When we got off the plane, I left all remaining expectations in my seat (if you aren’t aware, I’m working very hard at not having any expectations for anything at all…ever). More on that another time though. As I walked into the terminal at Changi, I was hit hard by a very cold air con, which was quite welcome after being stuck in a plane for three hours. After many “travellators” (a much cooler name than a moving sidewalk), we arrived to customs, where we waited patiently for a person to not make eye contact, not ask any questions, stamp our passports, and send us on our way. “Nothing to declare!”, I wanted to shout with a smile to the expressionless face across the desk, but I wasn’t sure if that was going to get me fined, so I kept it moving, backpack on, mouth shut.
I had done research about the worlds best airport prior to our arrival, and Changi really lived up to its title. Absolutely spotless, preciously decorated with Pokemon characters, free fast wifi, and easily navigable. We had planned to go see a movie (yes, at the airport, for free!), but we soon discovered we would be unable to do so as it was on available on the transit deck, ie. through security…along with the orchid gardens, and much more.
Soon after adventuring around the airport, we got brave and decided it was time to venture out into the big city. With our newly purchased transit passes (cheaper for a 6 day pass than a one day “pass” in Sydney, AUS), we hopped on the MRT and hoped for the best. Lucky for us, the mrt (metro transit rail) is laid out like a dream. Everything labeled clearly and concisely. If you look confused, someone will show up almost out of thin air to ask you where you’re going, and proceed to give you directions that actually make sense. Just a short fifty minute ride later, with only two easy connections, we arrived to our hostel, literally 50 steps from the exit B of Rochor mrt station.
Adamson hostel is easily the nicest hostel I’ve ever stayed in. 24 hours security, super air con, a key card to get in and out of the place, a locker beside your bed, another code for the hostel room door, two nice bathrooms for the room of 16 mixed beds…pretty much heaven at a rate that can’t be beat (thanks to Agoda!)
After dropping our bags off and settling in a bit, it was time to explore. Yeah, we only got two hours sleep the night before, but so what! We can always sleep later – we only have five days in this already seemingly magical city. I did a bit of research on various hawker centres through out the city (malls/giant cheap food courts), and found we were just 5 minutes walking from one of the top ten recommended places. The Tekka centre, in Little India, is almost like something out of a movie. I had read before I went to be prepared to see such things as whole pig heads, dead ducks, and various other disturbing things for a vegan to encounter. Ian’s friends dad’s voice popped into my head “you tell Sam that it’s already dead, and there’s nothing she can do about it!” With a chuckle, I knew it couldn’t be all dead animals, so I made the suggestion, and we were off minutes later, with empty growling bellies and a hope for delicious food. And we certainly found it!
People of all ethnicities were buzzing around (though a large number of Indian descent, which definitely adds up, being located in Little India), selling delicious food from their respective stands, eating food at the wooden tables, and speaking in various dialects, most of which I could not understand. Food stands side by side, lined up as far as the eye could see on either side. North Indian food, fruit juices, South Indian food, Sri Lankan food, Chinese food….unlimited tasty, unbelievably cheap options. With watering mouths, we decided to take it slow and order from a vegetarian stall, who unfortunately only had some samosas and some other tasty fried treats. Two dollars for a small plate of fried treats. We tried to order a thosai (Dosa) only to find that she had been sold out for hours, and if we wanted to get one, we would have to come at 9 am. We’ll see I guess. After almost inhaling our amazing little appetizer, we set off for more food. An amazing looking vegetarian place with lotus’ on the sign caught my eye, but I soon realized it was closed, so more delicious (north) Indian food it was! Giant portions of Saag paneer (a special Indian cheese, similar to cottage cheese, in a lovely spinach sauce), yellow Dahl (lentils), saffron mixed rice and easily the best garlic naan of all time. That’ll be 6.5$ please. Feeing happily full, it was time to explore what the area had to offer. Past the food court, it was shop after shop after shop. Cell phones, fruit, veggies, meat (luckily it seemed to be its own area, so we quickly turned down another aisle, and that was that), clothes, various groceries, magazines, incense….it just kept going. We finally found a way out into the muggy Singaporean air, and wandered (but not before finding a few vegetarian restaurants) back to our hostel for a bit of respite before exploration part two.
That night, we wandered back around Little India, then over to SIM Lim centre (which turned out to basically be an electronics mall), and over to Bugis market, a bustling market selling everything from souvenirs, clothes, shoes, fruit juice, desserts…everything one would typically want in a market. Not really finding anything we couldn’t live without, we trekked back to the hostel and collapsed into our separate bunk beds.
