Free Falling, Singapore: Days Two and Three

Day Two

Sunday morning we got up very early and had a lot of water and a little coffee and started preparing for our race. I was interested that with Singapore road races, directors fix the course start and finish then calculate distance later. We were about to run The Green Corridor Run, a 10.5K. While at the race I saw T-shirts with such random distances like 5.67 or 4.78. It’s a country of PR’s I guess.

We cabbed it to the start where we picked up our packets and asked if we could get a picture at the start before everyone queued up. We had about 30 minutes to go and it was already so terribly hot. A drone flew overhead taking pictures as the crowd lined up. The race was along an old railway track so it would be narrow and crowded the whole way, despite the four wave start. When the start gun sounded it was about 85 degrees with about 95 percent humidity. We were so hot! I couldn’t get my heart rate under 168 so I just put my head down.

At mile five a man ahead of me tripped several times in a row–it looked choreographed. I took note and lifted my feet higher. But sure enough in just a few moments I totally bit it. Fell right onto my barely recovered knee and my other knee and my hands. Got totally torn up and dirty and bloody. Several people stopped to help me but I was so embarrassed I just hopped up and finished the race. I found John and we tried to get a cab but there were really none anywhere. We ended up going to a gas station where an off-duty cabbie who was picking up his wife from a church next door took us half an hour our of his way. Again, such a kindness.

It was time for food. Sweet cabbie and his wife dropped us at the Maxwell Food Court. We had seen this on Anthony Bourdain so we wanted to try to chicken rice at Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice. The queue wrapped around the back of the building. I don’t know what they do to this chicken and I don’t care. I just want it to get into my mouth now. I have never had such delicious, tender, juicy chicken in my life. If I lived in Singapore I would eat this every day. We got a few other items from some of the Hawker stands, then we crossed over to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. We enjoyed a very quick look around before cabbing it back to the hotel for a shower and a little relaxation by the pool. I have to say that heat took it out of us, so we grabbed an IPA at Brewerkz just around the corner from the hotel. It was nice to sit on the patio and do some people watching. The beer was adequate but the menu was terribly pedestrian and we were exhausted. So we went back to the hotel, ordered some delicious room service, and went to sleep.

Day Three

Not wanting to waste another minute, we planned an itinerary for the day that would allow us to check off several boxes, some of which we missed the day before because we had been so exhausted. Our first stop was the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which was perhaps my favorite sight in Singapore. We had so much fun strolling through the gardens, watching people do their Tai Chi and their Yoga and their boot camp, seeing the turtles and the monitor lizards in the pond. What a beautiful asset to the city of Singapore.

From there we cabbed it to the Singapore Art Museum, which wasn’t quite open yet, so we tucked into a shop nearby to have a coffee and toast, then we walked down to Raffles Hotel to wander the lobby and take in the history. Back at the museum, we saw some fascinating exhibits, including the winners of the APB Foundation Signature Art Prize 2014. My favorite was by Pakistan artist Farida Batool called Kahani Eik Shehr Ki (Story of a City). It was a Lenticular Print that wrapped around three walls of the room, and as you walked alongside the images you seemed to follow a woman walking along the streets of Lahore, Pakistan. It was fascinating! I was also pleased to see an art-text response project that asked contemporary authors to reply to artworks. The very first one I saw was a writer I teach in my own classes: Robin Hemley. That was such a fun connection! I posted his piece on Facebook and he responded that he had not even seen it at the museum yet so it was nice that I had been there.

From there we wandered back down to the river to Clarke Quay, where I planned to put some of my Dad’s ashes. Since he passed in 2009 I always take a pinch of his ashes to each new country I visit to thank him for instilling me with a love of travel. We walked around and had a look at the restaurants and shops but they were all closed. We went right to the river, where there were some steps down to the water. I walked down with the ashes to drop a pinch. So, I couldn’t tell as I walked down that the last step was covered in slippery moss, and before I knew it I had fallen into the Singapore River! John didn’t even notice at first. Luckily I was able to get back out but I was soaking wet and let’s say more than worried about the less than hygienic nature of the water. I was so startled and upset, not only since I really hurt myself and could have hurt myself even more, but also because it was my second major fall in Singapore, and my third major fall in two months. I was totally scraped up and bleeding from both of my elbows and I was dripping wet.

We had a ton more sights to see so I tried to pull it together. I found a bathroom and soaped my scrapes. We stopped and bought some new clothes so we could carry on. My main concern was “why do I keep falling?” and John and I talked through it and I realized that my eyesight has been terrible and I think it’s a depth perception problem exacerbated by an astigmatism. I haven’t been able to find contacts or glasses that fix it. So okay fine. We’ll deal with that later.

We motored on to Lau Pa Sat, a really special food court. My Malaysian friend Suhara made me promise to get some malay food and so we stopped in specifically to try some. I ordered Laksa. I can’t even tell you how delicious it was. The Laksa was so good I don’t ever need to eat another thing in my life. I’m going to have to find a recipe when we get home.

We still needed to try some Indian food so we went to Little India. I’m so glad we made it a point to stop here. Took a cab for about $10 and they dropped us off right in front of the market, where we sampled some naan, chicken tikka, and saag. We loved looking through the saris and floral arrangements. It’s a real great experience and so different from the rest of the city. We wandered around but got a little tired, so we cabbed it back to the hotel for a rest before dinner.

