On Friday – the 9th of August – it was Singapore national day. It was the bicentennial of Raffle’s (the British coloniser who arrived to Singapore) and the 54th anniversary of their independence from Malaysia. I woke up very early to go walk near the reservoir with my family living in Singapore. One of the main struggles in Singapore is drinkable water. So besides, desalinating sea water, they also gather all rain water in reservoirs. This is why there is a lot of canalization in Singapore. These reservoirs create artificial lakes that are very nice, surrounded by trees in which you can see many monkeys. We then had Kaya toast for breakfast. It is a typical toast sandwich with butter and a mix of coconut jam, sugar, coconut milk and eggs so-called Kaya (very good and sweet). They also told me how to order coffee (kopi in Singapore). Here ordering coffee or tea (teh in Singapore) is at a different level : they have a word for each type of coffee/tea depending on how much sugar, milk and the type of milk (evaporated or condensed) you want. Just memorizing the name of the one you like is good enough. I then headed back to campus. We went out to (hopefully) find a spot to see the fireworks for the national day that takes place after the military parade - we couldn’t go to the military parade as the tickets are given to people sorted out, as a big lottery. We were very lucky: we found a 7 eleven place with tables just in front of where the fireworks took place. So we had one of the best (and cheapest) spots. We played some cards waiting for the fireworks time and reserving our spot (we were there at 5:00pm when the fireworks were at 8:00pm). As we were near the place where the military parade took place, we saw the end of it with the planes and the parachutes. Finally, the fireworks time came. The show was amazing but it still felt short after all the time we had awaited. However, it was worth it.
On Saturday, we continued our Singapore discovery. We went to Raffle’s hotel (the British colonizer I mentioned earlier) to order a Singapore Sling. It is a cocktail considered as the national drink and which was invented in this hotel. Unfortunately but quite predictably, there were a lot of people queuing up for entering in the restaurant so we decided we would go another time (it is a must-do in Singapore). As we were nearby, we decided to go to Chijmes. It is a former catholic convent which has been transformed into a shopping and restaurant complex. The gothic chapel is now a function hall where formal conferences or weddings take place. Once we finished our little tour, we headed to Kampong Glam: the Malay district (as a reminder: we had already seen the Chinese and Indian ones in the past days). This district was my favourite. We couldn’t enter in the mosque as on Sunday they were celebrating Hari Raya Haji : they celebrate Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael and therefore being loyal to God. I will take advantage of this celebration to talk about Singapore’s public holiday. As I already said in the previous posts, Singapore is made of different communities and the main ones are Chinese, Indian and Malaysian. Each community pick their main celebration from their culture and/or main religion and they become public holidays. Also, if a public holiday is on a weekend (as here Hari Raya Haji was on Sunday) they push the public holiday on a week day (so our Monday was a public holiday). This is how they decided to maintain some harmony and equality between the different cultures composing Singapore. Ok, let’s go back to Kampong Glam. I was telling you that it was my so far favorite district. As in Chinatown and Little India, it has several little streets with traditional Arabic stores selling tapestries, lamps, clothes… But the best part is the little streets full of street art and bars. It is very lively and even better at night. Some street arts used fluorescent painting which light up the street and singers come do open-concerts. It was one of the ambiences I loved the most so far.
On Sunday, we went to the Botanic Gardens, one of the several gardens in Singapore. Apparently there is a very famous Orchid garden within the Botanic Gardens but we didn’t find the entrance, so we just enjoyed the normal gardens which are very nice and full of different plant species. We bought some ice cream on our way back waiting for the bus to come (if you haven’t tried Thai Milk Tea, just do it, and it will become your favorite flavor for whatever you want to order - at least that is what happened with me). Also here the ice-cream sellers on the street sell ice cream in soft bread, it wasn’t the case for us but I would be curious to taste it. We finished our day going to Orchard Street, the biggest shopping street of Singapore, just what you could expect of a big shopping street. However, just next to it there is a little and quiet street with small colorful houses that really contrasts with the busy main shopping street and its skyscrapers.
On Monday (a public holiday as I mentioned previously) we went to MacRitchie reservoir. The same type of reservoir as the one I went on the national day. But this one had a tree-top walk - which is basically the reason we went there. It was very nice and calm, you don’t feel at all that you are still in the city. We walked in the forest for a good three hours. As we planned that the walk was going to be long and that it was during our lunch time, we anticipated and brought some sandwiches. Once we were done eating and that we only had the empty plastic container of the sandwich, on our way back a monkey directly saw the container, came very close to us and stood up. It was a “what are we supposed to do” type of moment, but luckily we hided the container, walked away and the monkey didn’t follow us. I haven’t talked about fines yet, and I will probably go more in-depth about it in another post, but just to give you an idea, if we would have let the container to the monkey we would have had a fine and just so that you can have an idea of the fine amount, fishing in the reservoir is worth a 3000$ bill (I assure you, I haven’t mistyped the zeros). After our walk, we came back to the campus, went to the pool and prepared for the first week of classes that was about to start.