We arrived back in Singapore late Friday afternoon. We were hoping to arrive in Singapore a bit earlier but our flight out of Cambodia was delayed. We have thoroughly enjoyed flying in and out of Singapore. The airport here is EXTREMELY efficient and has so much to offer. It literally has everything! From lounges with 24-hour napping areas, showers and spa facilities, to a hotel and pool. The airport also includes Singapore Tours where those visiting for several hours on a layover are granted a special pass to leave the airport on one of two city tour options. There is a Nature Trail with six themed garden and the rest of your regular dining and shopping. Their public transportation is also extremely efficient in and out of the airport. We’ve never had to wait very long to catch a cab and be on our way. We even found some sunflowers at the airport! It was like they knew the Sunflowerfarmer was coming! 🙂
We really didn’t do anything of noting that evening except we went out to eat. We tried out a german Brauhaus bar which boasted quite a list of imported beers anything from Austrian to Jamaican. I enjoyed a citrus french beer which is my new favorite.. Seriously delicious! We also ate more “traditional” German food (I use traditional lightly as we were in Asian). I had their Garlic Sausage which was served with potato salad and sauerkraut. The sausage was surprisingly good! It was a gorgeous evening in Singapore as we enjoyed our food on the patio and were glad that it wasn’t nearly as scorching as Cambodia.
The next day we headed early to the Aquarium. Since Singapore is a large city with lots of popular attractions, you’ve got to be one of the first in line to really enjoy your time there. We actually were the first people in. I was surprised that Singapore has such a large aquarium and it was extremely well done. Of course it was nothing in comparison to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but it was still impressive. We went with our friends and their son, not sure what was more exciting… To experience the aquarium or to experience a nearly two year old seeing all the fish.
The Aquarium is located on an island called Sentosa. It houses the Universal Studios theme park along with many other attractions such as beaches, water parks, and lots of restaurants and shopping. We spent most of the afternoon at Sentosa and got to visit the Southern most point of Asia while there. While on the lookout, it gave us a nice view of the harbor where you can literally see ships as far as the eye can see. We also stopped at a bakery called Cupcake which specializes in, you guessed it, cupcakes! Apparently Asia is pretty intense about their baked goods and cake decorating. These cupcakes were meticulously decorated and were equally delicious as they were pretty!
That evening we ventured down to a stretch of road known as Emerald Hill. The homes in Emerald Hill feature more traditional Chinese Baroque architecture. It was a quaint stretch of restaurants, bars, and homes. We enjoyed some drinks at Ice Cold Beer, simple name, very cool place. They’ve got all sorts of beers on the menu, all served up ice cold. I enjoyed a Bulmer’s cider. I had never heard of the name so I figured I’d give it a try. It was delicious served on ice, not too sweet, but not too dry. The bar was also pretty neat in that it has a second story bar with a window where they drop a bucket down to the first story bar for menus, ice, etc. It was quite entertaining to watch them drop and lift the bucket while we were there.
We wandered down the street to a place called Alley Bar and enjoyed some more beers and got to spend some time catching up with our friends who are living in Singapore. We ended up finding a Spanish place called Bodegas Y Tapas to eat where we enjoyed mostly tapas style appetizers of all kinds. Ham and cheese balls, chicken skewers, chorizo, garlic bread, marinated olives. It was delicious and the perfect meal to share with friends. From there we decided to hit up the infamous Orchard Towers. I wasn’t too sure what to expect or even if I really wanted to see what it was about, but when in Rome I suppose you’ve got to check it out.
Orchard Towers is also more commonly known as Four Floors of Whores and pretty much is just that. For many parts of Singapore, drugs are literally still punishable by death and stealing is a major crime. But you can still buy love in this part of the world. Our experience there was some what eye opening to what goes on in the rest of the world and somewhat heart breaking to see so many young women (and men they call them lady boys) selling themselves. Orchard Towers is an old, rather run down building full of clubs, bars, massage parlors, and adult stores.
We went into several of the clubs and had a few beers. Some of them were more extreme than others and to be honest, it was hard to tell the women from the men. The sad part of the whole thing was how many white, middle aged, business men were in there courting these young men and women. We only spent an hour or so there and got our fill of the scenery in a hurry. It was very interesting to say the least, sort of like a strip club but where nobody takes their clothes off.
