My flight from Auckland to Singapore was less than ideal! I drink a lot of water, so I always book the aisle seat on daytime long haul flights so I can use the restroom without disturbing my seat mates.
It was a full flight, so I was sitting next to a young couple. They seemed nice enough… at the beginning. Soon, he asked to go to the restroom. No problem. It was a 10 hour flight so I expected to have to get up a few times to let them out. Then, around 30 minutes later, she asked to go to the restroom. It was a little frustrating to have to keep pausing my movie, unplugging my headphones, and putting my tray table up and balancing my drink, but oh well. It’s part of the game.
But it kept happening. An hour later, he asked. When I stood up, I asked her if she also had to go. She said no… but then 45 minutes later she did. I had to get up to let them out twice per hour for 10 straight hours. My breaking point came when the hot dinner was being delivered. Our row was just served, so all of our tray tables were down and filled with food. Not even 30 seconds after receiving the food, he asked me to get up so he could go to the bathroom. I flat out said, “Not right now. You have to wait until after meal service.” Not only did I have no where to put my food, multiple drinks, and electronics, but he would have disrupted the flight attendants who were blocking the aisle anyway. He huffed and puffed but stayed seated. Maybe they had health issues, but then why not book an aisle seat or ask me to switch? They also demanded vegetarian meals despite not booking ahead for them. I’ll never understand how some people are so inconsiderate and lack foresight.
I didn’t let this experience damper my travels! The flight was otherwise perfect. I kept myself entertained by movies and eating. We got SO MUCH food! Singapore Airlines is an indulgence! We received a hot lunch, snack basket, hot dinner, and nuts. I had booked the gluten free option – mainly out of curiosity and hoping it was healthier – but it was just bland vegetables, rice, and gluten free bread that tasted like styrofoam. Never ordering that again!
When I landed in Singapore, I was amazed by how quickly I got through customs and immigration. My flight landed at 6:40, we exited the plane at 6:50, and I was waiting for my Uber by 7:00! My driver into the city was so excited I was visiting. He told me his favorite spots and some information about Singapore. He said it’s one of the most culturally diverse places in the world. All signs are written in multiple languages, but most people just speak English to each other.
During the drive into the city, I was amazed. I’m always surprised by how modern new cities are. The media always portrays non-European foreign countries as dilapidated and “backwards,” but the more I travel, the more I find it’s farther from the truth. Driving into Singapore was like entering the future.
I checked into my accommodation – The Pod Boutique Hostel. I discovered it on a trendy travel blog and booked it due to the cheap price of $25 per night and the unique breakfast. I also love sleeping in a pod! I know it would make most people claustrophobic, but I think it is cozy. Plus the walls block out most of the noise!
I immediately hit the streets. It was 8:00pm but the city was booming. It seemed like most people were just getting off work and heading to happy hour. First on my agenda was to see the Sky Gardens. It’s a large outdoor garden that has towering electronic trees that change color.
Getting there was… a feat. It looked straightforward on the map, but I quickly found that most intersections don’t have crosswalks. Instead, you’re expected to either go into a mall and use the skywalks above the streets OR go underground and use the metro tunnels. I got lost countless times! I finally got close. I was inside the famous Marina Sands hotel and the gardens were right next door, but I couldn’t figure out how to cross the expressway separating them! I had to ask a parking lot attendant. He said to go to the 6th floor and find the footbridge. I ended up wandering around an empty hotel hallway with no bridge in sight! I finally asked the concierge and she pointed me to a separate elevator that led to a different 6th floor. Nothing made sense. But finally I got there and it was stunning!
Afterward, I was starving. I had spent 3 hours wandering around Singapore. I wanted to go to the Lau Pa Sat street food market, but it was quite far away in the opposite direction. I was exhausted and desperate. I decided to follow the suggestion of my Uber driver and go to the Albert food market instead. It was closer to my hostel. I set off on foot and walked 20 minutes only to discover it was closed! Apparently it’s a daytime market. I cut my losses and headed back to my hostel. It was already 11pm and I wanted to get an early start the next day.
I woke up at 7am and had first dibs on the hostel breakfast. There was your typical Western selection of toast with peanut butter and jelly, cereals, milk, and eggs. But there was also local items like rice porridge, boiled peanuts, corn kernels, and interesting lamb pies. There was even a dessert selection of cream puffs, cake, and cookies!
