Thursday, July 16, 2009

Singapore - July 10-16, 2009

I am in Singapore for work this week. Although I only had a total of 1.5 days to see this city in between the brutal work schedule, I'm glad I got to visit this amazing place and finally understood what Singapore is all about.

I had a stopover in Hong Kong. While browsing the terminal, I came upon this food court. My mouth was watering and I wished I had the stomach space to eat these!


We stayed at the Fairmont Singapore. It's a very nice hotel. This is the view from my room.


I got in at 1:30pm and needed to stay awake in order to change my time. There's a big shopping mall attached to our hotel, so I ventured out there. Singapore is famous for the Hawker Centers (food courts), so it wasn't a surprise that there's a food court with food stalls at this mall. This is my first meal in Singapore: Hainan chicken rice (one of the signature dishes) accompanied by marinated tofu and egg. Mmmm!


After the meal, I found a reflexology (foot massage) place and got myself an amazing massage. Boy it hurt so good! I almost fell asleep on the massage chair.

Then, I scoured the food stands. I scored some chicken & mushroom balls, chicken & beancurd wraps, and a curry puff. They were delicious! Later on, I even got my colleagues to try the curry puffs, and they all loved it.


I also got some typical Asian pastries. Gosh I miss these. The one on top is durian, bottom one is traditional red bean. It was my first time trying durian. Although I wasn't crazy about it, it wasn't as bad as I expected.


I had a free day the following day to re-adjust. My Mom's friends took me out to Vivo City next to Sentosa. There's a nice food court inside (of course!).


With my Mom's friends: Val, Evelyn, and Swee.


We then browsed the stands. There's some Cantonese BBQ.


Indian food.


Hot pots.


Veggie and tofu items.


Chicken wings.


Dim sum.


After working up an appetite, we decided to have dim sum and peking duck at a restaurant in the mall for lunch.


Looking out at Sentosa.


There were people everywhere! It is NOT just this mall; it's like this all over Singapore. Singaporeans like to shop, eat, and shop more. There are so many big malls and food courts/food stands. This is what they do on weekends and during leisure time.


It feels so weird sitting on the left side but not driving!


The ladies then took me to Mt. Faber, which is the highest point in Singapore. It is also a national park. There's this unique bridge called "Henderson Waves."




At the look out point. On one side, you see this urban jungle with all the high rises. It's amazing how many people live, work, and play in this compact city. The widest point of Singapore is about the same distance as between LAX and John Wayne Airport in Orange County!


On the other side, you see the ocean and the port.


After leaving Mt. Faber, Evelyn took us to the Singapore Cricket Club to have high tea.


Swee took me for a walk along the Singapore River-front. It's beautiful!


It's monsoon season in Singapore, so it'd have heavy down pour without warning off and on. I was lucky to have not been caught in a thunderstorm during this whole trip...I never used my umbrella! I caught the sun beaming through some rain clouds here by the river.


Singapore is made of 70% natural land and 30% reclaimed land. All the tall buildings you see beyond this bridge are built on reclaimed land.


There's this cool statue hanging off the river bank.


Another view along the Singapore River.


This was the priceless shot of the trip!


Singapore hosted the first ever night time Grand Prix Formula 1 race. This street was part of the race route. You can see the track lights along the route.


We saw some people parachuting from the sky. They're practicing for Singapore's National Day coming up soon.


We started working the next day (Sunday). While having breakfast, I noticed that the restaurant had these "rose apples" (蓮霧). These are my FAVORITE fruits! They don't have them in the U.S. and I haven't had these in decades. Needless to say, I indulged myself. Ahhh...happiness!


After work, we had a bit free time, so I decided to hop on a city tour bus.


Singapore has this "Singapore Flyer" like the London Eye. However, the Singapore Flyer is taller than the London Eye. I guess Singaporeans like to top everyone else off.


I then decided to hop on a Singapore River cruise. Here's looking at Singapore's financial district.




Singapore's skyline with the famous "Merlion" symbol.


The Singapore Opera House; their equivalent to the Sydney Opera House. These are designed to look like microphones, but locals call them the "durians." How fitting!


A floating stage getting ready for the National Day. This stage is bigger than a football field.


Looking at Sentosa. Singapore is building its first casino by Sands on this island. They are also building a Universal Studios next to the casinos. They will charge Singaporeans $100 to enter the casinos, but it will be free for non-Singaporeans to enter. Smart way to discourage gambling for the locals but encourage others to spend money here.


After the cruise, I met up with my colleague Claudia and we decided to go to the Underwater World on Sentosa. There's this Dolphin Lagoon exhibit where you can interact with pink dolphins after the show. Claudia went and petted the pink dolphin. (I did the same in Puerto Vallarta in 2003.)


I love to pet stingrays! They are buttery smooth.


