Well, the last two months have been… a whirlwind. On September 4th I flew from South Korea to Singapore to begin my two-month trip that would carry me across much of Asia (including 8 countries). I’ll get to them all eventually, don’t worry, but let’s start to the first, and most affluent, country I saw: Singapore.
I got in late at night, and headed straight for the waterfront to see the massive, skyline-dominating Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the surrounding harbor all lit up. The distinctive, “leaning” structure was actually built by Koreans (who are quite, and deservedly, proud of it- we even saw a short video on it at EPIK Orientation). I’ll let pictures do my talking:
The next day, I was planning on taking the short bus trip to Malacca, in Malaysia, so I only had the morning to explore. Honestly, unless you’re here to shop, eat expensive foreign food, or for business reasons, that is plenty. Singapore is most noted for its incredible work ethic, which has made it one of the most affluent nations in all of Asia (although it’s prime shipping lane location doesn’t hurt either). However, there’s little to no “local culture” to be seen, as the few ethnic Malays that were living on the peninsula before it became a port have mixed in with the many ethnic groups that came after, especially the Chinese, but also Arabs, Indians, and a smattering of Europeans.
The first place I visited examined the history of the largest of those immigrant groups- the Chinese. The Chinatown here is huge, full of Chinese food of every imaginable type, and interesting architecture dating back to the turn of the century and its heyday. The Chinese Heritage Museum right in its heart is housed in a traditional building that once included apartments, a small doctor’s office, and a tailor shop. These are recreated, with an interesting mix of dioramas, new media, and interesting text quotes bringing the period alive.
I exited to a downpour that was very In the Mood for Love, with all the umbrellas and Chinese lanterns.
I ducked out of the downpour in a building holding a wide range of food shops, and sampled the most popular fruit in the region- the infamous, smelly Durian. I had it as pancake filling, and can say it really isn’t for me. The funky, garbage-like smell works its way into the taste, along with a garlic-like flavor that didn’t at all go with the remaining smooth sweetness.
To get the taste of that out of my mouth, I had some traditional Malay breakfast- nasi lemak, which is coconut milk-infused rice, peanuts, and dried sardines baked in a banana leaf with a side of thick sweet/hot chilli paste. Coupled with strong “black” coffee (black here means ‘no more sugar’, not ‘no sugar’) and a side of also banana-leaf wrapped otak (a spicy, tasty fish cake) it made for a good meal, especially the coconut rice.
After that, I just walked around enjoying the hustle and bustle, the modern architecture, and the incredible view from the top of the Marina Bay Sands. Below that is a giant mall with everything from internet cafes where you can put your feet in fish tanks for some indiscernible reason while you surf to a surrounding giant Botanical Garden with a mix of futuristic-looking greenhouses and classical Chinese touches.
After exploring this, it was back to Chinatown for a lunch of the local pork broth ramen equivalent with a side of delicious fried dumplings and a big Anchor beer. Then, off to Malaysia by bus!