After I filled up on sugar and carbs, I headed out to explore. I wandered through the Arab quarter first. There are several mosques and Turkish restaurants. I kept an eye out for my favorite dessert of knafeh, but I didn’t see it. It was surprisingly nice to wander the morning streets and get lost in memories of Jordan. The aroma of spices, fresh bread, and car exhaust always brings me back to Amman!
I walked a few streets over to Little India. As the morning progressed, more shops and restaurants started to open their doors. I passed many “fast food” type counter stalls where several workers were sitting around plastic tables, eating their breakfast. Everything smelled amazing!
I took a few photos of the temples, but I always feel uncomfortable gawking at places of worship. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and all other non-Western religions have fought discrimination and colonization from my ancestors, but now I arrive with my camera to “ooh” and “aah” at their beautiful religious buildings. It feels disrespectful, so I try to be discreet and polite.
Also nearby was Chinatown and it was far busier than the other neighborhoods. I walked through a bustling market and impulsively bought a “nonya dumpling” for $1! I had no idea what it was, but it looked yummy and was wrapped in a banana leaf. It turned out to be spiced meat surrounded by gooey, compacted rice. The rice was so squished that it almost formed a wet dough. Very sticky, but yummy!
I love how mixed the buildings are in Singapore. Historic temples are next door to modern cafes and only a block away from giant skyscrapers. Walking around never gets boring! It’s also interesting to see the diversity of people on the street. Almost every person I passed was completely different from the last – but most minorities were equally represented.
I found myself at the Lau Pa Sat market that I decided to skip the previous night. I was excited to try satay, stingray, and crab – the local delicacies! But in a cruel turn of events, I discovered that the market is only open at night! A few stalls were operating, but they were only serving simple soups or drinks. That’s what I get for not planning!
In my free time, I love watching “food porn” on Instagram. People upload photos and videos of unique food – usually extremely decadent or aesthetic. Most are in LA, NYC, or Tokyo. For the last two years, I’ve been obsessed with “omurice” or “egg rice.” It is popular in Japan. I love it because it is a football shaped egg omelette that is firm on the outside, but once you slice it, it falls open to reveal a gooey inside. I haven’t been able to find a restaurant that serves it in Portland and making your own is really difficult!
I headed to Omu – a Japanese restaurant that recently opened in Singapore. They mainly serve omurice in a variety of sauces. I ordered a duo of mushroom cream sauce and a beef tangy sauce. I tried to film myself cutting it open like they do on Instagram, but I was terrible at it! Instead of a smooth slice, I had to hack away at mine to get it to open.
I’ll admit, I was disappointed. The egg itself had no seasoning and was extremely bland. The sauces were good, but the true star of the dish was the tomato rice underneath. I’m glad I finally got to try it!
I left in a total food coma. Between the meals on the flight and all of my breakfasts, I was actually glad I couldn’t get seafood at the market because I didn’t have room!
I walked back to my hostel to get my bag. I was able to send my giant checked luggage directly from Auckland to Hanoi, so I only had a small bag with pajamas and toiletries. I headed back to the airport with plenty of time to spare. The Singapore airport is consistently rated as one of the best in the world. It is MASSIVE. It has 3 terminals and each one is the size of a normal airport. I was expecting security to take forever, but there wasn’t even a line!
I was a little frustrated because I filled up all of my water bottles after security. The airport doesn’t haven’t any intercom announcements telling passengers which flights are boarding. You’re expected to watch and time and figure it out yourself. I got to my gate 45 minutes before departure and it was already the final boarding call! But before I could get on the plane, I had to go through another security checkpoint. They have mini scanners at every gate and you have to re-scan your luggage and walk through another metal detector. They pulled me aside and said I had to get rid of my liquids. So I had to dump my water bottles and then sprint to board the plane. I guess water isn’t allowed on planes at all?
I had booked a window seat, mainly to avoid the previous issue, since I know I can hold my bladder for at least 3 hours. As luck would have it, I was seated next to two big, elderly men. Inevitably, my seat mate kept digging his elbow 4-5 inches beyond the armrest and into my arm. I kept pushing back, hoping he would get the hint.
It wasn’t a full flight, so the man on the aisle got up to claim a different seat in an empty row. Maybe he was experiencing the same elbow digging? Once we were in the air, I said, “Since that seat is open, do you want to move over so we both have more room?” He agreed and my life got 100% better. It’s funny how such a simple request can completely turn a flight around, but I had to spend 15 minutes working up the courage to ask. It’s puzzling how I can be so brave and travel around the world alone, but I have to pep myself up to tell a stranger to move over. I’m glad this trip is letting me work on being a better advocate for myself and finding my voice!