Lucia Lola arrived in Singapore on the same day as I did! I spent the first 36 hours knowing Marty and Lizzy would be at the hospital so I focused my itinerary on what everyone suggested: food. Of course, the NYT and Bon Apetit would focus on food, but so did a dad from nursery, Corey’s friend from college, and the director(s) of Crazy Rich Asians 😉
I’d have two full days in Singapore that I’d stuff to the gills with as much food as possible, as the list of suggestions I had was merely a list of where to dine. The humidity demanded a two-shower-a-day regimen and lots of water on the ‘road’. I was determined to walk in the heat, and sometimes the rain, because it was the only way I’d be able to do that much eating!
Nerissa, Marty and Lizzy’s live-in nanny, was kind and answered all my tourist questions between caring for Emmy and preparing the house for when Marty and Lizzy returned home. She started my first day with a breakfast of slices of dragonfruit, guava and papaya. My first stop of the day was Little India. I enjoyed the ropes of flowers hanging in the doorways, and the colorful facades of buildings. It’s mostly businesses and temples with people like me taking pictures while winding through the streets . Admittedly, I didn’t stay long. I walked down Bencoolen avenue and watched as the blocks changed into huge hotel and skyscrapers.
Across from the beautiful Singapore Art School building, I found a student art show called Re:Collection. The flower had a quote that struck me: “What is grief if not love persevering?” The small art space reflected student memories and dreams, and gave me a break with air-con, a bathroom, and a water station.
I felt sheepish trying to find SuperMama, a stop listed for its ceramic souvenirs. It turned out to be the museum shop at the National Museum of Singapore. Terrible I know, but I spent time no time in the museum and all my minutes in the museum shop before moving towards lunch.
My feet started to tire so I caught the bus to Maxwell Food Center for Tian Tian Chicken Rice and random Chinese Fritters. The sugarcane juice felt nostalgic even though I didn’t grow up drinking it. Chinatown buzzed across the street on the afternoon of the Moon Festival. Last minute lantern purchases, red good luck signs, and anything exported from China could be found in the shopping center.
I was drawn to the sweet, grilled smells of the bakkwa golden coins from Bee Cheng Hiang, something akin to charsiu pork jerky. I picked up some cheap souvenirs and found a spot for a mani-pedi break.
I aimed to walk to the Merlion and then the towering artificial trees at Gardens by the Bay. I wanted to arrive in the evening to see the light show in the Super Grove, and the timing was going to work out perfectly! The sheer sight of the waterfront is impressive on the walk to the Merlion. Marina Bay Sands Hotel is topped with boat! You can’t stop looking at it from every angle!
Grabbing a rice IPA and walking the waterfront, I slowed down to enjoy the stroll with other tourists.
The walk to Gardens by the Bay was definitely longer than expected. The Moon Festival was in full effect with small children walking around with glowing and blinking lanterns. The Super Grove Rhapsody is at 7:45pm and 8:45pm for about 15 minutes. It felt like the fountains in Vegas but the lights coordinated amongst the trees rather than fountains. I walked through Gardens by the Bay which is a gorgeous botanical garden even in the evening. It’s definitely big and I was exhausted at this point so I found a spot overlooking the Moon Festival stage to catch a few performances for free.
I rode the MRT to Lau Pa Sat, but was unable to buy a couple of Satay sticks for dinner. The hawkers only sell 10 sticks as a minimum. I was too full to fathom eating this much so I resorted to noodles in the food court. This experience taught me to stick to the tourist attraction listed. The noodles were subpar at best. I closed out my night downtown as I rode the MRT back to FaceTime my girls and Emiko for her birthday.
I started the morning with a run that was interrupted by a torrential downpour. I took it as a sign to stop running and find breakfast. I visited Whampoa market for a breakfast noodle soup from the longest line amidst the stalls. Actually, it was the second longest line after the lottery stall. After soup, I visited the wet market next door, which is the name for a market that sells veggies, fruits, and meat of all kinds.
I was happy to welcome home Marty and Lizzy and Lucia, a little sweet bundle just 2.5 days old! Emmy, their two year old, was napping so we got to catch up with each other and talk birth stories. New parents need rest so I started my journey on the MRT to the Tiong Bahru neighborhood. It’s a more ex-pat neighborhood based on the families I saw in the local playgrounds. With no real direction, I decided to walk to a suggested coffee shop to find out if there was anything in the surrounding area.
I found a little lane that was so cute! It definitely felt more American as the book store and clothing shop hosted American authors and t-shirts. The ones I bought for the girls featured Amanda Gorman and Kamala Harris. I couldn’t help myself. I spent a chunk of the afternoon criss-crossing back and forth across the street to the bookshop, an art studio, the Cat Socrates shop, and the Monument Shop.
I was drawn towards the sounds of drums and fire crackers and came upon a festival celebrating the monkey god’s birthday. I immediately wished the girls were able to see the dragon dance and smell the incense from the altars.
I made my way to Robertson Quay on a mission to eat crab. The path along the canal reminded me of the River Walk in San Antonio, though less densely lined with shops. I ‘tucked into’ the black pepper crab at Long Beach Seafood, the dish that both locals and international folk craved when the restaurant opened in 1982. I ordered the smallest possible and I was defeated by a kilo of crab. The morning glory, ordered with garlic, was delish and the peanut appetizer was tasty. I wish I could have shared this dish with so many people!
My next step was a walk to Somerset and Orchard Street, basically a 5th avenue on steroids! This was an avenue long set of mega malls, both high end and affordable, that was open until 10-ish pm. The crowds must be suffocating in the daylight because there were still flocks at 8:45pm.
I bought very little at the malls but used the luxurious bathrooms and moved towards the Newton Food Court, where a small section of Crazy Rich Asians was filmed (Sayuri would be proud of me!) Circles of friends surrounded buckets of beers and ordered huge spreads of food. I checked the carrot cake stirfry with a beer and crowdwatched. What is carrot cake? I didn’t know either:
Carrot cake refers to a glutinous rice flour “cake” that’s made from a white radish (or yam if it’s yam cake) cut into cubes, wok or pan fried till crispy, then cooked into an egg omelette. The bits of radish cake taste mild and have a soft, pleasant texture.
I attempted to walk home, but was so sweaty and tired. Then, my data ran out and I ended up asking a random group of locals outside of a bar to call me a cab. It really is super safe in Singapore and they only seemed surprised by how far I’d walked from Newton rather than the fact I was asking for help with a cab.
I jogged along the Whampoa Canal connector and then I took myself for kaya toast, soft boiled eggs and a coffee. This was my favorite breakfast! To me, the coffee tasted like Vietnamese coffee and it went well with the kaya, a coconut jam-like spread. I bought a jar for home and Saya is quite taken as well!
I returned home to pack my bags, and caught up with Marty and Lizzy for a family picture before they went to the pediatrician. I read a couple more books with Emmy when she returned home from school and then I was off to the airport.
I’d done no research on my journey to Singapore which I thought would lead to a freeing and spontaneous adventure. What I should already know about myself is that I didn’t enjoy the freeing/spontaneous concept because I constantly felt that I was missing out on something! Organized fun– where I’ve done research and then go a bit off-piste– is much more my style. Shocking, I know.
Singapore is truly an Asian city- state full of Chinese, Japanese, Bangladeshi, Malay, Filipino, Indian, Indonesian, and more combinations of Asian people than possibly could be counted.
I didn’t scratch the surface with trying all the famous foods, and look forward to learning more from Marty and Lizzy as they navigate their new home and newest member of their family.