I had just over a week in Singapore. I rode the Singapore Flyer, went on a Ducktour, saw a bit of Marina Bay, including the Helix Bridge, ate at hawker stands, and did a little shopping.
I’m told that eating is one of the most important things to do in Singapore – so of course I obliged! I tried a bunch of Singaporean stuff – yong tau foo, laksa, chicken rice, roti prata, tau fu fa, and lemon-barley drink. It was all delicious! I hadn’t had laksa since before moving to Beijing (it’s readily available in Canberra) so that was fun. Lemon-barley drink reminded me instantly of the musk sticks (Australian candy) I ate as a child. And I could eat yong tau foo (a type of tofu with hakka origins) every day.
Telling the story from the beginning, I arrived in Singapore last Wednesday night. I was out of the airport so quickly it astonished me – there was no line at customs, my bag was the third onto the carousel, and already on its way out when I walked up. Stefan met me at the gate and helped me buy my own metro card (for subway and buses, just like in Beijing) as we made our way to John and Katie’s place.
For those who don’t know them already, let me introduce the cast in my Singapore week: Stefan grew up in Beijing; I’ve known him for 6 years and he’s a little brother to me. John was the youth pastor at my church in Beijing so I’ve worked closely with him this past year, but we’ve been friends for 6 years. I’ve known his wife Katie since she moved to Beijing 2+ years ago. They are two of my closest friends and have a beautiful daughter, Elsa. You’ll also meet Jonathon, a Singaporean TCK who just moved “home” after ten years in three countries, most recently Beijing, where I knew him through two different youth groups.
John and Katie have an amazing apartment in a beautiful complex that reminds me more of a holiday resort than a place people actually live year-round! I got in late that first night but John and I stayed up “talking shop”. I spent Thursday hanging out with Katie and Elsa. We toured the beautiful “resort” grounds, greeted several staff members Elsa is on a first-name basis with (and by extension, Katie), and walked to the church where John works now. I got a tour of the facilities and we crossed the road to a hawker stand to eat lunch.
In the afternoon Katie and Elsa and I went for a swim in the beautiful 50m pool at their complex. It’s an incredibly beautiful area, full of palms, ferns, lilies, dark pink and pink-orange frangipanis, and lush grass. There are several blue-tiled pools and fountains. Some other mums with kids came to swim – a family Katie had met and a family new to the complex. It was only opened a few months ago and there are new arrivals every day.
John, Katie and Elsa left at 3am for their time with family in the US. I had a lazy day at the “resort” and Stefan came over for dinner after he finished NS for the day. The next day (Saturday) we explored at Geylang, ate yummy local food, found yellow bing hong cha in the original bottle (a big deal, if you are unfamiliar with the BHC phenomenon), and just generally had fun.
We ate tau fu fa at a tiny store on the street that is apparently well known for the dish. Tau fu fa is a dessert of silky tofu in a sweet sauce, served either hot or cold (we had ours warm) and it was delightful – made me think of my Dad, who would love it. Later we met up with Jonathon to attend the youth service he’s a part of and went home pleasantly tired.
On Sunday Stefan and I visited John and Katie’s church and then had a lazy day of not very much. That night we watched the Deathly Hallows part 1 as preparation for seeing the new Harry Potter movie on Monday with Jonathan. After the movie the three of us went to Marina Bay – we walked along the modern and beautiful Helix Bridge and looked around the mall at the Marina Bay Sands before going on the Singapore Flyer.
The Flyer is 165m tall, the tallest of its kind – the London Eye comes in 3rd at 135m. It takes 37 minutes to do a full revolution in an air-conditioned capsule that holds up to 28 people. The movement is gentle, almost imperceptible, and the view is awesome. We saw the sun set behind the city, and streaks of rose/orange coloured clouds across the cornflower sky above a harbor full of ships with lights. Seriously beautiful.
That was the end of Stefan’s unusual 3 day break from NS, so on Tuesday he was back to work. Jonathan and I met up for lunch and went back downtown to take the Ducktour. This is an hour-long tour of Marina Bay and the Civic area of Singapore on an actual amphibious war craft used by the US military during WW2/Vietnam and remodeled for tours. On land, they are a long way above the ground – an 8-step ladder is put alongside to get passengers aboard. In the water they sit closer to the surface, but there’s little to no splash and the craft glided super-smoothly through the bay. Even when I could see swell as we passed through the wake of the boat in front of us I couldn’t feel it. I sat in the front seat on the right, which I thought was the perfect spot to be in.
The guide had a lot to say, much of it informative and some even very interesting. There were some lovely old buildings and interesting modern ones. We drove along part of the racetrack for the F1 Night Race – the 2011 street race happens in September and preparations are already underway. The track is clearly marked by the lighting rig already set up alongside the road. It was a fun experience.
That marked the end of my touristing for this trip. I finished up my Singapore time enjoying the “resort” – swimming, reading, and sunning myself on the balcony. Pretty perfect, really!