A solid 9 hours later, I awoke to a strong need for the bathroom. Apparently, It’s totally normal and expected to have the runs when one visits Singapore – though I don’t remember reading that in the brochure. Post bathroom, back to sleep I went. I awoke two hours later to the same urge. Ian was having the same stomach feelings, but no luck, which left him basically bedridden for a few hours, really putting a damper on my plans to go explore. Luckily, he was able to muster up the strength for us to go out and about!
As you may already know, we are trying to be as frugal as possible on our trip (with a few exceptions), so just about every activity we did (unless otherwise noted) was free. Whoever said Singapore can’t be done cheaply simply doesn’t know how. Thanks to a super amazing person on Couchsurfing, we got the low down on cheap/free activities. Thank you Shian!
Haw Par villa was our first stop – and thanks to the amazing mrt system, we arrived in under half an hour. Within seconds of leaving the station, the wet warm humidity slapped me in the face like a warm wet washcloth. Thirty three degrees and it wasn’t even noon yet. Luckily, I had my old lady sun hat on (which gave me a bit of shade on my face, but my shoulders weren’t so lucky).
Back to Haw Par Villa – What a strange place! Created by the brothers who struck it rich with their family’s “tiger balm” concoction, with excess money comes crazy ideas. There are certainly worse things that can be done with hoards of cash!
A sprawling park with the strangest statues and scenes of various animals, mythical creatures and folklore. I thought I had taken some kind of hallucinogen upon entering. Everywhere I looked was strange, stranger, strangest, and then just plain messed up. In most ponds around the park were turtles of various sizes – poking their head out of the water every so often, as if to check that you weren’t still watching them. I did see a big pile sunbathing, but when I got close (ie 15 feet away) most of them ran/jumped into the pond. And just when I thought things couldn’t get stranger, we went to the ten courts of hell, a separate part of the park that children should not visit. Long story short, according to the Chinese, when you die, you go to a court and are judged on your life’s good deeds and sins. Any sins are judged harshly, and the more sins you committed, the more torture you are subjected to through out the nine courts. It is all laid out in a cave like setting with various scenes, and the higher the court, the more gruesome. Like to gossip? Your tongue will be cut out. Prostituted yourself? You will be frozen into a block of ice. Thrown into a blood pool to drown. Hung on a tree made of knives. Crushed by a giant stone. Just some messed up shit. At the end, after you’ve served your various sentences, you head to the tenth court, where final judgement is passed by King Zuanlun, who then sends you to the pavilion of forgetfulness. Old lady Men Po gives you magic forgetful tea, which makes one forget past lives. You then head to the wheel of reincarnation, or samsara, where based on your past good/bad deeds, are born as a person or animal. From there, it could go either way, a life of of pain and suffering, or easy street. I can’t really say anymore about Haw Par Villa, other than it has to be seen to be believed, and that it’s a must see!
After hiding in the shade for a while (which for a park, haw par villa was definitely lot a shady locale), we headed out for our next stop, lunch…but first….coffee. Ian still wasn’t feeling great, and we were hoping it would help. I’m not always a coffee drinker, unlike my other half, who gets a headache if he goes even half a day without it, but when I go through phases. Our visit to Singapore is one of those phases. We stopped at a cute little coffee shop at our MRT stop called “Fun Toast”, with cheap prices and friendly, smiling staff. We took our time investigating the giant “guide to ordering coffee”, and I practiced at least ten times, but as usual, as soon as I go to the counter to order, my mind blanked, my eyes glazed over, and all I could do was smile awkwardly, spin my head back and forth to try and read the guide, which was just small enough to not be able to make out from afar, and utter “uhhhhhhh????”Seconds later, I blurted out “black coffee! No sugar, no milk! Just black!” ….There was no mention of that being a suitable order according to the guide. FAIL. The friendly coffee attendant smiled awkwardly, repeated my request, and pretended like nothing was out of the ordinary. What a hero! I looked around, and realized we probably we not typical customers, as we were the only whites in the place. This, I soon realized, was sort of typical, as 74% of the population is Chinese, 13% are Malay, 9% are Indian, and 3.8% are “other”. To be honest, I don’t mind being a minority, as people’s reactions often crack me up. I’ve been in the position prior to this trip, and it certainly won’t be the last time.
