Singapore: flashing trees and a torrent of tears

We had taken a plane again.

I don’t like planes.

To be honest though, I was quite excited to visit Singapore, knowing that it was a very developed, modern country, and that was exactly my type of place.

Singapore’s economic success has roots in its special status throughout history. It all began in 1819 when Sir Stamford Raffles, landed in Singapore and struck a deal to occupy the land. It took some time and some drama before he eventually succeeded and Singapore opened up a port and it became very successful in trade. It was particularly the demand for tin and rubber that led Singapore to its era of prosperity.

So that explains the looming tall skyscrapers and bristling population which makes it to being a modern country. The only disadvantage? Rain.

And when I say rain, I don’t mean light drops of water dripping down the drain (yes, in case you haven’t guessed it by now, this is one of my signature catchphrases 😉 ). I mean a huge torrent of precipitation hitting away at the roof. It happened every evening, and as we were out each time, it just made night sightseeing really difficult. Still, that didn’t stop us from committing to our plans. We walked on through the pounding rain, in our ponchos, hunting for food. Sometimes we got lucky and only got the best of the rain. I remember coming back to the hotel one night and literally two seconds after I shut the door to my room, I heard the roaring downpour drowning out the sounds of street traffic.

At least it didn’t rain at all during the day. That was great because it gave us a chance to see as many things as we could, the main attraction being the Supertree Groves. It is part of a project called Gardens by the Bay, which is essentially a nature park “with the aim of raising the quality of life (by) enhancing greenery and flora in the city”. It’s so popular it inspired the creation of the planet Xandar in the film of Gaurdians of the Galaxy (one of my favourite movies), an entire mission in Call of Duty: Black Ops III, is featured in the widely acclaimed movie Crazy Rich Asians and many more. I’ve only just figured this out now, and I’m stunned because I didn’t really know how popular it was. I can now say I’ve been to Xandar…

While I was disappointed with the artificial colours in the caves in China, here I felt impressed, particularly because the attraction was not trying to compete with natural beauty being instead an explicit man rendition of the tree in skeletal-form. There was a light show later that evening of the trees, but I didn’t really enjoy it. I guess it was just because that day was long and tiring and a bunch of lights pointed at the trees changing colours didn’t seem to strike me as dazzling. Even all the lights in the cave in China (as artificial as it felt) appealed to me more as there was no expectation placed there compared to the much hyped tree lights show.

Skeletal Trees

We also took a tour of the city, going through restaurants, shopping malls (one of which was hosting a Frozen theme for Christmas – Disney and Christmas are really big in this part of Asia) and several shops. We also walked down this street alley, Haji Lane, where shops were all about creative, humorous products, including a fake red button that says ‘bullshit’, some cheeky party games, and a rotating Deadpool taking a selfie with a unicorn. (I still wish I bought that)

What I found also cool, was that our tube cards were actually promotional art of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Fanboy triggers

We continued on through the city, walking on a bridge which captured the entire city perfectly enough:

Damn! The view

But all that walking around and sightseeing earned some relaxation time, which meant dipping in the pool at the hotel. There was also an Australian family at the hotel with five teenagers, and I briefly made friends with them which meant I didn’t need to go swimming on my own :).

As all rich cosmopolitan cities, Singapore is also renowned for its food.

We, of course, did the must stop to a couple of Michelin rated street shops. Michelin is one of the best rating restaruant services in the world, rating the top restaurants from 1 to 3 stars. But (as my father put it) “getting even one star is exceptional”. So it’s pretty cool that I got to go to budget street stalls rated by Michelin. However, almost every night, we walked (under the poundering rain of course) to a food court, a little open market of stalls situated alongside each other, with tables and chairs in the middle. It was always active and bristling, getting an empty table for the four of us was a miracle. We managed though and settled on choosing exquisite cultural food to sustain our stomachs (oh, look at me using fancy language 😯). That first night, just when we had finished our meal and were about to leave to return to our hotel, the rain came down. Strong. Luckily, we had our historical ponchos (we had bought them for few euros, a previous year, from a street vendor, surprised by a bout of torrential rain in Verona, Italy, and providentally carried on this journey with us) but as we only got three we decided to wait, hopeful that the rain would slow down soon. A half hour passed, and the torrent showed no signs of stopping. As we resigned ourselves to walk out with one of us left in the cold, literally, someone, out of the blue, pulled out a brand new poncho and offered it to us!

And thus, the collection was full. Now we could all finally pose for a cool group photo of us wearing the ponchos.