Singapore

Back To You

I’ve been down, I’ve been beat
Been so tired, that I could not speak
I’ve been so lost, that I could not see
I wanted things that where out of reach

Then I found you, and you helped me through
Yeah you showed me what to do
That’s why, I’m coming back to you. Yeah

Toastbox

Toastbox, Bugis Junction

sentosa wallk

Sentosa walk

raffles hotel

Raffles Hotel

sentosa travellator

View from Sentosa Walk

Clarke Quay coloured windows

Clarke Quay

singapore roads

Singapore roads

singapore skyline

Singapore skyline

Central Mall

Central Mall, Clarke Quay

china town

Chinatown

starbucks carrot juice

Starbucks

Mos Burgers_effected

Mos Burgers, Bugis Junction

Memories of Singapore refuse to fade away. Like a bittersweet feeling, it continues to haunt me and then tingles my happy senses. It pulls me away from realism to surreal in a way that I wish not to come back.

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Categories: Photography, Singapore | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Leaving Singapore

The airport is crowded. People do not know what those lines are and where they are supposed to stand. The illiterate crowd, that has come back after earning some money abroad, is adding to the confusion. The limited airport staff is either desperately trying to control the crowd or sternly; neither is yielding any results. People are expected to screen their baggage, for reasons that still remain mysterious, at every corner with no one to assist in putting the bags on the noisy belts. The only person who helps in loading baggage is the bus conductor (the bus that takes people to the domestic airport) but not without asking for bakshish (reward / money).

Welcome to India.

Not a very grand welcome in India. Not that we were expecting anything better but this was too bad.

It took us one hour and 45 minutes to finally reach domestic airport. From the time we landed till boarding the next domestic flight 3 hours later, our bags had been screened atleast 5 times. After coming back from a place where number of free seats in the buses are updated using sensors and displayed; the buses’ wherabouts can be tracked by locals; airports are hassle free and MRT maps / routes are water clear, this was a sickening experience. Mum commented to me warily – If any outsider comes to India, he will go mad, to which another tired passenger commented – Yes, I agree.

The stark difference between India and aboard was very apparent. On Singapore airport, we saw the airport staff, including elderly ones, continuously working – taking away trolleys, cleaning the travellators, etc while on Indian airports, groups of people – cleaners and airway staffs – were chatting away to glory or just sitting. Singaporean stores rendered change without complaining – for a SGD 4.35 you give them a SGD 10 note; they’ll give you back the change. But Indian restaurants will ask you for 35 cents.

Our bad experience with India started even before we reached India. It began at the Indian restaurant (Anand Bhavan) at Changi airport where Mum wished to have Indian food. The place was full of noisy, unruly Indians. I managed to grab a table while my sister went to stand in line to pay and get the token. The Manager very rudely shooed me away saying – You cannot come and sit just like that. First bring the token. Did he say that because there was no male with us to fear of? Did he say that because I did not belong to his community? Or did he say that because I was an Indian?

I did my bit by boycotting his restaurant and had a fantastic Egg Chicken Sausage Cheese Burger at Starbucks. I wish I could have convinced by family to do the same. We are also to be blamed for accepting sub-standard / degrading treatment.

One of the problems with Indians is, apart from their chalta hai attitude, they don’t take fellow Indians seriously. I am sure had a Singaporean or American taken up a table without a token, the Manager would have politely asked him to get a token first or just allowed him to sit. But because it was an Indian (woman), he didn’t really give a damn.

I am often reprimanded for talking against Indians a lot but I can’t help it; they let me down too often.

Anyway, the last 2 days in Singapore were spent without an agenda really. We tried buying the remaining essentials that were on the list (particularly from their department stores Fairprice, Coldstorage & Watsons); home and personal care products, basically. We visited my sister’s house and helped her with her shopping too (she hates shopping and has to be cajoled to the limit of getting frustrated). Department stores are usually one of my favourite places. I love the glossy shampoo bottles, colourful squash bottles and yummy looking frozen food. And if you look at department stores abroad, they can make anyone like me go weak in the knees. I unfortunately have overflowing cupboards and shelves at the moment and though I WANT many things, I don’t NEED anything. So, I have decided to exercise lot of self control throughout the year and purchase everything from ketchup to shoes in my next trip abroad (which I expect will be after a year, mostly).