Anyways, back to our delicious time at Fun Toast. Delicious kopi (coffee)! After resting in the air con and sipping our kopi, we headed for lunch at the fortune centre, aka a vegans dream. Stall after stall of vegan & vegetarian food, all smelling and looking too damn good! And two floors! I couldn’t believe this place. I had to walk around and investigate each restaurant, much to Ian’s irritation, as we were both starving. I finally settled on a place I had seen on Happy Cow called Vegandeli , one of the priciest places in the centre, but we soon found out totally worth every penny. The flavours! The speed of service! The textures! I basically cried “ohh!” after every bite for easily the first thirty bites, and that is not an exaggeration. Black pepper “beef” with zucchini and tomatoes, with carrots and broccoli on the side, and a large bowl of ramen with broth. I kept things separate for a while, then decided to dump it all in the ramen – why not right? When you get white rice, do you not mix it with the other dishes?
After adding some extra chilli (maybe a mistake as there was now a boat load of black pepper in my soup, but no regrets!), I downed the broth, politely dabbing st my ever running nose with the fanny pack toilet paper I have learned to have with me at all times. I wasn’t sure if blowing my nose would be offensive so I aired on the side of caution, until Ian let out a super loud elephant nose blow, so I threw caution to the wind and joined him. What a release! Oh – and I even used chopsticks, which is a new skill I have acquired on this trip.
There was also a freshly squeezed orange juice vending machine, and for two dollars, we were treated to most exciting juice extraction I’ve ever witnessed, and also the best orange juice I’ve ever tasted.
After acquiring some vegan ramen for later, we headed back to the hostel for a respite before our planned evenings activities. The wifi is incredible here in Singapore, so I spent my time doing boring things like backing up my pictures, and blah blah blah.
Fast forward to evening, and it’s once again time to go exploring. We read about Gardens By The Bay and its laser light show, so off we went on the mrt to catch the 7:45 pm showing – for free! The south garden is free to visit, and if you take the escalator as if you’re headed to Marina Bay Sands, the view is perfect! And what a treat it was! These giant tree like buildings glowed, changed colours, twinkled and strobed for 15 minutes straight. What a trip! I questioned if all Singaporeans were not into taking drugs, as this seemed to me like some kind of drug induced idea that came to be. “Ok you guys – what if we built these giant tree like buildings, that inside held trees and plants!?” “Woah! That’s far out man! What if at night they glowed and sparkled and other cool stuff” “Now we’re talking! I better write this down, it’s too good to forget.”
After we killed some time wandering around the shoppes at marina bay sands (a fancy mall), we caught the 9:30 pm show of “Wonderfull”, a laser light show, on water! I was practically in tears at the end, it was so beautiful. Again, another instance I questioned the lack of drug induced trips in Singapore. Who even thinks of this stuff? No description can do this justice, so please see the pictures/videos on my Instagram for a some media that does it no justice.
We made our way back to our hostel, by way of the ever fabulous mrt system and tried to get to sleep. Unfortunately, the lady in the bed beside mine decided to have an all out heart to heart in a Chinese language with another lady staying in our room, and it must have been deep because it was still going on past midnight, no whispers or nothing Jesus. Around that time, a couple showed up with what I swear was a bag full of various plastic bags, crinkling as they do. I didn’t think I was so sensitive to other people’s noises, but I guess I’ve been spoiled over the years.
I eventually fell asleep, but just 5.5 hours later, I awoke to the plastic bag couple, crinkling and whispering (and they certainly won’t be winning any whispering championships anytime soon). The girl then got off the top bunk and proceeded to the washroom. I all of a sudden had that familiar urge, so I headed to the washroom, only to find both now occupied. I’m going to be honest here, they were both pooping, and taking forever. Plastic bag girl then decided to take a shower. Fifteen minutes later, the other washroom finally was freed, and by then I was wide awake. Great. Hostel life is definitely going to be a challenge.
I spent the three hours in between writing the New Zealand food guide, and finishing up the Bali food guide. Once Ian was awake, we showered and headed out for another day of adventure. Fun toast was our first stop, and amazingly enough, I was able to remember my order “Kopi O Kosong!” The cashier seemed quite impressed. I made the joke (though I was secretly serious) that we had been practicing all night (though I can only speak for myself.) This time, I also got peanut butter toast (very thick bread, as thick if not thicker than Texas toast), which comes cut in squares, with a toothpick to pick up the pieces.
The cutest toast I’ve ever seen.
