Friday, December 4, 2009

SE Asia Vacation - Day 2, Singapore

Did you read about our SE Asia Vacation - Day 1, Singapore yet?

Our second day in Singapore was a busy one! Joey and I wanted to make the most of our vacation by seeing as much as we could. Just like Okinawa, Singapore is tiny in size, but yet there was so much to see and do. So get ready to see a lot of pictures in this post!

We started out the day by going to Sentosa Island, which is an island resort in Singapore. When we were there, we saw that they are building Universal Studios Singapore that will be integrated with a new resort and scheduled to be opened early next year. Guess Joey and I might have to make another trip down there again!

Our first stop at Sentosa Island was Siloso Beach. It was beautiful!

While we were at Sentosa, we found a peacock running around!

Then, Joey and I headed to the Butterfly Park. Little did I know, it was a Butterfly Park AND Insect Kingdom! Gross! I see enough large insects here in Okinawa.

Black and white butteflies on an ugly tree trunk.

Black and white butterflies on a pretty plant.

They even had parrots there!

That's my hand next to the butterfly display. It's huge!

Next, Joey and I went to play a game called Desperados in Sentosa. It's a virtual shoot out game played alongside 20 other people, while riding a mechanical horse. Joey got second place in the game!

The legless, headless, mechanical horses.

After that fun game, we went to Imbiah Lookout, still on Sentosa Island, to visit a museum about Singapore. I thought it would be fun, but I was wrong! It was a wax museum depicting life in Singapore through the years, but the wax figures scared the crap out of me! I kept thinking in my head that it was a perfect spot for a murderer to hide, pretending to be a wax figure, then jump out and start killing. And it didn't help that Joey and I were the only ones there! So I practically made Joey run through the whole museum with me to the exit - and it was much bigger than it looks on the outside!

The scary wax museum!

The Tiger Sky Tower that overlooks Sentosa Island and Singapore.

When coming to and leaving Sentosa Island, you would pass up the Merlion, a trademark symbol of Singapore. This particular Merlion stands 37 meters tall and is only a replica of the original Merlion at the Marina Bay in Singapore (see SE Asia Vacation - Day 3, Singapore for pictures of the original Merlion).

Merlion at Sentosa Island.

We came back to the hotel around lunch time and decided to walk around Orchard Road to find food. We stumbled upon Lei Garden Restaurant near our hotel, a Cantonese restaurant, and that was an experience in itself!

The place was packed, so they seated us on the balcony overlooking Orchard Road. We've had Cantonese food before, but there was so much food listed on their menu, so we asked the waitress what she recommended. From there, she basically told us what we were going to eat while Joey and I just nodded, "Okay." We're not picky eaters and like to try new things, so whatever she suggested, we were fine with that.

First, she comes out with a soup and serves us. She then plops the meat onto a plate, and well, you can see in the picture below what she served us. The waitress told us it was chicken, and even had her repeat herself a couple of more times to be certain - but why was the skin black? So Joey and I ate the soup, meat and all. And it was good! Later, we found out one of the other "meats" was sea cucumber! Hm, so that's what those things that I play with when I snorkel taste like.

In the bowl, soup.
On the plate, sea cucumber on the top left and black-skinned chicken on the bottom.

Then the waitress continues to bring out BBQ pork, noodles with steamed fish, dim sum, vegetables, egg custard tarts, and tea - and it's only Joey and I eating! When we got the bill, we almost choked on our tarts. Let's just say that we left with our wallets much lighter and full bellies!

After lunch, we walked around Orchard Road a bit more to walk off the extra pounds we consumed.

Christmas decorations on Orchard Road - looks beautiful at night with all the lights lit up.

Every single tree and lamp post on Orchard Road was decorated.

At night, Joey and I headed to Clarke Quay for dinner at Quayside Seafood, which was an outdoor cabana-like restaurant alongside the Singapore River. Clarke Quay is a popular location in Singapore, with a lot of restaurants, nightclubs, and floating pubs.

Bumboats on the Singapore River with Riverside Point in the background.

Then, we passed by Suntec City to see the World's Largest Fountain, called the Fountain of Wealth. Suntec City is a shopping center made up of four tall buildings and one smaller building, which depicts the left hand when viewed aerially, with the fountain at the center (or at the palm of the hand).

The Fountain of Wealth. It's shown sideways, so turn your head to the right to view it - for some reason, Blogger keeps posting it vertically.

Next on the list, Bugis Street! Bugis Street is a night market that sells anything and everything, where bargaining is key. The stalls were lined up side by side, it was crazy with all the people around, and the air smelled of durian (the stinky fruit).

Durian stand.

So many people!

Mr.Potato Head Durian Head.

To end the night, Joey and I went to Long Bar at Raffles Hotel, the location of the original Singapore Sling - a cocktail made with Gin, Cherry Brandy, Cointreau, Dom Bénédictine, Grenadine, lemon juice, and fresh pineapple juice. I must say, that was the best Singapore Sling I've had!

