Things have been progressing along quite nicely here in KL. I’ve begun to establish somewhat of a routine and develop some really good friendships here that are making the transition easier each day. Because I only have so long here in Malaysia I’ve tried to plan out most of my trips weeks for the anticipated duration here. However, it is important that I also spend some time here in KL to fully experience the city and most importantly the people here, so I’ve set up my trips to be every other weekend. The other weekend I took a trip down to the city, state, country of Singapore for a quick weekend trip. The catalyst of this trip was probably one of my friends and colleague’s back in the States, Ben, showing me a picture of the Marina Bay Sands, or more specifically the pool, and urging me to check it out. So that I did.
The flight down to Singapore is an easy one. It was probably 25 minutes of flying time so hardly enough time for beverage service. Though I was able to get a Singapore Sling on the plane as I thought it would be a rather appropriate entry to the country. The sugary concoction provided in a pre-mixed bottle was reminiscent of a syrupy sweet, alcoholic Fruity Punch. I can’t say I was that impressed, but when in Rome right. Upon landing I was able to get through customs relatively quickly and made my way to the long, very long taxi line. My taxi ride ended up taking nearly the same amount of time as my flight to Singapore. The taxi eventually pulled up to the awe-inspiring, shimmering, jewel in the night, Marina Bay Sands. I’ve noted on this blog that getting around Southeast Asia is quite affordable, Singapore was the exception. This sparkling resort was going to set me back a pretty penny, but the appeal was strong, and it was worth it.
Being in the construction field, I have a real appreciation for exceptional feats of design and construction, and this place did not disappoint. The hotel consists of three towers that are structurally independent, connected at the bottom and then the top by a cantilever structure which holds some restaurants, lounges, and of course the pool. The finishes throughout the building were top notch in every way, with no detail being neglected. After I checked in and made my way up to the 37th floor where my room was located, walking down the hall I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a Bond movie. I half expected to find either Goldfinger (or preferably Octopussy) waiting for me in my room. After I dropped my stuff at the room, I headed straight for the top to soak in the sights. Since booking this experience, my mind began to craft an image of what the first experience would be here and it closely revolved around a bourbon in hand, a bite to eat, and a sweeping vista of an infinity edge pool that seemed suspended 450 feet into the Singapore skyline. I stepped out of the elevator and the view was incredible.
I made my way over to the entrance of one of the lounges and approached a staff member working the door. I asked him if there was a bar I could grab a drink and a bite to eat while soaking in the view, eager to fulfill my carefully crafted vision. He told me there were indeed two such bars but… trousers were required in both. I looked down to see bare legs and a pair of shorts staring back up at me. I was not to be deterred. This vision was well detailed and it would be experienced in each minutiae. So I turned around and went back to my room to remedy the situation. As I quickly rummaged through my backpack I soon realized that I had not packed a pair of trousers. But I was not to be deterred. Despite this minor setback, I would have my drink and a bite at the world’s edge (or Singapore’s edge if you must be technical). So down I went to the shopping mall located in the bowels of this massive complex.
When I got to the bottom floors and began walking through the shops, a slow sweat picked up. This was not from physical exertion but rather my search for a trouser shop as I passed a Rolex store, then an Armani, then a.. well you get the idea. I realized this was proving to be an expensive drink. I located a store that had a 50% sale ongoing, and knew this was probably going to be my best bet. A few minutes later I was walking out with a sharp new pair of trousers that, despite being 50% off, still added up to a few Singapore dollars. I got back to the room, changed, and headed back up top.
So with the dress code satisfied I confidently walked towards one end of the viewing deck, which held a small oval-shaped bar with a remarkable 270 degree view…. but no chairs. This wasn’t quite what I had in mind. While making my way over to the bar I noticed there were a handful of tables situated before the bar and I asked one of the waiters if it was open seating. He directed me toward the hostess and told me a minimum of $80 was required to grab a table. In light of this I headed for the bar. After ordering and then paying for my drink I realized I probably could have met that minimum by just ordering an appetizer. Wowza. The view was something special though, and every sip was paying for it. I took some time enjoying my drink and the view, however it was getting late and my stomach was letting me know I needed something to eat. I soon realized that the pool area located on the opposite side of my current location was for guests only, and I thought that surely they had a bar area where you could grab a drink and some food, so I made my way over. Sure enough, I found what I was looking for. As I strolled up to the bar and was about to ask for a menu I noticed a small sign that said food service until 10 pm. I looked at my watch and it was 10:10. I was too late. After having the server verify that the kitchen was closed I and my trousers, made our way down to the food court to get some sustenance, realizing that I had suffered a small defeat and not all visions are realized.
