One Day in Singapore

We travel from Siem Reap to Kuala Lumpur by a noneventful Air Asia flight. We overnight train it to Singapore in the middle of our Kuala Lumpur trip when in my trip planning I realize, shocker, we might actually stay five whole days in one city and we can’t have that, can we? It leaves at 11 and gets in at 7. We sit in the sweltering non AC section of our KL hostel until it’s time to go to the train station. And then I find that I shouldn’t have bought Ryder a separate bed. I can’t sleep worrying someone’s going to come in and whisk him away in the night. I thought it was a private room; I was wrong. It is as private as the dorm rooms were at Jacob Lake Inn, Arizona when I worked there in 2005—30 bunkbeds in one room. I am awake the whole night even as Ryder sleeps peacefully. The train patroller keeps leaving the door open to the compartment leaving the entire room to roar with the clattering tracks. I keep getting up to close it. It seems everyone else in the room is zonked.

Customs, stamps, currency exchange and bus ticket to town bought: first things first? A visit to Marina Bay Sands. It’s a hotel I now hope to stay at one day. The grounds and the infinity pool, which I manage to sneak up on the private elevator to see, are out-of-this-world.

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Ryder and I wander. It’s a lot of walking through skyscrapers in a lot of heat. No one seems to know where the ultra famous Raffles hotel is.

We do find a public swing to try.

 

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Raffles Place

I pick a place to have a meal: Singapore is renowned for its food. I go for Hong Kong-style porridge. It’s, frankly, not tasty. I thought it would be sweet, but it’s extremely salty, full of little beady eyed fish. I can’t finish it. Ryder won’t touch it. Some kind locals, who ask if they can sit with us, share their watermelon with Ryder, and admit they don’t like porridge either: “We only eat it when we’re sick.” Yum. :/

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Hong Kong porridge

We walk to Chinatown. It’s empty. No bustle, no carts, no exotic storefronts.

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Empty Chinatown

We try to find a place with a park nearby Orchard Road, the main shopping thoroughfare. It’s nothing to speak of really. There is no gum in any stores-illegal. My devices are dead. I’m scolded for plugging in my devices in the wall at the mall-it’s against the law. Starbucks is the final resort. We have a savory pastry. So much for a Singapore cuisine experience. Aw well, I’ve already had my fair share of incredible Asian meals for one lifetime.

The train out isn’t until 11:30 pm. I take Ryder to the night safari attraction, which involves riding a jeep in the dark to see different animals in spotlight. It’s a great idea for a place like Singapore in which the weather is too hot during the day; and it’s reminiscent of a real safari because you can’t see the fences. Otherwise it’s just like the real zoo. Ryder crashes before we leave.

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Zoo safari

I take my sweet time around the train station, desperately trying to find some “authentic” Singaporean food, only it’s 10 pm and everything’s closed. All of a sudden I learn that I’m not even in the right station and I still have to take a bus. I make the night train with minutes to spare. This time, I learn that we’re in cattle class, and everyone else has come prepared with shawls and blankets along with their traditional modest Muslim garb: it’s bloody freezing. Having not slept the night before is probably the only reason I manage to sleep in what had to be a 60 degree compartment. We huddle together. I put Ryder’s spare underwear on my sockless feet, wrap our plastic  rain sheet for the stroller around our summer-clothed bodies, and we’re out for the count. Unfortunately, the train is delayed for two hours just outside of Kuala Lumpur. I stand outside of the car, by the bathrooms, to avoid the freezing blast while Ryder makes friends left and right with kids and adults. Overall, the Malaysians and Singaporeans aren’t the most friendly Asians-but they aren’t the least either.

Country #45 ish…How did I feel about it?

Singapore is one of those love-it-or-hate-it places from what I’ve read. Unfortunately, I’m realizing where I stand. It might be a wonderful place to live-no crime, highly educated, and so on-but to visit, it’s dry and bland as bleached rice- as an over-regulated, under-cultured country must be. My dad offered to move us all to the country when I was in high school-now, I don’t regret I protested, though being an expat might actually be preferable to just visiting. It’s a hasty conclusion to draw. I’d be willing to give it a second chance, certainly. It’s an alpha city with tons to do, albeit very expensive. It’s just that I prefer depth to convenience, chaos and excitement to orderliness, history to soulless modernity if I have to choose. This article by Mark Manson nails it-and it’s something I’ve said about individuals for years, but it applies to countries too: “The best part about a country or person is also usually the worst. So, for Singapore, since it’s rich, devoid of crime and poverty, modern and spotless… and everything is designed and catered for financial gain, there’s no history, no identity…” I think he’s spot on. I’ll continue asking those who do love Singapore, though, what they love about it-because some people do. For me, there’s nothing Singapore has that Tokyo can’t do better. Is this where the world is heading? A land of safety, technology, and shopping…with no heart? I hope not. What about you? Does Singapore sound like your kind of vacation?

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Ryder attempting to befriend a statue

Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 366 awesome articles for us.

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