Singapore 2014 – Day 1 – A city of food and a bay full of lights

The story of our long journey to Singapore starts on Saturday the 5th, where me and my brother thought we escape the 13 hour flight on the Sunday by pulling an all nighter beforehand. I eventually succumbed and had a brief 2 hour nap from 5am to 7am, before finalizing my suitcase and beginning the journey to Heathrow. The flight was long, but my strategy somewhat paid off, I managed to sleep maybe 4 or 5 hours of the 13, in short periods of drifting off while listening to music. Our Singapore airlines flight had a ton of media to entertain at least, with about 100+ movies, TV seasons, albums, music videos, concert performances and so on. I stupidly ended up watching ‘from Vegas to macau’, which turned out to be an almost comically bad action take on ocean’s eleven featuring chow yun fat.

After departing at 1pm on the sunday, we would arrive at 9am Monday, ready to start the day after a horrific night on the plane. A short taxi ride into the city later, and we are at our hotel, the subtle but stylish ‘Bliss Hotel’ in Singapore’s Chinatown, It sits pretty central and is practically surrounded by shopping malls and food shops, it is however somewhat of a shame we aren’t near Bhugis junction again, with its gigantic underground arcade…

After check in and a quick refresh, my dad would quickly shuffle us away down the street, off to find good food, we were off to the supposedly famous ‘Maxwell Food Centre’. It didn’t take long for us to lose our way, but father’s appetite would soon have him harassing locals until we eventually arrived. The maxwell food centre is a huge conglomeration of hawker food stands – small food shops manned by only one or two people, each specializing in only a few signature dishes ¬†Business was booming, we arrived in time for lunchtime rush which meant a little bit of stress in finding our seats and queuing for food, but on the plus side it allowed us to get an idea of what the locals thought was good, a few stalls had small queues forming outside, which is usually a good sign.

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After roaming for a little while we brought back a small collection of food to share between ourselves, a hainanese chicken rice set, wonton mee with char siu, wonton lor mee, some pandan pancake roll things with peanut, and a small selection of juices (watermelon, sugar cane, soybean). It was a fairly modest lunch, but one which we had been waiting to eat for a while.

After leaving, we went through the big temple in the middle of chinatown and was treated to some buddhist prayer performed by the local monks, we then wandered around chinatown for a while before stumbling upon a specially designated ‘chinatown food street’ and having ice kachang with mango – perfect to cool us down. The weather had started off fairly overcast but still humid, but was ramping up as the day went on until it hit mid 30’s in celsius with sun. We had yet to change up much money so we went in search of some money exchange shops, there were a few in the local malls but were all offering mediocre rates which we opted against.

it seemed the lack of sleep was affecting some more than others, my brother in particular was basically an extra from the walking dead at this point, so it was decided we would go back to the hotel for a freshen up and to have a little rest. Hard at work as usual, I thought this would be a good time to type up everything that had happened so far, but as I began to type, fatigue got the better of me and I would soon drift off into a food related dreamland for a few hours.

Cue 5pm and we were off again, this time to the bayfront for the marina bay – a new development which had sprung up since our last visit to Singapore back in 2009. The Marina bay comprises of multiple attractions along the bayfront, a mix of shopping, gardens and food. Despite only being a few paragraphs down, the family decided it was time to eat again, this time we would go to ‘Din Tai Fung’, a small chain of restaurants in Singapore specializing in traditional chinese food and more specifically, steamed dumplings. Again a selection of food was ordered, but the standout was the xiao long¬†bao – a small sealed dumpling filled with meat and a gorgeous soup which explodes when bitten into. The Marina shopping centre was well decorated, filled with marble and even had a small river running down the middle with canal boats, the shops unfortunately were pretty much all designer, so not much shopping today (not that I even have any singapore dollars yet since we haven’t found an exchange place). Thought i’d mention the latest weight loss trend in Singapore also, a vibrating/wobbling platform which you stand on – it basically jiggles your fat around and makes you burn calories extra fast.

From here we would venture outside to the ‘Gardens by the bay’, a 101 hectare collection of gardens and attractions, all kept to perfection, and designed almost like an amusement park. As the sun fell, the lights in the park began to turn on, and unbeknownst to me, would become a photographer’s wet dream. It’s a shame I didn’t have a tripod on me, my small DSLR already enough to burden me, particularly in this heat, I tried my best to get some good night shots of the park though. The skytree in the middle of the park was particularly fun to shoot, and come 7:45pm a small light show was performed, it was not as impressive as I would have hoped, but was still a fantastic opportunity to photograph the skytree in its many neon shades.

 

After a slow walk back photographing Singapore at night, and walking through the Marina Bay Sands hotel, we would end up back at the station, the main hub of the area. Venturing out onto the first floor here provided an incredible view of the Singapore skyline, and after some 45 minutes of sitting around, we were treated to yet another show titled ‘Wonder full’. Unlike the skytree light show, this was a full featured show with projections on a water canvas, backed by music, lasers, water fountains, more lasers, smoke effects and even bubbles, it was incredibly impressive to see, and pictures (and even video) can only do it so much justice given the scale of it all.

 

 

One last meal to end the day (yeah I know, my family are out of control), a Singapore chicken curry laksa and some more Hainanese chicken rice and then it was back to Chinatown and our hotel.

All in all, a fantastic day, and a great start to this holiday. Asia, I’ve missed you.