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Monday, January 17, 2011

Singapore, Singapore Day 1

We landed at Changi Airport around 2 AM and got through customs without a hitch. I hadn't paid fully for my hostel yet so I needed to get to an ATM before leaving the airport. The airport lobby is huge, with a lot of empty modern spaces. I asked a Hertz rep where an ATM could be found, and after locating it, I pocketed my cash. When I looked up from the ATM, my eyes popped open. A police officer and two soldiers, armed with assault rifles/submachine guns, were walking directly towards me. I looked at them with blanked eyes and then they turned around and walked the opposite direction. Whew.

It took slightly longer than expected to get to Beary Nice! (BN!), the hostel I'm staying at, because the taxi driver had no idea where Smith Street, Chinatown was located. BN!'s a very welcoming place, there are teddy bears everywhere, the walls are painted bright green, red, orange, yellow..., the beds are clean, the bathrooms are spotless, and there's free coffee! 

By the time I got all situated, it was already 4AM. I snoozed for 3 hours, woke up, showered, grabbed a map, and headed out. My first impression when I walked out into Chinatown was that it was the cleanest Chinatown I've ever seen. The cleanest. It was crowded as expected as I squeezed my way out onto South Bridge Road.

My first goal was to head to Marina Bay Sands, a three-tower resort on top of which is the Sands SkyPark - a one hectare sky terrace. But of course, being me, I got lost and ended up wandering around for an hour and a half until I found my way. This turned out to be a good thing, however, as I got the chance to explore the less "touristy" part of town. 

Singapore is an interesting place, especially with regard to the languages. While English is the official main language, every other person I turned to spoke something else - Cantonese, Mandarin, Tamil, Malay...This of course means that, me being Asian, everyone assumes I speak Cantonese and Mandarin. While the former is correct, the latter results in some confusing conversations until they realize that I'm not responding in Mandarin. 

The western/British influence is strong - evident in their driving on the left side of the road! Then of course, there's the Lady Gaga and Backstreet Boys playing outside in Chinatown. Although Singaporeans sure know how to one up westerners - turning Burger King from an old fashion fast food restaurant into a "Whopper Bar" - fully stocked with your liquor and burger needs.

After a bit of wandering, I finally caught sight of Marina Bay Sands, rising above the other towers surrounding it. At that point, it was just about walking towards the building.

I took a detour into the Marina Bay luxury mall, an extravagant place for people with deep pockets. One thing I've noticed at all the mall complexes is that there are no places to sit like in American malls. In Singapore, you are there to shop, even if your legs are about to drop. But back to the point, I finally made it up to SkyPark (SGD20). The day was a bit hazy, but take a look at the amazing views.

Up next was Clarke Quay, a bustling area along the Singapore River. It's made up of five blocks of pastel-color painted warehouses that now feature over 50 restaurants/pubs. Take a look.

I made my way back towards Chinatown, but in the process, ended up detouring into several mall complexes, including China Square Central, Chinatown Point, among many others whose names I've forgotten.


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