Singapore

If you’re jumping headfirst into Asia, Singapore is a great place to start. The country is a very unique blend of Asian and Western countries, and its population is notably diverse. The detailed planning of the workings of Singapore is practically a tourist attraction in itself. The food is incredible. And not only did I get to spend a week there, but I got to do so with my best friend.

Day 1

We started out the visit with lunch at a hawker centre – kind of like a food court, with individual vendors setting up stalls to sell a variety of mouthwatering dishes. Then we went to Avery’s favorite tea shop and got some time to just catch up.

Little pink king of his little orange kingdom

In the afternoon, we  made a visit to the Singapore City Gallery, the city-country’s urban development museum. Singapore has a fascinating, very dense history of development in the past century, and similarly interesting plans for the future. Tuscany enjoyed getting to see a city closer to his own size with the Singapore mini-replica.

 

Chinatown was still decorated for Chinese New Year.

We strolled through Chinatown, and I restrained myself from purchasing anything since I would soon be going to the real Chinatown (a.k.a. China). When we came across a Buddhist temple, we stepped inside to take a look around. The temple, ornately decorated, was very beautiful, although due to the number of tourists inside it felt more like an attraction than a place of worship. Temples like this one and various other places of worship can be found all around Singapore – the country’s very diverse population means that there are a lot of religions represented.

To round out our cultural experience for the day, we got dinner in Little India  – delicious dosai. All in all, a pretty good introduction to the place where I’d be spending the next 5 days.

Day 2

Setting off across the Helix Bridge to Marina Bay Sands
But the greatest piece of art is right here

The Chinese Gardens were my favorite

 

 

 

 

 

Tuscany and I spent our second day at Singapore’s famous Gardens by the Bay, a huge collection of gardens and architectural attractions infused with culture, history, and art. We started at the Heritage Gardens, which had gardens filled with plants native to China, India, and Malaysia (the origins of Singapore’s three main ethnic groups) that were also important to Singapore’s cultural history.

Tuscany found an elephriend!
And I found a camel who did not seem happy to be taking a picture with me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I finished off my (thunderstorm-y) evening with a show. Gardens by the Bay is perhaps most famous for its Supertrees, massive tree-shaped structures of metal and glass that act as oversized trellises. At night, they flash in time to music piped throughout the park. This, against a backdrop of thunder and lightning, made for quite a spectacle. And thus I ended my day with a bang.

Day 3

Following my big day of tourism, I had a quiet morning. After Avery finished class, we go to go out on the town and spend some time together. We went to a coffee shop and tried various desserts, then walked around and stepped into a used bookstore. Their back room featured a single long, narrow aisle that was only a foot wide, and this is where we ended up spending an hour of our afternoon – just like old times. 🙂 We then ventured to a second coffee shop for chai lattes. I only got one picture from today, as Avery and I were having too much fun for photography.

We may have gotten several desserts here at the second coffee shop too.

Day 4

Zoo day! To make up for the dearth of pictures yesterday, I took way too many today. I saw a lot of animals, but my favorite was definitely the orangutans. So strangely humanlike, I couldn’t help but imagine their conflicts, emotions, daily moments of tedium…

YOU are our only chance, my daughter. None but you can push back the impending darkness.
The colony is at a crossroads. Danger snaps at our heels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our fate is in your opposably-thumbed hands.
Hum-de-dum…. Today’s a lovely day for waiting for a friend.
Not an orangutan, but look at how chubby and evil this creature is!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I arrived at the elephant exhibit just in time for their pleasurable pachyderm performance (Tuscany came up with that one), which my traveling companion and I were both quite excited about. The show was gimmicky, but that’s half the fun when you’re at the zoo, right?

Just waving hi to an elefellowphant (that’s “fellow elephant” in non-pun speech)
Close enough to touch!
**when you get stuck behind a group of slow people on the sidewalk**

One unique element of the Singapore Zoo was a domed enclosure that visitors could enter. Inside, there were no fences or glass panes – just wild animals scurrying around my feet and swinging over my head. I followed some ducks around for a while and stopped under a pair of monkeys! The exhibit also showcased exquisite butterflies and rare plants.

At this point, it was getting close to closing, so we started heading back to the gate.

Fellow pinks!

 

 

 

 

 

I stopped at a hawker centre for dinner on the way home. Singaporean food is super tasty and super cheap, and while I didn’t know what  it was that I ordered, this meal lived up to both expectations.

Look at this magnificent blossom I found outside Avery’s dorm!

 

 

 

 

But the fun didn’t end there! Tonight, Avery’s ballroom group was hosting a dance. So we got all dressed up and had ourselves quite a night. I got to meet a lot of Avery’s friends, and I even learned a bit of the Viennese waltz!

