants and bars, and about a 5 minute walk to the Clark Quay MRT station. It is also close to convinience stores, a grocery store, and plenty of other things. The downsides of the hotel were that it was quite dated, our room was small, we had a very (very) small bathroom, and the breakfast was just ok. We did have a little problem with the electricty in our room as well. Overall though, it wasn't bad for the price.
Day 3 - Friday:
After breakfast at the hotel, my husband and I walked along the river to Clark Quay and then over to Fort Canning Park. This is a really neat park in the middle of the city - very lush and green with lots of plants and flowers. We walked around there for awhile, climbing the hill to the old fort. We saw the gate and what remains of the fortifications. We also toured the Battle Box, which is an underground bunker used by the British for their base of opperations before and during WWII. After the British surrendered, it was used by the Japanese. It is now open the the public for tours presenting the last days of British occupation and the decision to surrender Singapore to the Japanese. There are automated figures and an audio presentation. The figures are a little hokey and slightly creepy actually, but the story was told well and it was really interesting to be able to go inside the bunker.
Next we went looking for lunch. There were signs for lunch at some place called The Legends, so we went over there, but it was pretty well deserted, so we decided to keep looking. We got kind of turned around in the park and ended up exiting opposite of where we wanted to and had a hard time getting back the way we wanted to go on the streets around the park. Eventually we did though. We wanted to go to the Asian Civilizations Museum after lunch, so we headed in that direction. Being hungry and hot after being lost for a little while, we just grabbed lunch at a little place that was nothing special, but ok. They served hot dogs, which we thought was funny - Singapore, the food capital of SE Asia, and we had hot dogs for our first lunch - LOL.
The Asian Civilizations Museum is actually 2 museums - the main museum and the Paranakan museum. Our map didn't differentiate though - both were labeled "Asian Civilizations Museum" which lead to a little confusion since we were at the Paranakan Museum wondering why the heck the sign on the museum didn't match the label on the map.
The Peranakan Museum (http://www.peranakanmuseum.sg/home/home.asp) was terrific - Peranakans are basically decedents from immigrants to Singapore and Singapore natives. Similar to Creole people in Louisiana. They developed a mixed culture through the generations, separate from that of the non-mixed decedents of immigrants and the non-mixed Singapore natives. The museum has a very large collection of items, many on loan or donated by Paranakan families in Singapore. Many items are on display next to photographs of the original owners and include stories about the people. Very well done. And the building in which the museum is housed is really neat - a beautiful restored historic building. We bought a combination ticket for Paranakan Museum and the Asian Civilizations Museum to save a few dollars since we planned to visit both anyway.
A couple of our friends picked us up for dinner and we went to the Newton Circus hawker center, which was really great. Really good food and outside seating so great for people watching. Afterwards we went to Mustafa Center - they took us there just to show us the craziness of this place. Multiple floors of merchandise, everything imaginable, tons of people - just an amazing place. Then we went for a couple beers near the river at Boat Quay - just to hang out and relax for awhile.
Day 4 - Saturday:
Our friends had to work again, so we were on our own. No worries though - we are really good at entertaining ourselves.
Since the hotel breakfast was so uninspired, we went to a place called the Book Cafe near our hotel. This place was great - good atmosphere, really good food, and good coffee (Illy). I had prochutto and eggs on toast - yum - and my husband had an omlette. The prices were kind of steep though.
After breakfast we walked along the river over to the Asian Civilizations Museum (http://www.acm.org.sg/home/home.asp) It was probably a 20 minute walk - longer for us because my husband has to take so many pictures – photography is his thing. I plan the trips – he takes the pictures. Near the museum there was a snake charmer with a huge snake in a basket, so we took the long way around the building to avoid walking by him.
The museum was absolutely incredible. It is very large, with galleries devoted to many different Asian cultures. They have a very comprehensive collection of artifacts, many of them multiple thousands of years old. We spent probably 4 hours there.
After the museum, we walked across the Cavanaugh Bridge to the restaurants at Boat Quay. We had lunch at a Thai place overlooking the river. It was a pretty hot day, but they have nice fans there, so it was comfortable. Satays, mango salad, prawn fritters - all very good. And of course, Tiger beer
Due to the heat, we were pretty much spent, so we went back to the hotel for a nap. We aren't used to this type of humidity, so we had to take it easy. Drinking sports drinks in addition to water helped too since we were sweating so much.
Our friends picked us up for dinner and took us to an outdoor restaurant called Five Star Chicken near East Coast Parkway for chicken and rice – it had the same feeling and set up as a hawker center, but there were only a couple restaurants with seating outside, near the sidewalk. Someone (not me) also ordered chicken organs - livers and such. Ick. We always feed those to the cats - I still don't think they are fit for human consumption. The chicken and rice was really good though.
Then we went over to the beach there to hang out and enjoy the breeze. There were lots of people out, even some people camping there. Some of the restaurants there had live music, which drifted out to the park. We never made it back out during the day, but they have paved paths for biking and rollerblading, picnic areas, and so on - looks like a neat place to spend an afternoon.
Later we went to Harry's Bar to see the band – friends of our friends were playing. Decent beer selection at the bar - Guiness, Erdinger, and some others in addition to the ubiquitous Tiger and Heinekin.

