Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Express Tourist - Singapore in 18 Hours!

Yesterday, I was very fortunate to be able to play the tourist guide for my very good friend, Ralph and his very lovely wife, Lesley. Hailing from Melbourne, the well-travelled pair had just disembarked from a flight out of London after their 5-week tour of Europe. They specifically stopped in to Singapore on their way home to spend time with us and indulge in some Singapore culture.



The only downfall of the entire day, was that in such a short time I did not manage to change or alter Ralph’s very dubious NRL (national rugby league) team affiliations, nor his very unhealthy appreciation of the player commonly referred to as ‘Billy the Kid’ (Billy Slater) – I will save this topic for another article some other time.

Given that flight QF10 touched down in Singapore in the early evening of Sunday, and departed again around 8pm last night (Monday), by the time you take into account the immigration and customs time and travelling to and from our home, it only allowed us around 18-hours to offer up the best of Singapore that we could manage in such a short period (including a night’s sleep). Obviously, the local food culture was a perfect platform to base the visit around.



Hence follows the ‘Express Tourist – Singapore in 18-Hours’.

8:30pm – Dinner at Fernvale Point Food Court (Koufu hawker centre)

After arrival at our home in Fernvale, quick calls back home, a freshen-up and quick play with the kids, we decided the most convenient way to jump into Singapore food, was to take Ralph and Lesley to our local haunt. The difference here to the standard chicken rice or 1-meat 3-veg options, was that as part of the shops in this hawker centre, we also have a very high standard selection of sit down, a-la-carte style food. This offers a nearly restaurant style menu and experience. And the food is actually awesome.

Ralph and Lesley are not fans of any very spicy food (chilli), so we were a little restricted with the selection. But we were not about to let this small detail hold us back. So we absolutely stuffed ourselves with Salted Egg prawns, hot plate venison, egg with onion, egg with minced meat, lemon chicken, seafood fried rice, Hong Kong style noodles, king of pork ribs… and a couple of other dishes, which allude me right now. Lesley even dared to try local kopi (although she found it a little sweet for her liking – I’ve become immune to the caffeine and sugar kick over the years… still my favourite coffee).



So we rolled home, showered, gossiped, played with the kids, argued about football and by sometime well after midnight managed to hit the hay for some shut-eye.

8:00am – Pete’s Home Cooked Turkey Bacon and Eggs

Always on the menu for any visitors that stay with us. We rose to alarm clocks at 7:30am, and wiping the sleepy-dust from my eyes and shaking the head clear, I prepared the now traditional Aussie Pete breakfast - accompanied of course by coffee and orange juice.

9:00am – First of the whirlwind outings and photo opportunities

We left home and braved the (close to) peak hour traffic down the CTE – surprisingly enough, the trip showed a very light side of traffic flow in Singapore. We managed to arrive at One Fullerton car park only some 25 minutes after leaving our apartment.
After a short walk around the area and into Merlion Park – we were quite disappointed to find that the icon of Singapore was closed for a facelift (in preparation for its 40th birthday in September) – we jumped on a bumboat with Singapore River Cruise.



The 40-minute ‘Tale of 2 Quays’ cruise took us around the various tourist hot-spots – photo ops such as the Art Science Museum, Marina Bay Sands, Anderson Bridge, Fullerton, Cavenagh Bridge, Boat Quay, Raffles Landing Site, Elgin and Coleman bridges, Central and Clark Quay and up to Liang Court (and back again).



Along with the other passengers (3 other Aussies – 2 cane toads and 1 cockroach), a collective sigh went up, when they tourists realized that Sir Stamford Raffles was actually facing in the wrong direction for a good picture… I didn’t notice, because I was too busy ducking my head away from the financial district in case my boss happened to be peering out of the top floor of our building – here I was gallivanting and playing guide instead of being at work (of course I had taken a vacation for the day).

Upon return to the Merlion Park jetty, we had another quick walk and a cool drink to rehydrate then Lesley wanted a quick browse in one of the souvenir shops.



12:00pm Lunch (Feast) at Bottle Tree Park

We left the bay area with time enough to collect Sammi from Jaime’s kindergarten and head on out to Yishun, to another of our mandatory visitor treats – and also our all-time favourite dining location, Bottle Tree Park (off Lorong Chencharu).

Here is where the real eating (pigging out) took place. The dishes consisted (among others), of pumpkin and pork rib soup (served in a pumpkin of course), crispy roasted chicken (whole), crispy Shanghai stlye pig trotter (huge), Sea Bass steamed and served in HK style sauce (melt in the mouth), their signature Pork and Egg dish (always popular), and of course the obligatory Chilli Sri Lankan Crab (for the locals) and Creamy Butter Crab (for the non-spicy visitors)… at least I got Ralph to try the chilli crab sauce, by dipping the corner of a fried bun and tasting – although it took him about 15-min afterwards to cool down. :)



As usual, our eyes were too big for our bellies, so we had more than enough to ‘da bao’ for dinner later.

2:30pm – Orchard Road and Shopping



Back in the car (squeezing) and back down the CTE, we landed in the heart of Orchard Road. We wanted to show a couple of different sides to shopping in Singapore and this globally known strip. So rather than do much walking up and down the length of Orchard Road, we did the up-market and branded type outlets in Paragon and Takashimaya and balanced it off with the bargain-basement style of Lucky Plaza. For those of you already familiar with these local retail landmarks, you will easily identify with the contradiction of these shopping experiences.



4:30pm – Back Home and Departure Preparations

With the family reunited after kindergarten, sightseeing and shopping we took the time for a final catch-up at home (although I was actually feeling quite worn out and succumbed to a 10-minute power nap as well - unplanned).

Dinner (or ‘tea’ as it is commonly referred to in Australia – I sometimes forget local Aussie English, and it actually surprises me to hear how weird some terms that I grew up with actually now sound… the word tea for me now is usually accompanied with another descriptor – ‘green’, ‘ice-lemon’ etc. I forgot that I once used it to describe an entire meal) – did not happen – unanimous decision! At least not so early – we took some food (da bao from lunch) and fed the boys a little later after we returned from the airport.

Some final packing and freshen up and back to Terminal 1 for the Qantas flight.

6:20pm – Check-In at Changi Airport

True to form, I landed us at the check-in counter exactly 2-hours before scheduled flight departure time. With little or no queue to speak of, we all took the opportunity to browse the terminal bookstore (I was actually without reading material for my de-stressing evening bath-time, which is very unusual – so why not kill two birds with one stone).

Some final farewells, and Jaime getting a little sad and watery-eyed (as is always the case with departing visitors), Ralph and Lesley entered the immigration area for the final time on this trip. I am quite certain that after 5-weeks abroad, coping with jet-lag and being walked and eaten off their feet in such a short time in Singapore, they would have been more than happy to return to the comfort of their own bed (I’m wondering if they even managed to wake up for a meal on the plane). :)



In all, we had a very enjoyable, albeit short time, with one of my best mates and his wife - pictured above with the MBS in the background.

Click here to view all pictures of the Express Tourist (added so far)

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