Exploring Singapore – our New Home

Well it’s been awhile! But now, after I’ve taken an exam and submitted a paper for the day, I decided I should get back to my blog. And my mom has been asking about it and I started this for her, after all. So here I am, blasting some of my favorite rock music that I just sometimes get the urge to play, and typing away about our recent adventures. Let’s go!

After Bali, we really got into the swing of things with school and getting to know the city. Half the time I feel like a local – I take the bus, go grocery shopping, study, and have some favorite eating spots. The other half of the time, I get to be a total tourist, with no shame whatsoever. The beauty of being here for 4 months is that I get the best of both worlds. I get to know the city so well and interact with locals, while at the same time continuously exploring new places and partaking in the necessary photo shoots. This past weekend was 100% a tourist weekend, and it was one of my favorites yet.

As we don’t have class on Fridays, our weekend started on Thursday night. We had come up with a whole plan beforehand to make sure we got the most out of the weekend. Thursday night was my idea – visiting a Harry Potter-inspired cafe for dinner and a personal Goblet of Fire.

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If you don’t know me at all, you will be unaware of my Harry Potter devotion. I would say obsession, but that is not really accurate. I will say devotion because, although I don’t think about it all the time, I will always get excited about it when it’s mentioned, and there will always be a place in my heart for those stories. I grew up listening to my aunt read them to me, before I graduated to reading them myself, with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Several years and midnight premiers later, you have a girl who loves everything about the stories and the characters. Confused at those who don’t love it as I do. And always willing to geek out for a brief time, before I move on with my life and forget about it until it is brought up again.

So we boarded a bus to take us halfway across town to a little cafe, Platform 1094. Why not Platform 9 3/4, you ask? Well I was confused at first as well. This cafe doesn’t have the actual rights for Harry Potter. That’s why I say Harry Potter inspired. But they did have all the right props and memorabilia – round wire glasses (my favorite!), wands, stuffed owls, cloaks, scarves, figurines, and of course the books themselves.

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Step one was choosing my glasses and my wand, and next was choosing my meal. I had heard that the food was not that great, and that was completely accurate. It looked very nice, but tasted cold and bland. Luckily for me, I did not go there for the food. I went for the Goblet of Fire! And boy, did I get that. The waiter came over, lit the drink on fire, and gave me a shaker of cinnamon to enhance the flame. It is a true testament to my love for Harry Potter that I did this at all, as I am pretty terrified of fire. I don’t like candles or getting too close to a fire pit, but man I shook that cinnamon like there was no tomorrow. Good thing there was a fire extinguisher sitting right behind me. It was a magical night full of puns and fake wand waving, bless my friends.

 

On the way home from that extraordinary meal, the four of us got unfortunately separated on the subway. Some of us (Katie and Zach) were a bit too slow and decided to wait for the next train rather than get cut in half by the closing doors. Good move on their part. So Brad and I had no choice but to go on without them, and we ended up taking a little detour to Little India. You know when you just get one of those cravings for Kaju Burfy?? Right! So luckily we knew just where to go to satisfy this craving. I was actually the one navigating us through the crowded streets, go me. It is currently the time of the Deepavali festival, so our pitstop was made that much better with beautiful flower hangings and handcrafted items covering tables and tables in the Deepavali tents.

As we ate our burfy, we wondered casually what exactly it was. That’s one of the best things about being here – you never really know what you’re eating but you just sort of go with it. Brad, being a true gentleman, let me know later that kaju means cashew, and burfy is a traditional Indian sweet, made of sugar, milk, and various spices. So now I know, and so do you! (Try the burfy).

Friday was one of the hottest days so far here in Singapore, I am convinced. And I’m sure my judgment is not at all clouded by the fact that we were walking out in the sun all day and I was wearing a full length dress. We started our day at the Botanic Gardens – it’s only one MRT stop away from where we live, so we figured it was about time to check it out. We got brunch first, obviously, and then proceeded to explore. I predicted there would be a lot of grass, and plants. An accurate prediction! It actually looked like a whole nother world in there. Like I had stepped into Jurassic Park, but without the Dinosaurs. That would be a worthy improvement to the gardens – I’ll be contacting them shortly with my idea.

The highlight was definitely the Orchid Garden – $1 student ticket price. I’d highly recommend making a stop here!

So after several hours of walking around in what felt like a mile wide sauna, we headed back to Hwa Chong. That night we had planned to go to another one of the places on my Singapore Bucket List – the Mind Cafe! And this is no ordinary cafe. They have over 500 board games to choose from, and are available for anyone to use! It was so much fun, we paid a flat rate for 2 hours, and got unlimited snacks and drinks along with our games! Playing board games is one of my favorite activities, so I will definitely be returning here for more nights of food and fun.