More to come...

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    Glad you got to the Paranakan Museum. I was wondering how it turned out. I'm totally into Paranakan culture. My kebaya maker e-mailed me last year to tell me that he was moving his shop, from Katong, over there to the Asian Civilization Museum/upcoming Paranakan Museum/shop and that it would be the largest Parakakan Museum/shop in the world. He also owns True Blue Paranakan Restaurant upstairs above his old space.
    He e-mailed me last month to say that it was finished and that everything was going well. We were hoping to see each other this August, but unfortunately I've had to recently cancel my trip. I'm sure he's done a great job with his involvement with the shop/museum. He's very meticulous. Happy Travels!

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    Asian eats all sorts of organ of animals... liver, heart, gut, intestine etc. Some people really do enjoy it (but definitely not me :P)

    Yeah, never ever miss out the Kebaya, the traditional costume of Peranakan. If you are manage to go for a trip in Malacca, Malaysia (neighbour country, 3 hours driving distance away), don't miss out their Kebaya Nyonya too, which best showed the ladies body figure and sexiness.

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    The Peranakan museum turned out to be one of those unexpected highlights of the trip. We found it facinating.

    We are from the SF Bay area, so lots of asians and asian food here - and people ate all sorts of weird stuff. So none of it was shocking or anything - just my idea of edible food ;)

    We had considered going to Malacca on this trip, but decided to stay in Singapore itself the entire time - it was our first trip to Singapore and since there is so much to see, we decided not to spread ourselves thin. Next time we are considering a few days in Singapore and then a week or so on Malaysia. We will see.

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    Singapore: Days 5 - 6
    Day 5 - Sunday:

    My husband and I skipped the hotel breakfast and went down the street to a place called Bakerzin that we saw the say before. This is a nice little restaurant in the ground floor of a small shoping mall that serves really tastey breakfasts. We shared a ham and egg on toasted french bread with fried potatoes. Also had coffee (Illy again, which is great) and fresh squeezed OJ. And the prices are very reasonable.

    After breakfast, our plan was to go to Little India and Arab Street - so we were looking at the guide book and map to determine where to go and how to get there. The waiter saw that we had the map out and asked where we wanted to go and told us exactly which MRT line to take and where to get off. Very helpful - we experienced that a lot on our trip. Lots of people offered advice, directions, and so forth.

    So we headed for the MRT (subway) station, which was about a 5-10 minute walk along the river from our hotel - pretty convinient. We weren't sure which tickets to buy and how to use the system, so we asked the attendant at the information booth and again, found a very helpful person. He spent close to 10 minutes talking with us.

    Off to Little India we went, which was a crazy, busy place. It was also Sunday, so lots of people were out doing their shopping, socializing, and so on. The shophouse architecture was great - lots of color and interesting details. We poked around in some of the shops and wandered the neighborhood, soaking it all in. We went to the big temple there as well.

    Later we walked over to Arab street and had lunch at a Turkish restaurant called Alaturka - very good food. We wandered around the neighborhood and saw the Sultan Mosque. I'd never been to a mosque before, so that was esspecially interesting to me.

    We decided to have a go at the Singapore Flyer that afternoon, and since we really like exploring cities on foot, we walked - probably not the best idea we had that trip. Suntec City was inbetween where we were and where we wanted to go - the walk between Arab Street and Suntec City was great, but Suntec City itself was a nightmare. Very crowded and disorienting. It took us ages to get over to the Flyer - walking through the Suntec City mall and a couple others. We tried to walk outside, but kept running out of sidewalk and being rerouted inside a mall. I don't particularly like malls to begin with and it being Sunday in the middle of the Great Singapore Sale, it was a nightmare. And since we were on vacation time, it never occured to us to avoid a place like that on a Sunday, or even that it WAS a Sunday - LOL.

    Then once we got to the Flyer - being SUNDAY - it was mobbed. The wait was 2 hours to get on. So we left. The walk to the MRT station included a walk through another mall. UGH! But we perservered and made it back to our hotel in one piece

    We went to dinner with friends that night - to a Paranakan restaurant near the Raffles Hotel. Very good food - mutton curry, a broiled fish dish, and several other things.

    Day 6 - Monday:

    We spent most of the day in Chinatown - took the MRT to the Chinatown station - and again ran into a helpful stranger who saw us looking at the neighborhood map on the wall and directed us to the right exit from the station.

