Coming from San Diego, Michael and I are used to crossing the border south into a new country, but now instead of Mexico we have the tiny country of Singapore on the other side. Just an hour’s flight away, we booked a quick weekend trip to the little red dot and I was eager to find out why Malaysia is often referred as the “red-headed step child” of Singapore. Upon stepping off the plane, I immediately noticed three major differences:
1) Singapore is REALLY clean. The public restrooms are heavenly (especially coming from Malaysia which I’m sorry to say has the worst public restrooms I have ever experienced).
2) Singapore is REALLY expensive. $18 for a beer?!
3) Singapore is REALLY strict with their rules. Within two minutes of exiting the plane we were yelled at by a security guard to move to a “designated section for standing”. There’s also a hefty fine for eating or drinking on the train, and it’s illegal for shops to sell chewing gum. Malaysia is a bit more of a free-for-all when it comes to rules, which I have come to appreciate after this trip.
First stop on the itinerary was the newly opened, 24-hour Hello Kitty cafe located within Singapore’s airport (which is the #1 airport in the world, by the way). A long-time Hello Kitty fan, I had very high expectations of this magical place, which unfortunately were not even close to being met. Not only did we have to wait in line for over any hour to even be seated, but the majority of the menu was unavailable (including the ONLY vegetarian option), and we had to wait another 45 minutes to get our coffee. I understand that the grand opening was just a few days before our visit, but come on! At least my Hello Kitty cappuccino art made for a good Instagram post so the experience wasn’t a complete waste.
After checking into our hotel, we headed to China Town to check a major item off Michael’s bucket list: fish spa. We wanted to try this during a trip to San Francisco last summer, but discovered that fish spa is now illegal in the states for sanitary reasons (ha). I didn’t exactly mentally prepare for fish spa, and I came to this realization just as I was about to submerge my feet into a tank full of fish imported from Turkey. “Take a deep breath,” the fish spa dude told me before pulling my feet into the tank. The fish attacked my feet and there are NO WORDS to describe how much this tickled. These fish weren’t little guys either, they had to have been 2-3 inches long. I was able to hold myself together despite the tickling, but Michael was a different story. He definitely made a scene. After an hour of being tortured fish spa, I can honestly say that my feet have never felt smoother. I guess it’s not just a gimmick after all!
We spent the rest of the day exploring the city, stopping to snap some pics at the famous Marina Bay Sands (aka best place in Singapore for watching Asians take ridiculous selfies). We also saw the famous Raffles Hotel where my mom went over 30 years ago!
The next day, Michael was thrilled to try out Wavehouse, a man-made barrel wave you can “surf”. Wavehouse is located on Singapore’s Sentosa Island, which required taking an insanely high cable car not unlike the terrifying Langkawi cable car. Sentosa, which is the malay word for “peace & tranquility”, is a stunningly beautiful island surrounded by gorgeous turquoise waters, and home to literally every type of attraction you could ever imagine: Universal Studios, indoor skydiving, beach clubs, Segway tours, Madame Tussauds, trapeze, I could go on. The tagline for the island is actually “The State of Fun” and it definitely lives up to that. I had a blast watching people wipeout on the wave at Wavehouse (Michael included), exploring the island, swimming in ridiculously warm water, and eating coconut ice cream. We also made it to the southernmost tip of mainland Southeast Asia, and saw a 5-foot long lizard that could have easily passed for one of Khaleesi’s dragons.
My only gripe with Singapore is that it was easy. Too easy. Not only is it outrageously clean, but it’s extremely organized and efficient. Why is that a bad thing? It’s not necessarily, but to me the most fun thing about traveling in a foreign country is when things go wrong, when you get lost and have to figure things out. That’s ultimately what makes you stronger and more independent. At the end of the trip, I was excited to get back to good ‘ole KL. We may not have Singapore’s clean tap water, sparkling bathrooms, and efficient public transportation system, but everyday here I am faced with a new challenge, which is the best thing a city can offer.