We also had a very interesting drink called Bubble Tea. Koi is the famous brand here; unabashedly proved by the long queues outside it at any given point of time. We ordered for the basic Milk Tea, which is actually lot of milk and little tea flavour. We had it with 70% sugar. It contains huge soya balls that can be sucked easily with the thick straw. At first, it feels funny. We couldn’t stop giggling. But then, it is actually fun. The fun of having this drink is with friends on a leisurely weekend. I will attack it next time too, for sure!

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While roaming around the wide roads of Singapore the last 2 days, by bus, I could co-relate the places to those I have lived in before. Where my sister stays, Clementi (a residential area), is like Hiranandani of Mumbai. Shenton Way (that houses big names like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, DBS and Deloitte) is the Nariman Point of Mumbai. And Vivocity Mall is the Inorbit of Mumbai.

Outside Capital Tower, Shenton Way

Bugis Junction

Shenton Way

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Inside Esplanade Theatres

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On way to Shenton Way

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A glimpe of Raffles Hotel from the bus

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Clementi

I was pretty depressed on Friday night, knowing that Saturday would be my last day in Singapore – the end of my yet another glorious travelling expedition without knowing when it would happen again. Saturday morning raised my enthusiasm again; I decided to enjoy my last day here but I still picked up my last breakfast from Toastbox at Bugis Junction dolefully.

It’s just been a day since I came back and I am raring to go to a random place again.

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Marina Bay Sands–The Glory of Singapore

On the bright Friday afternoon, we went to Somerset to check out a couple of stores and then visited Vivocity, where we walked along the Sentosa Walk. The walk and the travellators were totally deserted. It was quite sunny and hot and no wonder no one wanted to walk along these at that point of time. Nonetheless, the way was beautiful and I enjoyed the walking. I am sure come evening the water facing restaurants will be jam packed with shoppers and localites celebrating the beginning of the weekend.

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We took the bus from Vivocity to MBS. Because of the heavy traffic, we reached MBS when it was dark (so much for our plans of watching the sunset there).

When you stand opposite MBS, you will feel small. MBS is not only huge in its dimensions, it also comes across as an intimidating, majestic structure (that can eat you up any time?). MBS, which is basically a resort hotel having more than 2500 rooms, is made up of 3 towers. Outsiders are allowed entry on Tower 3 deck (known as Skypark) through a SGD 20 ticket. The major highlight of the rooftop is actually the infinity pool. Alas, I turned out to be the only unfortunate person in my family not to see it (the rest of my family has seen it before). A few months back, people were allowed to see the amazingly made infinity pool. But the guests complained of visitors staring at them and invading their privacy. Now, they allow a 15 minutes conducted tour to the pool in batches for which you have to book online a day before! So, I missed it this time. Another item on the To-See list for the next Singapore trip.

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The lift takes you up to the 56th floor in a few seconds. You will find vacuum developing in your ears as you reach height. When you come out onto the deck and are engulfed by the magnificent view, you will quite forget everything else.

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The lights of the high-rises, landmarks, the golf course and the flyer (which incidentally looks very tiny from here) and ships in the ocean beyond dazzle up at you from down there. You can also see the Supertrees that are in the process of completion. Undoubtedly, this place has to be visited at night.

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There are no places to sit there; so you can just sit on the floor. And, oh yes, it’s better to carry your own food there because the tiny shop up there is very expensive. So we had the pleasure of having a Chocolate Cupcake from Awfully chocolate at that heavenly (well, almost) height.

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I was told that it is quite windy up there but on this day there wasn’t much breeze. It was pleasant all the same.

On the opposite side of the road, is The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. This mall is full of designer shops llike Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Coach, etc and celebrity restaurants. This also houses the well known, huge casino and which is why Sis had advised me to be very careful of my things – theft and snatching is common here. A canal runs through the mall till the hotel on the opposite end for guests and shoppers. Gondola style boats are used to take people to & fro.

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Tired after lots of walking, we had dinner at the noisy food court, which was the only bad food experience I had! I bravely ordered for Chicken Bao dimsum (I quite like dimsums) but I could hardly swallow it! The filling was sweet and the cover was thick and sticky.

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We briefly had a look at the Arts & Science Museum from outside and walked a bit on the Helix Bridge.