After some brief day planning, we headed to China town, with plans to visit the largest Hindu temple in Singapore called “Sri Mariammam”, adorned with intricate, beautiful carvings. For some reason, the temple is in Chinatown, which was somewhat convenient as we wanted to check things out in Chinatown anyways.
Fresh off the mrt, the warm, wet rag humidity made itself known immediately. SLAP! I practically choked as we took the speedy escalator right into the heart of Chinatown. My first thought when arriving to ground level was “Holy shit!” People everywhere. The colour red everywhere (it’s the Lunar new year, and also the year of the rooster), rooster memorabilia (stuffies, statues, posters, keychains, and that barely scratches the surface). Ding ding ding ding!!!!! Louder than a casino, but there were no gambling machines. Unknown, unfamiliar songs blasting on tinny speakers as we walked by. Two dollar store! Best price in Chinatown! One dollar! Four for ten dollars! Fifty cents! Random roasting ducks, faces intact. (Gag) Signage everywhere, most red, some in English, some not. Sprinkled among the cheap souvenir stores were gem stores, snack stalls, tailors/custom clothiers, and the list goes on. This was the culture shock I was expecting. More so than the tekka centre, or anywhere else I had been on this trip so far. On the escalator up to the road, I saw a sign for a store totally dedicated to Tin Tin, a show I used to love watching as a kid. I had to go! While looking for the tin tin store, we sort of got lost among all the discount stores. We wandered around for over an hour, when we finally found the tin tin store, and just steps away was the Sri Mariammam temple. Unfortunately, cameras were not welcome in the tin tin store, or I would have snapped pictures like there is no tomorrow.
One of the “souvenirs” I’ve been buying in every country is a sticker for my water bottle, and I found a great selection at the Tin tin store. A bit pricy (3$ for a sheet of about 5), but totally worth it! Upon checking out, the shop clerk looked at me with a confused look and said “you buy two, get one free!” I was well aware of this, as the signage was right in front of the sticker rack. I replied “I appreciate the offer, but I don’t have enough room for all of those stickers! I am a backpacker.” He looked at me like I had rocks in my head, took my money, and sent me on my way.
We stopped at the Sri Mariammam temple shortly after. No shoes allowed! I took off my shoes, and immediately the scorching pavement under my feet made itself known. It was 33 degrees Celsius, and standing still for too long was not an option. I made my way to the shady doorway, and suited up. The Hindu religion , as with most religions here in Asia, are not fond of ladies bodies. No shoulders, no knees! I was aware of this before we had set off this morning, but I was more concerned with the temperature forecast for the day. I had also checked their website, which mentioned they had free sarongs for such heathens as myself. So when we rolled up, I knew I had better head to the sarong shelf. As both my shoulders and knees were on display, to ensure I was respectful, I wore both the “full suit” as well as the “bottom” sarong (the “full suit” was basically a robe that did not cover my knees). As Bali is mostly Hindu, the procedure, we thought, would be the same. Though Ian’s knees were not showing, but his calves were, Ian grabbed a sarong and even put it on before realizing the men behind the desk were yelling at him “FOR WOMEN ONLY SIR!” I guess what’s appropriate and what isn’t varies from place to place, regardless of the religion.
What a marvel! Intricate carvings, paintings and murals all over the place, and the place was beaming with this beautiful energy.
After we had gotten our fill of the beautiful temple, and had had enough of the scorching pavement, on went our shoes, and off we went to see the merlion. Singapore, originally “Singapura”, translates to “Lion City, and for this reason, most souvenirs have the famous merlion on it, and since it’s free to visit, we figured it would be a good spend of time. We wandered through the mostly empty downtown streets, and on our way came across another hawker centre “La Pau Sat”. After investigating the vegetarian options, we settled on Sri Ganga (not only did the food look great, the prices were right, the cook was friendly, and I also liked the name.)
Talk about delicious! A huge rice meal (two dishes, pickled veg, rice, and pappadom (like a giant chip made of lentil instead of potato.) The cook took great pleasure watching us eat, randomly shouting instructions on how to eat the various dishes. We were still a bit peckish as we shared the one plate, so we also got a couple of samosas. He then asked us where we were from, as again, we stuck out like a sore thumb, and proceeded to tell us he’s from southern India, Chennai to be exact. We told him we were headed for Goa in a few months, much to his delight. He told us food was VERY CHEAP there, samosas typically averaging about thirty cents, and that Goa was European (which makes sense as I had read a while back that Portuguese had colonized Goa up until just four hundred years ago). He wished us well, and after we finished our samosas, we decided to try a local dessert, Ice Kacang (kah-chang). I don’t want to say it was great, but it certainly wasn’t bad either. It’s basically a shaved ice dessert (perfect for the lack of air con), with red beans and corn, plus some random jello at the bottom. I avoided the jello obviously, but from what I understand the rest was vegan. There were three different syrup flavours at play – rose (yes, like the flower), honeydew melon and chocolate or something like it. Surprisingly, the beans and corn worked. Definitely one of the weirder things I’ve eaten on this trip. After cooling our bodies down, we headed back into the scorching heat, in search of the infamous merlion.
