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:
Ok, 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
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 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...
Upon check-in at the Fairmont Singapore, my sister and I were welcomed with fragrant flower leis and a fresh fruit cocktail!
Eric, my cousin, met me and my sis at our hotel before taking us on a short tour of the vicinity.
After window shopping, the three of us headed to the 59th floor of uber baller hotel, Marina Bay Sands, for a ridiculously overpriced cocktail.
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 Desserts. What? 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.
Followed by plate, after plate, after plate, after plate...of food.
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.
On our way to the Tekka Centre for a traditional "hawker" (food stalls) breakfast, we strolled through Little India.
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.
After a quick stroll through the Mustafa Centre shit show mall/travel agency/jewelry store/grocery megaplex, we headed to the Arab Quarter.
To 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.
For lunch, we dined at al-fresco at Derwish, a Turkish restaurant.
Exhausted 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.
And 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.
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...
After lunch, we took the subway to Chinatown.
We loved the marriage of Chinese and Indian cultures in this unique enclave of the city.
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.
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.
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