Singapore's intense heat and humidity, combined with my insatiable desire to eat everything in the city, convinced me that I would not run during my time there.
But once I realized there is a great running path encircling Marina Bay, I just couldn't resist. I had to get an early start, and I ended up sweating more than I knew was humanly possible, but it was more than worth it.
It was by no means a record-breaking 3.5-mile run — I took my time, stopping to take photos with my little Canon S95 and chugging water frequently — but I loved experiencing Singapore in the morning quiet. I also loved how the photos turned out, thanks to the dramatic clouds and ethereal light of the rising sun.
I tend to prefer evening running, but the feeling of pounding along a mostly-empty sidewalk is unmatched. It's the feeling that the city is all yours, if only for a half-hour or so.
Of course, I felt like I "earned" the eating extravaganza that followed. : )
First up: Another trip to Maxwell Hawker Centre for chicken rice.
It may not look like much — it's, um, just chicken and rice — but it's considered to be Singapore's national dish! The queue at Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice certainly reflected its popularity, so I had high expectations.
Even Mr. Bourdain offered his ringing endorsement.
My initial reaction after a few bites was, quite simply, "Meh." It's chicken. It's rice. And...?
But as I ate more and more, I began to appreciate the tenderness of the chicken and depth of chicken-stock flavor in the rice. The glistening sauce that was spooned over the dish was the highlight. I think I missed out on the full experience, since I passed over some spicy-looking toppings at the food stall (I'm a spice wimp), but I ended up quite enjoying my chicken rice. I left not a single grain behind!
For my next trick, I chose an embarrassingly large plateful of fresh fruit. Let's call this a palate cleanser, shall we?
Here we have dragon fruit, honey mango and... something on a skewer back there. The seller told me the name but I didn't quite catch it, and my attempts to Google it have been fruitless (sorry, bad joke). Someone please tell me what it is! (Edited to add: It is jackfruit. Thank you, helpful commenters!)
I wasn't a huge fan of the mystery fruit. The flesh was kind of tough, and each piece contained a huge, awkward pit. The dragon fruit was crisp and refreshing but not all that flavorful, and the mango was divine, as mango tends to be.
I then joined another crazy-long line for Zhen Zhen Porridge to see what all the hype was about.
I had a little guide to Singapore that called out Zhen Zhen as a must-try, and it recommended ordering a side of thinly sliced raw fish to mix into the porridge or eat on its own. That was my plan for the 45 minutes I spent in line, during which I observed three things:
1. The teenage couple in front of me couldn't keep their grabby hands off of each other.
2. I was the only clearly foreign person in line.
3. The menu was written in Chinese and did not include a speck of English or any photos I could point to. This caught me off guard because most everything else in Singapore is written primarily in English with Chinese, Malay and Tamil translations provided. Uh-oh.
I ended up not getting that side of raw fish due to the difficulties presented by observation #3. I tried to ask for it and thought the woman understood me, but my order arrived sans fish and I didn't pursue the matter. The line was still a mile long, and I would've had to interrupt the flow of things to order again and pay. In hindsight, I could have sought the assistance of someone else in line, but... damn. I didn't.
Anyway, here is the pristine porridge...
This dish was piping hot, smooth and savory, with delightful crunchy bits adding nice texture. I realized that it actually contained cooked fish at the bottom, but it was bland and didn't contribute much. I really wished I'd been able to order the side of raw fish that so many others walked away with. It included tons of yummy-looking toppings that could be mixed into the porridge, and I felt like I missed out on the full experience due to my being ill-prepared to order properly. Maybe next time!
I will now stop boring you with food. Let's go grab a beer on top of the Marina Bay Sands.
A Tiger with a view.
This crazy-looking building is a massive hotel that features a rooftop infinity pool and observation deck with incredible views of Singapore. One can visit the observation deck for S$20, but the pool is reserved for hotel guests only. Apparently it used to be open to walk-in visitors and it was wayyy too crowded for anyone to enjoy. Understandable!
|I'm happy for these people, really. And only a little bit jealous.|
The observation deck, called the SkyPark, was pretty crowded itself since I arrived about 45 minutes before sunset. Everyone was staking out the best spot to take photos.
The evening was quite hazy, so the sunset wasn't a show-stopper. The skyline transformed from this...
...and, ultimately, to this.
I had no idea there would be a laser show — or, excuse me, a water and light extravaganza — so this was a great surprise! It happens twice every night and three times on Saturdays, so be sure to catch it if you're in town.
I bet it looks pretty cool from across the bay with the Marina Bay Sands in the background... but I liked being at the center of the action.
This was definitely a big "wow" moment in my travels, and an unforgettable way to close out my time in a city that won me over with its unique, delicious food and unabashedly spectacular lights.