Singapore Wrap-Up

This is our final post about our trip to Singapore in December 2013.


Little India

We stayed in a vacation apartment just outside the Little India neighborhood, off of Jalan Besar. It was a colorful, interesting place that felt extremely real — as opposed to the parts of town with the hotels we didn’t stay in. There were some rickety-looking hotels and hostels in our neighborhood, but although we were intially skeptical, our tiny vacation apartment turned out to be the right choice for our budget and our preferences. The daily walk to the bus and/or metro station got a little shorter each day and helped us develop a feel for our part of town.

Orchard Road

Our favorite part of this shopping district was the people watching on Christmas Day and evening. Music, dancing, with anyone and everyone out to have a look at the lights and stroll — well, drift, really — up and down the main drag. Normally it’s a very posh shopping district, with many more brands in big, glittery lights than I have ever heard of.

China Town

We held off on China Town until our very last day. That was probably wise. China Town was getting ready to start celebrating the Chinese New Year and we could feel it ramping up while we were there for the afternoon. It was crowded with stalls hawking cheap crap and also expensive decorative items. Not really our scene, but if you’re into that, go nuts.

So what’s not to like?

customs_warnings_sOn the surface, nothing we could find. But Singapore has some civil liberty issues lurking under that pristine exterior. The harshest of penalties await anyone caught smuggling drugs: capital punishment. When you enter the country, you are advised about what is permissible and what is not. “Obscene materials” sounds pretty subjective to us, and we’d hate to be caught on the wrong side of a philosophical debate with the justice system in Singapore. And we are firm believers in chewing gum for fresh-breath purposes while traveling. But that’s a S$500 infraction in Singapore. 1

The density of population may offend your sense of personal space. Wikipedia informs us that it’s the third densest sovereign state or dependent territory in the world (higher even than Hong Kong), so it can be pretty difficult to stock up on quiet time. That might explain the dedication to parks and preserves there.

It seemed awfully commercial by nature. The stores we saw in the malls and advertising all over everything outside them overloaded us with brand names and fashiony media. It was kind of cute at first, but nauseating by the third day. At least for us visitors. Presumably it doesn’t faze the natives.

The high temperature never dipped below the 30°C mark while we were there in the last week of December and the relative humidity was a number we never wanted to see. When you step off plane into the airport, you think “hmm, A/C must be on the fritz.” Then when you step outside the airport building, you realize it wasn’t. Sarah described it like walking into a gigantic human mouth. If you like seasonal variation, Singapore’s not for you. Even Germans2 warned us we’d appreciate the air conditioning (ahem…we’ve never stopped).

Final note about the language

PC297528_sIf you can do English, you’ll be fine. It’s the language of the government. It’s the language of education in Singapore. It’s not everyone’s mother tongue, necessarily,3 and even if it is, it might sound kind of exotic. But no matter whom you speak to (under say about 60)4, you can’t go wrong with English. And they’re always trying to improve, too.

  1. We wonder if there’s an underground chewing gum market — which only sells Clove brand gum. []
  2. Yeah, we couldn’t believe it either! []
  3. Tamil, Mandarin and Malay are the other official languages []
  4. Singapore has a serious aging population problem. []

What to eat in Singapore?


Seriously, if you can’t find something to nom on in Singapore, you probably shouldn’t leave your house. We are somewhat adventurous eaters with a few broad restrictions:

  • no raw onions
  • no fish or seafood
  • no raw, unseasoned tomatoes

…but they didn’t slow us down one bit. The food in Singapore was one of our favorite aspects of the whole trip. Continue reading What to eat in Singapore?

Bok Choy Lime Stir Fry

For New Year’s Eve, we got together with some friends and had Raclette and homemade Feuerzangenbowle. This was delicious, but my digestion was still mad at me due to the 12-hour flight home from Singapore I’d subjected it to the day before. We needed something a little less indulgent, but it still needed to taste good. Cliff was craving bok choy, but neither of us wanted meat, so this was our vegan version of our other bok choy adventure. It was exquisite and didn’t even taste virtuous.

2 T sesame oil
2 bunches green onions, white and light greens sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 in/5 cm ginger, minced
6 heads baby bok choy, cleaned and chopped
pinch salt
1/2 t ground white pepper
1 T hoisin sauce
1/4 c Shao Xing wine
1 T dark soy sauce
2 T light soy sauce
juice of two limes
steamed brown rice

Heat 1 T oil in wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add onions, garlic and ginger and stir frequently until starting to get tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add rest of oil and bok choy, stirring to coat with oil (bok choy will shrink down quickly). Add salt & pepper. Whisk hoisin, wine, soy sauces and lime juice together and add to wok, stirring frequently. Keep stirring until liquids are distributed and about half-reduced and bok choy is tender-crisp. Serve immediately over brown rice.

What to do in Singapore?

We only had about 6 whole days in Singapore, so we had to choose how to spend our time carefully. There is a lot to choose from. In the end, we opted for the

  • Botanic Gardens
  • Gardens by the Bay
  • Marina Bay Sands Skypark

and a whole lot of time tromping around various neighborhoods like Little India, Chinatown, Orchard Rd, and Raffles City, just taking it all in visually. More on that later. Continue reading What to do in Singapore?