While we really wanted to try an Asian Fusion restaurant called Wild Rocket, it was closed on Mondays so we made reservations for a tasting at Ding Dong. It was fun, but the food was really disappointing. First off, we ordered a “Feed Me” menu where they pick the items and they brought mostly the least expensive items, like edamame. And the food was not that flavorful. So while it was a fun night, it was not a slam dunk for me. We cabbed it back to the hotel for a good sleep before our early flight to Hong Kong in the morning.

 


Day One in Singapore

Here let me try to even begin to describe how wonderful our trip was. I’ll start by saying it went off without a hitch, which is saying a ton for a trip that involved 10 airports, nine airplanes, three hotels, four art museums, 30+ restaurants, 20+ taxi cabs, three countries, and one 10K race in only 11 days. There were so many moving parts that could have thrown us off. But we were really lucky that absolutely everything worked.

One thing I want to say about our trip is that we planned our city visits in an interesting order: ascending in population (Singapore at #68 in the world with 5,155,000, Hong Kong at #45 with 7,106,000, Taipei at #35 with 8,338,000). And also descending in English speakers: everyone in Singapore spoke English and all signs were in English. In Hong Kong signs were in Chinese first but always had English translations. In Taipei some signs had English translations (but not all) and many of the older population had no English words. We figured that because of the languages our trip would go from easy to hard, but more on that later.

I need to break this down into a list because we managed to do so much.

Day One
We arrived in Singapore after 36 hours of flying. That is embarrassing, since I usually would never book a trip that way, but it had to be done because our Sister Cities trip was cancelled and our new plan was to get to Singapore in time for the race. So we had to jig and jag our flight schedules to get down to Singapore from Taipei. We arrived at the Four Seasons at 8 am, and everyone there was so friendly and made it their immediate goal to get us horizontal! They upgraded us to a premium room that was ready right away, and whisked our bags up and encouraged us to get some rest.

Instead, we showered and headed around the corner to a famous coffee shop, Killiney Kopitiam, where we ordered something we didn’t understand then sat at a table with an aging Singaporean couple who immediately explained how to eat our food correctly, then gave us a long list of ideas of what to do for the rest of the day. This was the first in a long line of kindnesses shown to us.

Next we wandered down Orchard Road, which is lined with chichi shops that don’t interest me much–I much prefer to shop from local artisans. But it was fun to look in the windows.

We strolled over to Emerald Hill to see the beautiful colonial buildings that are mostly occupied by ex-pats who tuck into the street to walk their little mop-dogs.

On our way to the Natioanl Museum, we passed the School of the Arts Singapore. It was a beautifully designed building, and there were students spilling onto the front steps. It brought back such lovely memories of my days at Cincinnati School for Creative and Performing Arts.

After that we walked to the National Museum, where there was an informative display about the Japanese occupation during WWII. I had no idea how over-prepared the Japanese were to occupy countries like Singapore. There was a graphic that compared the Japanese forces to Allied forces and the Allies had no chance! It was often 60 to 1 and the Japanese pretty much walked in and took names. We saw a lot of images of the camps where the Japanese imprisoned the British and Singapore people. And then of course there was the payback when the Singaporians deported the Japanese. Very informative exhibit.

From there, John wanted to visit a small bespoke tailor shop near Boat Quay that was supposed to sell great Panama Hats. Before leaving Phoenix, John had his biannual trip to the dermatologist and still had several raw skin sores from having pre-cancerous areas frozen off, so he wanted to get a cool hat to protect those sensitive parts. So we went to Kevin Seah, which was the neatest little shop I’ve been to in a while! He had a selection of Panama hats designed by a Canadian ex-pat hand-made in Ecuador, the home of Panama Hats. How’s that for global? John got a really cool hat that he wears very well.

Kevin’s shop did not have the box the hat came in so we cabbed it over to Hat of Cain, where we met Bill Cain, who designs all the hats, and he gave is a great hat box to protect the hat on the rest of our journey.

From there we cabbed it to Long Beach Seafood to have some famous chili crab and delicious octopus. That was a meal to remember! Very messy but delicious.

From there we cabbed it to Marina Bay Sands to have a cocktail at the Skypark. It was so fun to look out on the city. I’ve determined that the best job in the world would be “Architect in Singapore.” Man I think they might all be a little insane. What strange structures no matter where you look! But it was fun. We loved the view and the staff was super friendly even though I thought they might be snooty since we weren’t staying at the hotel.

From there we walked to Gardens by the Bay, a Dr. Suessical type park. This place was a bit too Disney for me. Not very interesting for adult types, so we strolled down to the harbor and watched some of the ferries and listened to a jazz band warm up for a festival that was taking place later in the day.

Next we went to LeVel33 to enjoy the view and try a house-brewed IPA. It was beautiful. And it was delicious.

Once again hopping a cab, we headed back to the hotel to clean up and head to dinner. We decided to take it easy and just walk up the street to the Food Opera at Ion Orchard. How aptly named! It was singing in both sound and sense. We had a lovely meal.

Then it was back to the hotel where we, as you might imagine, crashed out.