Posts Tagged ‘singapore’

Ethnic Singapore

I hadn’t cared too much for Singapore’s Little India on my first visit, but I needed to get my hair hennaed and figured it deserved another chance. Waste of time – I didn’t find anywhere to get my hair done, and I still didn’t care too much for the area. True, this being Singapore, the streets were free of trash, but somehow they seemed dingier than those in the rest of the city, and lacking the color and excitement of a true Indian town – if Sri Lanka was India-lite, Singapore’s Little India was India-grey.

Little India

Who needs pavement when you could shop?

In contrast, across the river Chinatown blazed with red and gold, whole streets crammed with stalls and choked with shoppers. In 2002 I had enjoyed my stay at the Inn on Temple Street,  but some bad reviews on Tripadvisor convinced me not to go back, and given I could barely see Temple Street, never mind the Inn, for the press of people, I was glad to be staying in the relative calm of Bencoolen Street.

Aside from stellar browsing and people watching, thanks to the preparations for Chinese New Year, I enjoyed a couple of sights and a good lunch. The Chinatown Heritage Center offered informative displays on the life of the original Chinese migrants, followed by a floor of their cramped living quarters, each small room illustrating the life of a particular family.

One family's home

After nicely spicy shrimp with peanuts and excellent sprouts with garlic at a nearby Sichuan restaurant, I admired the impressive new Temple of the Tooth (yes, home to yet another Buddha tooth, a present from Sri Lanka) before a rain storm started. In between the heavy showers I managed to cross Fullerton Bridge and visit the cathedral, before retreating to my hotel. The rain was so relentless I even ate “in”. The Ibis was offering a special deal on 3, 4, or 5 dishes from its menu, and the four I chose were really not bad.

The Temple of the Tooth is very new

Remembering Japan Airlines’ inability to keep my luggage dry (no, I have neither forgotten nor forgiven) I packed everything in plastic ready for my flight to Bangkok. (And guess what? Cathay Pacific got my bag wet too!)

I had stopped off in Singapore only because I hadn’t been able to get a business class award seat on a direct flight to Bangkok, but I had enjoyed my quick visit more than I had expected, even though I didn’t make it back to the Raffles for their sybaritic afternoon tea. While I still think of Singapore as Disneyland Asia, you can’t fault the museums or the food.

Inside the Temple of the Tooth

New Year's merchandise

Read Full Post »

Rainy Day Singapore

Jan 27-28, 2011: Waiting anxiously by the baggage carousel in Singapore airport’s Terminal 1, I thought for sure an airline had finally lost my checked bag. (The more I fly, the worse I figure the odds are, although no doubt a mathematician would disagree.) Turned out that the priority tagged bags had been loaded BEHIND the containers, and so were the last out. So much for business class privileges! The terminal building was being renovated, and looked nothing like the well-equipped building I remembered from 2002. I had no trouble finding the shuttle to town, though, and certainly recognized Singapore itself, squeaky clean, with the land over-weighted by clusters of tall apartment towers.

The new and the renovated on Singapore's waterfront

Killing time until I could check in at the Ibis on Bencoolen, I wandered the streets nearby, finding a lively street market in one direction and an enclosed mall (Bugis Junction) in the other. The street market bustled with shoppers stocking up for Chinese New Year, only a week away, while the air-conditioned mall was crowded in the evening, when I went back for delicious, tender chicken at the very popular Nandos. (Yes, I know that’s not Chinese food, but I love their chicken.)

Lucky red rabbits for 2011

I hadn’t managed much sleep on the flight from Colombo, and was coping with a time difference as well, so I followed my usual system for dealing with west-to-east jet lag, and spent most of the afternoon asleep. When I woke up I took advantage of the Ibis’ wifi to change my travel plans for March. I had reluctantly given up on visiting Tunisia. As it turned out it might have been fine, but I was running out of time to book alternate flights at reasonable prices. Instead of wandering around Roman ruins under the North African sun I’d spend some extra time in London before heading for one of my favorite cities – Lisbon. (Kudos to Tunisian Air, which refunded the price of my tickets, minus 30 euro.) About to book on Easyjet, I was so annoyed by the 10 GBP fee for using a credit card, I thought to check TAP, which turned out to be cheaper. Low cost carriers aren’t always so low cost.

By the next morning I was synced and rested. Heading out in yet another direction, I found a food court with a coffee shop that served me an excellent breakfast for a good price – crisp bacon, medium scrambled eggs and proper coffee – I ate there three days running. I had thought to spend the morning at the National Museum, at the other end of Bencoolen Street, and fortunately I reached it just before a rain storm started. The rain was coming down even harder at lunchtime, but the museum kept me happily occupied for the entire day. In fact, I didn’t finish – I made it all the way round the historical section, following both the “people” and “events” paths, and listening to everything my audio guide would tell me, but didn’t have time for the “living” section. The exhibits were great, the cafe, where I ate lunch, not so much.

No comment!

The rain finally quit before the museum closed, and I was able to walk to dinner at Yhingthai Palace, and back to the Ibis, without getting wet. The Ibis was a bit of a disappointment after the one in Seoul: my room was much smaller and seemed bare in comparison. But it was perfectly functional, and not too expensive. The walk-in rate was prominently displayed on an electronic pylon outside, and I was interested to watch it drop during the day, and as we neared the weekend, although it never dropped as low as the rate I had paid via Expedia.

Typical street near the Ibis

Read Full Post »