Not long after, we located the giant statue, much larger than I expected. Among the throngs of tourists, we posed for photos, took a few landscape shots, checked out the various bars and shops (mostly to laugh at the outrageous prices – we’re talking 8$ for a popsicle.)
We heard some live music in the distance, which we found out soon after that we had stumbled across a sound check. We sat under the giant dome like roof, enjoyed the shade and listening to snippets of songs. Shortly after, we decided to leave in search of some coffee and snacks, which we quickly gave up based on the prices in the area (which we realized was the esplanade). We checked out a cute little poster shop, and then made our way back to our hostel, by way of another mall. I swear, it seems like in order to reach an mrt station, you have to traverse an entire mall, which seems to never get boring, as most of them vary in size, price and offerings.
After a short respite, we were out again! This time, to the kick off of the Pongal festival. I realized soon after pongal is actually a dessert that uses milk, which obviously as a vegan, I try to avoid, but I also realized it was also defined as “overflowing”, meaning giving back to the community and what not. For curiosity sake, we attended, and certainly were not disappointed. We were treated to beautiful singing, random back and forth banter in what I imagine to be Tamil, and dancing. The mc, who I think was from the local tv station, would just chatter away with random bits of English mixed in, which to me was highly entertaining.
We noticed a photographer buzzing around, taking random shots, and next thing you know, he sees us, and the camera snapped away. Throughout the duration of our stay to this festival, the same photographer came back probably four or five times, still snapping away. Then another photographer clued in to the whites, and took more photos of us. It was a strange feeling to say the least. I didn’t make the connection, so while the women’s shoulders and knees were all covered in their elaborate dress, jewels, pearls and flowers adorning their bodies, I saw there in a onesie/jumper, hair in a side pony tail, looking extra tourist like. Everyone was very friendly, so I didn’t feel uncomfortable or awkward, which was very nice of them. I did feel sort of like a celebrity with all of the photos being taken of us, and not in a good way. A lot of people in my generation really want to be famous, but after experiencing that, it was definitely a friendly reminder that the celebrity life is just not for me.
After we got our fix of the cultural dancing and singing, we were off to Komala Villas, an older two storey vegetarian restaurant that had a line up! We ended up sitting with another older oriental couple, which I thought was great. That’s one thing that should be done more in the west. If the restaurant is busy, and you’re sitting at a table for four, and there are only two of you, why not share the table?
Feeling very hungry, we both ordered the rice plate (that comes on a banana leaf), and some garlic naan. Just as we ordered, our table mates got their food, thosai (dosas) and I tried to conceal my jealousy. Luckily, just moments later, our food came, and what a feast!
First the plate came, followed by some Dahl, pickled veggies and soup, followed by some yogurt and yogurt like dessert (obviously I was not too interested in having the last two). We dug in, and soon realized this was definitely going to be a challenge to finish.
As we ate, and ate, and ate, the first couple we originally were sitting with were long gone, and were replaced with two friendly Indian gents. Ian made a comment about being unsure if he would be able to finish his giant leaf of dinner, and one replied “that’s why we have these!” And sort of jiggled his belly with his hands. “For us, no problem!” We all shared a good laugh.
I eventually was able to finish, but was of course not eating the raita (yogurt salad) or the other yogurt stuff, where as Ian was not able to finish. He mentioned to the gent beside me “I’m not able to finish my dinner – but I’m going to eat my dessert!” The gent looked back with a smile and a finger wag, in a mocking disapproval type of way.
After digesting for a few minutes, we were off to Chinatown to see the kick off to the Chinese lunar new year, including fireworks and performances. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, all of the fireworks had already ended and people were heading home, but that seemed to not make a dent in the amount of people wandering around.
Easily the most packed place I’ve ever been to. I couldn’t move my shoulder without hitting someone, and vice versa. We wandered around a while, trying to take everything in, but after a while, it got to be too much. We headed back to our hostel, and hit the hay.
