Singapore, the last leg on our whirlwind trip through SEA (and Indonesia). When originally planning our trip, we were a bit over-zealous, and tried to squeeze in as many places as possible. Could’ve used the extra day in Bali, obviously, but, since our return flight was out of Singapore, we thought it might be cool to spend a bit of time in the city.
Drew likes to plan travel details (tickets, accommodations, etc) in advance–he gets excited over these things–whereas I tend to have a loose idea, a skeleton of a plan, if you will. I assume the details will just work themselves out as we go. There is value to both approaches, but also downfalls.
We had a hotel already booked in Singapore (as we did everywhere else we’d been). I found it on TripAdvisor, sent the link to Drew, and he booked it. Here’s where a system of checks and balances would’ve come in handy. The hotel was in Malaysia, ie: not the same country! Lucky for us, we caught the oversight before leaving Bali, and made new arrangements, with the guidance of TripAdvisor, once again. Only criteria: must be close-ish to airport, mass transit, cool neighborhoods, restaurants, downtown, under $100, and include breakfast. We are not at all hard-to-please.
Insert Kam Leng Hotel, along Jalan Besar (close to Little India). At first glance, it looked a little shabby on the outside–old, chipped paint, faded letters, and blinking lights around the sign.
There are no accidents though, I tell you. Such a cool hotel! Turns out, it was a highly-regarded place in the late 1930’s, attracting international movers and shakers. It’s recently reopened as a boutique hotel, still maintaining its integrity and rustic, vintage charm. Shabby chic, for lack of a better term. Also, according to blogs and other “best-of” lists, the hotel’s diner, Suprette, is popular with the hipster crowd–if this resonates at all with you. I imagine a place like this would be a big hit in Brooklyn, but probably come with snobbery and a much heftier price tag. If Singapore is in your plans anytime soon, seriously check out Kam Leng Hotel. Don’t expect luxury, but if you have an eye for the offbeat, you’ll love it.
Another bonus, it was directly across the street from one of Singapore’s many 24 hour hawker centers–basically, a giant outdoor food court with various regional Asian cuisine. I’ve been on a bimbimbap kick of late, and was able to score some for a great price. Again, I guess you can compare this style of dining to the food truck craze back in the states. Less gourmet and innovative probably, but more authentic–no frills, generous portions, and completely satisfying. Why fix what ain’t broke?
Anyway, we explored Singapore in the best way we would, considering we only had a day, and sightseeing by foot isn’t exactly in Drew’s best interest right now. I knew I wanted to check out Tiong Bahru, a cool neighborhood in Singapore (also home of the city’s oldest public housing projects). Lots of good coffee to be had in this hood, along with a cool independent bookstore and many overpriced homegoods boutiques. (Hi, Park Slope). Scored a cool compilation of short stories by Singaporeans who’ve undergone neighborhood shifts–should be a good read.
Though the plan was to avoid walking as much as possible (the SMRT transit system helps), we probably clocked a few miles before we realized Drew should be resting. We found free Wifi, hung out at a coffee shop, then headed to Raffles Place, the area downtown within close proximity to the Marina Sands Bay resort, the Merlion statue, and one of the city’s many malls. When in Singapore in rainy weather with a gimp-footed husband: watch Guardians of the Galaxy (Drew) and kill lots of time in Muji (Lauren).
We were able to see some of the evening laser light show, but probably should’ve been on the other side of the bay near the Merlion for a better view. Anticlimactic, as Drew puts it. The skyline is pretty at night, albeit nondescript, in my opinion, save for the iconic Marina Sands.
After another trip to the food court, we made it safely to Changi Airport, home of the durian-eating M&Ms, and killed a good 5 1/2 hours before our 2:30 am flight back to the US.
Here is my parting thought as we left Singapore for the airport: It’s a cool, clean, and modern young city. I couldn’t shake the idea it seemed fictitious, like the city in the movie ‘Her’–it could be any big city anywhere in the world. Everywhere we went, we were surrounded with people, though very little noise. People talk in hushed-tones. Children are well-behaved. There are no dancers and idling crowds in the train stations. Portable electronics everywhere.
As frustrating as the chaos can be in New York City, I appreciate the energy and vibrancy of it. I am sure Singapore has all of this–it’s incredibly diverse–I just didn’t get a good enough feel for the place in such a short amount of time, along with being limited in our activities.
As they say, everything good must come to an end. Or, on a more positive note, all’s well that ends well. The last and final stop on this train: Galveston, Texas, where we undergo wedding numero dos, city hall style, and celebrate with family.
Thanks for indulging us in our little blog experiment–we plan to expand it out further as we continue to travel and collect adventures and memories.
*Turns out, Sea Gypsy Village is at capacity. But rest-assured, I’ll keep looking for my ‘in.’