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(Asia 2012) First stop:  Singapore!

Extended vacations are awesome, but have you ever noticed that, upon returning home, you feel more stressed out than you did prior to departure?  What's up with that? 

I hate to start a post - especially since I have not written one in a hot minute - with a bunch of bitching and moaning.  But, let me preface this by saying that I've only taken *one* other 2-week travel stint since graduating from college, ahem, 10-years ago.  So, you can only imagine what a buzz kill it was to a) return to a cold and dreary NYC, and b) the office after having gallivanted across Southeast Asia for 14-days.  The only thing that I was looking forward to upon my return?  Seeing her:

Lucy <3Ok, and, perhaps, indulging in a few slices of good ol' NY-style pizza...

Last Monday morning, my worst fears were realized when I sat down at my desk - opened my Outlook inbox - and saw the mass amount of emails marked with red "follow-up" flags (that required an urgent response).  Ugh.  And, speaking of red, how about that glaring red light on my desk phone, signaling that I had to check my goddamn voicemail?  Have I ever mentioned how much I loathe voicemail?  Oh, and all of the personal crap that I needed to attend to?  "First world problems." I know, I know...I'll shut up now.

Needless to say, after a very busy week, things are slowly starting to calm down a bit.  Meaning that I can finally report on my trip!  So, without further ado, please join me as I recap the first four of fourteen of the very best days of my life.  Beginning in Singapore. 

From Asia with love,

The Lunch Belle


Destination: Singapore

My cousin, Eric, got a job with a British law firm in Singapore, circa August 2011.  And, just like I did when he landed the internship in Hong Kong in 2010, I promised him that I would come visit.  So, back in May of this year, my sister and I booked one-way flights to Singapore.  "We'll figure out the rest of our itinerary later," she suggested.  "Let's just take our time on deciding where else to go."  And that's exactly what we did.


11/16:  I scooted out of work early and boarded a Los Angeles-bound flight to meet my sister (from there, we would fly to Singapore together).  Upon my arrival at LAX, I was floored by the beyond shiteous international departures terminal.  Aside from the private airline lounges which we may or may not have tried to sneak in to, there was only ONE restaurant (if you can even call it that).  One!  What the hell, right?  For god's sake, the airport in Lubbock, TX has more options!  Let's just put it this way, my sister and I were actually looking forward to our 20+ hour journey!

Our Singapore-bound - by way of Hong Kong - Cathay Pacific flight departed LAX shortly after midnight on 11/17. 

In-flight television depicting our journey to Hong Kong (where we stopped for a few hours prior to flying to Singapore)Economy class meal menu"Dinner" was served shortly after take-off. The entree, soya sauce chicken and rice, was horrendous. With about 4-hours of flight time remaining, breakfast was served. I opted for the "chicken congee." It was decent.Sunrise, somewhere over Asia...Our 2-hour layover in Hong Kong was a blur.  We boarded another plane and made our way to Singapore.  Isn't it fascinating/odd that Cathay Pacific used a 777 aircraft for this 2-hour jaunt?  I thought so...

My sister and I shared a row of three with a lovely girl who had previously lived in Singapore.  Aside from giving us the names of some of her favorite hawker centers and shops, she also let my sister borrow her pair of tweezers to - get this - remove the silicone ear plug that was lodged deep inside of her ear canal.  Blech!

11/18:  And you thought that JetBlue's Terminal 5 at JFK was awesome?  Hah!  It doesn't even hold a candle to Singapore's Changi Airport.  Are you ready for this?  Free movie theater - rooftop pool - butterfly farm - children's playground - a nature trail - a gym - a spa - shall I continue?  Nah, I don't want to make you even *more* jealous... 

Ooooh, I love tropical "arrival" signs!The rumors ARE true: Singapore is NO JOKE.If you aren't familiar with Singapore's MRT system, then I suggest taking a cab to your hotel. The drive is lush, scenic, and will cost you about 30 SGD.Upon check-in at the Fairmont Singapore, my sister and I were welcomed with fragrant flower leis and a fresh fruit cocktail!

A view from our balcony at the Fairmont Singapore Hotel A view of the famous Raffles Hotel from our balconyYes, I ordered a Singapore Sling at our hotel's bar! Hey, when in Rome...Eric, my cousin, met me and my sis at our hotel before taking us on a short tour of the vicinity. 

By gosh, this subway station looks just like something you'd see in NYC...NOT! Check out that lovely "rain drop" ceiling art!Awaiting the arrival of the subway in, quite possibly, the cleanest stations in the world. Note the colored arrows, signaling for those waiting to board to allow passengers off of the train first. Now there's a concept! Exiting from the subway in to one of Singapore's many fabulous shopping malls.Louis Vuitton, SingaporeAfter window shopping, the three of us headed to the 59th floor of uber baller hotel, Marina Bay Sands, for a ridiculously overpriced cocktail.

How frickin cool is this tri-tower? The surf board-looking thing on the roof is a "sky park," complete with a bar, restaurant, and outdoor infinity pool.A hotel guest enjoying the view from the hot tub 59 floors above Singapore...The infinity pool A view from the topKu De Ta: Enjoying the gratis wasabi potato chips with our cocktails. And scenic view.Once the sun set, we headed over to Eric's apartment so that I could gift him with 1/2 dozen bagels from The Corner Cafe and 1/2 dozen holiday-tinged "black and white" cookies from William Greenberg DessertsWhat?  He's a homesick New Yorker! 

From there, we made our way over to StraitsKitchen, "...a Singapore-inspired restaurant presenting the best of local cuisine in a contemporary marketplace setting," for a fabulous dinner. 

