Singapore: First Impressions

December 8, 2012 in Singapore, Travelogue


There is something you likely do not know about me, unless you have lived with me, or traveled with me:

When I hit the wall, I hit it hard. As in, sit down and cry when I can’t figure out which bus to take in Oaxaca in the middle of the night after negotiating my way out of a ticket and getting lost. Or, like just roll me up and take me home, after getting on a plane with sparkly aura so bad that I thought my head would explode, crying through the flight because of the pressure in my ears from being sick this week, and then walking a million miles in downtown Singapore making the most of the evening. Is there any part of Singapore that is not “downtown?”

Today was, actually, a pretty spectacular day, migraine aura and tears over ear pressure notwithstanding. We were sad to leave Thailand, but are very excited to be in Singapore.

The experience of passing from the former to the latter is a bit like being abducted by aliens and dropped off on some super-clean, hyper-consumeristic planet with Christmas music playing non-stop, having had a babble fish stuffed into your ear. 

First impressions of Singapore:

  1. It’s clean. This is a “master of the obvious” observation, I know, but really, after spending months in the “rest” Southeast Asia… holy cow, it’s clean.
  2. It’s well organized. Beautifully organized. The rest of the world should take a page out of it’s book.
  3. I love the trains. The tourist pass, $30 for three days unlimited rides with a $10 refund if you bring back the plastic card, is a no brainer. Get it.
  4. Shopping. If you want an “authentic” Asian city experience, don’t book an eco-tour, go to the mall. Anyone who thought America had the corner on consumerism hasn’t spent time in a major Asian urban center.
  5. Avatar. That’s what the big “super trees” remind us of. They’re enormous man made “trees” that collect solar power, are lined with living plants and also help recycle the trash waste of the city. I forget all of the details right now, but I’ll write more about them later. They are fantastic.
  6. We can see the wind. It’s weird to say, “Hey kids, look at the wind,” but imagine a huge wall, the whole side of a building, made out of pieces of polished metal about the size of half a sheet of paper and hung on the short end so that each individual piece is like a prayer flag to the wind god. This is the side of the Marina Sands Hotel. It’s spectacular.
  7. “Are we in Italy?” Was the first observation made about the boats running in a canal INSIDE the mall. Inside. See #4.
  8. Ice skating. We are approximately 85 miles north of the equator and there is “ice skating” (once again in the mall) except that it really isn’t on ice, it’s a plastic rink! Crazy. Ez is unspeakably keen to do this (actually, he’s speaking of it constantly.)
  9. It’s expensive. $50 for lunch at the airport… cheap Chinese food with the horrible chopsticks you have to crack apart at the top. Dinner, cheap Indian food (butter chicken with three pieces of naan bread for the six of us) was $62. We drank water. After Thailand, where we’d work the kids over and make them feel bad if they went for the $4 plate instead of the $3 plate and we’d box some up to take home, well, we’re in wallet shock over here.
  10. And also, it’s clean. We were afraid they might not let Ez in, because he’s so filthy all the time… but actually it was Gabe who set off all of the bells and whistles at the airport, with his six piece wood carving set and long, pointy rasp. It took some miming to get the point across. They let him keep his tools.

We’re staying at the Wanderlust Hotel.

It’s a little boutique place tucked away into a cardamom scented corner of little India. It’s fantastic, actually. Perhaps the best place we’ve stayed in years. The rooms are themed, by floor and done up by several designers. The kids are in a modern art room on the third floor, we’re in the “space room” with Ezra on the 4th. There’s a spaceship tacked to the wall. The first thing Ez did was unpack his “guys” and get them set up inside it. There’s a huge soaking tub and a rain shower, and… wait for it… the bed in the loft… it’s SOFT! This is news to anyone who’s lamented the rock hard beds in Southeast Asia. The address is 2 Upper Dickson Street, but this didn’t help the cabbie.

You would think, after the better part of a year in this part of the world that it wouldn’t come as a shock to me that “Okay, okay,” does not, in fact, mean that things are okay.

I had hit the wall, as you might remember, having been walked all over creation in search of the camera that Tony’s been carefully researching for weeks. It’s his Christmas present. I wanted him to have it straight away. I supported the hiking to get it, but I was tired, and when I’m tired, I’m TIRED, ask my Dad. He has stories.

Tony’s had me longer than my Dad did, he knows this too. Well enough to know that it’s best to spend the twenty bucks and tuck me in a cab instead of drag me back through too many tube stations, so that’s what he did. Of course we’re too many for one cab, so he put Ez, Hannah and I in one, with the address given to the cabbie, the name of the hotel and a cheerful, confident, “Okay, okay!” in response.

The best thing about Singapore is that everyone speaks English. The worst thing about Singapore is that the cabbies speak English, or at least a semblance thereof. 

Excerpts from the drive:

“Your hotel, what name? I not know this one? Dickson road? There are two, you know which one?”

“Little India! This! This, little India!! There SO MANY INDIANS here! Over there (gesticulating and swerving) Chinatown! SO MANY Chinese! Here, so many Indians! This like “meet-up spot” for all Indians who coming to Singapore! You sure your hotel here? Little India? So many little hotel! All run by Indians!”

“You excuse me, I not understand all your words.”

“Where you from, I may ask you?…. Canada…. Canada?…. Canada… Canada…. (“North of the USA,” I explain.) Canada… Canada….. OH!! OH!!! Yes, I know this one, Canada!! Once, when I driving in cold place, I have a jacket, this big jacket! I have this jacket, “Lumber Jack!” You know this jacket? This is Canada, no? Lumber Jack!” The kids are howling. “Yep, Lumber Jack. That’s Canada,” I chuckle, “And THAT is our hotel!”

Never has a hotel looked so good.

Ezra’s teeth weren’t even brushed before I was neck deep in the enormous tub. When he yawned and Tony flicked off the lights the walls and ceiling of our room erupted in stars, hundreds of them, artistically arranged, almost in constellations. Not just Christmas lights jammed in the ceiling, but carefully placed lights of various sizes, some bigger, some tiny. We giggled at the “red dwarf” that indicates the smoke detector and I lay back in my bath water that was instantly filled with floating stars.

And just like that, we’re in a brand new country.