After a decent night sleep, off we went to fun toast for more kopi o and toast. We then made the trip to Fort Canning park, a stunning and large park situated near Clarke quay. We took the 14th century walk, which lead us all around the park. What I noticed was the amount of people out for picnics with their friends, sharing stories and various foods. It was really heartwarming to me, as going for a picnic isn’t really popular in Canada (or at least not where I’m from). You could tell they were genuinely enjoying themselves, without any alcohol or drugs, just spending time in the moment. As we continued walking, we came across some couples hiding under umbrellas in the trees, more picnic-ers, and a few small families. We eventually made it to the spice garden, which is what I was most interested to see, and soon after made our way back to the clarke quay area for some lunch. It was a very enjoyable walk, not just for the beauty of the park, but also the people watching.
I had read about NomVNom on happycow, and even though it had two dollar signs (out of a possible three to illustrate cost), since we were in the area, we had to try it! We were certainly not disappointed! Talk about fantastic! Delectable vegan burgers and fries (or in Ian’s case, Vietnam yam rolls), what a treat! Just as we were leaving , we struck up a conversation with a foodie who gave us the low down. He and his family were vegetarians, and gave us quite a few stellar recommendations for our last few days in Singapore, as well as later on when we travel to Goa. He very kindly gave us his card and said to contact him anytime, and I gave our blog address. What a gem!
We then rushed to our pay what you wish yoga class, which wasn’t very far away, but was extremely hard to find. Luckily, with just seconds to go before 3:30pm, we made it! The teacher was a lovely young lady that had a very nice style. The class seemed mostly new to yoga, with a few exceptions here and there, quite the opposite of Ubud just a week prior. During pigeons, the teacher instructed everyone to lift their back leg up, and upon releasing their back legs, they were not afraid to let out the sounds of stiffness (again, nothing like Ubud). I quite enjoyed the class, and after a brief chat with the teacher, we all posed for a picture, and went on our way.
Now comes a time in the story where things get weird. Really weird.
I had decided that going to a hare krisna temple would be fun. We quite enjoyed the time we spent in New Zealand, eating and singing the night away, so why not right? I am also currently reading the “Baghavad Gita as it is” (Hindu holy text), which is a translation done by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is Hare Krisna. I saw the website for the Singaporean branch had a similar Sunday evening program, kirtan (singing) and what not, followed by a feast. So that was the next stop. The program had apparently started at 5 pm and went until 8 pm, dinner supposedly starting st 6:30 pm, so we arrived shortly before 6 pm. We realized the program had not started when we walked in to only two women sitting in an empty room, with the exception of various statues and idols. The one lady came over, and asking us why we were there (I was honest and said the good food and the kirtan, but mostly the food), she gave us the low down. “Here is what we believe. This is what’s going on in our time. The statues mean….This is why. The chanting means….and finally, here are our rules. We devout our lives to Krishna via Bakti yoga (ie. unbelievable amounts of volunteer work),No sex outside of marriage, no gambling, and no intoxication of any kind.” She then told her own personal story of quitting eating meat and chocolate, and would pull out her beads, sort of like a rosary, and count them randomly, and to be honest, it was a bit confusing. Her English was good, but she spoke very quickly and almost impatiently. “Where you stay? How long in Singapore? Next time you visit you stay with us! You take class online.” I couldn’t get a word in.
Not to be rude, but usually when you’re conversing with someone, you try and understand where they are coming from, what they know and don’t, etc. I already knew the “rules” and what they were about. I was able to mention in the beginning that I was reading the Baghavad Gita, but that didn’t seem to matter. Next thing you know, they’re unrolling these thick Persian rugs and two men come out of nowhere with a bongo drum and little hand symbols. We are given the lyrics, which again, I am well aware of. Seconds later, Ian is sent to sit with them, and I am now sitting with the two ladies behind the gents, and the Kirtan starts.
HARE KRISNA HARE KRISNA
KRISNA KRISNA HARE HARE
HARE RAMA HARE RAMA
RAMA RAMA HARE HARE
Listen, I am all for fun and singing. The bongo drum player, also the main singer, and the hand symbol guy were both talented and it was quite enjoyable. But the fun ended about half way through for me. The women beside me clapped in time with the music for most of the duration, which was impressive more than anything. Luckily, their clapping was perfectly in time with the music, but their chanting was not quite there. Randomly, other people would show up and pay their respects to the shrines, and either join in the chanting, or would disappear again. This went on for over an hour. In my mind, I swung between “the energy in here is really nice” and “where is the food!?”