    Our first stop in Chinatown was the Chinatown Heritage Center, which is inside 3 shophouses. It is mainly a museum dedicated to telling the story of Chinese in Singapore. The exhibits are really well done - quite creative and visual interesting. They have done a really wonderful job of telling the history of these people. One of the shophouses in the center has been redone to show how people lived in a typical shophouse in the early 20th century. I really enjoy this sort of thing because I find it facinating to learn about regular people in a particular time and place. They have a pretty good museum store there too and very knowledgable people who will take the time to answer questions.

    After the heritage center, we wandered around several of the streets in Chinatown, did a little shopping, and just soaked up the atmosphere. We had lunch - a very tasty lunch with chile prawns and thinly sliced barbecured pork - I didn't write down the name though. The food was good, the atmosphere was basic cafeteria-style, but the prices were high.

    After lunch we went on a little religious tour - saw a budhist temple, a hindu temple, and a mosque. Then stopped at the Maxwell Hawker center for some smoothy drinks, and headed back to the hotel.

    That night we went to the Night Zoo, which was really cool. We had dinner there - they have several food counters to choose from. We had burgers, which were actually pretty good and the prices were not terribly high. Much better quality than you would probably find at a similar venue in the US. We saw the fire breathers and then took the tram through the zoo. It was really neat to be able to see all the animals in their nighttime habitat. We also went to the animal show, which was fun - except for the part with the snake. That snake was too close for comfort. Everything else was great though.

    After the zoo we met up with friends at the bar at the IndoChin on Orchard Road to listen to some live music - Cats in E Cradle, I think they were called? They were ok and the bar was kind of cool - open-air, just off the sidewalk so there was good peoplewatching.

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    It sounds like you had a great time. I'm always surprised by people who say there is nothing to do in SIngapore. We always enjoy our stay and always have things on our list to do that have to wait for next trip.

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    Several people questioned our plan to spend 5 days in Singapore, said that there wasn't enough to fill more than a couple days so we should head to Malaysia or something. But when we started researching, tons of stuff came up. Plus we wanted to spend a decent amount of time with our friends. As DH and I were leaving we decided we had to go back at some point because we hadn't seen everything we wanted to - LOL.

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    Day 7 - Tuesday:

    This was our last full day in Singapore. My husband had to work for a few hours in the morning - I considered whether or not to go over to the site with him or go sightseeing on my own. I decided to go over to the site since I wanted to see the office and meet some of the people over there.

    The office is in Suntec City - yep, back to that crazy place where Mall Hell is. Suntec City is basically made up of 5 office towers linked together on the bottom couple stories by a big mall with stores and restaurants. Once we got there, I hung around the office a little while, met some people, and sent some emails. My husband wasn't finished, so I went out to wander around a bit - much different experience on a Tuesday morning than a Sunday afternoon - LOL.

    Later we went to lunch at an Indian restaurant there. It was very good - different from what we are used to at home. Most of the dishes came "dry" rather than in a stew. Also, there were lots of choices for naan, but we had to order specifically rather than it coming automatically.

    After my husband finished working, we decided to try the Singapore Flyer again. This time we knew how to get there - it actually wasn't difficult, we had just made a critical wrong turn at the beginning of our trek through Mall Hell on Sunday. If we had turned left instead of right at one juncture, it would have been much easier.

    This time around, there weren't many people at the Flyer - we bought our tickets and basically walked right on. We had a capsule almost to ourselves - one other couple was there. In retrospect, I am glad we didn't try to ride on Sunday. I think with the heights and all the people, it wouldn't have been a good experience. This was pretty fun though - I did get nervous once we got near the top, but it was ok.

    After riding the Flyer, we took the shuttle (wouldn't you know it - there is a SHUTTLE) to the MRT station and rode it back to Clark Quay. We hadn't taken a bum boat ride on the river yet, so we decided to do that. The ride lasted about 30 minutes and was pretty fun. There is a really cheesy recording that tells some of the history of Singapore which was mildly informative if you can get past the annoying announcer and his over the top excited voice.

    We had dinner at the hawker center out by the east coast park and the beach. It was pretty crowded, but after about 10 minutes we found a seat. I had mutton soup, which was really good - spicy and tastey. Later friends met us at the bar across from our hotel to play some pool. That was one of those "everything is right with the world" times - just hanging out with friends, playing pool, and having a couple beers.

    The next day, we were off to Bali :)

    One final bit for Singapore - we spent one night there on our way back from Bali and had dinner at Brewerks across from Clark Quay. The beer is really good and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for some good brews. We tried the Stout, Porter, dark German lager (I think they call it Dunkelbock or something like that) and the hefeweizen. All were great. The food was pretty good too, although I probably wouldn't go just for the food :)

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