Today was OUR day to explore Singapore on our own – and we were really looking forward to it! It was a bright sunny day, so after breakfast, I went out on deck and took this picture that didn’t look so great in the rain yesterday when we sailed in. These buildings were being built when we were in 2010 and I found my pictures of them three years ago. I think they are really interesting with their curves inward. The architect is the same one who is doing the new World Trade Center building in NY (I believe I that is what our guide told us!) It is a beautiful setting with the buildings in the background and the small harbor and bridge in the forefront.
Our adventure began with the MRT – the underground train that is really laid out well in Singapore and is basically a pretty easy way to get around. Since we had seen most of the main city yesterday, today was our time to visit the smaller and very interesting ethnic areas in this melting pot city! And our first stop was Little India. And our goal was to find (and buy) a Ganeshe figure. When we were in Mumbai, India in 2010 we had found the perfect statue of this Hindu god, and we made the big mistake of not buying it when we saw it. We learned a great lesson from that and now if we see something we like, we buy it on the spot instead of thinking we may find a better/cheaper one later on. And so the hunt began! And we were successful, except that now Doug had to carry that heavy bronze statue in his backpack the rest of the day!
We found an Indian restaurant for lunch – Jaggi’s Northern Indian Cuisine (Authentic Punjabi Cuisine) It was small with a small counter where you chose your items – with the help of the Indian server! It was great. We had dishes we were familiar with for the most part – butter chicken (which has now become one of my favorite Indian dishes) and Tandoori chicken, which is usually mild, but not here! And we enjoyed it with a local Singapore beer – Tiger. While we ate our lunch, we met a really nice young man who gave us tips about where we should look for our next “must get” item – a batik. It was a very pleasant lunch!
As we were leaving to go back to the MRT, we passed the local markets that were aromatic and colorful. I always enjoy seeing the food in the countries we visit. Poor Doug – it’s always a slow walk through this area for me – smelling, looking, and taking lots of pictures!
I also wanted to show this picture of one of the MRT stations. They are all very clean and well lit. Littering results in big fines in Singapore, so people really take care of the public areas. No drinks or food are allowed on the trains either. It is very impressive.
And off we went to our next stop. We got off near the Raffles shopping center which is a huge modern mall. We walked around just to see what it was, and it was air conditioned! It was a very warm day, so this was a welcome respite. And then we walked to this very small area some of our fellow passengers had told us about – where they said they found very nice batik shirts. It’s called Chijmes which about a one or two block area that is all enclosed with shops and restaurants. There is also this beautiful looking church which is now used for special events. The store we were looking for is called Olathe. And I would highly recommend this small shop to anyone visiting Singapore. It was lovely with high quality items at not very expensive prices. When we told the sales lady about the town in Kansas with the same name, she smiled and said she has heard about that town a lot! And we learned the name means “a thing of beauty.” I don’t know about the town, but I can vouch for the shop warranting that name! We found several items there, and a batik shirt for Doug! Another mission accomplished. And we also bought this very large rice basket, which we now had to also carry the rest of the day! And it was too large to fit in a backpack.
When we came out of the Chijmes area, we were just across the street from the Raffles Hotel where we wanted to see and have their infamous Singapore Sling. When we were here before, we just went by it on a tour, so we decided this time we’d pay the $28 for this drink, just to say we did it! I have to say, it was very good – and it was a fun experience. The bar is called the Long Bar which is beautiful with its dark furniture, long wooden bar and unique ceiling fans. To add to the fun, you eat the peanuts and throw the shells on the floor! And, here we are, drinks in hand, and now we’ve done it! Another mission accomplished today! We also enjoyed a quick walk around the hotel gardens which are very beautiful. The style of the hotel is British colonial architecture (I included that picture on yesterday’s blog entry when we passed it in trishaw tour!)
Back on the MRT and the next stop was Arab Street where they have more fabrics and beautiful material than anywhere else in the city and with great prices. As its name suggests, this street is in the Arab part of the city with its beautiful Sultan Mosque. We had seen this the last time we were here, but had not shopped Arab Street. Fabric shops lined the street, but it was almost 6 p.m. and some of the stores were closing. Here is the one where we found our batik print that we will have framed when we get home. It was a very colorful shop!
We had done all we had set out to try to see today except for Chinatown. We were a bit concerned about the time since we had to be back on the ship by 9 p.m. and we still had not had dinner and we wanted to get some water and soda in the grocery store in the terminal before getting back on the ship. But we decided to just get a quick peek of Chinatown just to know what it was – a quick walk around. Well, the joke was on us when we saw how vast and expansive this Chinatown is! It seems to go forever. This is just one entrance on one side of a road with an escalator that takes you down to a LONG street lined with shops and restaurants. It was wonderful, the very little we saw of it. We only had time for a few shops as we raced along the streets. But we also managed to pick up a few things to add to our now very heavy backpacks! If I’m ever lucky enough to return to Singapore, this will be the first place I visit! It is the best Chinatown I’ve ever seen anywhere!
It was now dark and 7:45 p.m. We had a little over an hour! And the MRT trains were packed with people returning home from work – standing room only for the most part. We didn’t have too long a ride fortunately. Made it back to the big mall and terminal and after a quick stop in the grocery store, we grabbed a quick Vietnamese dinner at the same place we had eaten the last time we were here, The Orange Lantern. I only knew that after I went back and looked at my 2010 pictures of Singapore. It was fun to frequent this little café once again – and the food was pretty decent.
8:55 p.m.and we are now entering the passageway to our ship. I think we were the last passengers on board with just a couple of crew close behind. But we made it and did everything we had hoped to do today on our own. I had to take this picture of our bed after we unloaded our backpacks. We helped the local economy today.
It was a GREAT and FUN day. And I’m glad tomorrow is a sea day so we can recover!