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I felt remorse when we were departing from MBS. I did realize that this was THE last thing I was doing in Singapore. My trip was ending. The next day late night we were leaving back for India. So the day will only comprise of last minute shopping and packing. I was finishing my third trip to Singapore. Am I bored of it? Do I still have things to see / do here? Hell, I do! I haven’t tried Breadtalk yet. I haven’t shopped like I do usually. I want to try the Spicy Chicken Steak at Pizza Hut. Won’t I want to come back?

Can already la.

Categories: Photography, Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Whole New World

As a teenager, I was always fascinated by Raageshwari in the video of her song ‘Duniya’ where she goes travelling on her own to Maldives, shops for clothes and most interestingly, wears them immediately! That was something I’ve always wanted to do! And believe me, I feel as excited today, when I am doing that, as my old teenager self! We discovered a shopping heaven right behind our hotel. It is known as the Bugis Street. Duplicates of all latest shoes, bags, jewellery and clothes are available at cheaper prices. So after looking at all those Topshop pleated skirts dejectedly (because nothing was below SGD 35), I found similar ones in the many narrow lanes of this maze. But, beware of the quality! A shopaholic like me, who has shopped everywhere from India to aboard, malls to streets, should better know this. The quality of such places is highly questionable. And sure enough, the pleated skirts either did not have enough pleats or were of cheap cloth. Nonetheless, I managed to find something decent. It is absolute fun wearing local fashion.

Being a tourist is so cool. You can wear whatever you like. Eat whatever you want. Be whatever you want to be. Because whatever you do, you will always be different from others; it is a totally acceptable fact. You have all the right to make mistakes, look confused and doubtful.

Having had breakfast at Toastbox for 3 consecutive days, I decided to have breakfast at different places every day. So one day it was McDonalds and one day Mos Burgers (a Japanese joint. The coffee shake was brilliant and so so heavy). Most of the times, I go out on my own in the morning, have my breakfast at Bugis Junction, pack some food for Mum and/or Sis and come back to the hotel after loitering around a bit. I enjoy these me-times. These times when I am left free on my own is a breather for me. I walk at my own pace, take new lanes and click photos on the way. Now that’s what a traveller should do.

The way to Bugis junction from our hotel is now a road walked on several times. We get out of the hotel, walk across a Chinese area (the first thing you will notice about this area is the soothing Chinese chants playing in a shop. The chants have an extremely soothing effect) which has a famous Chinese temple and a Hindu temple too. Surrounding the 2 temples are traditional Chinese shops selling souvenirs, gift items and cheap clothing. Then comes a hawker street where a full meal can be had in SGD 5 (our cabbie had told us). You wouldn’t want to have that food even for free because the traditional Asian food is not something we can easily consume; the odour itself is unbearable. Too much for the weak Indian heart. The only noticeable thing here is even though this particular patch is crowded, local and old fashioned, it is clean. The area around the enclosure of food area is clean too. No rubbish, no leftovers. Then comes the street shopping area which is a kind of a dangerous area, actually. Lot of mean, messy things go on inside and not just the goody-goody clothes and shoes shopping. You can feel an uncanny presence of a force that compels you to be alert while inside. So best to go there in the afternoon and not focus on anything except the pretty shoes and clothes. I did venture into it alone to shop and explore and on the face of it, it was all sweet. I wouldn’t even want to scrape further.

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Coming back to food – because that is my sole interest after fashion. Singapore is food heaven too. Every attractive food joint I see, I am tempted to try atleast one little thing there, just to get a feel of the place; just for the experience. I had banana cake and chicken ham bun at Barcook Bakery which is another bakery I have discovered here (I sneaked there during one of my me-times). They have all kinds of buns (sweet, meat, fruit). And this particular one I tried was so fresh, even though I bought it at around 4 pm, sweet and soft. In fact, almost everything that I have tried here has worked for me – Chocoloco Donut at J.Co, Chicken Ranch pizza at Saprino’s, Chicken Burger at Mos Burgers, Hash Brown at McD, Molten chocolate cake at Starbucks, Ice Kachang at Ion Mall, Chocolate Stack at Awfully chocolate, Grilled chicken and rice at Nando’s. This leads me into a constant confusion – to repeat what I’ve loved or keep trying new things?

