Travel Stories

#MyFirstTime: Exploring Singapore (Before Travel Apps Even Existed)

What are your fondest holiday memories? Was it the first time you tried a jet ski or maybe tried an unusual cuisine? For me, it was my first trip overseas to the island country of Singapore.

I was 12 back then and the mere thought of traveling to Singapore filled me with enough adrenaline to last a couple of days. What added to the excitement was that it would be my first time on an airplane and the first time I would be traveling all by myself, as my parents were busy and wouldn’t be able to make the trip.

I was to stay with my aunt in Singapore for over 30 days – she was kind enough to host me and take me to most of the talked about tourist attractions.

Although Singapore is an impeccable tourist destination, the memories I have today are not of the fancy places we visited but how each day brought about a change in my perspective. How little things would make me stop and stare and how much better I handled the initial ‘culture shock’ than I would today.

Glass and steel have never looked better

The mesmerizing Singapore skyline that draws millions of tourists each year.

Whether you are walking through Changi International Airport, shopping at Orchard Road, driving through downtown City Center or having your supper at Marina Bay, Singapore has some of the most modern and well-planned infrastructure.

The beauty of the city does not just lie in its well-lit skyscrapers but is reflected throughout its unique architecture. Since I was staying in Singapore for almost a month, I spent quite a few evenings strolling around my aunt’s neighborhood.

Regardless of where you stay, I observed there were green lawns near all residential areas, the roads were sparkling clean, the houses were well placed and there would always be a food court within the vicinity.

These discoveries  made me marvel about the country and filled me up with a certain amount of awe for Singapore.

What the lah!

 

When you are 12, having an accent is considered super cool. Naturally I picked up bits and pieces of Singlish and ‘lah’ was by default the latest addition to my existing dictionary.

It used to amuse me, how in Singapore people incorporated ‘lah’ in their everyday sentences. It was all around me. As in ‘Can lah’ ‘ How lah like that means?’ and so on. In a day or two I got so accustomed to the word that I started using it as well.

One fine day, I decided to practice my Singlish and spoke to a sales boy in Hang Ten – I made sure to pepper my highly fake Singlish with multiple lahs in each sentence.

Imagine my embarrassment when he laughed for a good 10 minutes before patting me on the head and walking away. For the rest of the time that I was in the shop, everyone gave me warm welcoming smiles and cocky grins.

I assume, word can spread easily lah!

Navigating the streets of Singapore without GPS

Singapore is well connected with public transport which makes traveling anywhere relatively easy.

In the past couple of years, I have been fortunate enough to travel to quite a few places, each time relying heavily on technology to help me find my way around.

However, moving around in Singapore in 2003, when I didn’t own a hand phone, was a different ball game.

Each morning as I got ready to leave the house and explore more of the Asian super-power, my aunt would draw maps on sheets of paper explaining to me where to get the MRT (the local train system) from, where I should turn right and where I should walk straight.

These little pieces of paper became my best friends as I nervously went about from place to place.

At this point of time, I cannot imagine how I got around without my eyes glued to the maps on my mobile screen. Probably one of the first lessons I learnt in Singapore – traveling (even to the library) teaches you to be independent and to trust yourself more easily.

Sentosa – the Island Resort that Intrigues

Sentosa Island is a personal favourite destination to visit in Singapore.

What do you imagine when someone says, “let’s make a day trip to an island?” Sun, beaches, swimming and a picnic – right?

Even though I had heard about and seen pictures of Singapore’s Sentosa Island, nothing had prepared me for what laid in store.

The majestic stone statue of the Merlion, the unbeatable sea lion and dolphin show, a real time aquarium, a wax museum that takes you back in time and a laser light and water show that will make you squeal with delight; these were some of the sights of Sentosa Island that were the best moments of my pre-teen life.

With each and every step we took, I marvelled at the effort and dedication put in by the people of the country to maintain one of the busiest spots in Singapore.

Unlike other popular tourist locations, the island is clean, easy to move about, offers ample dining options and open areas where you can relax and enjoy the sound of the waves, making it one of my personal favourite spots to visit in Singapore.

Of course, the island only gets better with time. Discover the latest addition – Resorts World Sentosa – and the amazing hotel options for a fun weekend!

Rice without curry? Seriously?

 

Chicken Rice – aka Singapore on a plate. 

Ask anyone what’s the best dish they have tried in Singapore and you most likely will get the same answer – Chicken Rice.  

The dish is simply served with a helping of flavorful rice cooked in chicken broth, with roasted or steamed chicken, a side of two sauces (one red and one green) and a portion of salad. The meal is wholesome, healthy and delicious!

Of course in 2003 I was completely unaware of these facts. When my aunt took me to the local food court to sample some Chicken Rice, I eagerly waited for the restaurant staff to serve me some curry which I assumed was what the dish was all about.

Imagine my surprise when I learnt that there’s NO CURRY!

Growing up in an Indian household can mess with your expectations sometimes. How can you eat plain rice with pieces of roast chicken? That went against my beliefs!

Nevertheless, I did dig into my portion of Chicken Rice and to do this day, whenever I eat the dish it takes me back to that moment, where I sat clueless in the restaurant wondering what next to do with my rice.

Being the obnoxious been-there-done-that Singapore tourist

Jurong Bird Park is an aviary tourist attraction that houses species of birds from all across the globe.

The best part about traveling are the stories you get to share once you’re back home.

For days after returning from Singapore, I raved on and on about the Jurong Bird Park and Night Safari, sharing pictures of parrots on both my arms and of a dolphin kissing me with anyone who was ready to listen.  

Once school re-opened, I entered class wearing my new shiny watch from Singapore and talked about the gigantic shopping malls I visited. For almost a fortnight, my tales went on until my friends started switching directions every time they saw me along the corridors!

The only positive impact was of course getting a top score when we were asked to write an essay about ‘My Summer Vacation’ and I very happily penned down three entire pages about all my wonderful Singaporean memories.

Even though traveling has now become a part of life, I will still hold my first trip overseas very close to my heart.

It was this particular trip that introduced me to a life that existed beyond everyday and created a curiosity in me to explore more of this beautiful world we live in today.

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