On this quick trip to Singapore for Chinese New Year, Steve (DOS) and I are staying four nights at the Grand Hyatt, Singapore. After a nice leisurely first night of catching up on sleep and the long flights, we were ready to tour the city. DOS had pre-booked a private 2 day walking tour with Hello Singapore Tours, and we met our guide Su Ling (Su) at 9am the second day of our trip.
The first day of the tour was a more historical tour of Singapore, while the second day (which was on Chinese New Year’s Eve) was more lively and showcased the Chinese New Year Celebrations up close – literally we were part of them!
We departed the Hyatt around 9am, and we followed Su to the subway for the start of our Singapore adventure. As we walked up the street from our hotel, I told Su that I liked taking photos, and we stopped a couple times along the way for some Valentine and Chinese New Year photos as we walked on. Here are some nice Valentine’s flowers, balloons, and gifts,
while here are the many Mandarin Orange trees you see throughout the city. We also saw plenty of these colorful orange trees when we in Vietnam over Chinese New Year’s a couple years ago.
We continued our walk for a short distance, and immediately immersed ourselves in the local culture as we would next take the subway to the Chinatown area. As we walked thru ‘our neighborhood’ subway station, (which was busy, but like all of Singapore very clean), we noted where we were, and especially our subway stop: Orchard as on the Red and Green lines.
We went four stops very quickly in the late morning rush hour, standing room only subway car. Steve (DOS) just said to hang on and use Purell later when we get off! The Singapore adventure begins! Su is shown in the pic below with me, smiling and telling us it’s not that crowded now!
As we toured throughout the day, we alternated between walking, taking the bus or subway, and stopping for a break every now and then. Su showed provided history and visuals as well with her iPad as we explored Singapore.
No, and we didn’t take the Hop on Hop off bus – what do you think we are tourists? No we go like the locals go!
As we walked around Chinatown, the New Year’s lanterns were everywhere, adding color and a sense of upcoming excitement to the city. Our first day touring was New Year’s Eve ‘Eve’, and many people were out getting their last minute shopping done, including DOS!
We walked by one area where workers were setting up an outdoor puppet theater stage for the Chinese New Year.
We made several stops in the morning, including this temple area. While we couldn’t take pictures where the people were worshiping, we could take some on the outside and corridor and courtyard interiors.
After leaving the Temple area, we walked thru some more of the Chinatown shopping area, and made a stop at a Chinese pharmacy. This pharmacy, of which there were several, specialized in the ancient Chinese herbal medicines and acupuncture, and there was a doctor on staff to diagnose your ailments. Some of the concoctions were downright creepy, such as this lizard dried on a stick, scary looking mushrooms, as well as boxes and canisters full of who knows what!
While I didn’t go to the doctor, it was interesting watch the men and ladies dispensing the medicine, weighing it on the scales, and packaging it. I did buy some ‘over the Chinese counter’ capsules for my sinuses, so we will see how that works.
We walked quite a bit more before going to lunch, including going by the Lee Clan Ancestral Hall located at Ann Siang street. This former ancestral hall, is today more of a museum showcasing the Chinese immigrants who came to Singapore, which many historical artifacts, photos, and other information, which I couldn’t read as it was in Chinese. Formerly it was a community center that helped immigrants out both financially as well as connecting them with other family members, and was a club of sorts over the years.
After leaving the Ancestral Center, we made a quick ‘pub stop’ at one of the most famous pubs in town, and also the most ‘invisible’; i.e. virtually impossible to find if you didn’t know about it. No, we didn’t go inside, but literally walked right over it,
and walked up to the simple un-marked black door, with a tiny sign next to it labeled Operation Dagger. I was curious about it, so looked it up online later, as the highlighted link to their homepage shows, although Trip Advisor had much more information and reviews on it there.
Continuing on, after a bit more walking it was almost time for lunch, although DOS and I had to get a little bit of shopping in while we were in Chinatown.
There were flowers, vendor stalls, restaurants everywhere, and as the red lanterns were so prevalent throughout the city, we had to get 1 or twelve, along with some smaller ornaments and such for gifts.
O.K., so much for the impromptu shopping frenzy . . . but all the shopping has made us hungry so it’s time for lunch. Since McDonald’s was not on the menu for DOS or Su, and we were in Chinatown, I followed Su’s suggestion, and the three of ate at the fast-food restaurant Hawker Chan. I thought it was was crazy busy as the lines were long, and seating in the small dining area was non-existant, but Su said lots of time the line to get in is out the door! While we did have a wait in line, and then a wait to find a table while, we waited on the food to be prepared, I didn’t appreciate the significance of this restaurant until after we left and we could talk about it more without being so crammed in like sardines.
We did eventually find a seat for DOS and myself, sharing the tiny table with several others, while Su, initially sat at a table behind us.
While you wait on your food (it’s made to order) you watch for your number to be called on one of the monitors. There is also a video showing the owner, chef, and others telling about the history of the restaurant, and it’s status as a Michelin restaurant. I thought he was referring to his chain of restaurants, and his upper-scale ‘table-cloth’ restaurant flagship restaurant as I watched the video; that being the Michelin-rated one that is.
Fortunately as the food is made fresh to order, and there is a bit of a wait, the tables continuously emptied out, and we were able to get a table together with Su by the time our food was ready.
DOS had me take a photo of his water bottle, and I didn’t quite ‘get’ it at the time, but this really is a one star Michelin-rated restaurant!
Yes, a no-frills, wait in a long line, wait for a seat, but cheap eats, and delicious quality food! Who knew! I had the Char Sieu pork and rice, while DOS had the Char Sieu pork with noodles. We both loved the food, although I wished I had skipped the rice and gotten a double order of the pork – it was delicious! And I’m not normally a fan of the highfalutin Michelin food – LOL!
Great experience – a must if you visit Singapore! They were even open on Valentine’s Day – the day we went!
After lunch we continued our tour, but at a bit more relaxed pace, this time taking the public bus for a bit. As it was a double-decker bus, we got a good view of the various neighborhoods, and mixed that in with stops along the way. Best of all, we could rest our feet for a while -us Floridians are not used to this much city-walking!
After a while of riding around, we got off the bus and toured an affluent area of Singapore, which had multi-level apartments arranged in rows with a courtyard in between. These low-rise buildings were spread out, and in sharp contrast to the skyscrapers bordering them.
We then walked thru a very nice community center, which Singapore has for each geographic area. The community centers are subsidized by the government, and allow residents of the neighborhood to come together for events, sports, education etc.
We even ‘got into’ a cool 3-D type wall mural which was painted on a building, typifying a Singaporean household, with local TV comics on the TV similar to Laurel and Hardy.
By now it was getting late in the afternoon, so we once again took a bus, this time was a bit busier so we ‘stood like a local’, while we journeyed across town.
We saw many tall buildings with unique architecture on the way, and at one point crossed a bridge over the water, seeing from a distance a skyscraper with a ship-shaped restaurant and lounge atop.
We exited the bus at the Islamic section of town, and strolled thru this busy corridor where a huge Mosque was the centerpiece. We walked around the village square, and stopped for a break in a nearby park.
We finished up the day tour with a drink of tea (well I had a diet coke) in the nearby Turkish section, and continued on past the many shops and street vendors until we got back to the subway station for ‘home’.
After a full first day of touring, we got back to our hotel, the Grand Hyatt around 5:30pm.
As we were a bit tired out from the day (ok, a lot tired out from the day), we had dinner (hamburger sliders!) in the Grand Club (hotel concierge lounge) so we didn’t have to venture out for the night.
Happy Valentine’s Day 2018, and Happy Chinese New Year’s tomorrow!