The funny thing is, the next day, we had BBQ stingray fillets at dinner. I decided to try some because I was curious about how they taste. Claudia said, "How could you eat them when you said you loved them yesterday and had so much fun petting them?"

"Well, I'm Chinese."

I didn't like the stingray fillet though. It was too fishy for my taste...so they are saved from my stomach from now on!

I love jellyfish. They are so mesmerizing to look at.


The Underwater World has a tunnel like the shark experience in Seaworld and at the Barcelona Aquarium. Doesn't this look like I'm totally underwater? :)


This big stingray flew by me!


SUSHI!!!


After goofing off at the Underwater World, we saw this beach. This totally reminded us of Hawaii because of the palm trees, the lights, the warm wind kissing our faces, and the humidity. It was so relaxing.


Claudia is really artsy. We came across these floor lights and she had an idea to take pictures with them. Aren't they cool?


After going back to the hotel, I decided to have dinner at the Raffles City mall (attached to our hotel). I found out there's a branch of the famous Din Tai Fung restaurant of Taipei at the mall. I haven't had Din Tai Fung food since 2005. I've been looking forward to this meal since I got here. I've been recommending this restaurant to other conference attendees throughout this week, and everyone has told me what a fantastic meal they've had here. (In fact, I just took my bosses and couple attendees there tonight and had another meal there. Everyone raved about the meal!)


Braised tofu with minced meat and mushrooms. Yummo.


Heavenly pork dumplings. The juice/soup just oozes out after the first bite. So good.


My favorite - Pork buns. Hand made in perfect shape.


Slow cooked short rib soup. You have to wait for 15 minutes after ordering. The clear broth/soup is soooo flavorful with the taste of the meat and ginger and just a slight bitterness to it (bittermelon). The combination of these tastes is perfect. The meat falls off the bones!


Yes, I ate everything you just saw in the previous photos all by myself. Ahhh...happy belly!


The next night, after our first work dinner (by the poolside - it felt like Hawaii/Mexico/South Beach. So nice!), a few of us went up to this bar on the 70th floor of our hotel to check out the view. Isn't it pretty?


Tuesday night, we had dinner at the famous Raffles Hotel across the street. This is where the drink "Singapore Sling" was invented. I tried a little but thought it was OK, but our Singapore attendees loved it.


The third night after the conference, we went to a Nasi Padang restaurant to try some Indonesian food. Everything is family style for sharing.


Indonesian food is really spicy so we had to ask them to make them mild (still pretty spicy!). This beef cooked in coconut milk was my favorite. It's not too spicy but with a nice kick. It's very flavorful.


For dessert, they gave us this shaved ice with coconut milk drizzled with syrup and red bean and green grass jelly at the bottom. I LOVE IT! I haven't had this in a long time. My boss knew how happy I was chowing down all these delicacies, so she took a picture of me. :)


After dinner, we took everyone to the Singapore Zoo for the famous Night Safari. It's too bad that I don't have a better camera to take pictures in dim light, but we saw lions walking around and actually were roaring! Every time I went to the zoo, the lions were always sleeping during day time, so it was amazing to see them being active at night and hear the actual roar. What a treat!


Before going on the Safari, we stopped to watch "The Creatures of the Night" show. It was quite entertaining.


This morning (Thursday), we went on a field trip to Fusionopolis to see some cool technologies they're developing. I saw this neat hall way.


After the whole conference ended, I took the metro to Hard Rock cafe to pick up a souvenir (I collect their glasses). Singapore's metro set up is very similar to Seoul's where they have doors shielding the train tracks from the platforms so people won't fall off onto the track.


Since I'm not a big shopper, I never bothered to visit the famous Orchard Road. But because Hard Rock is nearby, I technically did visit Orchard Road, so here it is. :)


Before I came to Singapore, I've been trying to figure out the unique characteristic of this city-nation. Normally, once I arrive in a city, I could pretty much pick up the vibe and its personality. However, with Singapore, I couldn't put my finger on a single pulse because there are strong influences from the Malays, Indians, Indonesians, Chinese, and the western culture. You can't sum it up with just one thing or even pick out one single item to represent Singapore as a whole as a souvenir. I was amazed by the multilingual skills of Singaporeans. They can switch between English, Chinese, Fukianese, Cantonese, and Malay in one conversation with ease.

Also, the development in Singapore is nothing short of astounding. 40 years ago, there was virtually nothing here, but today, it's emerging as an important technological, economic, and even media/film player. I learned that the opening car chase sequence from "Star Trek" was produced by the Lucasfilm studio here in Singapore. They are also building a state-of-the-art production studio to attract world-class film/production industry. They are positioning themselves as the Hollywood of Asia.

My conclusion is that Singapore is a blend of diverse cultures, time-tested values, and bold new vision of tomorrow.

You can view the complete set of my Singapore photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/purplejoy/sets/72157621275484852/.

I'm off to Sydney tomorrow. Watch for another blog next weekend!

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