I was so ready for Saturday. I was rocking my new floor-length light grey maxi dress and feeling fabulous… for the first 30 seconds of the day. Quickly, my fabulous turned to fear – it was quite a hot day yet again, and suddenly light grey didn’t seem like the most reasonable color to be wearing. But it was too late to change; we had a schedule to stick to. So I tried (and failed) to ignore this possible issue and followed Zach on a nice little mile long stroll (not stressful at all) to the White Rabbit, our brunch location. It was absolutely beautiful inside, and it looked like a church. Outside on a signpost read “Praise the Lard!” and for some reason I was really into this place. “Maybe they also have a Sunday service!” I started wondering.

But we never got to find out any of this, because they strictly only sat people with reservations, of which we had none. So we continued trekking down the road (in my light grey dress – yay) until we found another brunch place, PS Cafe. This place was very nice… and French. Normally this would be great, I love the French and their food! But one quick glance at the menu told me that’d I’d be shelling out at least $30 for a brunch meal here. Maybe it was my stubborn side coming out (which everyone just loves, I’m sure), but I was suddenly in no mood to be spending the equivalent of a week’s worth of groceries, or what last year was the cost of my flight to Germany, on my breakfast. I was in the mood to spend $10. So I ended up ordering the tomato soup – only $14 and it came with bread! Thought it was a great healthy choice. But I took one bite and said “this tastes like… marinara sauce.” I’m quite convinced they dumped a jar of sauce into a bowl for me. It was actually hilarious and a good story thinking back on it.

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Marinara Sauce!! (Tried masking the saucy flavor with a mound of pepper, only partially successful)

After that extravagant brunch, we went to the highlight of the day – the infamous Merlion. We took a leisurely walk around the bay and enjoyed the scenery as we approached the crowd of tourists and selfie sticks. We knew we were close to the Merlion before we could even see it. The common photo opp seemed to be to pose as if you were drinking the spout from the Merlion fountain.

We each took turns trying out this flattering pose, before scooting out of the tourist area and finding a quiet place in the park to simultaneously enjoy ice cream sandwiches and some live violin playing.

Coming up on our Sunday plans, we were all very excited to explore a little hipster village called Haji Lane. We almost weren’t invited, as Brad had a clear passion for this place and didn’t want us to go with him if we didn’t appreciate it as much as he did. Luckily, we were able to convince him of our sincerity. I, of course, felt the need to look the part and so I showed up in overalls and my new Octagon sunglasses. Gotta be trendy.

It was a really interesting place! There were murals covering all of the walls, and the streets were sprinkled with little coffee shops and quirky cafes. We got brunch (our favorite meal of the day) at a cute little place called the Mad Sailor’s. I tried the smoked salmon garlic sandwich. It was served on a beetroot bun, and I chose a delicious iced chai tea latte to accompany my food. I’d highly recommend trying some of the lattes on Haji Lane, everyone loved their drinks and it was the highlight of the meal.

We took some time to find all of the murals and take a peek into the shops.

I was taken off guard when I got yelled at for taking a photo in one of the stores, and the woman pointed to a sign that said each photo taken would be a fine of $50. This is the fine city, after all. I deleted that photo and wasn’t charged, but that really could’ve put a damper on my day. After we saw a couple of pugs in the street and tried on several hats, we called Haji Lane a job well done and headed to the movie theater to see the second Kingsman movie! Kingsman the Golden Circle. I don’t want to sound overzealous here, but this might’ve been just as good if not better than the first Kingsman movie. And I LOVE the first movie, so that’s just a testament to what a beautifully crafted work of art this film was. It was an emotional roller coaster – I laughed, I cried, and I laughed again. Go see it!

So fast forward to the next weekend, which the focus was our Saturday. We went to Sentosa to visit the Aquarium, and then we met up with my friend Natasha (our best local friend and personal tour guide for all things Singapore) who offered to take us to the Chinese Mooncake Festival (aka the Mid-Autumn Festival)!

Step 1: Aquarium! It was absolutely beautiful. I loved the sharks, seahorses, and especially the stingrays. Because it is now October, there were themed shows at the aquarium. We got the ~pleasure~ of catching the beginning of the show featuring the Sea Witch. Let’s just say that after about 3 minutes of hearing her screeches and shrill laughs, I was ready to bolt on outta there. Good thing there was plenty more aquarium to explore! There’s not much more to say, so here is a collage of amazing fishies:

That night we met up with Natasha outside of the Bayfront Station to go to the mid-autumn festival. It was adorable, there were a bunch of light up displays and a lot of scenes set up featuring little creatures like ants and fish, to celebrate the harvest. Katie pointed out that it was so interesting that Singapore doesn’t grow any of their own crops (they’re a tiny island comprised of almost entirely city) yet they celebrate pumpkins, vegetables, and the ever-popular cornucopia.

