Travel Guide: Republic of Singapore

Being in Singapore with Mitch this weekend was a blast. It was also rather useful because Mitch has been there for a grand total of 12 days, which practically made him a local. He knew where we should eat and drink, which MRT (Singapore’s metro) stations would lead us where, which parts of town I should see, and how to get there.

Everything I’d heard about Singapore turned out to be true. It’s almost uncomfortably clean, people queue for everything, it’s incredibly safe, there are trees, plants, and parks everywhere, and it could easily pass for a Western city. The population is very diverse and all signs are posted in four languages: English, Bahasa Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil.

I really love the juxtaposition of traditional and modern that one sees all over Singapore
I really love the juxtaposition of traditional and modern that one sees all over Singapore

I arrived in time for a late dinner and drinks Friday night at a Japanese craft beer bar in one of Singapore’s many outdoor food courts. This one had restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world; we saw French, Italian, Irish, Japanese, and American eateries under brightly colored awnings next to a park.

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A quest for brunch on Saturday morning led us to Mark’s, a restaurant specializing in chocolate. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Patrons ordering a simple cup of hot chocolate choose from a list of chocolate-producing regions from around the world. The chocolate in Mitch’s hot chocolate came from Cuba! The other item in which Mark’s specializes is waffles! We got a “plain” waffle with real maple syrup and a cheese waffle with salad, eggs, and oranges. Yummy!

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We spent a bit of Saturday morning wandering around Fort Canning Park on our way to the National Museum of Singapore. The park was lovely and had a really beautiful fountain that actually wasn’t on because the city is in a bit of a drought. Welcome to Southeast Asia.

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The National Museum’s permanent galleries are closed for renovations until September 2015 (depending on how all of this works out, we might still be in the area) but there was a really interesting exhibit on the history of Singapore that I believe was a smaller version of one of the permanent exhibits. I knew next to nothing about Singapore before spending several hours walking through the exhibit. For example, one of Singapore’s earliest kings in the 1200s was a relative of Alexander the Great! I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t know the Japanese were in control of Singapore during World War II and I didn’t know anything about Japanese wartime propaganda. Now I do and I’m glad we had the chance to learn!

Mitch introduced me to the gem of ABC juice. ABC stands for apple, beet, carrot and the juice is made out of those three ingredients blended with ice. One buys juices like that at stands like this:

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We spent some time exploring Chinatown on Saturday . . .

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And Little India on Sunday . . .

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The socioeconomic differences are pretty obvious. Chinatown is definitely more affluent and the bigger attraction, definitely for tourists and possible for locals just based on location. However, every third restaurant in Little India is a vegetarian restaurant, which was both shocking and amazing. (Why is is that there are Chinatowns and Little Indias all over the world? Why not Little China and Indiatown?)

We made our way down to Marina Bay on Saturday, as well.

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In addition to the financial district’s tall building and the boats on the water there was a display of Christmas trees right next to the palm trees that are actually natural to the region. It made me laugh.

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Christmas in July! But not . . .

Other Singaporean adventures took us to a British pub, Red Dot Microbrewery (the best beer I’ve had since leaving the US), the club Zouk for a guest DJ show, and a restaurant called Strictly Pancakes (I had pancakes stuffed with leeks and potatoes and topped with mushrooms and cream cheese).

We also came across this building:

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Google was only marginally helpful in telling me who David Elias is, but I’m quite curious as David and I share a name . . .

Moral of the story: Singapore is interesting, exciting, cultural, modern, traditional, and very liveable. I can’t wait to go back!

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