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Apart from Chinatown, we have only been visiting malls in all our available time.

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Each MRT station opens into a mall. And not just any randomly made mall. All malls are well made and have big brands. My knowledge of fashion brands has drastically improved because I have been seeing the same brands again and again in different malls; so their names AND patterns had to get grilled into my mind. Though Ion Mall at Orchard and the stores at Somerset are undoubtedly top class, they are also expensive and common. I liked the malls at Tampinies and Jurong Point more. They have a mix of big and small names (of food, stationery, apparel, shoes – everything) such that you can decide your space and scope. They have brilliant food joints too.

Singapore is full of manmade wonders and they have done a brilliant job at it. I am beginning to agree with Sis’s point that Singaporeans have not much to do here except malls – shopping and food. I have always looked at the crowd and wondered that if all they do is dress up and roam around in malls, when do they work, if they ever do? I have concluded that that is all they can do here. As locals, they are not going to visit night Safari or Sentosa or the flyer. Even if they do, they’d do it once in 2 years. In such a small country, which comprises of only one city practically, what new can happen? They may be visiting night clubs. How many would be there in this tiny space? And that’s why they spend their weekends and holidays going to Hongkong, Malaysia and other nearby countries, I am told.

Tomorrow, we will be visiting an important landmark of Singapore – the 57 storeyed Marina Bay Sands.

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Romancing Singapore

I am realizing that this trip is mostly shopping (that too selective because Singapore is expensive for us Indians) and eating. Though this is our third visit here, there still are some things left to see – Universal studios, Singapore Zoo, Chinese Garden, the Museums, mainly. I only had a moment of regret over this. The reality is I am just enjoying the loitering around, being amongst locals, seeing them, shopping with them – experiencing the culture. I am in food heaven and cannot decide which bun to have, which coffee to have and which chicken to have. There are so many joints and so many cuisines. It is unfortunate that I do not have like minded travel partners – Mum and Sis are conservative eaters and will stick to more comfortable and familiar foods / joints. They are also vegetarian and light eaters. I, on the other hand, have a huge appetite and love eating.

So today on our own we set off for Tampinies, which is on one end of Singapore. It is quite near the airport. Tampinies has 3 big malls side by side. I remembered this area from my last visit here and remembered that there are affordable shops here. I was right. We got some good deals here. And had it not been for my already overflowing cupboard, I could have bought lots of good stuff here. Watsons, Coldstorage, Espirit, Mango, Hersheys, BYSI, New Look, G2000 and some lower local brands – it is heaven for a shopaholic.

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I still do not get how the mall can be crowded on a Monday afternoon. Most of the people looked like teenagers or people in college (thought it is difficult to guess the age of Singaporeans. Most of them look like teenagers). All the eateries – McCafe, McD, Coffee Bean, Starbucks, Pizza Hut – every place was full either with kids or college goers who had papers and files and notebooks messily strewn all over their able along with a single large mug of coffee.

We have understood our way around. Singapore public train system is known as MRT (Mass Rapid Transit). These fully automated trains run on 4 different lines. The trains are absolutely clean (eating and drinking in the train is fined) and peaceful. The markings, announcements and maps are so clear and convenient. You will be guided about which station is next, where you need to get off to change lines, which side the door will open and how to get out of the station to reach where. People get in and get off without rush and panic. Of course, I haven’t seen the peak office hours. They face the fast escalators (which I quite dislike) very calmly.

As compared to the past 2 days, we’ve eaten less today. Lunch at Nando’s and a McCafe coffee. Nando’s is an African food chain. They serve only chicken and some vegetarian dishes. Their specialty is their peri-peri chilli powder they compliment all their dishes with. It is quite hot and has a peculiar flavor. I fell in love with It when I had it for the first time in Australia. Nando’s interiors have got a very earthy jungle feel. Wooden furniture with African sounds playing in the background. All the attendants (girls in ‘Chicks Rule’ t-shirts and guys in ‘Too hot to handle’ t-shirts) greet you jointly when you come in and leave. All of them have an aura of being tough and dynamic. Their best dish is perhaps the traditional and most basic Grilled Chicken Tenderloins with peri-peri. Peri-peri sauce is also available in 4 flavours – garlic, tomato, hot & extra hot – for sale. You bet I picked up a couple.