Outside the Towers, there are droves of scantily clad ladies looking to pick a man up. It is rumored that many of the ladies work for commission under the bar and that when a man buys them a drink, they instead get juice and a ticket. At the end of the night, they are able to cash in on their “tickets”.. Whether this is true or not, I have no idea. I would have taken photos if I could, just so you all could see it with your own two eyes but photos are prohibited. I had heard many times and watched several documentaries on the sex trade business while in college. But it has been very apparent while visiting here that the sex trade business in Asia is still very much alive whether we agree with it or not.
The next day, we got up late and went to another open air market called Tiong Bahru. Much like the one we visited the first day in Little India, this market had vendors selling seafood, meat, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and clothing on the first floor. The second floor was a Hawker center (or a food center) and we enjoyed a traditional local lunch there. We ordered some roasted pork belly with noodles and another dish called Char Siew. It’s interesting to wander around to all the vendors and see what they offer.
Most of them have their meats on display… whole roasted ducks with the head, chickens roasted and boiled, pork bellies fried or roasted up. We also stopped down the street at a local grocery store. We got to get a good idea of what things cost here. Meat ain’t cheap at all. It really makes you take for granted the fact we can buy an entire rib eye strip for fairly cheap and take it home to enjoy OR enjoy home raised beef. Beef is mostly imported from Australia and there was even some USDA prime and choice beef but it comes with a hefty pricetag. In this store, USDA choice was $4.62/100 g which equals out to a little less than $21/lb. In restaurants, USDA choice steaks go for $50 to $100 each. Amazing. They also had lots of chicken and pork products which we were pretty much spot on when it comes to prices. But China is a huge producer and consumer of pork so it makes sense. Duck is also a big deal here and can be found farm raised for fairly cheap.
We also ventured into Chinatown for a bit. It was neat to see the old Chinese Baroque architecture again as well as all the lanterns up from their New Year celebration not too long ago. There was streets upon streets of vendors selling all sorts of goodies. Lots of tourist items but also some more speciality items. There was a store entirely for chopsticks, made of any material you can think of.. stainless steel, rare woods, plastics, porcelain. It was interesting. There was also quite a few vendors selling name paintings. They were gorgeous, but I never saw my name. You can have them custom ordered if we would have had time.
That night we enjoyed a home cooked meal and cooking lesson from one of the live-in domestic helpers from the Philippines. Domestic helpers are EXTREMELY common here and when you walk around the city, you will start to identify them. Domestic helpers come from the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Sri-Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar or Bangladesh typically and are basically like a live-in nanny and maid. They are given a room in your home (typically already built in, like a storage room or closet… it’s super small) and once you hire them on, your helper becomes your responsibility. You are responsible for covering their medical costs, food, housing, insurance, and travel costs for them to return home twice a year. You are also the one held liable if your helper gets into any sort of trouble with the law. Helpers are usually given Sundays off and that is the day where they get to interact with their “community” or basically other helpers. If you wander around public areas like parks on Sundays you will see helpers all congregating together. The rules of domestic helpers are pretty strict, you can read more about it here: http://www.help-agency.org/en/vos-questions?showall=&start=3
She taught us how to make a spicy Thai dish involving prawns, ground beef, tomatoes, snap peas, mint, and lots of garlic. It was delicious served over rice. I will try and re-create it when I get back but I will need to get my hands on some awesome prawns. She also showed us how to clean the prawns while still in the shell and with the head on. Cooking them like that gives more flavor to the dish. She also made us fried bananas. Basically bananas rolled in brown sugar, rolled in a spring roll paper, and fried. Simple, easy, and delicious. We also enjoyed a more traditional Indonesian dish called Rendang. It is basically chunks of beef stewed for several hours with a spicy curry sauce. It was fantastic! I totally plan on trying to re-create it sometime as we really enjoyed it!
The next day we got up and packed our bags for Thailand.. Phuket to be exact! Our last week is quickly getting shorter and shorter! Then it’s back to North Dakota, the frigid cold, and reality!