I had arrived early in Singapore so I would have a chance to look around before the tour started. Unfortunately, the flu/cold resulted in three days largely spent on the bunk in the dorm of a hostel. I managed to make a few trips to a hawker centre across the road, accompanied by a paramedic from Sydney. He was an interesting person, approximately of my parent’s generation, and similarly widely travelled.
His prejudices regarding technology, pharmaceuticals, and people who overused ambulances also echoed my mother. She is an intensive care nurse; I suspect these sentiments might be common in their field.
The food at the hawker centre was excellent, although much of the more subtle flavours were unfortunately lost on me, due to my blocked nose and sinuses. I tried a ‘poh piah’, a sort of crepe, filled with sliced boiled egg, caramelised onion, and chilli. For $1.50, it was brilliant.
A brief period of confusion regarding my location excluded, Friday’s meeting with the rest of the group and check-in to our accommodation in Utown at NUS went smoothly. My room was small but comfortable, with a single bed, a desk and a wardrobe, though no coat hangers.
Sunday was the first official day of the study tour, and eased us in gently (my feet may not agree with this evaluation however) with a ‘cultural activity’ outing. NRoberts and me met at the Utown Starbucks for morning coffee, a most pleasant start to the day. The group joined us there at 10, and almost immediately rain began bucketing down, with some lovely loud thunder as well. Everyone rushed to buy umbrellas, though they didn’t do much. Once we left, the weather calmed somewhat, but my shoes were already soaked.
After various modes of transport, we arrived at Marina Bay. This was quite a different Singapore than I had previously been seeing; cleaner, newer, though with grand colonial buildings interspersed. Skyscrapers dotted the landscape, and the famous Marina Bay Sands building was visible across the water. A huge Merlion (a lion with a fish tail, Singapore’s mascot) statue poured water from its mouth and overlooked the bay.
We made our way across the Helix Bridge to the Marina Centre and lunched at an overpriced food court. I had my first coffee in Singapore (kopi) and it was reminiscent of Vietnamese style ca phe and was delicious.
Gardens By the Bay was our major destination of the day; two massive biospheres containing trees, flowers, and humans keen to escape Singapore’s oppressive humidity. The first contained flora native to many different countries, including boab trees from Australia, and a reproduction of a Persian garden in the centre. The second had forest ferns and a central ‘mountain’ with a waterfall in the centre. Orchids grew on the rock faces and at the top there was a miniature lake with water foliage. I preferred the atmosphere of the second, like a rainforest in parts. I took many, many photos, to the point where my companion was getting somewhat irritated at our pace.
We returned to Utown via the MRT, and I am currently in my room. I’m about to go find some food, wish me luck!