There are stills cakes and meat buns to be tried. There is still the charcoal burnt chicken burger joint to be explored. Sometime else, surely.

Arab Street happens to be very close to our hotel and we decide to go there for dinner. We reach quite late and all the shops have closed. Arab Street actually comprises of some 3 streets full of middle-eastern food – Turkish, Indian, Persian and Lebanese and some shops selling ittar, pashmina shawls, traditional cloth and costumes. The streets are quite deserted and silent at 9 pm but restaurants are full. Hoards of Singaporeans and Americans occupy the open air restaurants smoking.

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We chose to sit inside a restaurant called Alturka. We order for Mint Iced Tea (which is quite mild), Turkish coffee with milk (which doesn’t taste like coffee at all. I remember Turkish coffee from Turkish Airlines and hoped this one would be as great. I am gravely disappointed), Hummus and Lavas Bread (Hummus is a dip made of chickpea & sesame. Lavas is a maida bread with sesame topping) and Kiratzme (stir fried vegetables, Zuchini and Eggplant being most prominent with yogurt and garlic tip). You can also order a platter of their dips (Hummus included) and have them with different types of bread. This is what I’ve had before in another joint before and totally loved. The Kiratzme is oily and has a taste that one wouldn’t usually be accustomed to but I devour it.

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It is quite an experience strolling back to our hotel. Despite the glittering high rises, 5-star hotels and shiny cars that zip fast before you even realize, this part of Singapore feels so peaceful and serene. Maybe because it has been making us feel totally at ease all this while. We are not running around. We are not tired. We feel peace within us and around.

After living for 10 days without responsibility and with only leisure and freedom, I wonder how I will be able to get back to my usual monotonous schedule. I gave fallen in love with this beautiful country and want to get lost here.

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Categories: Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

You’re Beautiful

It is the second day when I stand in front of stern-looking Selina at Toastbox reciting my order of coffee, Milo, eggs, bread and banana cake. Ho’ Milo, But’ar Toast, she repeats after me. And after confirming, says, Can Already La, meaning ‘ok’. It has become our staple breakfast and I look forward to it every day. I do not feel very brave venturing into their Asian dishes or the crab toast; I am quite content with eggs and bread. I just cannot decide, Milo is better or coffee. Yesterday I had Milo which is a popular morning hot drink for office goers and students. Today, I try the coffee with milk. I wonder how much milk is in it because the coffee looks so dark. After the first 2 sips, when you may find it to be bitter, the coffee is yummy and you will not wish for the mug to empty. I am having 2 eggs for breakfast every time. I don’t know why I am perennially hungry here. Good for me that we have listed down many many things to try. So we had 5 small meals yesterday. We started with breakfast, then Ice Kachang at Ion Mall, followed by donuts, Indian lunch at Go India Express, juice at Marche and dinner at Muchos. We get tired walking around, window shopping (since you cannot really shop) and moving around these huge malls. So we need to sit down to talk and rest (Mum and Sis enjoy this the most) and where else can we do this but cafes and food joints?

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Most Singaporeans carry an umbrella around at all times because it can start raining anytime. If it doesn’t, you may need it for the strong heat. One moment there is prickly heat in the morning and just another it is raining. While we were shopping like crazy in the OG sale (right beside out hotel), it was pouring outside. Rains died away soon but clouds threatened to pour at any time the whole day.

Today’s lunch is at Fish & Co. they have a huge menu that has seafood and Veg items in it. The interiors are done up like a fisherman’s cabin. But what an expensive place it turns out to be! Each mocktail is for SGD 8.9 ! It is an unfortunate visit. Sis has tried the Veg pizza here before which she liked but they couldn’t serve it this time. They couldn’t serve many other drinks and dishes we want to order. We finally order Veg nachos which isn’t great; the sauces have been used very stingily. I, of course, manage to have a grand meal of Grilled white fish with peri-peri sauce (also available with coriander sauce), rice and mashed potatoes (you can select 2 out of several options of chips, stir-fry veggies, etc). It is quite good but the bill of SGD 57 shocks us.