Multi open-kitchens - chic, modern decor. With a plethora of exotic fruit juices offered, I went with the Calamansi.Laksa SingaporeHaianese "chicken rice," Singapore's signature dish.Followed by plate, after plate, after plate, after plate...of food.

And dessert...


11/19:  For our first "full" day in Singapore, my sister and I decided to head to Little India and the Arab Quarter.  I wanted to visit a mosque, and she wanted to search for some intricate Indian jewelry.

An homage to Obama painting in our hotel's mall passagewayOn our way to the Tekka Centre for a traditional "hawker" (food stalls) breakfast, we strolled through Little India. 

We had just missed Deepavali, the 5-day Hindu "festival of lights."Fresh flower garlands for Deepavali garnishingGuess they don't believe in the Atkins diet...We stopped in to one of the trillion Singapore 7-Eleven stores for a bottle of water, and I happened upon this:  A mashed potato dispenser!  Ewwwww.

A busy morning at the hawker (food stalls) area within the Tekka CentreClearly, this hawker was thrilled that I took his photo."Poured" iced black tea, with milk and sugarRoti prata with eggFresh coconut juiceLamb biryaniAfter a quick stroll through the Mustafa Centre shit show mall/travel agency/jewelry store/grocery megaplex, we headed to the Arab Quarter. 

Women's accessoriesWith respect to Islam, the immediate vicinity was an "alcohol free zone."The Masjid Sultan mosque, Arab StreetAlternate viewsTo enter the mosque, my sister and I had to cover our arms, legs, heads, and remove our shoes.  We spoke with a very kind and knowledgeable docent who gave us a brief, 5-minute introduction to Islam. 

I felt very privileged to have been able to enter this lovely house of worship. 

A look inside the mosque - the Holy Quran - the current time in MeccaFor lunch, we dined at al-fresco at Derwish, a Turkish restaurant. 

Iced green teaHomemade Turkish bread, cold mezze platterExhausted from the day, we headed back to the hotel and lounged by the pool.  For dinner, we walked to the Boat Quay neighborhood which, apparently, was a popular place for after-work cocktails.

While I did not take down the name, the restaurant we ate at specialized in both Indian and Turkish cuisine.  

Hell, I even ordered another Singapore Sling! HummusTandoori chickenGarlic naanDal MakhaniAnd for dessert...

Apple-flavored hookah!  Nothin' like a good smoke to cap off the night.


11/20:  Before we planned the day ahead, I made it a point to sample "kaya toast," for breakfast.  This traditional Singaporean snack is, basically, a sandwich that is composed of:  Two slices of toasted bread that are spread with coconut jam and butter.  Yum!

My sister and I decided to explore the new "park" adjacent to Marina Bay Sands, called Gardens by the Bay.  And the verdict?  Meh.  I imagine that, in about 10-years from now, the Gardens will be lush and lovely.  At the moment, they're a little bit under grown and, to be honest, boring.

If you don't pay the steep 25 SGD fee for entry in to the "bubble," there's just not a whole hell of a lot to see (aside from that pretty pink flower). The grounds kind of reminded me of "Ascarate Park" in El Paso...Since we were hot, sweaty, and pissed off that we had just wasted a precious hour at underwhelming Gardens by the Bay, my sister and I decided that we needed to treat ourselves to a fancy lunch at Ku De Ta, the restaurant within the "sky park" atop the Marina Bay Sands hotel.  Little did we know how much more pissed off we'd become, due to the restaurant's shiteous service.  Luckily, the food made up for it...

The interior space was cool, chic, bright, and modern.Coconut juiceSashimiShrimp + green papaya saladAfter lunch, we took the subway to Chinatown.

Red Chinese lanterns and intricate building decor...and a Hindu temple!We loved the marriage of Chinese and Indian cultures in this unique enclave of the city.  

My sister and I each got a Mehndi, or henna, hand tattoo.We even caught an intense mahjong game! 

Post-Chinatown, my sister and I strolled along the famous shopper's haven, Orchard Road, where we fell head over heels in love with the basement-level food court at Japanese department store, Takashimaya.

Takashimaya - and its food court - frickin ROCKS.After our window shopping-spree, we met up with Cousin Eric for our final dinner in Singapore.  At none other that my most favorite Taiwanese chain, Din Tai Fung.

My version of heavenLook at all of the happy diners!Le menuSliced cucumbers with garlicBreaded pork cutlet atop fried riceThe world's BEST pork soup dumplings/xiao long bao.Dandan noodlesGarlic-y greens with prawnsSliced duck in crispy spring-onion pastryRed bean and black sesame bunsThe aftermath............

Conclusion:  Singapore is a modern, clean, multi-cultural, tropical, high-tech, and friendly country.  From the streets to the subways, it is virtually free of displaced rubbish, gum and cigarette butts.  Prices are steep and you don't get much value for the USD, but there are plenty of ways to eat, stay, and experience this country "on the cheap," if you do your homework.  While we didn't encounter many Americans (which was a very nice thing), there were many Australian and Malaysian visitors.  2-3 days is about all you need to almost fully experience this small country.

I would happily return to Singapore for a few days if I were in-between Southeast Asian destinations.  The only thing we did not do was visit Sentosa Island.  Other than that, my sister and I felt very pleased with all that we did and saw in Singapore.


Until Phuket (Thailand),

The Lunch Belle    

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Reader Comments (1)

Loved your post. Your pictures were spectacular and you really captured the diversity of Singapore. The more you go there, the more layers of life you uncover. It's really a wonderful place. Btw, I happen to like the Gardens by the Bay. I found it very ingenious in design and scope. I look forward to watching it mature. Hope you post your Thailand insights soon.

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhyllie

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