Finally, the Kirtan ended, and I was hoping to turn around to a feast. Instead, more people are just coming in, the carpets are being rolled up, and now the fast talking lady is handing Ian and I some kind of consciousness manual with various songs in it, definitely not in English. We are told we are singing to cleanse our five senses. We again are separated, and the singing starts. I have no idea what’s going on at this point. I can’t follow along no matter how hard I try, so I end up just gawking at everyone. Ian catches my eye a few times and motions “let’s get the fuck out of here”, which I could sense about half way through the kirtan from him. I tried to ignore it, hoping that all of a sudden the singing would stop, the doors would swing out and giant platters of food would make their way into my life, but after another few minutes, I realized that wasn’t going to be happening any time soon. How am I going to get out of this? I knew Ian didn’t want to be there, so I considered blaming it on him, saying that he wasn’t feeling well or something. I then considered just running out, but in order to leave, I had to grab Ian’s bag, which was half way between myself and the fast talking lady. I decided the best thing would be to just take one for the team, and I started holding my stomach, trying to look ill. I gradually dramatized it more, so within a couple of minutes, I was practically hunched over, grabbing my stomach and wailing in silent pain. I quickly grabbed his bag and mine, started walking towards Ian, who looked genuinely concerned, and asked “are you ok?” I replied “I don’t feel good, my stomach …UHNNNNNN…Isn’t feeling ok.” I then proceeded to speed walk out of there, avoiding all gazes, slipping my shoes on and running down the stairs. Ian chose to wear high tops, and didn’t even fully have them on as we ran down two flights of stairs. As we left the building, Ian asked me again “are you ok?” I smiled coyly and replied “yeah I’m fine! I just had had enough of that.” We both cackled and made our way to a hawker centre suggestion our friend had made earlier this afternoon, coincidentally nearby. What a feast!
The employees were all in yellow and English was not their strong suit. We tried asking a guy who had just ordered “how to order”, and though he was as helpful as he could have been, he wasn’t much help. Seconds later, an older gent told us we had to try some things on his plate. We tried to kindly decline, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. What amazing tastes! We did our best to order, pointing out things we wanted, and paid our very reasonable bill. The same older gent showed up out of nowhere to and though we tried to offer some of our dinner, he refused. He told us we were in a predominantly Buddhist part of the city, so there were quite a few vegetarians, eating vegetarian is good karma, and that the people serving the food got a lot of good (extra good!) karma.
After dinner, I decided I would like to try another bun (we had sampled some on the gents plate), though Ian was more interested in other things. I thought we could try a little bit of each, which was a mistake. Don’t ask someone who doesn’t really speak English what something is, as the point is interpreted as “I want”. Next thing you know, I have three spring rolls and two wontons, none of which I wanted. As I didn’t want to waste anything, I ate it, feeling the super amount of salt dry up my already dehydrated body. Ugh. Live and learn I guess.
On our way back to the hostel, we stopped at Bugis street to return our tourist pass cards (we got two each) to get our 10$/each back, to get a Singapore sticker for my water bottle (cheapest price!) and to get a complimentary souvenir goodie bag. We grabbed some “juice” (I got blueberry, which was basically like a slushy, and I promptly slurped all up in what seemed like 45 seconds) and eventually found my sticker, and the stall with the free souvenirs. We got a reusable shopping bag, a pen (yes! I needed one desperately), a napkin pack and a pad of paper. Plus, a coupon for free juice and a snack. We made our way to the juice stall and I was handed a cherry apple flavour. Ian asked for lime as it was the same price, only for the woman to look at him with death eyes and was thrusted a cherry apple into his hand. It was actually quite tasty. The free snack was a sesame seed donut, which I was not too interested in. Ian said it was ok. We then made our way back to the hostel and prepared for our final full day in Singapore.
Woke up a little later than expected, got ready as soon as I could, and we were off. More fun toast, more coffee. We then took the mrt to “harbourfront”, to link up with sentosa island, a man made island that is home to a bunch of resorts and attractions, including universal studios. Prior to walking across the boardwalk, we grabbed a couple curry buns for the trip and vowed to not spend a cent on food whilst on the island (as we had heard the food prices were super expensive). This was easier said than done, especially as the day went on.
We walked across the board walk, snapping pictures along the way, and decided to stray from our original plan, and instead buy a “5 attraction pass”, which really wasn’t a bad deal at 60 Singaporean dollars.