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It is late afternoon by the time we reach Esplanade Theatres. The area is spacious, quiet and sparsely crowded. This theatre is located near water (that is why it is also called Esplanade Theatres By The Bay). It is a Sunday evening, the weather is pleasant and cool and so lots of locals and tourists have come down here to relax. We also join the crowd (if you can call it crowd) and take in the humid winds and occasional rain drops. From here we can see the famous Merlion structure, new Singapore Museum and Marina Bay Sands (MBS). This area is also lined up with restaurants. Right near the water, is a small stadium with a stage. Anyone can walk into the enclosure and sit on the stairs where budding, unknown artists and bands are allowed to perform. This time it was a band performing what they call traditional jazz. A walk over a bridge, after crossing Indonesian street singers sitting under the bridge, takes us to the Merlion which is heavily surrounded by tourists.

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When we come out of Starbucks, where we had sat for almost an hour, the crowds have almost vanished. Which is surprising again because it is Sunday evening. But then, maybe they’ve gone to more happening noisy places.

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We retrace our steps and go to an Indian restaurant, Mirchi, at the Esplanade Mall. The food turns out to be brilliant there! Huge quantities and delicious preparation. I have kind of accepted that I need to have Indian meal atleast once a day.

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We have got used to Singapore’s wide, clean roads, luxurious malls and the huge plethora of lovely food. Going back is going to be damn difficult.

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Singapore. Finally.

When I landed at Singapore Changi airport yesterday, I don’t know why I couldn’t stop smiling. I wasn’t just delighted. I felt gleeful. Victorious. Like I had achieved yet another feat. And totally at ease. At home. Totally in a familiar surrounding. Because for a wanderer, the world outside his home is his real home.

An uneventful but a good flight later we hired a taxi driven by a smart looking Chinese man. He surprised us by greeting us with a ‘Namaste. Aap kaise ho. Main accha hu. Maine khana kha liya. Aaj ka Mausam accha hai’. To our surprised faces and big smiles, he responded to our answer on his question about our state – Oh Gujarat??! MK Gandhi’s state. Famous for sweets and textiles! His knowledge about Singapore and India baffled me so much that I almost suspected him. What else was his mind capable of? He even went to the extent of asking Mum if she had an arranged marriage and wishes the same for her daughters! I couldn’t help but ask him if he was fond of reading about different countries ( a politer way of asking ‘how come so much interest in India?’) To which he replied – Oh, only the major ones. After all, China and India are the biggest upcoming markets.

He let out information overload on eatery and shopping suggestions on the way to the hotel. The 15 minutes journey costed us Sgd 19. We reached a Hindu temple, took the left turn and were at Ibis. The courteous staff unloaded our heavy suitcases and took them into the plush hotel which isn’t new to me. While waiting for the check in, I looked at the the deep red and orange sofas and purple lights going all the way to the restaurant and bar and wondered what the food would be like there. A staff with ‘I’m learning’ yellow badge helped me patiently with the check in and wifi (free wifi!!) details.

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The moment had arrived. I was in a new city. In another part of the world. I could see new views from the window. I couldn’t wait to get my new SLR out. Tall buildings almost touching the clouds can be seen from my hotel room window. A small portion of Esplanade stadium can also be seen. The taxi driver had told us that Arab street and Little India were just round the corner from our hotel (which was located at Bencoolen street).

The location of our hotel is brilliant. Bugis MRT and mall, which happens to be a reasonable sized mall, is just 7 minutes away. There is also the street shopping lanes and 2 other malls, OG and Illumini, in the area. So, there is no opportunity of getting bored here.

I am glad to have rested for the rest of yesterday. Because as expected and dreaded, we had to walk a lot today. Malls to and fro MRT, within the huge malls, Bugis Junction – you can’t avoid walking around in this tiny little country.

We began our day with roaming around the still closed Bugis Junction and I was glad to see names like Mphosis, Bossini, Espirit, Giordino, Nandos, Diva and Iora here. I can spend hours shopping there! On this early Saturday morning, the roads had been empty; so were the malls. This made the loitering around even more pleasurable.

I have really been excited about breakfast because I remembered the soft boiled eggs-coffee-toast-banana bread combo I had a couple of years back at Tea Loft (Ion Mall, Orchard). The toasted buttery banana bread was lovely, so was the coffee that had an orangish tinge and a delicious flavour. So this morning, we had breakfast at Toast Box. Apart from Toastbox, only McD and Mos Burgers were open and were already bustling with early risers.