After eating some rather filling Korean bulgogi from the food court I made my way back up to grab my camera and explore some of the surrounding sights. In the elevator I struck up a conversation with two women headed up to the top to take in the view. Their names were Laura and Huong and they were both in from Germany. We quickly struck up a friendship and I accompanied them to the top to enjoy the view with them. After grabbing a drink, they told me they were headed to Chinatown next to get something to eat, and I decided I would join. After taking a quick, very clean, metro ride to Chinatown we walked down the quiet streets to find a place to eat. The buildings were all brightly painted and the streets nearly spotless. It felt almost too perfect, as if I were in Disneyland. We soon found a place where they grabbed a bite and I a Snow Beer, a Chinese beer I had never heard of and was relatively inexpensive.
We spent the next couple of hours just talking about our own experiences. Laura was from Berlin and was currently spending time in Thailand, before going back to university to get her Master’s degree in Australia. Huong was from Southern Germany and was taking some time off while in between jobs, spending most of her time with extended family in Vietnam. I’ve said it before, but the interesting people I’ve met along the way have really made my travels special. We then wrapped up dinner and said our goodbyes, exchanging contact info before parting ways.
The next morning, I knew the big thing on my agenda was to experience the pool and the view in daytime. So I did just that.
I took my time by the pool and decided to grab a bite to eat at the rooftop bar/lounge that eluded me the night prior. It was pretty amazing as from that vantage point you can see three countries; Indonesia sits just off the coast to the South, the country of Singapore which I was obviously in, then just North was Malaysia (which Singapore was celebrating their 50 years since seceding from). As I looked over to the South I was blown away by the massive number of ships that were waiting for their entry to the port. Singapore has historically been a key port for trade between the British empire and Asia, and those roots seemed alive and well. This picture doesn’t really do the scale any justice.
Just below this sweeping vista of commerce I observed another almost Disneyland-esque landscape.
So after getting to spend some quality time up top, I decided it would be best if I actually explored this place I had never visited before. Now I’ll confess that typically, prior to my arrival, when visiting a new place I’ll do a significant amount of research to get a feel for the sights to see and places to eat. In Singapore’s case, this was not the case. I had been an absolute slacker, so I was flying by the seat of my pants. My first stop ended up being the Gardens by the Bay, which are pictured above. It is a tremendous man-made ode to nature which after writing out is a bit ironic. Either way, it was undoubtedly impressive.
After wandering around for a bit I found myself at the base of two mammoth conservatories, one of which is the world’s largest columnless conservatory. That fact was the tipping point so after departing with some Singapore Dollars off I went. The architectural, engineering, construction feat was fantastic. The structure alone was a work of art.
The conservatory was divided into several micro-climates, displaying vegetation from regions such as the Mediterranean Basin, South Africa, Southwestern Australia, Central Chile, and California to name a few.
As I meandered through the space, reading the placards for plants bundled together by regions across the world it hit me. This was the first time I ever really felt that the possibility of living in any location across the world was wholly within the realm of my possibilities. As I looked at plants from California, Spain, South Africa, Thailand, etc. I really felt that these were all viable candidates as places to live. In my brief time over here, the perspective of what’s possible for me has shifted so much.
After I had made my way through the conservatory I was ready to check out the next part of Singapore. From there, I ended up visiting a place called Clarke Quay which is a nightlife/restaurant area located along the Singapore River. I have nothing significant to add about it except that the food options were varied but distinctly commercial feeling. From what I experienced in Singapore, I think I visited the place too early. I feel Singapore is like many other world-class cities, it has everything you could possibly want, except it seemed to lack a true originality. I’m sure that after four months of being away from the States, a trip to Singapore would be especially satisfying as you sink your teeth into a USDA certified burger or steak, surrounded by shopping options galore. But at this point, I was just not far removed from that world, so the pull of a Wolfgang Puck restaurant was not quite as tempting despite my having a Hepatitis vaccine (sorry, I couldn’t pass that one up). The Marina Bay Sands was an incredible experience and I did enjoy the city, state, country of Singapore but I am already setting my sights to the next adventure.
A couple of pics of the Marina Bay Sands and the Gardens by the Bay at night (which had an Avatar-like feel) are below.