I've been taking so many pictures here that I have to split this post into two parts. Several "exciting" financial issues started almost the moment I stepped off the plane in Singapore. I've discovered that my ATM card was liberated from my possession somewhere along the way when I tried to get cash for the ride to my hostel, and the next day my credit card company decided that I surely must have gone back home already so all the new charges must be fraud, and helpfully canceled my card. It took hours to sort it all out and figure out how to wire money to myself, it even involved a very kind offer of S$10 from a kind receptionist of a closed bank branch to buy myself lunch until I figure out my money woes (I thanked her but passed). Now my plans are delayed as I wait for the replacement cards to arrive, but Singapore is not a bad place to settle in for a while.
Unfortunately, I slightly miscalculated and arrived the day of the Chinese/Lunar New Year...but all the celebrations were the night before. Even so, the streets were still decked out with all the decorations and only some of the shops were closed for the holidays.
Street view of Chinatown from my hostel
The parade of goats along the main highway through Chinatown
Spirit offerings for prosperity and health were neatly set up in several places along the road.
I safely stowed away my things in my hostel and set out to find an open Western Union, to actually be able to enjoy this city...and eat. The closest two to me were closed, so I just kept on walking, enjoying the clean and well thought out sidewalks...something very much lacking in Indonesia. My path took me through most of Orchard Road, which is where dozens of giant malls and luxury stores are located. It actually reminded me of a slightly more spacious version of Magnificent Mile in Chicago if there were more room to spread out. They too had various statues and art installations along the side walks, and I stopped a few times for photo ops to justify carrying this selfie-stick with me everywhere I go.
Money safely in hand I made my way as quickly as I could to the closest food hall in Chinatown for an amazing seafood chowder soup with rice that left my belly happy and my lips tingling from the spices. Walking back through Chinatown and paying a bit more attention to my surroundings this time, I was amazed to see how diverse everything was. There were mosques and churches in Chinatown, as well as temples in Little India. This next picture was taken in the very heart of Chinatown and it fit the surroundings without apology or any questions. Exhausted from the stress of the day, I went to bed early and decided to spend the next day in the most serene place in town.
I woke up early and set out to the Orchid section of the Singapore Botanic Gardens via the extensive bus system. The buses, I might add, are super clean, cheap, air conditioned, and run more or less on time. I crisscrossed the city all day long without any issues at all. The gardens themselves are also enormous, housing several sections within the grounds. The Swan pond was home to dozens if not hundreds of koi, catfish, turtles and two actual swans. In some parts the waters were literally teeming with fish.
Walking just past the Ginger Gardens I noticed a huge group of photographers with crazy expensive gear all huddled in a corner with the cameras pointing at absolutely nothing from what I could tell and waiting for who knows what. I kept trying to peek past them to see what they were stalking, but couldn't see anything. They were attracting dozens of tourists, who just like me wanted to know what the fuss was all about, and I think in an attempt to disperse the crowd one of the photographers showed us what they were waiting for. Turns out there's a beautiful and rare bird that lives in that part of the garden, with luminescent feathers that gleam and shimmer in the light, and they were all waiting for it to come out. It looked like some of them had been there for a long time and were prepared to stay for hours more, so I took a picture of the crazy birders and moved on.
This is called the Cannonball plant, which I found to be amusing
The Orchid Exhibit was the only paid part of the garden, but admission was cheap and absolutely worth it. There were several sections within filled with every kind of orchid you can imagine, all skillfully curated and organized for maximum "oooh, aahhh" value.
I can't imagine anyone being inspired to damage anything in this garden, but turns out that nothing is really safe from graffiti.
Not an orchid :)
Even the Gardens featured the Wooden Goats of the CNY
Having walked up and down several miles of this garden, I'd decided that I'd had enough and it was time for a very late and overdue lunch. Before I left my cousin gave me a book called "Where Chefs Eat" and I'd bookmarked a few places in SE Asia to try out, so I set out to find one of the places from the book called Zaffron Kitchen and I'm really glad I did. It was a lovely Indian restaurant with the friendliest waiters I've ever met. I ordered garlic naan, some butter chicken curry and a tall glass of iced kopi (coffee sweetened with condensed milk).
Yum, it was delicious! They were playing Michael Buble quietly on the radio, so I settled in to enjoy my lunch and read my book for a good hour before I set out on the next adventure. But now, I'm looking at that delicious picture and find my tummy grumbling for more, so it's once again time to venture out for some grub and I'll tell you about the 2nd part of my day later.