I stand in awe at the top of Marina Bay Sands watching the skyline of Singapore come to life as it turns from gray to blue to purple and white. The rooftop bar turns into a club at night with the best view in town, where I can see the light-show from the Gardens by the Bay. These electronic trees are mesmerizing as I watch from the skybridge to the tunes of “staying alive” and other hits from the ’80s.
The architecture of the buildings is incredibly aesthetic, and many are designed with the environment in mind, including green roofs for insulation. My favorite was the cloud forest dome, an art exhibit covered with flora from the cloud forest, my favorite biome. The gorgeous wall of greenery and stunning lighting displays at night highlighted the best these ecosystems have to offer. Unfortunately, because they are so sensitive to change by climate change, will this be the last remnants of these forests?
I was impressed to see how much nature was still intact in Singapore. I woke up at dawn to see monkeys in Bukit Timah reserve along the MacRitchie water catchment, where I spotted a water monitor, a plantain squirrel, and plenty of long-tailed macaques. Hiking to the canopy walk, which was closed, we came back the next day only to get caught in a rainstorm. Still the lush rainforest was gorgeous, and even the botanical garden had a small patch with sunbirds and butterflies flitting around the orchids. My favorite orchid genus, Aranda, had a whole section!
Science fuses with art all around the city, which springs to life at night with an almost magical aura. I watch with my friend, a mechanical engineer, as she explains to me how her company, ARUP, built the tower with their sleek design team. They also designed the “DNA Bridge” connecting Marina Bay Sands to the fun wharves, like Clark Quay across the way where I got a Turkish delight ice cream surprise in the upbeat neighborhood. I originally had an oolong tea ice cream that I tossed out in exchange from this charismatic Turkish ice cream scooper. He made eye contact with me, motioned for me to toss out my cone, and he played a trick where he gave me a new scoop of thick, creamy vanilla which I didn’t mind one bit!
We dined on some of the most unique and delicious food I’ve had in my life. It was like being in one huge Chinatown: walking down the street grabbing Durian ice cream, having soup dumplings, then eating some Michelin star “Chicken & Rice,” approved by the famous TV food guru. I could’ve sat and ate all day long (and we did!) going to the Hawker-style food courts, enjoying braised duck with noodles and soursop and ice for dessert, all for less than $5! There were these rosewater milkshakes called milo dinosaurs (Milo being an Aussie chocolate powder drink sprinkled on top of a fruity delight).
My favorite dish was the black carrot cake. A bit of a misnomer, this dish is egg based and has a “melt-in-your-mouth” texture reminiscent of flan . However it is very chewy, smooth consistency, and absolutely paired well with a light dinner after a long walk along the marina bay sands’s most touristy hawkers market. I remember gawking at the “overpriced” $4 cake!
Walking through Chinatown, it was clear to see the influence of the Chinese immigrants that built the community. I even had the chance to take a stroll through the Hindu temples in Little India, the community built by the Indian immigrants. The shops were lined with spices and I even picked up an umbrella to keep dry from the pouring rain. Touring further along the easily accessibly train line, Chinese temples adorned the streets and gave a teaser of what was to come in Bangkok. I really enjoyed learning about the buddhist customs and traditions, and monks and religious patrons were lighting incense in honor of a holiday at one of the temples.
On my return layover, I never even had to leave Changxi airport. From exploring The Jewel to the butterfly garden, I was in awe of how futuristic the place was.
There was a sad aspect as well, as everything was automated, I ordered food from machines and went the whole day without speaking to another soul. Is this the future–machine run and nature existing only behind closed domes?