3 days of Hawker markets and gardens
28.12.2016 - 31.12.2016 28 °C
So the adventure begins; with a whole lot of excitement and a modicum of trepidation we are up, up and away.
We SCOOTed to Singapore from Melbourne and after a slow start- all flights delayed in and out of Melbourne today (I am assuming ATC have a Christmas hangover), the flight was pretty good- we flew SCOOTbiz and let me tell you I could get very used to having leg room, not standing in that endless line to board or check in and big chairs. I do like big chairs. However I do not think we will be business classing much more unless someone would like to make a donation to the travel fund of course. Cath will be looking for rich benefactors and Ian has already indicated he may take camels for her whilst in Iran - how this translates to frequent flier miles and upgrades to business class tickets is unclear but an interesting project. Do they even have camels in Iran?
Arrival in Singapore was easy peasy, straight out of the airport onto a very nice, clean and fast train (are you listening Melbourne!!!!!??) into the city and a 2 minute walk to our hotel - brilliant. Cath is sure she is the tallest, fattest, whitest, blondest person in town especially on the train, however Ian has assured her the Michelin Man is slightly bigger.
The Excelsior Towers is a very nice hotel - a little bit fancy, but not super Singapore fancy, but also a little bit weird. For example in our room there is a window from the bedroom looking into the bathroom. I assume so you can sit in the bath and watch the TV or the other person can watch you in the bath- creepy much?
It is fairly warm and humid, perfect for a stroll from the hotel to Chinatown. Ian has a bit of work to do in the strolling area, he is powering along in the humidity and having to listen to Cath say "slow down, I'm sweating". I'm guessing we will both get better at slowing down over the coming days, weeks and months, as we realise that we don't HAVE to do anything. There is no time limit on life now - WOW how cool is that?
We did have a map to get to Chinatown but really your nose could lead you and Cath's pretty much did - the food machine is in overdrive. Oh the walking we will have to do to not end up needing a crane to get out bed! Seafood and spice everywhere. What a dream for Cath, not so much for Ian, who has an aversion to eating animals with more than 4 legs. I would be very worried if I was a prawn, crab or lobster with Cath in town!!!!
The street markets are in full colour for NYE and Chinese New Year. Lots of colour - red and gold naturally and chooks everywhere, we are guessing its the year of the chook this year. I wonder what we are? Probably should find that out just in case we need more good luck this year.
As we walk, we have an opportunity to admire the local architecture, which is very pretty- lots of old colonial buildings with very sensible shutters to catch the evening breeze and ceiling fans - thank god. The buildings are painted with lovely pastels and the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Community is just beautiful. A couple of Tiger beers and a great meal in the Hawker markets and we are about done. Home we waddled - yup, waddling already- to a nice air-conditioned room and a little lie down before we really start adventuring tomorrow.
These shoes are made for walking and walk we did: 16km of it. Madness in the heat and humidity, but worth it to have the lunch we did. That shall come later, first the morning.
We left our hotel hoping to find the Marina Bay Gardens and have a little wander in the shade of tropical gardens, as it was shaping up to be quite a warm one. We got slightly distracted on the way and had to visit Raffles, so beautiful but they have done such a good job of gardening we couldn't sneak a peak and really would they want two sweaty Australians in there? So on from there we wandered toward the ever present Marina Bay Sands, using logic that the gardens would be somewhere near there. In truth we had a map and we knew they were over there somewhere, but Ian loves a short cut and this one took us into the comfort of an air conditioned shopping centre with a rooftop garden, where we spied more interesting things to delay our finding of the gardens. Finally we found our way out and on to the Marina Bay area, where we spent a lovely couple of hours wandering around- literally around, we circumnavigated the whole thing! It was totally worth the time and leg work though: beautiful colonial buildings like the Fullerton waterfront, Merlions, traditional river boats, amazing outdoor fans generating cools spots for the tourists, and wonderful views everywhere.
