Singapore Swingin’

Welcome to Singapore

Like the Singapore Sling, a gin-based “sling” cocktail, created at the Long Bar, at the Raffles Hotel, around 1915, the story of tourism in Singapore changes, depending on who you ask. When my Instagram post announced that I had arrived, at the Changi International Airport, a friend quickly replied, “My favorite city in the world!” For me, it was not even close!!!! I had arrived after spending a month in Thailand, a month in Laos, a week in Cambodia, and a month in Vietnam. Poor Singapore didn’t have a fighting chance.

Changi Village

If I had used my head, I would have left Ho Chi Minh City and headed directly to Indonesia. The Singapore stop should have followed. From the comfort of my Bali’s beachfront hotel, it all makes sense to me now. Instead, I arrived at Terminal Four, at the Changi Airport. I was no where near the Instagram and TikTok favorite location named Jewel. Jewel Changi Airport is a nature center, shopping mall, and theme park, connected to the Arrivals Hall at Terminal One. The social media centerpiece is the Rain Vortex, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. Instead, I arrived to immigrations, customs, and baggage claim. Having downloaded Singapore’s Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) app, I simply had to scan my barcode and show my passport. The process took less than three minutes. Plus, there was no line. Few people knew about the app and had to find WiFi to complete the online application. I grabbed my checked luggage and ordered a Grab (think Uber) and headed to my hotel.

Changi Village Hacker Center

With only three days in Singapore and having just left Ho Chi Minh, I was in no mood for another large city. I booked a hotel in Changi Village, a fifteen minute drive from the airport. The hotel’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing. For example, their restaurant is only open for breakfast. The attached Harry’s Bar and Restaurant is permanently closed. Luckily, the hotel is a three minute walk from the Changi Board Walk, Changi Ferry Terminal, and the famous Changi Village Hawker Center. Although the cuisine at the center is predominantly Malay, you can also find a few Chinese and other Asian dishes. There are also several Halal food stalls, given that more than 15 percent of the population in Singapore is Muslim.

Island life

Although the the hotel itself was a disaster, the location was perfect for a restful three night stay. With the Changi Ferry Terminal practically across the street, I walked over and took the next boat leaving. The cost was four Singapore dollars ($3.00). I quickly got in line and onto the boat. Fifteen minutes later, we were on Pulau Ubin island. The island is home to Singapore’s last village (called a kampongs). The island is also one of Singapore’s richest ecosystems. Until the 1970s, the 1020-hectare island was known for its granite quarries. Once the quarries closed, the population went from a few thousand to thirty eight residents in 2012. Today, tourism has become the largest source of employment and locals have returned. There are taxis, bike rental shops, cafes and small restaurants.

City Bus #29

The day before my flight to Bali, I decided to head to downtown Singapore. The local bus (#29) was a two minute walk from my hotel. I paid $2.30 and took a seat, after showing the driver where I needed to go. Once there, he told me to cross the street. I thought he was telling me to wait for another bus. He was saying that I needed to cross the street to get into to the Metro station. A fellow tourist sent me in the right direction, just across a parking garage. I entered the station and made my way to the ticket desk. “Do you have a credit card?” I was asked. “Yes!” I replied. Contactless payment is almost everywhere in Singapore. I was told to just tap my credit card. You tap it once going into the subway and once to get out (where the payment is taken). The train was clean and fast. Each stop was announced and shown on a screen just above each door.

MRT – Metro

Unfortunately, the Singapore weather had other plans for me. I ducked into the mall, near the metro station, to wait out the rain. I decided to get lunch there and selected a restaurant featuring gyros. The restaurant turned out to be Azerbaijani. I served in the Peace Corps in Armenia. Currently, there’s a conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The area is inhabited mostly by ethnic Armenians. I decided to just stay. I ordered the soup. When it arrived, there was an inch or two of oil, on top. The guy who had prepared my order was staring me down. The dish was very hot. So, I used the “cool down” time to remove the oil and spoon it into my napkin. With most of the oil gone. I ate. As the soup bowl cooled, the oil became stiff and clung to the bottom of the bowl.

I’m African American and I had no idea that I came across so Armenian. My dude could just sense it. He did his thing and I did mine. I pray that the ongoing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh ends as peaceful. XOXO— GGT


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