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Published: October 4th 2018
We were so wrong. Me and my wife never considered Singapore as a must see destination. With our limited resources to go on travels, we always thought why would we visit another mega city, when in fact we live in one, and have easy access to maybe one of the world's best known mega city, Tokyo, which we are not a big fan of. But then, I was pleasantly surprised to be asked to go Singapore to attend a work related symposium.
I was not so thrilled though that my original 7 hour flight to Singapore from Osaka was changed to more than 12 hour waiting/ traveling time, with a Tokyo stop. Osaka's international airport is still not operational as it was destroyed by the biggest typhoon to hit our city in the last 25 years. Bu then if kinetic rain, beautiful sculptures and greenery that welcome you at the airport is an indicative of what the country will be like, then I guess Singapore will be a fine experience.
The Metropolitan YMCA allowed me an early check-in, a very early one actually. I was so happy to be out the door at 10:00 AM. Took the subway to
Little India, followed the crowd, hoping it will take me to the famous temple I saw online, and my instincts are correct. The temple is quite exquisite and I saw a lot of gods and goddesses with yoga goal poses to die for. Had my first meal in Singapore, in a banana leaf with four side dishes that are both pleasurable and painful in equal measure. It was hot, hot, hot. This is not the usual Japanized Indian dishes/ curry that I have learned to love. Next stop, Singapore Botanical Garden, decided to walk 3 kms in the massive garden, a UNESCO heritage site in itself, to reach the National Orchid Garden. My jeans are now sweaty and sticky, despite the breezy feel brought by the presence of wide variety of greenery, one cannot deny the intense tropical heat. There is a 5 SGD entrance fee to the orchid garden, it is just ok, I would rather spend more time checking out the the other themed gardens in the park which are free.
Rushed back to the hotel for a short meeting with my boss and freshen up a bit for our first engagement, a welcome dinner. And wow,
yes I am indeed in South East Asia. They do know how to welcome their guests, with vast amount of food. Whenever I visit an Asian country, even just going back home to the Philippines, I always have a checklist on which food to eat, so glad to check off quite a few on just a single meal. One of the speakers in the event told us to enjoy Singapore being a fine city as a result of being fined for everything, from eating bubble gum, to jaywalking and so on. But she actually took pride in it, which I could not agree more after seeing how amazing this tiny nation has become.
I worked for the next two days, at the same time enjoyed dining out, drinking and meeting friends in the evening. Had a nice time drinking at Boat Quay, with a colleague when I was working in Manila. Also, made it to Marina Bay, and the whole place look like CGI, it looks almost unreal. The hotel, the bay, the skyscraper all different, glittering but all seemed well planned to aesthetically match together. It was awesome to meet one of my best buddies in college, who
is living and raising his beautiful family in the city. He and his wife took me to a popular hawker (food court),Newton, which is now even made more popular by the movie, Crazy Rich Asians. The place was buzzing and the food was amazing. We had so much food to eat, and I am glad to be checking off my list the delicious barbecue stingray.
On the weekend, a cousin and my sister flew in from Manila and we had a mini reunion with three other cousins and a cousin in law who are all based in Singapore. I checked out from my work hotel, with my huge luggage and on to our first destination, Henderson Peak. Well its a peak, overlooking nice scenery. So it was well worth it carrying my 20 kilo luggage to reach the peak. Filipino get together is not a Filipino get together without wanton amount of food. From the mountain straight to the street dining then finally to see the Merlion. The F1 race was happening and to celebrate the event the Merlion was lit with changing illuminated design. It's not about the Merlion, I should say it was an ok sculpture, but
with Singapore its always about the whole aesthetic that surrounds something that's already beautiful making it more magnificent. My cousin has tickets to the F1 race, she asked if we wanted to see it. Well, I am not a fan and really not into cars, but then I heard Sekai No Owari playing at the concert arena. And since they were already performing their most popular hit, it means the set is coming to an end. Got interested with the concert part and told my cousin, that i would like to get in, have an instagrammable photo of the F1 race then watch Martin Garrix perform the next evening. But that didn't happen as I exhausted myself in the past days and the whole day on the night of the concert to make sure I enjoy, eat and experience this wonderful city as much as I can. I did miss an experience to brag on social media, a once in a lifetime event, that has no importance to me.
In lieu of watching the F1 race, we enjoyed the artsy neighborhood of Kampong Glam. Saw a Muslim temple, had an outdoor Turkish dinner, saw the light show of the
futuristic super trees at Gardens by the Bay, We also waited for the fountain show at Marina bay which was actually on different schedule for that evening. Also, rented an electronic scooter to see parts of the city.
The country boasts about the harmony despite being very multi cultural. I guess harmony achieved through strict laws against non compliance. Our restaurant guest inviter, who is of middle eastern descent, had an argument with another inviter, who looks like someone of Chinese decent. Our guy was saying, "why are you always doing this, why are you so racist toward us Muslims, all the time". I sort of think our guy has a reason to be angry, because I observed the other guy to be throwing stern looks at our inviter and mumbling stuff at him for quite sometime. The fact that this do not end in a fist fight, if its true that it happened all the time, then perhaps harmony through laws are something other multi cultural country should work on to achieve., then perhaps like Singapore, most country will be a fine country just like this very rich and beautiful tiny nation.
The next day, we went
to Lucky Plaza, a place famous for Filipino workers to hang out. I am craving for good Filipino restaurant that is non existent in Japan. We had such a feast, with bone marrow soup, adobo, Filipino sweet sauce spaghetti and halo halo for dessert. I am in food heaven. Then it was time to say goodbye to my cousin and sister as they flew back to Manila. It was really wonderful to see my sister even for just three short days. Thanks to my cousins for making our mini reunion happened. I also parted ways with my Singapore based cousins, so I can do some last minute shopping for my family and meet another friend from college.
Early morning the next day I started my long trip back home, filled with amazing stories of a country that I had no interest in visiting. Lesson learned, there is something special in every country and Sinagpore is a place that I will definitely go back and visit again and again, hopefully.
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