I'm on a plane now, headed back to the States, surprisingly sad to be leaving the small city-state of Singapore. My last couple of days in Singapore were some of the most fun and interesting. Some of the highlights:
- Pig's Intestine Soup: My local food expert and guide Janice was insistent that I try one of the local delicacies, pig's organ soup. Several of us gathered at a casual, outdoor cafe that apparently serves the finest pig's intestines anywhere in the the city. As our friend Penelope said, "This place is the Rolls Royce of pig's intestines." We all had large delicious bowls of soup with all sorts of random pig bits floating in it. In addition, Janice got us pig's trotters in a rich soy broth, boiled chestnuts, and minced pork with salted fish. All of it was super tasty!
- Temple Peeping: I visited several temples while I was there, which are everywhere in Singapore. This was my first time in a Hindu temple, which was super interesting. What appear to be resident attendants or priests in ceremonial loin clothes and painted foreheads go around wafting incense and chanting as people pray do different deities. The Buddhist temples seemed to always be busy, even on weekdays. Surprisingly, I was able to take pictures inside the largest Buddhist temple, but I refrained because it felt intrusive and disrespectful. Here's the lovely Jeskat in front of the main temple in Chinatown.
- Buying a Sailor's Outfit: The week I was there happened to the local "Fleet Week," with many sailors from the Singaporean navy visible in the malls and on the streets. So I was inspired to try and see if I could get a Singaporean sailor's outfit to wear for this year's Mermaid Parade in New York City. This led to a fun scavenger hunt of sorts in a sort of army surplus mall on Beach Road. We went from stall to stall looking for pants, a shirt, epaulets, a name tag, hat, and belt, bargaining all the way. I ended up with a nearly complete and authentic ensemble for around $45! So much fun.
- The Marina Barrage: Janice and crew drove me to the Marina Barrage, a lovely overlook on the harbor. The Barrage offers incredibly dramatic views of the city skyline, a gently sloping park full of picnickers and kite flyers, and a refreshing fountain that I had to jump into along with all the toddlers! The view of the city was surreal, like it was a matte painting for some scifi movie or a sim in Second Life. While there, the locals told me about how Singapore was in the midst of a massive and audacious plan to create a massive new reservoir by converting salt water to fresh water in part of the Harbour. Apparently water independence is an important national priority since Singapore has to import much of their potable water from Malaysia.
- The National Museum of Singapore: I figured I shouldn't leave the country without doing at least one major cultural institution. So I spent a morning walking around the impressive and beautiful National Museum of Singapore. The museum tells the colorful history of Singapore, from it's Malay beginnings, the various cultures and races that came to trade and live in Singapore, the British colonization of the city, Japanese occupation, and eventual independence and rapid to rise to a major world economic power.
Overall, my trip to Singapore was one of the most fun, interesting and energizing trips I have had in a long, long time. Singapore may be the most diverse Asian city I have ever been in, with Malay, Chinese, Indian, Arab, Anglo and many other cultures all living together relatively harmoniously. It is certainly one of the friendliest and safest. As a foodie, Singapore has unique and ubiquitous delicacies everywhere you go, at all hours of the day and night. As a lindy hopper, I can not remember being in a more friendly and welcoming dance scene.
I have heard about foreigners who have visited the island and gotten "stuck" there. I think I can understand a bit of how that might happen.
Special shout outs to my awesome host and guide Janice, my awesome new friend Jeskat (aka Cyn aka Ramona), the local lindy goddess Sing Lim, Anthony, Wei Chin, Penelope, Patrick Poon and TinyMich, who all conspired to make this such a great adventure.
Check out my Singapore 2011 Flickr set here for all the S'porean goodness.