Singapore: Gardens, Jet Lag, and Dinosaurs

Singapore

Flying into Singapore was a fair bit cheaper than flying directly to Thailand, so it made sense to stop in there first for a few days before hopping a flight to Bangkok. I’ve wanted to see Singapore for a while now, and cheap(er) tickets was a great excuse.

In Hong Kong we had a long layover, like 8 hours. We wanted to go see the city during our down time, but figured we’d find the gate for our flight first, so we would be a little familiar when we got back.
Big mistake.
Once you go through security in Hong Kong, that’s it, you ain’t leaving unless you want to cancel your ticket for your flight. No going in and out. Of course, we didn’t know that until we had already gone through security, so we were stuck. We just had to park it, try to nap, explore the airport, and get some food while we waited out the long layover.

 

I was pleasantly surprised at how polite everyone was. Going through security, the agents were unbelievably nice. How different from LAX the day before! The Hong Kong equivalent of TSA was soft spoken, smiling, and almost apologetic that they had to take my nail file.

It’s A Party At The Hong Kong Airport Security Station

It was really a stark contrast to the airport security in the states, where only a day before we watched a rather large, angry woman in a TSA shirt yell at people to get out of her line and almost throw their luggage off her conveyor belt.

We grabbed some ramen, hung out for a while (a while = 8 hours), and then took off to Singapore.

The first thing you notice getting off the plane in Singapore is how clean the airport is. The floors are sparkling, the sidewalks are litter free. The place wasn’t crowded, and it was pretty quiet, especially considering it was 6:00 pm local time. No blaring obnoxious loud speaker, no people yelling, no bells, whistles, or alarms going off like you often hear at airports. There are plants and foliage everywhere, even in the concrete structure of the airport. In a lot of the buildings we saw, the buildings were designed to accommodate for plants- they would be growing out of shelves and spaces specifically for them, sticking out the side of the building or flowing down the wall, softening the harshness of the concrete. It was warm and humid, and the plants everywhere contributed to the tropical feel.
One of our cab drivers later told us that businesses in Singapore are really required to keep up with the appearance of their business – in fact, by law, they are required to repaint the outside of the building every five years! I think he also said they have to remodel the inside of businesses every ten years, to keep them modern.

We were guided where to go, and even though everyone was friendly, it was obvious security was directing the place. We were nicely, but firmly, directed through customs, then (politely, but still firmly) directed through a random bag screening, then (kindly, firmly) shown where to sit to wait for the public shuttle to the hotels downtown, with stickers on our shirts saying that’s what we were doing so no one would question us. Maybe it’s just because I’ve heard so much about the strict laws in Singapore, but I definitely got the vibe that you do what you’re told to do and go where you’re told to go.

We ate at the hotel our first night since it was late and we were hungry. It was a buffet dinner with lots of traditional Asian and american food. We were unsure of a lot of the dishes, not only how to pronounce them, but how to serve them or even eat them…

Mee Tai Bak and Whole Fried Scallions, Anyone?

The chef who was running the show had obviously seen greenies like us before and he came around and helped us out, explaining dishes and loading up our plates for us.
He was hilarious and friendly. He had a way of sounding excited about everything and spoke in a lilting voice, almost sounding like he was trying to be silly. At first I thought he might be making fun of us, but he wasn’t. He talked with his hands a lot and was so friendly there was no way not to smile at him. I thought we lucked out and met a really cool dude, and we did, but it also turned out that a LOT of people we met in Singapore talked like that, all funny and friendly and happy. Perhaps they were all making fun of us, I don’t know.

We crashed right after dinner, and then of course woke up around 4:00am, wiiiide awake.

 

It was noon or so, the previous day in Phoenix, so our internal clocks were all messed up.

We waited around a bit for the sun to come up, then grabbed breakfast and got started. Since we were only in Singapore for one day, I wanted to see ALL OF IT while we were there, so I was happy to get started early. Also a big mistake, because our old asses were pretty burnt out by about 2:00pm, haha.

We headed down to the Gardens By The Bay, which is the big place you see in all the pictures with the man made tree things that light up.

It’s a crazy gorgeous garden with a ton of different areas. Some highlight local wildlife, some highlight environmental issues, some explain natural phenomenon, and some are just pretty spots to sit and watch the world go by in. There’s plaques with pictures and explanations, statues, topiary bushes, winding paths and open areas.

Joe is 6’2”, so this gives you an idea how big this gorilla bush was

 

These cool little mushroom statues were part of the garden that highlighted forest life at the soil level and just under it.

 

Wooden dragon statue in the Cloud Forest building of the Gardens

 

The gardens contain two large buildings as well. The Cloud Forest is basically an indoor rainforest, complete with an enormous waterfall, and The Flower Dome, which was basically a huge greenhouse showcasing plant life from all over the world.

Some areas of the Gardens had gigantic statues in them, more like art work than garden info (there was a giant naked baby in one area, and a woman’s head wearing a hat in another that looked just like Lady Gaga’s newest album cover).

The entire garden is self sustaining, and even produces a surplus of energy from solar power and rainwater collection, which is used to light up the big tree things at night. It was pretty incredible, and we spent the morning wandering around, oohing and ahhing.

We rode The Singapore Flyer that afternoon (the big Ferris wheel looking thing, it was about what you’d expect) and then went back to the Gardens that evening to see the trees lit up. There happened to be a Christmas Carnival going on there too, so we stuck around to walk around that.
In the main garden, there is a skywalk between three of the garden’s largest trees. You ride up an elevator in one of the trees and then walk a narrow bridge between them, and if you’re lucky you can time it right and be up on the skywalk while the tees are all lit up. We did, and even though I’m terrified of heights, I made myself walk that damn thing. The bridge sways with the wind, which made me almost pee myself (probably a crime in Singapore) but watching the trees light up from the treetops was pretty spectacular.

I was trying to be brave for the picture. I held on to both railings the entire walk.

Once safely back on the ground we played some of the carnival games. There was a strongman hammer game, which I wanted to try, because women only needed to hit the puck up the rail about 3/4 of the way to win a prize, so of course I tried to smash it.

 

I won a stuffed dinosaur, but I was still pretty shocked at how hard it was to make that puck move up the rail! We named the dinosaur Rawley Snarley. He has accompanied us on the rest of our trip and is currently guarding our hotel room as I write this.

There was fair food everywhere. The carnival reminded me a lot of a state fair. There were a ton of fair food booths- turkey legs, coffee, sweets. Lots of fried stuff. Booths with people selling handmade jewelry or cheap toys and stuffed animals, and picture booths. It was similar to any fair you would see in the US, really.

We crashed pretty hard again that evening which was fine, because early the next morning we headed to Bangkok.