Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Trip Story: Singapore

Cara Mama had a question up earlier this week asking what we miss most about our pre-baby days. My answer in her comments (lazy weekend days spent reading and my yoga class) was true from an everyday perspective. But in the larger sense, I think what Hubby and I are missing most is travel. We used to take one multi-week trip (usually to an overseas destination) and several smaller weekend getaways (usually to domestic destinations) every year. Since Pumpkin was born, we've been to my home state of Arizona- and that is it. We know that travel will get easier after awhile, and would in fact be game to try a domestic trip this year if we don't burn all of our time off on sick days to care for Pumpkin. However, that doesn't stop the itchy feet we get when we hear about other people's vacations.

So we find ourselves reminiscing about our big trip now and then. Earlier in the life of this blog, I used it mainly to write up travel stories. I've decided it is time to write another one. I had been going in chronological order, and I haven't finished writing about all of the fun and interesting things we did in Australia, but I threw out the rules for this blog ages ago, so this post is about Singapore.

We arrived in Singapore a few days before Chinese New Year. We had thought we were going to miss Chinese New Year, but somehow got that entirely wrong. Since Chinese New Year is a bit like Thanksgiving, in that it is a major family-oriented holiday that clogs transportation for the days immediately before and shuts most things on the actual day, we decided to extend our time in Singapore to a week, and not go on to Malaysia until the holiday was over.

This decision not only allowed us to see the New Year celebrations, but also gave us time to see more of Singapore than most Western tourists do. Consequently, we got to enjoy not only the terrific Night Zoo (which would have been on my must-see list), but also the Botanical Gardens, which we may have skipped on a shorter stay. These included the National Orchid Garden, which was full of beautiful and fascinating orchids, such as the mini-banana orchid (our own name) shown here. The highlight of the Botanical Garden for me, though, was the Evolution Gardens, which were a sort of open air museum tracing the evolution of plant life on Earth. Like all of the public education sights we visited (including the Asian Civilizations Museum, which was jam-packed with interesting exhibits and really needed more than the afternoon we devoted to it), these were incredibly well done. Public education attractions are something the Singaporeans do well, like running efficient mass transit and working incredibly hard. (Hubby was getting seriously tempted to move to Singapore until he heard about the average work week, which includes long days and at least a half day on Saturday.)

One thing we definitely would not have done during a shorter visit to Singapore was visit East Coast Park, which is a place the locals go to relax. We enjoyed seeing local people enjoying their day at the park/beach, and were really amused by the water-ski machine that is set up on an artificial lake in the park. After watching the attempts of several novices to get going on the machine, we decided that we weren't sorry to have left our swim suits back at the place we were staying. Those who made it past the abrupt start usually wiped out on the first turn, and had to walk back approximately 200 meters to the starting point (with their skis).

There is no question that Singapore can be an expensive place to visit. The price of beer almost sent Hubby into shock, and came close to derailing our budget. However, you certainly don't need to spend much on food if you don't want to. And this doesn't mean eating greasy fast food, although we did sample the localized McDonald's fare- a Fantastic burger, which was stir-fried beef between two rice patties. Our more usual meals were at the food courts and hawker stalls, which serve up excellent food for a very reasonable price. One of my favorite experiences in Singapore came at the Lau Pa Sat Festival Market hawker center. The food was fine, but certainly not the best we sampled. The entertainment made the experience- half way through our meal, (American) country music began to play. We wandered to its source to find a group of local women (and a few men) line dancing. This was made even more surreal by the occasional inclusion of a pop song, during which the group morphed into something akin to a high school pom line, sans fake, plastered on smiles. This lack of giant smiles really threw me for awhile. I couldn't figure out what was not quite right about the performance, because the dance moves were actually pretty good.

We topped this night off with a local dessert called an ice kacang, which was like a giant American shaved ice, albeit with flavors that we couldn't place. We think that the nicest one was probably sweet corn. The syrup-covered ice was perched atop a mix of lychees, jello, and sweet corn, and topped with a slathering of durian custard (or perhaps just durian flesh- we weren't sure what durian flesh looks like). Durian, for those not familiar with it, is the fruit that smells like rotting flesh. I can't say we liked it, but it wasn't as bad as the description might imply. Still, the entire dessert had more unfamiliar flavors than even my usually adventurous Hubby could really enjoy. We didn't finish the dessert, but we were glad that we tried it and that we had enough time in Singapore to see some things off the main tourist path.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, that sounds so wonderful! It's great that you got those extra days there so you could really enjoy it.

    I also miss traveling. I know we'll travel again some day. I keep saying we'll try to go to Italy this fall, but I don't see how we can afford it. Sigh...

    I'll just have to keep reading your travel stories to inspire me!


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