Long Bar was fun and it had a colonial-feel to it. While we sipped our drinks, we listened to a live band, ate peanuts, and threw our peanut shells on the floor. I know that's the style of the bar, but all I wanted to do was sweep up all the shells on the ground!

Raffles Hotel

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas ..."

*Check back later for SE Asia Vacation - Day 3, Singapore!

Monday, November 30, 2009

SE Asia Vacation - Day 1, Singapore

Joey and I took our first off-island vacation! Actually, it's our first real vacation together and we had a fantastic time! We took a trip to Singapore, and from there we hopped on a cruise ship to Malaysia and Thailand!

About six of my friends and I planned this cruise trip together way back in March, but unfortunately due to scheduling conflicts, my friend Amy S. and I were the only ones that were able to make the original cruise date, while two others rescheduled for the week after us and made it into a girls trip. But we had fun, nonetheless!

Almost ready to board our plane to Singapore!

The name Singapore comes from the Malay word, Singapura, meaning "Lion-city" and is located on the southern tip of Malaysia. It is a diverse country with majority being Malay, Indian, and Chinese. Singapore is a small country with a growing population, therefore, there were skyscrapers everywhere, with more being built. As some of you may know, Singapore is known as the "Fine City" because of all fines you would get for doing things that are illegal in Singapore, such as chewing gum (however, possession is okay) and littering. I must say, the No Littering rule should be adopted and followed by all countries because Singapore was so beautiful and clean!

We stayed at a couple of hotels on Orchard Road, which is the mecca of shopping in Singapore! The street was so beautiful because it was decorated with Christmas decorations (check back for a later post to see the pictures).

Singapore dollars.

It took half a day to travel to Singapore from Okinawa, and we arrived past midnight on Friday morning. We decided to take Friday easy and just walk around Singapore and visit museums.

Our first stop was to the Asian Civilizations Museum. But before we went in, we stopped to eat lunch at a restaurant next door called IndoChine - so yummy! Joey was able to try the Singaporean beer called Tiger; he said it was "alright".

Joey's Tiger beer on the left, and my iced tea on the right.

We were excited to find out that the Asian Civilizations Museum had a special exhibition gallery dedicated to the Philippines, called Land of the Morning, the Philippines and its People. Now, I'm not the biggest history fan, but I love learning about different cultures and religions. So this museum was a great way to start our trip in SE Asia, giving us a bit of background before we visited the other places.

There were a total of eight galleries at the museum, which highlighted Singapore, West Asia/Islamic, South Asia, China, and Southeast Asia. Joey and I learned so much!

A large Pejeng-style Bronze Drum from East Java, Indonesia.

At the top is a Qu'ran Scroll from the 15th Century, Ottoman Turkey which has the 'text in text' feature, transmitting the entire contents of the Qu'ran.

A closer look at the Qu'ran Scroll. Impressive!

Statue outside the Asian Civilizations Museum.

After the museum, we crossed the Cavenagh Bridge - it is the only suspension bridge and one of the oldest bridges in Singapore that crosses over the Singapore River.

Cavenagh Bridge

Next, we went to Victoria Street to visit CHIJMES (pronounced 'chimes'), which used to be a Catholic convent, the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus. The chapel is now used as a multipurpose hall and that day, it was being set up for the reception of a wedding. We were able to sneak one picture of the inside and it was beautiful! Other than taking pictures of the chapel itself, there was not much to do there, as the surroundings were converted into restaurants, shopping, and entertainment.

The front view of CHIJMES.

The back and side view of CHIJMES.

The inside of CHIJMES.

Right across the street from CHIJMES, we found the Roman Catholic Archbishop Diocese of Singapore and the Archbishop's House.

Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

Then, not knowing what to do next, we asked for directions and walked to the Peranakan Museum. Peranakan comes from the Malay word, meaning "child of" or "born of". The term is used to refer to a person of mixed ethnic origins in Southeast Asia. For example, Jawi Peranakans are descended from Indian Muslims and Tsinoys are those in the Philippines of Chinese and Filipino or Spanish ancestry. The Peranakan Museum focused on the Peranakan Chinese communities.

There were a total of 10 galleries with a special exhibition gallery called, Baba Bling - The Peranakans and their Jewellery (Yes, they spelled jewelry like that. I guess it's because of their British influence). Did you know that they had elaborate 12 day weddings? The museum explained the Peranakan origins, Peranakan wedding, childbirth, family life, the life of Nonyas (Peranakan women) and Babas (Peranakan men), food, and Peranakans today.

The head wear and jewelry of the Peranakan bride and groom. Fancy, huh!

Nonyaware - a brightly colored porcelain that was favored by Nonya's for special occasions.

Baba Bling exhibition - sorry, no pictures were allowed inside!

Once we were done, we headed back down to the first floor to find out there was a gathering of Chinese Peranakans!

By then, Joey and I were exhausted after walking around and exploring Singapore for our first day. So we headed back to our hotel to get some rest for another busy day ahead!