When I was young, every trip we would make as a family would end in my parents making me write an essay or a letter about it. I would have to write about what we had done, what we wished we had done and how it was amazing (even if I thought otherwise). As I grew up, the habit of writing down details left me but the love for travelling did not. My parents would plan trips over dinners with friends, my sister would manage to go for school trips, I would travel with whoever I could. By the time I was 15 I knew that I wanted to keep travelling and keep writing.
So, with all this in mind, when an impromptu plan took us to Singapore, I was visibly excited. But obviously being the believer in Karma and all things superstitious, I tried to not pack till I had my Visa with me, and didn’t even look up ‘places to visit’ on travel blogs till the night before my flight. Alright, okay. I may have sneaked a peak at what food to try there, but I was playing it cool. Mostly.
A five and half hour flight and a movie later I landed in Changi Airport, smartly rolled down my bags and took the MRT from the closest station. The Mumbai-girl in me made a run through the crowd and into the train, only to realise that it was going to start after 15 minutes. Observation One : Do not rush. (Lesson to be repeated and reminded during walks, dinners and sightseeing as well).
The first view I had of the city, outside the airport’s well manicured lawns was of some more well-manicured lawns and parks in the city center. Close to the port, next to malls, and yet crowded by Singapore standard, the Tanjong Pagar area was one of those official areas. Now, even though this area is not something which would stand out, it can boast of really lovely food.
Being a big fan of Sushi we went to the take away version of it at Sushi Burrito. So yummy! These were the cross-breeds between Sushi and a burrito (more like the Bengali roll) with yummy salmon and prawns stuffed inside. But knowing my appetite, I obviously followed it up with some more stuff. So we walked around a bit more and found this quiet place called Jia Xiang Sarawak Kuching Kolo Mee. Some Kolo Mee and soup down, I knew this was a city I was going to like. Yep!
The area which I had previously imagined to be only a corporate district turned out to house quaint little bookstores and pubs by the sidewalks. What stood out more were the vibrantly coloured houses on both sides of the street. Almost like a doll house, these two storey houses lined the bylanes, symmetrical and yet distinct. A lone Buddhist temple stood by the street, jostling for space between the towering offices all around.
The next morning I woke up to a downcast sky. Within half an hour it started raining, making everything look fresh and new around me. And I did my little reserved-for-first-rains dance in the room. Heading out for breakfast, we stopped first at the local fresh juice shop. Trust me to choose something I would have never ordered otherwise! Needless to say, the dragon fruit juice was so mindboggling! To rectify this taste we headed to a corner coffee shop. And were we surprised! Ordering a nice enough breakfast of Chicken floss with condensed milk on bread, a bowl of Mee Siam and tea-coffee stuff, we dug in. (Just an update, I have already looked up the chicken floss recipe here in Bombay. Because I cannot get it out of my head.) That was the most awesome combination of sweet and spicy food. Followed this with some frozen yogurts and we were set for the day.
Day one was spent shopping. As was day two. Way over our credit limits, and burdened with things we didn’t need but wanted to own, we checked out sports stores, malls and street shops alike. On day three we finally tightened our belts, wore our khakis and shorts, took the bus and went to the Singapore Zoo. Be it the white tiger, the little kangaroos, or the Splash show – the whole Zoo was awesome. And I say this not because this was my first Zoo visit after crossing my teens – but also because it was interactive, there was enough place to walk around, everything was clean and information was always at hand’s reach. Once the zoo visit was done, we ran (literally sprinting around a diverse crowd all heading to the same direction) to the Night Safari. Observation Two: there are too many Indians even in this place! There is even an Indian restaurant over here..Why would you eat desi food when you are travelling? WHY!
The tram ride in the night safari could not quench our thirst for well, creatures of the night so we took all the trails, ran through them, timed ourselves, managed to watch the tiger feeding and lion feeding sessions, and even took extremely blurry pictures on our phones. There was a cute little show with tiny creatures, and a pretty exotic fire dancer show within our time at the Night Safari and we managed to catch them all. Saying a silent thanks to all the running we had done at home, we managed to end the night with some home made food and tons of pictures.
However, as I woke up the next morning (by which time the daily morning rains had become repetitive and irritating), the first thing that came to my mind is the trip back home. Honestly, I missed home. But even more honestly, I didn’t want to go back. So with a heavy heart (and a feverish boyfriend), we strolled around China Town. This was nothing like I would have imagined. The food, though presented nicely, was nothing to write home about. The people in shops were slightly rude, and the whole place missed the authentic flavour. But the dinner more than made up for it. A funky little place called ‘No Signboard’ (because when they opened shop they didn’t have a name. And that stuck and when they became famous..that’s what they decided to go by) served the best sea food I have had in a long, long time. Pepper crabs, cereal prawns, fish, deer meat, tofu – you name it and we had it.
As I finish writing this, I realise I have remembered the food more than the city. But I am hoping that to each traveller a part of a trip stands out more than the other. If to me the food and the simple conversations I have with locals is what I take back home, I am glad. It is not a surprise then that I have been going through those old pictures once in a while just because my heart is adamant on not forgetting.