Breakfast at Toastbox was like a dream breakfast for me. The small place with an open ‘kitchen’ area is full by 10 am even on weekends. 4 staff members multitask and manage to toast thin and thick bread slices, butter them, juggle between billing orders and making coffee, boiling eggs and preparing iced tea. We ordered for coffee, hot milo, thick toast – plain buttered and sugar, soft boiled eggs and banana cake. If you do not specify ‘hard boiled eggs’, you will be given soft eggs – that is eggs 40% boiled. Of course, I love them. You will be served eggs in 2 small shallow bowls, and one of them is meant for mixing egg with soya sauce (yes, soya sauce). I gobbled everything down while my sister and mother caught up on each other’s lives. The other favourite breakfast dishes seemed to be toast with minced crab floss, eggs noodles and chicken sausages.

Petite Singaporean girls can make bathroom slippers look hot and walk with rapid speed in high wedges. While the ‘poor’ portion of Singapore is visible, the majority other portion is hep and trendy. Think of any latest fashion trend and it is here. Perfect eye make up and innovative hair styles and hair cuts, if Singapore was to declare a national attire, it would be shorts. Girls of all ages wear shorts of all styles and lengths, team it with tank tops, shirts or frills and look smart.

Its probably is a mistake going to Orchard street on weekends, unless you love crowd, because more than half of Singapore would be here. Orchard street is the poshest area of Singapore with big names like Dior, D&G, Louise Vuitton occupying huge showrooms on the main street. The most popular mall here is Ion Mall. It has 4 floors – food court on the lowest floor and 3 other floors of restaurants, fashion stores & electronics stores. The mall is huge and it is not easy moving around here. Singapore is not very cheap for us Indians. And though I looked longingly at Mango, Charles & Keith, Forever 21, Zara, New Look and H&M store displays, there is hardly anything I can buy from there, unless I have spare money to splurge, and in the end I gave up even entering the stores. One store Mum and Sis enjoyed and spent a lot of time in was Daiso, the 2 SGD Japanese store. Everything from stationery to gardening tools to car cleaning tools to kitchen products were available here for 2 SGD each. We got some interesting things like milk frother, ice packs and pens. Tourists and localities flocked into its narrow passages filling up their shopping baskets. When we reached the food court, it was packed with hungry shoppers. If you look at the assortment of food available here, you can’t choose just one joint. Desserts – chocolate to milkshakes to cut fruits to flavoured ice to bubble tea to gelato, Cuisine – Thai to Malay to Japanese to Indian, fast food to posh restaurants, breakfast to cake shops – what is not here? I decided you have to come here multiple times to get a taste of all that your heart demands / desires. Though it was difficult to stand the odour of most Asian cuisines, the duck preparation smelt yummy (what many friends had said turned out to be true) and this remains an unfulfilled desire for which I need to come back to Singapore.

One interesting thing about Singapore is that though it is quite crowded, there is seldom a dense mass. A popular hangout like Clarke Quay was quite sparsely crowded (though I am told that morning work hours are so busy and crowded that you can expect a stampede anytime). Even though people had lined up the river bank to enjoy the cool pleasant weather, there was still space for more people to come and sit. Everyone, including us, sat facing the river watching tourist cruise boats go by (where tourists frantically clicked pictures and were entertained by music played by yet another doll-like Singaporean girl. Strange I don’t call myself a tourist) and the occasional bungee sport on the opposite bank. I looked up at the river-facing TCC joint on the second floor of The Central with longing. What a wonderful feeling it would be to have coffee sitting by the glass window there!

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We could hear music and beats coming from a thickly populated area on the other end and immediately knew that that was where all the action was. We walked past the several restaurants – Japanese, Indian, Australian, wine shops, ice cream shops and reached the main food area. Our destination there was Muchos, a Spanish restaurant. It was between Ras (an Indian restaurant) and Hooters (a Singaporean food joint that has assigned a tiny white and orange shorts and tee set to its waitresses to attract people. I’ve read that the girls often dance in front of the restaurant to attract visitors). The competition seemed tough here. Each joint employs some method – music, girls, boards, posters – to attract visitors. One huge middle Eastern food joint was playing loud Arabic music to make a girl in shiny blue Arabic costume do belly dancing. Further deep, were more discs and pubs and music, it was Saturday night, of course.

