Last week, I did something pretty unusual--I went on a vacation where I was the senior adult, and totally responsible for everything. Lots of people talk about how fun it is to travel alone--I am not one of those people. I've 'traveled' alone, as in flown from one side of the globe to the other, many times, but I have never actually gone on a trip without other people, usually older relatives, or Angel, or college professors, or general responsible-ish people like that.
But Anna and I decided we need an extra-exciting adventure this summer, and so we planned ourselves a Singapore getaway. No husband, no parents, just two sisters, off exploring the world. Being the big sister, I was in charge. We planned an itinerary--we'd both been to Singapore before, but Anna had not really spent much time sightseeing, and my previous trip was a very short one, so I was excited to see more of the country. We left early on Wednesday, Angel dropping us off at the airport before he headed in to work, and our adventure had begun!
We arrived in Singapore before noon, and had time to kill before we checked in to our room, so we first stopped at:
Singapore Botanic Gardens
The skies were dark, and it was threatening to rain, but we wandered around, spotting some wildlife, like a very large monitor lizard that crossed the walkway just ahead of us, and then sat down to rest and picnic in the fragrant jasmine garden--snacking on crackers and gummy worms for lunch.
After killing some time in the gardens, we got back on the train, arrived at the place we were staying, stopped at the grocery store to get food for our breakfasts and snacks, and checked in.
We had no sooner checked in and dropped off our stuff before we rushed out on our next big adventure:
Macritchie Reservoir Park and TreeTop Walk
We'd tried to see if we could visit the TreeTop Walk (a suspended 250m bridge hanging high in the forest canopy) on our trip to Singapore back in January, but we'd arrived too late to attempt the hike. I knew it was a long walk, but didn't realize quite how long it was.
The hike was 11 km. round-trip and took us about 2.5 hours, since we didn't stop to rest. The lack of stopping to rest was because the park was close to a kilometer from the train station and I didn't want to be out walking after dark.
The TreeTop Walk was well worth the long trek out, but there were a number of monkeys perched along the railings. Being raised in Southeast Asia, we like to keep a healthy distance from monkeys, as rabies shots are no fun at all, and we know how aggressive they can be (will the tourists ever stop feeding the monkeys??? Please??!!). We used the umbrella we'd carried along not for rain, but as a just-in-case shield when we had to walk past monkeys that were just a little too close for comfort.
This hike had so many stairs that the next day, I avoided any and all stairs just because my legs ached too much! I thought we were in good enough shape to complete the long and steep hike painlessly...but apparently not quite. I guess I have to step it up on my morning workout regime.
After stumbling home on aching legs, we ate nacho chips and cheese for dinner and fell asleep while browsing Reader's Digest magazines from 2001 that were in our guesthouses library (it's kind of really fun to read 15 year old magazines--you should give it a try!)
On our second day, we went to Sentosa Island--walking across the boardwalk to the island instead of taking the $4 train. Budget travelers unite!
I'd read somewhere that on Palawan Beach, there was a "Pirates of the Caribbean-esque" bridge leading out to a tiny island. It was obvious that I had to go there and check it out. I was worried that I was a little too excited about the bridge, that it wouldn't match up to my Pirates of the Caribbean-level expectations...but it did. Oh, it did. It was a glorious bridge, and it's the bridge I'm counting for my 25 by 25 challenge.
We then took the beach tram to the far end of Sentosa Island to visit Fort Siloso, where we learned a great deal about the Fort's role when the British ruled and later, when the Japanese occupied Singapore.
There were drawings about life in the Changi POW camp that were very interesting.
In my history classes, I'd learned along about how Japan treated Mainland Chinese people and Koreans during the occupation years, but I'd never heard before of what they did when they occupied Singapore. Between 6,000-20,000 Chinese men were killed during this "sook ching". War stories are so sad, but I am so glad that they are told, that we don't hide from the dark truths.
After a day exploring Sentosa island, we walked back across the boardwalk (again, free!) and did a little shopping. Anna was pretty excited to find a Build-A-Bear Workshop in the mall, and I thought this Lego Merlion in the Toys-R-Us store was pretty cool. In addition to bridges, I'm always looking for Merlions. And pineapples. Hey, we all have our favorite things...
Day 3, we were up bright and early and walking back across that boardwalk to Sentosa, because we were going to Universal Studios! We had bought discounted tickets through Klook before leaving on our trip, and Anna was especially excited because she'd never been to Universal Studios before.
The Crane Dance
After walking out of the park, we were about to head home for the night when we saw a bunch of people sitting down and seemingly waiting for a show. Obviously, we did the right thing and just joined them, not even knowing what show there would be or how long we'd be waiting. We were treated to a viewing of the "Crane Dance", which was one of the strangest things I've ever seen in my life--two giant mechanical cranes (over 10 stories tall!) who dance, fall in love....and there's a firework finale. It was quite bizarre and very cool.
Last day!! We packed up our bags and headed to the zoo, which had been highly recommended by our little sisters. It was a brutally hot and sunny day, in contrast to the more overcast days before, and carrying heavy backpacks made the zoo trip more of a workout that it otherwise would have been, but we were very impressed with the quality of the zoo.
As a general rule, I tend to avoid zoos in this part of the world. Zoos in China often have very bad reputations, and the zoos I've visited in Malaysia in the past have been rather depressing. But the Singapore Zoo seemed incredibly well-designed, and every employee we met or heard speaking seemed very knowledgeable about and caring toward the animals.
Anna said, while we stopped in the cafeteria, "That white guy in that picture looks a lot like the Crocodile Hunter." I turned around and was like, "Anna, it IS Steve Irwin." Her excuse was that it's been a long time. Any other 90s kids out there who miss the Crocodile Hunter?
After the zoo, we navigated back to the airport via 2 hours' worth of bus rides, checked in, and found our gate. We had some time to explore the famously cool airport, visiting the lily pad garden and the cactus garden, and we did sit through a full 15-minute foot massage at the awesome (FREE!) foot massage chairs throughout the airport. Afterwards, Anna said she thinks Angel needs one of these at his house.
Our plane left about an hour and a half after it was scheduled to leave, with Angel picking us up at the airport at 1:20 in the morning (what a good husband!) and me falling into bed at 2 a.m. It was a fun and very memorable trip for the two of us, and I'm glad we took on the adventure. As far as traveling without any male bodyguards....I missed my male bodyguard very much, but mostly just out of affection than actual need. There was only one occasion when I felt I changed my behavior based on the fact that we were two women alone--on the first evening, we were going to use the underpass to cross the street after returning from our hike, but when I looked in and saw a guy sitting in the middle of the underpass, I decided to skip it and cross the street on top, by all the traffic lights and witnesses. It just seemed safer. That was a bit of a funny experience, because I reflected that, being in Singapore, if I were with Angel, I would have walked through that underpass without a second thought. But if I were in Grand Rapids or Flint or Detroit back in Michigan....even if I was with Angel, I wouldn't have walked into a nearly-abandoned underpass at all. Singapore's a pretty safe place.
What safety measures do you take when you're traveling alone? What kind of food would you eat on a girls' trip? I thought it was pretty characteristic of us that we thrived on bagels, sandwiches, tortilla chips, and fruit juice for 4 days.