Singapore: The City.
After we got back to the US after our five-week "leaving China the long way" vacation, I remember thinking something like: "You know, I was going to end my blog, but we saw a lot of cool stuff on our trip that I can blog about, so I think I'll post some vacation stuff and THEN end the blog. I should be able to do it in a month or so, I think." Turns out, I was just a bit off on that estimate. (Note to self: estimation not strong suit.) I mean, sure I did--as I have mentioned before--sell a house, buy a house, get several jobs (one of them even on a non-temporary basis), and have twins, but still, 13 months is a little slow.
But, at long, long, long, long last--so long, my Google page rank, which I worked so hard to bring up to 4, is now down to a paltry 3, which isn't even semi-respectable, in my book--we are almost to the end. Is this the last post? Not quite. We have, however, reached the last stop on our vacation: Singapore, someplace I reached (at this point) over a year ago. Yes, when news breaks, you'll hear it here first, obviously.
So, why go all the way from Bangkok to Singapore, a city everyone knows is both really clean AND really boring and isn't afraid to cane people, when the situation requires it? I could make up a bunch of really good, really intelligent reasons, but instead I'll be honest and tell you our trip to Singapore was made for exactly three reasons, neither of which is particularly good and/or intelligent, which--in no particular order--were:
1. I needed a Singapore Starbucks mug to complete my lame "Big Cities We Went to in Asia" Starbucks mug collection, which I realize is only one step up from Hard Rock t-shirts, but still--a step up is a step up. (Also, I still haven't gotten Tokyo: if you plan on going there anytime soon, hook me up!)
2. There was a Singaporean restaurant by our place that served this dish called Roti Prata, which is similar to Indian naan, that we really liked. REALLY liked.
3. The subway stop by our house (Everyone give it up for Xujiahui!) always had these big Visit Singapore! signs, with a picture of the Merlion statue (more on that later), and since the aforementioned Singaporean restaurant ALSO had a Merlion picture on it (but not the Starbucks mug, for some reason) , we decided we should probably go take one or more pictures of it.
And that's it: those are the reasons. There are, I suppose, worse reasons, but as reasons go for visiting a place (including paying for hotel rooms and plane tickets), they're not the best. Oh well. But the good news is, I actually really liked Singapore. Which is, from what I'm told, a pretty common reaction, especially when coming from some of the more chaotic cities of South East Asia, you're Saigons and Bangkoks, etc. Everything is clean, everything works, everything happens on time, every car actually stops for you in a crosswalk (a welcome change, but one that was hard to adjust to), and everyone is pretty polite--I actually witnessed people spontaneously all stop trying to get onto a subway car instead of just attempting to cram on in, a a la Tokyo or Shanghai. (Where they actually employ people to shove you into overcrowded cars.) And sure, those people were probably stopping because it's likely against some law to get on a full subway car, but if: a) it leads to uncrowded subway cars, and b) it doesn't ever effect me, I'm I'll for it!
And yes, I also know that after a while, the whole sterile nature of Singapore that makes it so nice to visit makes you go crazy--apparently--but I'm not sure how much I could mind. As long as there's somewhere open until midnight or so where I can drink beer in peace--without someone karaoking, natch--I'm happy: all night dance clubs are no longer a requirement for my life. (Nor were they ever, for the record.)
Anyway, upon arriving in Singapore, my first impressions--in order--were: boy, this airport is clean; boy, everyone actually waits in line here, nice!; boy, immigration is efficient; boy, it is really, really fucking hot out here (it's a degree off the equator ...); and boy, that is the cleanest freeway I have ever seen--if I dropped a french fry (also known as Freedom Fries, for you republicans who aren't currently picking up same-sex hookers in airport bathrooms--I think there are probably a few of you ...) on this freeway, I would still eat it, which is not something I would say about any freeway back home.
Good stuff, I know. Once we got into our hotel (Hotel 1929), two other things surprised me about the city--well, three if you want to count how insanely small our room was, which I'm obviously not. First, we were in a very pretty part of town: all old, restored (or just new and fake) colonial buildings. Second, a street right by us--which we walked down looking for a restaurant we'd read about--was apparently karaoke row, with all the karaoke girls such a street implies. I guess I'd thought that sort of thing--karaoke girls generally do more than just watch you sing (insert your own sex joke here--I can think of too many to pick one)--would be more under-the-covers (ding!) in Singapore, but I apparently I was wrong.
As for what to do in Singapore, I think the biggest attraction is Chinatown, which we skipped for obvious reasons. Another big attraction is the zoo, which we went to, and which was fun--despite the fact I saw a lion vomit, a cheetah with diarrhea (isn't that a Dr. Seuss book), and was almost peed on by an orangutan--although I won't be posting any pictures of any of that that here, since: 1) that stuff's all gross, and 2) a zoo is a zoo, mostly.
Anyway, all that means mostly we just walked and shopped and ate. And, of course, I took lots of pictures, like these ones--always with the great segues--of downtown Singapore:
Or this one of the Esplanade, which is ... well, basically behind me, in the pictures above. The funny Durian-looking thing is a theater. Or make that "theatre," Singapore being a former British colony and all:
An almost but not quite clever picture!
This is near another famous Singaporean site: the Boat Quay, which they pronounce "key," for no other reason I can fathom other than they are, as I said, a former British colony, and the Brits seem to have lots of trouble with English (Lavatory? Worcester? Leicester? Hello ....). The happy looking statue is of Sir Stamford Raffles, the "founder" of Singapore. I hear there is also a hotel named after him ...