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Of course, we were one of those few boring ones who moved out towards our hotel while more people were flocking in. A crazy aged cab driver took us to our hotel. It had been a long day and I felt disheartened for spending a little more than optimal on clothes and accessories today (a pendant-chain from forever 21 for SGD 7, Glares from H&M for 15 SGD, 2 tops from H&M for SGD 18 each) and for not having used my new SLR.

Tomorrow we visit Esplanade area. Have to be geared for yet another beautiful day in Singapore.

Categories: Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Singapore The Third Time

Before I realize it, it is time for me to leave for Singapore. I panicked today (like I always do before every foreign trip). I leave from Baroda on 3rd May for Bombay to catch the flight to Singapore on 4th May early morning. I can’t express how excited that vision is – of holding your passport in one hand and the suitcase handle in the other. Before that comes lots of preparation – deciding what clothes to carry (see how this comes on top of the list), packing in utilities, ensuring no essential item is missed out, local travel, currency. I kept thinking I have loads of time and lo behold, I just have 5 days left!

I wasn’t as excited for this trip as I was for my previous 2 trips because Singapore isn’t new to me. I’ve been there 2 times before – both as a tourist and as a local. Having seen Sentosa, Merlion, Night Safari, Little India, Jurong Bird Park, I have also explored their malls – Ion, Vivocity, Tampines & Jurong Point – and food joints. There is still a lot to be done and seen there. This time, I am going to be armed with a brand new SLR and just the image of me clicking photos with it is quite satisfying.

We are going to be spending good 8 days in Singapore. Out of these, my sister (who is going to be our host for these 8 days) will be attending work for 3 days during which time my Mum and I will be on our own. A very careful itinerary has been made (otherwise also needed to decide which ensemble to wear when) mentioning the mall, food joint and sightseeing spot to be visited each day.

Having seen the most apparent parts of Singapore already, I am keen to see below the surface this time. My sister instantly ruled out nature parks and trails. I managed to get Chinatown, Singapore Zoo & Emerald Hill approved.

As I catch hold of whatever piece of paper I can find to quickly make the things-to-carry list, I remember my first foreign trip 5 years ago to SE Asia (Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore). I was so excited that my suitcase was packed and ready to be taken a month before we actually left. I have still preserved the to-take list I had made that time. Since that first foreign trip, I have not seen any dip in my enthusiasm levels. I am as excited as I was that time for every trip hence, whether in India or outside.

The first trip abroad in 2007 was driven by the childish curiosity of seeing what foreign countries were like. The real moment of enlightenment came in 2008 when I visited Switzerland & Paris with my family. That trip me showed me a world that I was actually attached to but still so unknown, different and far away. I had told my parents that time that by 2010, I wish to have 10 countries’ visa stamp on my passport. I managed to have 6 (excluding the multiple Schengen & Singapore visas). My dream from that time was to see the whole world. My eyes had opened to the fact that the world out there is very huge and very different and you can’t die without seeing it. When I took a stand in the last 2 years and went to Australia and Europe even though my family and several friends condemned me for wasting (imagine, spending money for travel means a waste for them) money like this. Very few supported. In my heart I knew I had to go. And I did. I cherished each moment of walking on foreign lands and feeling a part of a world which is much bigger than my hometown.

A friend asked me today how resolute I am towards travel. Will I travel irrespective of company / situation? Am I a compulsive traveller? I was forced to think about it. So, I have been a compulsive traveller till now. If not foreign trips, it is nearby Baroda. Or in Baroda. But the desire of seeing /experiencing something new, the need for being marvelled at staggering new sights & the yearning for being transformed into a different being never eludes me. The quest here is not of travelling but of learning which will always remain eternal for me.

The third visit to Singapore is going to amaze me equally more. I am quite likely to return as a new being.

Some pics taken during my first visit:

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Merlion from ropeway to Sentosa

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The famous hotel where we were told Shah Rukh Khan always stays when he visits Singapore

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The typical coloured windows

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A Chinese temple

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Sentosa Island

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That’s me at the southern most tip of Asia at Sentosa island

Categories: Photography, Singapore | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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