We started by walking along the food street, which had tons of stalls of different local foods and sweets to try. We all got something different and shared it all together, mini-picnic style. My favorite was the takoyaki, a Japanese puff ball dish (top right).

After dinner we saw a couple of shows! The first was a choir performance of some traditional Chinese songs. Although we couldn’t understand it, it was beautiful. Then came the highlight of the night – the Garden Rhapsody, a light show with music accompaniment at the Garden by the Bay tree towers. It was absolutely gorgeous.

It was a great night full of culture and tasty eats. Here are some group shots to round out the festival recap:

For dinner one of the nights this weekend, we went to a restaurant called Bar Bar Black Sheep. This dinner stuck out to me because of a conversation we had after we had all filled our bellies with delicious Indian and Thai foods. At the end of the meal, as we were waiting about 30 minutes for the check (an average occurrence in Singapore), it came up that the other three are each different parts of my own personality. I thought about this for a second and realized it was so true! Here’s my interpretation of that:

First, there’s Katie. This gal is a dramatic and over-the-top basket of fun just like me. That’s the best way to live in my opinion. I think we are both high-maintenance in the best way and get along so well because we understand this about ourselves. We also have a very similar demeanor and we like doing a lot of the same things – shopping mainly. We’ve just had a bunch of aah-ha moments when we realize we’ve basically been in a lot of similar situations and handled it in the same ways. Plus, we seem to be on the same wavelength when it comes to coming up with brilliant ideas like a wine and cheese night or an American Thanksgiving buffet. I could go on and on about all of our genius ideas and how we both get lost very easily and love frozen margaritas and are pretty positive and emotional and pretty much fantastic people honestly. She is a ray of sunshine and my go-to gal while I’m here in the great Southeast of Asia! We’re already planning several reunion trips and weekly hangouts after our abroad experience together comes to a close. Can anyone say wine night??

I also get easily fascinated by random things, enter the part of myself that is shared with Brad. We’ve had random hour long conversations about the weirdest things, from octopuses (did you know they are basically shape shifting masterminds of the ocean??), to how the underground MRT was built, to the international date line, to what the British lady on the MRT is saying every time we get off the train. We like to argue about it but in a joking way so it’s mostly knowledge and thought-provoking questions. “Does the moon wax and wane differently depending on if you’re in the northern or southern hemisphere?” The answer is yes, by the way. They’re inversions of each other (you’re welcome Brad). Plus my sense of humor is hands down the same as his. I’ll say some weird phrase or movie quote that I’m reminded of out of the blue and he’ll think of the same thing. We also happen to randomly start singing the same song at the same time when something someone says reminds us of it. Then we need to finish the song obviously. Thanks for being my a’Capella karaoke buddy at all times of the day.

And lastly, Zach is the one I can have interesting and thought-provoking conversations with. Most of the time we don’t really agree, but we both like talking about these topics anyways, which are topics many people often wish to avoid. We get fired up about the same things to it’s nice to have someone to talk it out with. It all stems from our Sociology of Wealth and Poverty class, but we end up talking about politics, poverty, social issues, etc. I find these topics incredibly interesting and frankly very important to talk about even when people disagree. That’s why appreciate Zach’s willingness to hear my thoughts and opinions even when they’re different from his own, and I love hearing his views in return. I’ll admit he makes some good points and makes me think. Honestly I think we mostly have the same ideas and views but we like to push the other’s buttons and challenge their points. Amazing. Here’s a quick example: Can money buy happiness?? The jury’s still out.

So that pretty much wraps up our very exciting weekends. I’m so blessed to have these great folks with me. I think I got so lucky to have made such great friends with the people that could’ve just been acquaintances or classmates. We all love the adventure of everything here and want to try new things and make the most of our time on this side of the world. Many more adventures to come!

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Hi there! Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm Elyssa, an average gal with an unshakable habit of wandering the globe. Here I'll give you all the best stories, advice, and suggestions collected from my travels abroad. I've lived in New York, Boston, London, Spain, and Singapore. Now as a recent college grad, I want to share my continuing adventures with all of you! For me, there is no greater experience than discovering new places around the globe. I hope I can convey here all of the beauty and wonders that I see, and even inspire you to take on an adventure of your own.

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