Now totally enchanted by Singapore, we were determined to fit in as much as possible in our second, full day. First up, Little India. Our hotel, the beautiful Intercontinental Singapore, sits conveniently by the Bugis subway stop on the Downtown Line, which runs directly to Bayfront (the Marina Bay area) and Little India (in opposite directions). Two stops, and we hopped off in another world. A huge covered market teemed with vendors hawking every imaginable dry and wet good, women in saris, tourists, locals…all in a sweltering Mubai-like heat. The main street was decorated with peacock lights, ready for the upcoming Deepavali Festival which celebrates the victory of light/good over dark/evil.
We slipped off our shoes (and I wrapped up in a provided cloth to cover my knee-exposing shorts) to enter the Veeramakaliamman Temple, a beautiful Hindu Kali temple that bustled with worshippers and holy men offering ceremonies and blessings for the holiday.
In need of a break from the heat and approaching noon, we ducked into a local restaurant (Indian, of course) and found ourselves enjoying a delicious meal…while we waited for the a/c–which they’d just turned on–to fight off the heat. I won a pleased smile from the proprietress as I used my last bit of naan to wipe the final traces of delicious sauces from my Northern Indian set meal. At $6.90sgd ($4.95usd), it was a deal.
Riding the Downtown line back past Burgis, we hopped off at Bayfront, once again near the Marina Sands Hotel, but this time heading to the Gardens By the Bay comprised of two enormous greenhouses: the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest dome. (We paid $3 sgd/pp for all day shuttle service between the subway station and the domes.) The Flower Dome mimics a cool desert environment so was a delightful break from the heat and humidity outside. It’s also a gorgeous, extensive display of flora and organic statuary.
The adjacent Cloud Forest dome is equally cool, but humid as the world’s largest indoor waterfall cascades dramatically from its soaring ceiling. Reached by elevator, floating walkways spiral high above the ground, letting you wander in and out of lush foliage, huge crystal displays and behind the waterfall as you make your way back to ground level. Tickets for entry to both domes are usually $28 sgd/adult ($20.10 US), but we were able to buy them online for $22 sgd ($15.79 US) using the smartphone and included app provided to us by the Intercontinental Singapore hotel.
After the domes, it was time to check out the Supertree Grove, another Sinngapore landmark I was dying to see. The Supertrees are manmade, tree-like towers, covered in flowers, some of the largest of which are connected by a space-age floating walkway. We paid our $10 spd/pp to ride an elevator up to the walkway. Solar panels provide power to the Supertrees, which light up at night–we were definitely coming back after dark! The Supertrees are otherworldly, truly making you feel like you’ve landed on some beautiful, alien planet. The concept alone is fascinating. To see them made real is magical.
During a break back at our hotel, we tried a durian chocolate bar, we’d been unable to resist in a nearby market. I’d heard about durian for years–a fruit so foul-smelling it’s banned in hotels and other public places, but had never tried it. The fruit is large, and although durian is available in an Asian market back home, I hadn’t wanted to contend with such a big fruit, nor be stuck with figuring out how to get rid of it if it was as bad as billed (like “rotting meat” is a common description). Despite the smell, there are those who like the taste. I figured it might be akin to smelly cheeses, hard to get past the smell at first for some, but worth it. Durian mixed with a chocolate bar sounded like a pretty innocuous first try. My first bite was wretched, invoking something like chocolate mixed with dirty diaper. The second bite was no better and I gave it up. We wrapped the bar up and threw the bar away in an outside bin. Despite this precaution, our previously sweet-smelling room reeked when we returned and it took several blasts of our handy-dandy travel Febreze to restore things.
A couple of hours of our day were spent at a brewpub, courtesy of David’s never-ending fascination with craft beer. We made the delightful acquaintance of a local doctor who also happened to be a real beer aficcianado. We had much fun sampling the beers and exchanging contact info. [I’m hoping to get David to write some beer reviews, so will skip details for now.] This detour left us with enough time for a quick dinner before heading back to admire the Supertrees after dark. We were surprised and pleased to find them less gaudy than we feared. They emit a gentle, softly changing glow, enhancing the feel of some alien plant life. Wonderful.
At the very last minute, we decided to do the ultimate tourist thing and get a Singapore Sling at the famed peanut-shells-on-the-floor Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel. The old hotel has open common areas, so the walk through the halls is a hot, sticky affair, although the white colonial architecture is lovely. The bar itself is super loud and full of tourists. We split a Singapore Sling, just to try it and were glad we did at $27 sgd, not including tax and mandatory tip. The drink is small, mostly ice and really sweet. Give it a pass and you’ll miss nothing, but I’m not sorry we tried it.