Asian Madness

Singapore, 14th - 15th January

14th January

We wake up in our crowded hostel in the heart of Singapore’s Little India. Let’s see our host neighbourhood then. It turns out that its name isn’t just figurative. Everything that could be of touristic interest is collected in two or three streets. Colourful, busy and smelly as we established with our first steps here. I must admit, this mix of sharp aromas isn’t that enjoyable for my senses. I can’t quite tell where they’re coming from - is it spices, or incense, or cooking. Most likely, it is a strong mix of the three. I don’t take much convincing when Nic suggests we hop on the subway to Chinatown.

There, we are welcomed by a completely different atmosphere. Perhaps the upcoming holidays have a part to play but life is convincingly in full buzz here. And it smells delicious! From the subway, we come out right in the centre of the food court. We wonder, spoiled by options and tangled in translation until we make the final choice. We pass by the fruit cart where we see a careful arrangement of slices of known and not so known fruit. We bet on wedges of pineapple and watermelon - there can’t be any disappointment there, but we are also brave enough to try jackfruit and local persimmons. This time everything is wonderful even the new jackfruit that requires persistence and time getting used to the taste. And after that, we acquire a fried pastry with a sweet black bean filling and another one with leek - nothing with leek can ever disappoint. And most importantly, this breakfast costs us nothing. Well, compared to all other restaurants in Singapore. It’s like we’re not in the same city here. Now, I understand why the mechanic at the garage in Adelaide sent us here.

Well-fed, we enter Marina Bay Sands with a specific aim. We won’t just admire the crazy rich interiors but we will willingly spend some money here as well. One of our wedding presents was a drink or two at the hotel’s Skybar. But you don’t go in it just like that. I have scoured the internet to check the requirements for the dress code and whether we’ll be allowed in wearing shorts and t-shirts. It says they wouldn’t mind typical tourist wear during the day, but we will not be risking it. Nic has carried his shirt for five months through the world for this specific moment. We go into the lobby toilets and come out almost as new people - a dress, a shirt, tidy shoes, jewellery and hair-dos … Maybe we could pass for VIPs.

But to be allowed in the elevator for the fifty-seventh floor, first, you need to pay an entrance of $23 per person. It is regarded as a minimum spend towards all orders on the terrace so there is no “I’m not thirsty”. Whether you drink or not, the view has a price. Up in the skies, we first get stuck at the southeast railings with a birds-eye view of the Gardens by the Bay. Every building and every Supertree as if viewing an interactive tourist map. And in the bay itself, there are many ships waiting. How many, I can imagine only the port centre can say. I just see MANY!

With great luck, we sit at a table right next to the glazed railings. The view towards the marina, the central business district and the rest of Singapore is unobscured. Of course, the entrance fee doesn’t even cover the cheapest gin and tonic on the menu. But we haven’t come up here to be petty. Even if we give £13 for one drink. The gin is called Tanglin and it is produced locally in Singapore. We enjoy it just as we enjoy any other because we know nothing about gin other than the fact we like drinking it.

But even if we aren’t gin connoisseurs, I think we know what a good view is. And this one could top any rankings. I would have probably paid more to allow me to be like a bird up here. And there is no harm that we got a bit dressed up to come. I feel like we belong. With some footage on the GoPro, the first G&Ts are finished and a second glass arrives. We must have gone mad here, but I will probably not get a chance to be in this bar again, especially on somebody else’s expenses. (Also, I find another Bulgarian group to eavesdrop on.)

Slightly tipsy, we go back down on solid ground and enter the colourful Gardens by the Bay. We will be using our ticket for the Cloud Forest. The windows must be all washed by now. Unlike yesterday’s greenhouse for flowers and smaller plants, this one is a complete jungle. A tropical forest - far more impressive than its floral sister next door. In the centre rises a 35-metre mountain, and a tall waterfall drops from its tallest point. Our eyes are wide open, unbelieving. The jaws are almost dropped. Wow!

The entire dome offers different paths, groves and hollows in which you can dive in and get lost. A central path circles the mountain and leads you to its top with hidden views to the waterfall, the orchid gardens, the air-plants installation and whatever not. Green everywhere! Just before we leave, the sprinklers for the tropical fog comes on to show us where the name of the forest comes from. All of a sudden, our view becomes mist, the mountain in front disappears. We are in a cloud.

We accidentally find a Secret Garden under the mountain. An unbelievable, extravagant, creative, beautiful space. When we hear the word garden or greenhouse, we - the ordinary people, usually have a certain, traditional idea. Regardless of how hard I try to unleash my fantasy, I could never imagine, let alone create something similar. The Imaginations that create here are on a higher level, unknown to me. Artscience.

Tonight, we have decided to observe the light show Rhapsody of the Supertrees. But before that, we will look for food and visit two or three malls we haven’t yet seen. You go to Rome for fountains and churches. To Singapore - for Supertrees and malls. As we wait for food to arrive, we discuss our plans for tomorrow. We should be leaving for Kuala Lumpur but we have neither reserved our accommodation nor have we decided on a specific mode of transport. Yes, yes - we are talking about crossing into a different country in less than 24 hours. Isn’t it perfectly normal to not have concrete plans? Ergh …

Exiting Marina Bay Sands, we decide to stay at the end of the bridge to wait for the beginning of the Rhapsody. We see all Supertrees in the Central Grove perfectly from here, and as the sun sets, the GoPro can follow the change in the colours of the sky and the light on the pink tangled structures. It starts. We don’t hear the music from here, but we wait long enough to take good footage after which we sprint into the centre. Here, the experience is full. Perfectly synchronised to the music, the lights are dancing to the background of an eccentric mix of musical pieces - Offenbach’s Can-Can, the soundtrack to Disney’s Little Mermaid and Pinocchio and even melodies from Phantom of the Opera. Well, this should not be missed! Not at all! And even after the performance, the Supertrees stay in full stage costumes for more photographs.

Another full and colourful day. But back in the hotel, we face some serious issues. After our last conversation, I am very worried about Nic’s plan on travelling to Kuala Lumpur. At the moment, he is planning for us to get up at 5 am and arrive after 6 pm which includes, a bus, a train, a shuttle, two more trains and a taxi, while passing a border; none of this transport can be pre-booked. So much can go wrong and with all of our luggage, the nightmare will be real. No, there has to be another option. Should I Google it …