After weeks of planning (and very little time spent packing), we headed off to Naha airport and South East Asia. One thing that really sucks about living in Okinawa is that we're basically in the middle of nowhere and there are very few international flights through our little airport. That means we had to fly 1000 miles north to Tokyo, just to turn around and fly right back down again to Singapore. We arrived at Changi airport at 6:30am after no sleep on our long overnight flight.
We started our honeymoon in Singapore because the round trip tickets to get there were cheaper than anywhere else in the region. Turns out the tickets were pretty much the only thing cheap about Singapore. We wanted to check into our hotel early (since we got there just after the crack of dawn) and they told us it would be $75 to check in four hours early. What?! Well, we didn't want to throw away that money, so we trudged off rather sleepily towards Chinatown.
Chinatown in Singapore was a lot like other Chinatowns out there. Tacky souvenir shops lining the streets, cheesy red lanterns hanging overhead, and skinned ducks hanging up
in windows. This Chinatown, though, also had a huge, psychedelically painted Hindu temple, a mosque, AND a Buddhist temple claiming to have one of the Buddha's teeth on display. After wondering whether the guy who painted the Hindu temple was dropping acid and if the tooth was legit, we headed over to the Maxwell food center for some lunch.
A popular way of eating in Singapore is to go to hawker stalls and order up a bunch of cheap dishes. These are basically little stands that specialize in a dish or two, typically sold for about 3-5 Singapore dollars (about $2.50-$4 US). We decided to go with chicken rice, a local favorite, consisting of chicken (fried, baked, or steamed), rice, cucumbers, and sometimes little extras, like a spicy sauce or anchovies. It turns out this was not a wise choice on our part, as virtually all "local dishes" for the remainder of our trip were some variation on chicken rice. I don't need to eat chicken rice for a while, thank you very much. We also got batter-dipped and deep-fried bananas and strawberry dragonfruit juice made on the spot - it was so amazingly fresh and only $2!
We wanted to go out for drinks that night, but the alcohol in Singapore is ridiculously overpriced. Cocktails are often $15 ($11+ US), and beers aren't much cheaper. We got lured into eating at a restaurant overlooking the river because they offered free drinks with dinner. I sipped a Singapore Sling in its city of creation (though not at the hotel that created it because they charge $25 there!) as Chris ate some Thai green curry and I had pineapple fried rice (there were actual bits of pineapple in it, and they served it in a hollowed out pineapple!)
The next day, we went to the Battle Box Museum, up on Fort Canning Hill. This was the site of the main British bunker during WWII. I was (and mostly still am) completely ignorant of what happened in this part of Asia during the Second World War, so it was very interesting to learn about how the Japanese pretty much destroyed the British in Singapore and forced them to sign an unconditional surrender. Plus, I've never been in an underground bunker before, let alone one filled with creepily realistic wax figures!
Dinner was at another hawker stall in Little
India. I got hor fun (mainly because I liked the name)...but it wasn't all that great. No big deal, though, because it was so cheap! Chris has pork rice (bet you can figure out what that is), and we sipped on fresh banana milk. Afterwards, we wandered through the Bugis Street market and noshed on waffles and pancakes filled with kaya (a coconut and egg custard) and golden custard buns filled with blueberry and red cheese.
In an effort to see more of Singapore (not that the island is all that big), we ate a quick breakfast of kopi (coffee with condensed milk) and kaya toast and set off for Pulau Ubin. The island was an hour long bus ride out towards the airport followed by a short ride on a bumboat. We rented bikes and set off to explore the island that is supposed to be how much of Singapore was in the 60s and 70s. Turns out our map wasn't good for much, so we just sort of winged it. We went to the wetlands and explored the mangroves and tide pools on foot. We biked past old quarries, through jungles, and past monkeys, wild boar, tropical
birds, and very few other tourists. It was incredibly hot, and we were really sweaty and thirsty by the time we were ready to leave, but it was nice to escape the pristine streets of the big city for a day. Afterwards, we spent the afternoon lazing around the pool and had some biryani and duck rice at the local food court for dinner.
Our last day in Singapore was gray and rainy, so we ditched our plan to go on the Singapore Flyer (a giant observation Ferris wheel), and instead took part in another Singapore pastime: shopping. We can easily spend hours in a bookstore, and the Kinokuniya bookstore didn't let us down. We spent ages browsing the store, which had large English, Japanese, Chinese, and Malay sections. We had just enough time to eat at an Irish pub by our hotel before heading to the airport. It was a strange experience, though, since the waitress was either a robot or had undergone a lobotomy and three Diet Cokes set us back $24. Lesson learned: if the price of soft drinks isn't listed on a menu in Singapore, it's probably because no one in their right mind would
order them if they knew how much they cost.
We got to the airport early on purpose because I had read about a new slide at the Changi airport. The tallest slide in Singapore (and apparently the tallest in the world...in airports) stands four stories high. We had to go out of our way to get to Terminal 3, spend at least $10SGD each in a duty-free shop (we bought more books...oops), then go all over T3 to get a token. We managed to squeeze it all in, be the oldest people waiting in line, and still have plenty of time to make our flight. I must report, however, that although it's fun, it's basically just a big slide and not a life changing experience. Oh well. At least we can say we did (and I'd do it again, haha).
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