Photo credit to Averys friend Sasha

Day 5

You know how, as a kid, you always thought snow would taste really good and were always a little bit disappointed when it just tasted like water? Eating bingsu is your vision of eating snow come to life.

Avery and I started off the day with some bingsu – Korean shaved ice cream – because when you’re with your best friend in another country you can eat whatever you want for breakfast. We then parted ways so Avery could do some work and I could go to the National Museum of Singapore. The National Museum is a history museum, art museum, and bazaar combined into one. I really enjoyed the exhibit on the Japanese occupation of Singapore in World War II. I got to see a cool sword/dagger in the exhibit on the origins of Singapore.

My favorite part of the museum, though, was an interactive, animated gallery of Singapore’s wildlife. A spiraling walkway took me down several stories as I watched tapirs lumber by and orchids bloom on a first-floor-to-fourth-floor-ceiling screen to my left. Peaceful music played, occasionally drowned out by the sound of rain as seasons scrolled by. At the bottom, a room filled with beanbags awaited, and I lay on the floor for half an hour looking up at computerized flowers falling towards me on the domed screen. It was incredibly tranquil – a welcome rest from the bustle of tourism.

I spent the evening on Arab Street, a center of shopping for Middle Eastern and Singaporean knickknacks, clothing, and food. This day was yet another that allowed me to experience the extreme diversity of Singaporean culture and history.

Day 6

My last day on the island! Avery and I went to church together and got some boba tea on our way back. I spent the afternoon packing, and then we got pizza for dinner at Clark Quay, a middle-fancy food destination. We stopped to pick up ice cream, and spent the night watching a movie back at her apartment and talking. I left for the airport at 1 a.m. Although I was sad to leave, I’m still in awe that I got to spend a week with my best friend in Singapore, getting to see a bit of her life these days. Who gets to do that?! With Singapore under my belt, on to the next adventure!

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The 12-Hour Vacation

I left the US early last Sunday morning, but not for China. My best friend Avery goes to college in Singapore, and being in the same hemisphere as her was too good an opportunity to pass up. So now, I’ve been in Singapore for nearly a week!

But Singapore didn’t end up being my first international destination on this trip, either. My flight out of Philadelphia was booked through Qatar Airways, with a 3-hour layover in Doha, Qatar. When my flight was delayed, however, reshuffling my connection landed me in Doha for 12 hours. So I decided to make my adventure a little more adventurous.

For breakfast: some old favorites, like potato wedges and oatmeal, and some new ones, like some kind of cheese and a Middle Eastern pastry.

Since my layover was so long, the Doha airport kindly provided me with a hotel room, and along with it, a free tourist visa. After checking into my room, I got some food at the buffet, and then went to the concierge to sign up for a tour of the city.

Mere steps away from billions of dollars of merchandise.

The tour, just 3 hours in total, was mostly a flyover of the most notable destinations in the city. We first stopped at the Pearl-Qatar, an uber-high class shopping and residential complex. With name-brands like Ferrari and Armani, it wasn’t quite a shopping stop for me.

The souq was made up of narrow alleyways such as this one.

After driving around the island a little more, we ended up at Souq Waqif, a large hawkers’ market. My favorite part of the souq was a street completely filled with birds in cages. I was wearing conservative clothing, but was still one of the few women in the souq without her head covered, and I felt somewhat exposed as a result.

Bird Street

Another observation: I felt rather ignorant at this realization, but I hadn’t known before landing in Doha that it is common for Qatari men to wear traditional Arab attire as their everyday clothing. My Western appearance definitely made me stick out as I meandered through the souq.

Tuscany and I found our next photo op on the way to the Museum of Islamic Art. We took a glass elevator up to the museum entrance, and stepped out onto a veranda lined with palm trees overlooking Doha Bay.

Doha Bay
What a model.
Elegant daggers with Arabic calligraphy incorporated into the design on the hilts

The museum was very cool – I didn’t have much time there, but I got to look at the calligraphic art exhibit, which I’ve always been interested in. There, I found these beautiful daggers, which even got the Avery Simmons stamp of approval.

After the museum, it was time to head back to the hotel and collect my things, then return to the airport for the flight to Singapore. Thus concluded my shortest vacation ever – for the $70 taxi tour, I got my own mini getaway in the lovely nation of Qatar.

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An Introduction

I’m going to be studying abroad in Beijing this semester (February – June), and this travel blog will be my way of recording my adventures there, and on future study abroad trips. But first, I must introduce you to my travel companion:

This is Tuscany. My friend and suitemate Mary 3D-printed him for our suite our freshman year, and kindly gifted him to me at the end of the year. Now, he’s my traveling buddy! He’s already been to Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and road-tripped with me from Oklahoma to Colorado. And now he’s left the country with me for the first time! Look for him in future posts.  And beware: He’s a fan of puns.

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