Across the way is the Boat Quay, which is basically just a bunch of Indian restaurants, as far as I could tell. Albeit, good Indian restaurants with nice views, which makes them different in two ways from all Indian restaurants in Seattle:
More Boat Quay:
A view across the river taken from the Boat Quay. Don't quote me on this, but I believe that building is the Emperor Palace or something--although now it's just a museum. I mean, not JUST a museum. I'm sure it's a fine museum. Just, you know, not the Louvre or the Met or the British Museum ...
This random phallic symbol in the middle of the shopping district was a memorial for something ... Pre-viagra days, maybe? Just kidding. It's the Civilian War Memorial for WWII for all the people who died during the Japanese occupation, which is something of a theme in every Asian country that is not Japan.
You've read about, you've wondered about it, and now you can see it for yourself--the creatively named Merlion (half mermaid, half lion!) that is the symbol of Singapore:
More of the majestically mighty Merlion:
This ... well, I'm not sure what the point of this was. Maybe it's a baby Merlion? Either way, as a fountain, it's not quite as impressive as the big daddy Merlion:
I know, you'd think the Merlion would be the end of this post--and actually, I did to, so I'm not really sure what I was thinking by putting the pictures in this order--but it's not! This shot below is the Orchard Road, the most famous street in Singapore. You can probably guess where it gets its name ...
And, again referring back to an earlier picture--of Sir Stamford--here is the one, the only, the original world-famous Raffles hotel
(Note that there is, in fact, more than one. But only one original. Which makes sense, since you can't spell original without one! Oh, wait--you can't. But you can spell orgy! Not correctly, of course, and I'm not sure what it has to do with this picture I'm not sure--nothing, obviously, although that other type of picture would probably be more interesting--but it's funny, and that's what counts.)Either way, more Raffles:
This drink here, as the smarter among you may have already guessed (don't feel bad--I'm sure some other people didn't guess, either) is a Singapore Sling, which was invented at the Raffles and which we bought at the Raffles. Which brings me to my one piece of Singapore travel advice, besides "Buy the barbecued stingray if you see it because that is some good shit": DON'T BUY A SINGAPORE SLING AT THE BAR IN THE RAFFLES HOTEL.Or rather, don't buy that drink at the touristy Long Bar in the back of the Raffles. The actual bar where the Singapore Sling was invented--and where, presumably, said drink is still made by hand--is in the Raffles proper, which, as a classy hotel, has a dress code, which (run-on sentence, anyone?) basically means that men have to wear pants to get in. The problem, of course, is that when a city is basically sitting on the equator and both the temperature and humidity are in the mid-90s, who is wearing pants? Not me, that's for sure. While I did have a nice pair of mandals (classy guy sandals) and manpris (male capri pants), I didn't test the dress code, and instead we went to the bar in back. Which is open to everyone. And which sells Singapore Slings that are made in large margarita machines instead of by a bartender. For 10 US dollars a drink. Great money making scheme? Definitely, especially since the place was packed. Good experience? Hardly--we left after sucking down our Singapore Slings so fast that I got brain freeze, which you wouldn't think would be possible when the heat index is well over 100, but apparently is. Whatever the case, here is a photo of our overpriced, machine-made Singapore Sling, along with some free peanuts:
And finally, here are some shots of the lovely Colonial-era architecture near our hotel:
And one more from outside the window of our very small hotel room:
Singapore being Singapore, there were signs like this everywhere, which--being good, experienced China hands, we ignored everywhere. Which led to a complete freak out like 2 minutes after I took this picture, after we both thought we'd just jaywalked right in front of a cop. Luckily, it was just a taxi, although clever of them to make taxis that look like cop cars ...
As I mentioned before, we went to the Singapore Zoo, and I took lots of pictures of animals and their bodily functions that I'm not posting here. This one photo, however, was too good not to post. Talk about your unfortunate names. Although, I guess, it could have been a Dumbshit Penguin or something, which would be worse ...
And, last but not least, the best supermarket ANYWHERE EVER. And I'm not just saying that because my name is Jason. Oh wait, yes I am. Sorry:
And, at long last, that's the end of my vacation photos from my vacation that ended like 14 months ago. Have I mentioned that I have, from time-to-time, been accused of procrastinating? Well, consider it mentioned! Better late than never ... :)
Previously, on my vacation:
- Bangkok: the Random.
- Bangkok: the Grand Palace.
- Siem Reap: Tonle Sap Lake.
- Siem Reap: Angkor at Dawn.
- Siem Reap: The Angkor Temples.
- Ang Thong Marine Park.
- Koh Samui.
- Tay Ninh: The Cao Dai Temple.
- The Cu Chi Tunnels.
- The Mekong Delta.
- Saigon: the Random. - Saigon: Reunification Hall.
- Saigon: the War Museum.
- Saigon: the Streets.
- Hoi An: The River.
- Hoi An: My Son.
- Hoi An: the People.
- Hoi An: the Streets.
- Hue: Zoom, Zoom.
- Hue: the River.
- Hue: the Imperial Tombs. - Hue: the Imperial Palace.
- Hue: the Streets.
- Halong Bay: the Videos.
- Halong Bay.
- Hanoi: the Random.
- Hanoi: Water Puppets.
- Hanoi: the "Hilton."
- Hanoi: the People.
- Hanoi: Zoom, Zoom.
- Hanoi: the Streets.