Wednesday, November 18, 2009

2 Singapore, Singapore

The streets are wide, sparkling clean, and devoid of the constant honking we'd come to understand as more a part of driving than the turn signal. Cars and pedestrians alike paid attention to traffic lights and walk signals. English was everywhere. Food stalls were not. If it hadn't been for the same muggy heat that makes you want to crawl out of your skin, we would have sworn we were back in Australia. Singapore still has the typically Malaysian cultural influences and cuisine, but its more like the five star deluxe property of Southeast Asia.
Or maybe it just felt that way because we were staying at a bona fide five star hotel. Courtesy of a successful Priceline bid, we enjoyed three nights of absolute luxury at the Conrad Centennial. Our large and well-cushioned bed was outfitted with high threadcount sheets, our 46-inch flatscreen TV aired the Celtics game, and the bathroom was all marble, mirrors, and hot hot water. We even had a pillow menu because the Conrad offers "an assortment of sixteen pillows to cater to your personal pillow needs."

We were also found ourselves right in the middle of APEC action. When we arrived in town we saw banners welcoming the delegates of the 2009 APEC Convention, and not knowing what this was, we were hoping it might be as entertaining as the Anime Convention we happened upon in Toronto a few years ago. As we navigated through massive security at the Conrad we started to wonder if maybe this was something a little more high profile. And by the time we went to dinner, we'd pieced together that this was the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, and leaders from around the world--including President Obama--were in town for the event! Definitely cooler than the Anime Convention...though we bet their after parties are a little more entertaining.

If we'd learned anything from our time near the equator it was to take things slow. On our first day we got oriented and saw the Fountain of Wealth, the Padang and its surrounding historic buildings, the kooky Merlion statue and Fort Canning Park. Within the hill of Fort Canning Park is the awesome Battle Box museum, an old bunker which served as Britain's command post for the island during World War II. Rooms are filled with original equipment and (of course) dioramas recreating the scene on the night of surrender to the Japanese. Having spent a few hours out and about, we then returned to the Conrad for siesta. Night is when Singapore really shines anyway--accentuated by beautiful lights shimmering on the water which are easier to appreciate with the cooler evening temperatures. We took a pre-dinner walk down the river to Clarke Quay and watched the rich and the fashionable toasting champagne flutes and cocktail glasses on waterfront restaurant patios.
On our second day in Singapore we hit up the reliable ethnic neighborhoods that were standards at our Malaysian stops. We strolled through the temples of Chinatown and chowed down at the food stalls, sampling the specialty rojak, fried carrot cake, and sesame buns. We even gave the shaved ice dessert another try with a strawberry and milk concoction. It was actually enjoyable this time--minus the ABC's beans, corn, and bubblegum syrup. Little India had the standard sari shops and aromatic restaurants, but we decided it was far too clean, quiet, and orderly to deserve its name. Add some trash, livestock, and pushy salespeople and then we'll reconsider.

View more pictures from Singapore here.

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