We were quite impressed too, by the fact that there weren't too many crowds. Little did we realise that it was because the locals all know how to navigate through endless shopping malls, without having to leave air conditioned shops, as they connect to each other and the MRT stations underground, which we also discovered later in the day when it was slightly cooler. Someone possibly should have mentioned that you can do that, or do they all laugh at the silly tourist people on the streets? I bet they do (as would I given the opportunity!).
Eventually we entered the Shoppes (no I did not misspell that) in Marina Bay Sands, OMG daaarling. A little surprised that security did not immediately go "Ummm.... NO!" We bravely entered the coolness, both environmental and fashionable, of the great beast that is the Sands. Cath got caught being nice to Bruno from Amsterdam who was trying to sell some nail thingy and sharing his life story- has he not seen her hands? Clearly this is not a girl who cares about her hands. Thanks but no Bruno. Eventually we had to leave and we found the gardens. So beautiful and tranquil and the Super Trees, OMG the Super Trees! Go google it right now. Just incredible. In fact the whole gardens complex is a wonder, a day trip in itself.
Feeling a little peckish, we realised it was time for lunch. Cath as always the researcher on any trip, had found a must do lunch but as always Cath doesn't think about getting there; its all about the destination, so Ian stepped in and navigated our way, or to be fair, the MRT did. Can I say again the MRT is magic, cheap, clean and bloody marvellous? Melbourne you should start listening again!
Orchard Road for lunch. What a beauty. Decorated for Christmas in the most elaborate decorations we have seen. It took a couple of goes promenading up and down the street looking for Shi Li Fang before we realised it was inside the shopping centres, on the 7th floor and the escalator goes up the OUTSIDE of the building. Can you hear Cath panting with anxiety? Ian could all the way up!!!!
And then we found it: Shi Li Fang - no tourists, just locals. The lunch special is called the Steamboat lunch set. We had the pork belly and so should you if you get lucky enough to visit. Chopsticks at the ready, how the locals must have laughed, we dove in and it was fat belly time. The best we could manage for the rest of the afternoon was a lie down, swim and dinner at the hotel restaurant, not bad, but nothing compared to lunch.
The clouds have cleared and the sun is out. Off we go for a morning walk to find some breakfast, although we have probably missed breakfast time due to the need to read all of the newspaper before getting out of bed. Cath has decided we are off to non tourist Singapore, to a wet market which is also a Hawker Food Market. It's a warm one again but ambling by the river is really very pleasant. The architecture is really very stunning, from massive skyscrapers to traditional houses, apartments and in the Tiong Bahru district, art deco masterpieces. The wet market was fabulous. Huge flower stalls, vegetables, fish, meat, all the stuff you need to live and the locals to go with it. Once we had wandered for a while, the tummy was growling and upstairs we went. How do you choose from a couple of hundred stalls that all look and smell amazing? You go where the biggest line is, so we did and met a lovely Indian lady just returned from Perth, WA on holiday. We had a great chat and found out the best dish- Roast Pork Char Sieu with roast pork rice. YUMMMO! Oh and a nice fresh lime juice to wash it down- $5.50 each thanks. Perfect! Growling bellies sated, off we wandered to explore Fort Canning Park. Along the way we found beautiful coloured traditional houses, the Sri Thendayuthapani temple and a couple of chooks wandering with us- how strange. The park was well worth the effort but the stairs, oh the stairs in the heat. After making it to the top of the Fort and wandering back down through the Spice Gardens, where we saw a little squirrel, it was again time to lie by the pool, read a book and ponder the rest of the day.
It's raining, it's pouring. The 4 o'clock munchies run was somewhat curtailed by the weather, still hot but a deluge has hit so we popped into the Coleman Food Centre, no idea what we ordered, noodle soups appeared though. Ian had possibly the best Laksa and Cath a Tom Yum. Bloody great. Ian sweated up a storm and went red. The Coleman shopping centre appears to be the music shop capital of Singapore with some amazing instruments, gear and interesting characters about.