Annie and I excitedly chattered our way through the airport bookstore, she carefully comparing the prices of various power adapters while I recklessly filled my arms with $80 worth of candy and books. Our bags were packed, stresses and frustrations left at security, now it was go time. We were both en route to a new destination, checking another continent off our respective travel lists: Asia.
First stop: Singapore
I hadn’t put Singapore on a list of must-dos but had more or less assumed I’d be heading that way for business trips at some point after I had moved to Australia. But flying on a budget Asian airline meant options for flight times and layovers were quite limited, and we ended up with a 24 hour layover that we decided to exploit to maximum capacity. We arrived in the evening and made our way through the spotless airport to the taxi queue. After a cab ride that was both terrifying (90 mph) and exciting (they play country music on the radio!) we arrived at our HQ for our short stay: the Park Regis in Clarke Quay. It was a very nice (albeit a bit small) hotel room right near all the action and nightlife Clarke Quay is famous for. We had dinner at No Signboard, renowned for its Chili Crab, which also happens to be one of the most popular of Singapore’s native dishes. I silently wished my parents had made good on their threats to send me to cotillion as I awkwardly mucked through extracting meat from the shell of a full crab covered in messy chili sauce (DELICIOUS messy chili sauce), and a familiar song came on: Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem.” I had to take a moment and tip my hat to the odd contradiction – the most American of songs while I ate the most Singaporean of dishes. But it seemed to sum the multinational Singapore up incredibly well.
After dinner we walked in the tropical night through a bustling and vibrant Clarke Quay, packed with people of all ages and nationalities, live music streaming out from the dozens of bars, beer glasses clinking, lights everywhere, young people lining the bridge sipping beers out of brown paper bags, looking at the people who passed by. It could have been any multicultural big city, but warmer and cleaner. Wanting to be touristy, we walked the six or so blocks to 1 Altitude, the tallest bar in Singapore, but the cover charge and my hangover from the previous day’s (sort of) goodbye party made us turn back and get to sleep early so we could take advantage of the day.
In the morning we tried to find breakfast and succeeded only in finding a Starbucks. After wandering away from a still-sleeping Clarke Quay with quickly melting iced coffees, we found ourselves at the waterfront, where I gleefully discovered a Coffee Bean, a California coffee favorite I haven’t had the pleasure of indulging in since I moved from the US. Nearly every skyscraper in Singapore bears the logo of some major financial institution, which has made this city a hotbed of English and American (amongst other) expatriates, and the influence is clearly seen in the food options.
Annie and I admired the waterfront as we walked along, were asked to have our photos taken with several Asian tourists, and wound our way to the Marina Bay Sands, an architectural showstopper that defines the Singapore skyline. We stopped at the Gardens by the Bay at the base of the hotel and saw the famous Supertrees, then couldn’t resist going to the top deck of the Sands to see the city partake in a pre-noon adult beverage.
After, we wandered back into the city to Long Bar at the famous Raffles Hotel, the home of Original Singapore Slings. It’s a sweeter cocktail than I’d normally choose, but the kilos of salty peanuts available for free helped make it more palatable. The Raffles Hotel transports you back to the original colonization of Singapore, all white English colonial, dark green shutters and palm trees bursting in every courtyard. The Long Bar fits into the beautiful old hotel perfectly, dark wood, old fans, rows and rows of liquor, peanut shells covering the tile floor. It was the perfect cap to a hot, exhausting day of exploring, and Annie and I headed back to our hotel to freshen up and get ready for an evening in Bangkok.