Initially Singapore wasn’t on our travel plan. I had wanted to go because a friend from law school grew up there, but we knew it would be more expensive and we weren’t sure if we had the time. But it turned out that flights to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, were much cheaper from Singapore than from Kuala Lumpur. Since we were going part of the way from KL to Singapore by visiting Malacca, we figured we would add a couple days’ stop and see the city in the process of saving money.
Then we didn’t book our bus from Malacca to Singapore soon enough, so our couple days became about 20 hours. Fortunately, most of what we wanted to see was in a walkable central area, and transit connections to other areas were efficient. We found Singaporeans to be helpful and friendly whenever we asked. Our only surprise was that many small restaurants were cash only but there were no ATM’s around.
Like Penang and Malacca, Singapore is home to people from many backgrounds. While the majority can trace their ancestry to China, there are also many Indians, Malays, Arabs, and even Burmese (we found two Burmese restaurants in a food court, though we opted for Indian — I had a very tasty Thali). Unlike Penang and Malacca, Singapore is impeccably clean. I suppose being substantially more affluent and having giant fines for littering will have that effect.
We were right about cost. The exchange rate is about 3 Malaysian Ringit for each Singapore Dollar, but nominal prices are about the same. That 3 Ringit fresh juice in Malaysia? That will be 3 Dollars in Singapore.
On my friend Nikhil’s advice, we visited the National Gallery. We arrived in the afternoon so we knew we had to pick and choose within the collection. Nikhil and the helpful receptionist at the museum both recommended the Third Floor of the Supreme Court Wing, where the courtrooms are partially in tact. This is because the Supreme Court Wing is actually the old Supreme Court building that is attached to the former City Hall via an atrium to form the National Gallery.
It wasn’t until we reached the museum that we figured out that Supreme Court in Singapore is, like New York, a trial court. No bench for nine justices here, but there is a secret passageway to bring a prisoner from the cells on the ground floor up to the courtroom.
The art was interesting too. Much of the old courtroom area is now filled with 20th Century art, some from Singapore and some from elsewhere in Southeast Asia. There was also an interesting modern exhibition on a lower floor. While the brochure brought attention to a sculpture of a tiger titled “I Want My Penis Back,” the highlight of the room was a deconstructed chair.
After the museum, we wandered around Marina Bay, using the “three buildings with a boat on top” to keep our bearings. We made another stop at a mall, and this time we successfully found athletic shoe inserts for Elizabeth to address her heel pain. Hopefully they help — we have foot care on our minds as we plan this year’s long hike.
The big highlight for me was Gardens by the Bay. Though we skipped the (pricey) indoor jungle, we made it to the Supertrees in time for their light and Christmas music show. They really are a magnificent sight. They “sing” several songs as instrumental, but finished with the words to “All I Want For Christmas is You.” It was great for a Christmas singalong.
Perhaps the most amazing part was that we watched the show while laying down on the concrete pathway. This would not have been possible in most of the cities that we’ve visited recently, but even the sidewalks are cleaner in Singapore.
We passed on a cat cafe in favor of Turkish food for dinner, and made an attempt to shop at the all-electrics mall at Sim Lim Square. Note that Sim Lim Square is not a public square; it is a square multilevel building with electronics shops. While that wasn’t successful — most shops were closed when we arrived — we encountered a surprise at the airport the next morning. We often browse in airport shops, but never make big purchases.
Well, almost never.
Elizabeth has been looking into what camera to take on the Pacific Crest Trail. It must be small and light, but we are thinking about an upgrade from our semi-broken point-and-shoot camera. She found a Sony camera through some online research, but we never found it in a store. Until the Changi Airport in Singapore.
We took a look and it seemed good. Then we found out that it was substantially discounted and duty-free. So look forward to better pictures in our next post!
[This blog post describes our trip to Singapore, January 3-4, 2017.]