Singapore 2/5

The thing with the Earth being round is that jet lag happens.  The thing with traveling with an inconsiderate little person is that your waking hours is a factor of both your biological clock and hers.  There’s a place and time for everything, and fighting the inevitable just wasn’t appropriate in this case.  So, we got ourselves ready and began our tour of Singapore, some insane amount of time before sunrise.

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Kind of like an awesome night life for the antisocial.  Same great views with no one to bother us.

We walked by the famous Raffles Hotel, and found its courtyard.  Thought it’d be funny to start a party there and wake up all its hotel guests.  But hey this was Singapore – we’d probably get canned for that.  So we moved on to walk by some war memorial park, hit the Esplanade, check out the gigantic Ferris wheel, walk over the Marina Bay via the beautiful Double Helix Bridge, admire the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel, and take some pictures of the spaceship-looking Art Science Museum.  Then for the next half hour or so, we walked alongside the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.

The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands was one of those jaw-dropping malls.  Imagine something the size of Tysons Corners, filled with high-end stores from South Coast Plaza, and finished with sparkling glass walls on three of its sides.  Holy moly! IMG_0600

Toward the end of it we found an affordable store that was open at 6am… 7-Eleven!  So we got ourselves some pre-breakfast.

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Cute ad on the fridge.

From there, we walked through part of the CBD, stopping by two more tourist-noteworthy hotels (Fullerton Bay and Fullerton), and ending up in front of Singapore’s icon, the Merlion!

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This is not the Merlion, by the way.

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The one that constantly spits into the Pacific is the real deal.

Hong didn’t believe me when I told her that the Merlion restaurant in Cupertino had just as many, and roughly the same size, Merlion statues as the entire Singapore.  Now she did!  The Merlion really wasn’t as big as most first-time visitors would imagine, but if we thought in terms of the percentage of the country’s land it took up, it probably beat all the other monuments in the world.  It was also awesome that Singapore had such a widely recognizable, yet completely made up (mythical?) creature as its national symbol.  Does any other country have something comparable?

After circling the entire Marina Bay, it was finally meal time.  We found a Ya Kun location and were excited to eat one of Singapore’s most famous breakfast foods… kaya toast.

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The Ya Kun in Raffles City Mall.

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The looks can be deceiving.  Would’ve been perfect if we had iced coffee to go with it.

… and it was okay.  Well, it was pretty good, but we were already pretty tired running on three hours of sleep.  On top of that, this restaurant had no ice to make us cold drinks, and we really weren’t in the mood for hot coffee in this climate, so the experience was incomplete.

After breakfast began our official itinerary for today – Singapore Zoo or River Safari.  Even though we knew exactly how to take the MRT and transfer to a bus to get there, we just cabbed it.  Taxi was relatively inexpensive in Singapore, and the whole island could fit comfortably in the San Francisco Bay.  As a result, it’s very hard for a one-way fare to cost more than $40 in this country, and most trips (including downtown to the faraway zoos) were under $20.

Singapore had three zoos, two aquariums, and a bird park, which was amazing for animal lovers.  The three zoos were conveniently located together, and one of them was the Night Safari that only opened after 7:30pm.  Between the other two, we preferred River Safari’s list of animals.  Turned out that Xuan Xuan was not tall enough to ride on the actual boat, but the remaining 80% of the park was still plenty for her to enjoy.  It was sectioned into habitats around the world’s longest rivers, with a lame exception of pandas.

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Run away from the vicious alligator snapping turtle!

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Kids love aquariums.  Both of them in the picture certainly do.

River Safari was far from a large zoo and 90% of the paths were covered, but under the Equator sun I was glad that it wasn’t bigger.  Quite exhausted by the time we hit the gigantic manatee + arapaima tank.

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We love watching manatees and arapaima is our favorite fish.

For lunch, we got a single order of nasi lemak (coconut rice) and some iced kopi (coffee).  Xuan Xuan knocked herself out devouring half of the rice and even a bit of the pretty spicy curry.  Despite being at a tourist attraction, though, this meal was both reasonably priced and amazingly yummy.

After a long nap to recover from the baby-related exhaustion, transition the jet lag, and avoid the afternoon heat, it was time to eat again.  We loaded up our ez-Link cards (thanks Kelly) and took the MRT to Newton Food Centre, per Ariel’s recommendations.

If you visit this part of the world and don’t eat at the hawkers, you’d be missing out on a big part of the culture.  On the other hand, they can be intimidating and confusing if you’ve never seen it done.  Newton is an outdoor food court where vendors that cook sophisticated table food (a ton of seafood here) and provide table service form a circle around the common seating area.  We arrived at a not-yet-busy time and those guys were aggressive!  Before we were even sure about arriving at the right place (there was no visible sign), one guy was already inviting us to sit in front of his stall and pushing his menu in our face.  Another lady (whose stall was on the opposite end of the food court) asked to take our drink order.  I was about to have a panic attack but then had a What-Would-Chee-Seng-Do moment.  Thanks to my brother-in-law, we dodged the first wave of attacks and proceeded to what we came for.

IMG_0796Taken after the meal.  Before the lights came on this place just looked like a big bus stop.

Ariel gave us specific instructions for what to get from which stall, so we sat in front of whom our largest spend went and paid three separate people for our complete meal: watermelon juice, mango juice, chili crab, “ghost fish” (grilled ray), and “black carrot cake” (stir-fried turnip cake with soy sauce).  Unlike the American food court experience where you have to choose a Burger King or Panda Express to wait in front of, these people would bring your hot dishes from wherever they cook, and collect payment at your table only after everything arrived.

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That’s right, fancy seafood on Styrofoam 🙂

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I don’t think Asian people believe in shellfish crackers.  We’ve all got teeth, right?

IMG_0788Those deep fried buns that came with the crab were pretty awesome.  She approved.

I had been complaining about the Singaporean food in Daly City being too bland but heck, only now I really learned how strongly the real stuff tasted.  Amazing but watch for the sodium level!!!

After the very satisfying meal and a pound of napkins, we took a stroll down the famous Orchard Road.  This 1.4-mile stretch of giant malls was a huge tourist attraction and the shopaholic’s heaven.  Think Rodeo Drive is extravagant with a Louis Vuitton and a Gucci?  How about two of each on the same block!?  Just because the mall across the street has one, doesn’t mean that yours shouldn’t, right?

It baffles me why any shopping district needs two Miu Miu’s or four Hermes’s but, hey, sometimes I just shouldn’t ask too many questions.  This is after all a short stretch of road where you can find multiple Lamborghini’s, Ferrari’s, and Maserati’s in front of the Marriott and the Hyatt.  If you are poor like us, at least try to appreciate the window displays.