Last day in Asia

Trip Start Mar 08, 2011
Trip End Jun 11, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hotel 81

Flag of Singapore  ,
Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Checkout of the hotel was at 11, and we took every minute of that. We wanted a good night's sleep as we had an overnight flight to Australia coming up and we did most of what we wanted to do in Singapore yesterday.  Once we were finally mobilized we were off to find some breakfast.  The plan was to go to the food center down the street, but the options were limited.  We didn’t want to miss out on the true food center experience, so we spent the extra time to find the MRT to go to the Market Street food center.  By the time we got there, it was lunch hour which means it was packed with locals trying to grab a quick meal.  The food center contained almost a hundred stalls selling all kinds of goodies, but we had our list of items we had to try before leaving the country.  The first item was boiled chicken and rice.  It sounds bland, but it’s boiled and then re-cooked several times so it’s so succulent and comes with all kinds of condiments to customize and it was life changing.  A must try for anyone going to Singapore.  Amy also grabbed some kaya (coconut jam) on toast and a coffee, also excellent.  Next we had to grab some roti prata as Amy was still on her Indian food kick.  Finally we had a bowl of laksa, which is local soup with a fish-based broth and thick noodles.  We didn’t fall in love with the laksa in Penang, but were told this one was different.  Again we still did not enjoy it, but I guess it is an acquired taste. 

After lunch, we were close to the Merlion statue.  Singapore decided to create a fictional animal as its mascot in the 1920’s, but it never took off.  The animal is half fish and half lion, hence Merlion (like mermaid).  The statue still exists although the city decided to build a hotel around it.  The hotel is one room and the giant Merlion head is in the middle of the room, right behind the tv.  The room is very nice though and only costs $150 a night, which is very cheap for this city.  But it is booked for quite some time and you have strangers walking in your room to see the statue all day long.  Awfully strange if you ask me to put a hotel around the city’s iconic statue, but who am I to judge.  By this time, we only had Chinatown left on our must see list, but we were saving that for dinner as we were meeting an old colleague of mine, Erik, who I used to work with in Chicago before he took a job in Singapore.  That wasn’t until 5pm and it was only 2 at this point, so we had 4 hours to kill. 

The Lonely Planet guide recommended going to the zoo to see the free ranging orangutans.  We like animals, so thought it would be a good idea.  The only problem was it took us an hour to get to the zoo as we had to take the MRT and switch to a bus that only runs every 30 minutes.  So this left us an hour at the zoo.  The zoo costs $20, but for $25 we can get unlimited rides on the tram.  They show us a map and highly recommend the tram, so we paid up as we were short on time.  Once inside we realized that we were duped as the zoo is fairly small and easily walkable.  Regardless we run around the zoo as if we are in a race seeing the aforementioned orangutans, a 5 meter long croc, the Australian outback exhibit (which contained 2 kangaroos and an emu), and the primate exhibit.  Definitely the highlight of the zoo for me was the baboon exhibit.  There must have been close to forty baboons and we got there in time for feeding.  So we saw them eat, which then turned into playing, which turned into fighting, which turned into other things that mommies and daddies like to do.  We probably spent half our time at the zoo just watching the baboons, but once finished we had to rush back to the bus for our hour (say that five times fast) commute to Chinatown. 

We make it to Chinatown and Erik was right there waiting for us.  We had hoped to grab something quick for dinner so we would have one last chance to do some cheap shopping in Asia (which is weird 'cause we were in Singapore which wasn’t cheap, but all Chinatowns usually have inexpensive items).  Erik recommends that we go to a steamboat (also known as hotpot) restaurant and I jumped at the idea as we missed out when we were actually in China.  We find a restaurant and they sit us down at a table with a burner in the middle and hand us a sheet of paper.  The sheet of paper contains 10 normal meats, 10 exotic animal parts, and 10 veggies.  We go through and put a check next to everything we find appetizing.  It is buffet style so pay one price and eat as much as you want.  Next they bring over a big pot containing two broths (one spicy, the other regular) and turn on the burner.  Finally we get 2 heaping (and I mean heaping) plates of everything we ordered which is raw.  So in fondue style we just throw chicken, beef, pork belly, spinach and other unidentifiable veggies into the pots and let it cook.  We manage to stuff ourselves while enjoying beer and catching up with Erik.  He is even nice enough to pick up the tab at the end of the meal (thanks again Erik if you are reading this).  By this time we are getting close to the point where we had to go to the airport for our flight.  What made things worse, despite having a sign on the door that they accept credit cards, the restaurant refused to take Erik’s card.   So we spent 30 minutes arguing (which entailed getting table next to us to translate as the restaurant didn’t know English) with them as Erik’s bank’s ATM was not close to get cash, but finally they agreed to keep his passport until he returned the next day to pay.  At this point we did not have time to do much shopping, so we got a cab back to the hotel to get our bags and another taxi from there to the airport.

Some argue that the Singapore airport is the nicest airport in the world.  I have to say I was very impressed, but I prefer Hong Kong’s.  That might just be because the airline we were flying, Jetstar (the Aussie version of Southwest) was in a terminal that is under construction.  It was interesting that each gate had their own security, so you can hang out at the airport all the way until you get to the gate.  We had close to $40 left in Singapore dollars, so this gave us a chance to splurge.  Amy picked up a copy of the latest issue of US Weekly and National Geographic, I got a bag of Reeses peanut butter cups (whoever came up with the idea of combining chocolate and peanut butter is a genius), and we each got a sub at Subway to have for breakfast as Jetstar makes you pay for everything including water.  Our plane finally left at 10:40pm, which meant we were a short 4 hour 10 minute flight (and 1.5 hour time change) away from landing in Darwin at 4:20 in the morning.  The flight was a bit turbulent but the nice gentleman in the aisle seat moved shortly after take-off so we had a 3-seat row to ourselves.  Unfortunately, we were so excited to be going to Australia and the flight was so short that we were hardly able to sleep.  It gave us plenty of time to reflect on our wonderful 9 weeks in SE Asia!
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