We opted for the parajump, a luge ride, a couple of “4D adventures” (Journey 2, a 20 Minute interactive summary of the movie featuring the Rock in 3D, including but not limited to being sprayed with water in the face while the screen displayed the characters in the ocean, spraying air near your feet to give the feeling of bugs crawling when showing big bugs, and the chair shaking in time with a giant lizard’s steps on-screen), and Desperado (a 3D shooting game, complete with gun and a saddle you sat on to leave the impression you were riding a horse). Lastly, we visited the trick eye museum, which was very cool and unique.
Sentosa island was quite extravagant as most amusement/resort areas are, complete with elaborate fountains, gardens, statues and the like. And, no surprise, food was unbelievably expensive – even water was 4$ a bottle, not that I buy water bottles, but just to illustrate the cost.
After about 6 hours on the island, curry buns long gone, we knew it was time to go. We were both getting hangry. We took the time to travel to Chinatown (an extra ten minutes, which is a lifetime when you’re starving) to visit Cl Yan organic vegetarian health food, and it was absolutely worth the wait! We then ordered the laksa, a traditional Peranakan dish (a combo of Chinese and Malay).
What a treat! Ian and I both inhaled the soup in no time. Since we both had barely eaten that day, within about 15 minutes, we were both still hungry. Unfortunately, my phone battery was running low, so we had to return to the hostel for about an hour. We then left again for our last night out in Singapore.
We found out that a bar atop the marina bay sands hotel (57 flights up) had free entry on Mondays & Tuesdays, and since it was Monday, that was our first stop. Much to our surprise, free entry does not include chairs. After admiring the beautiful view, upon entry, we were advised that a table with chairs was a minimum spend of 30$/per person. The most expensive drink was about $28, forcing you to spend way more than 30$ just to be able to sit down. That’s a no for me dawg. We stood proudly at our table, Ian enjoying a 6$ coffee, myself enjoying a 10$ non alcoholic raspberry ginger tea with lemon, the cheapest thing on the menu (I found out about the coffee after), snapping pictures and soaking in the beautiful views.
Shortly after, we headed black near our hostel for what we thought was going to be a cheap dinner, but were sadly, but deliciously mistaken. Set meals are not served after a certain time, and instead of asking the waitress to come back in a few minutes, we succumbed to the pressure and ended up ordering 40$ worth of food. Surprisingly it wasn’t too much, but the price tag sure was. Ian was pretty upset over the whole thing, and I was too initially, but decided to just enjoy it anyways, and vow to be a little more conservative in the coming days.
Lastly, we went to the Singapore flyer, the worlds largest observational wheel. The cost was a bit steep, but totally worth it. It’s called the flyer, so a lot of the decor on the way to the platform is plane themed, including what Ian thought was a “cute little security clearance”, which actually turned out to be real. Post security, we walked through the maze of random trippy light shows and awards, and finally arriving at the platform. What a beautiful 30 minutes!
I awoke shortly after 8 thanks to my alarm, woke up Ian, and got everything else packed and what not. We then left our bags in search of some lunch for breakfast (a winning move, as far as I’m concerned.) It was our last hour and a half left in Singapore, and I was going to make damn sure I got in as much of the vegan goods in as possible. We walked over to the tekka centre and what luck! The original vegetarian restaurant from day one was open! We both got heaping plates of vegan goodness for so cheap, my morning was complete.
With little time to spare, we walked back to our hostel, picked up our bags, and were off to the airport. One last time we boarded the fabulous mrt, had a couple of connections, and made it to the airport with perfect timing. We decided since we had a bit of money left over to get some coffee and toast at the airport. The attendant at Yan Kun Kaya Toast was very unimpressed at our arrival. I relayed my now “usual” order, kopi o kosong (black coffee, no milk/sugar), only to meet a gaze of unbelievable dislike. Ian went to order, and the lady just straight left the kiosk to start talking to another employee, and did so for a couple of minutes. She eventually came back and took his order, and despite her repeating the order twice, Ian had to stop her from pouring milk in his coffee, only to be met with a death glare. She must have been having a really terrible day! The toast and coffee was delicious nonetheless.
Changi airport’s set up is extremely intelligent and time effective. When leaving, you first go through customs/immigration, and then each gate has security. What a time saver! In no time at all we were on the plane, heading to our next adventure, Thailand!
My writing style is a bit different than Ian’s, but I hope it was enjoyable nonetheless. If you have any questions, please ask!