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.
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!
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.
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.