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Posts Tagged ‘Singapore & Tokyo Adventure’

#FriendlyFiles: Peggy on the Modernity of Singapore

Recently, I traveled with my husband and business partner, Ilan, to explore the wonders of Singapore. Here are some of my thoughts on this incredibly modern and endlessly fascinating destination! 

I have to admit that Singapore, while well known in the travel world as an important Asian tourist destination, had never had a position of great prominence on my personal bucket list. Then, an opportunity to visit Singapore appeared in my inbox one morning, with dates that corresponded perfectly with a planned trip to Japan. So Ilan and I decided to have a look for ourselves.

Peggy and Ilan explore Singapore!

First off, whatever your preconception of Singapore, my advice to you is this: Drop it! This island-country was created by deeply passionate people following their dreams and aspirations. It’s a place that serves as a canvas for its people’s wildest imagination of what’s possible. And although the region has been inhabited for centuries, Singapore is officially a young country, just a tad over 50 years old, and has transformed itself from a sleepy fishing village to a hotbed of innovation in cuisine, architecture, design, nature and so much more.

We flew via Singapore Airlines, SkyTrax’s #2 Airline in the entire world. The experience from economy all the way to first class is meticulously crafted and incredibly well maintained. All of our Singapore tours fly via Singapore Airlines and it is the perfect way to start your vacation and international adventure (seriously, this airline deserves a blog post of its own).

Singapore Airlines

We arrived in Changi airport, the sixth busiest airport in Asia. By far, Changi is among the most beautiful and innovative airports we’ve ever seen, and we’ve been to many. It was to be our introduction, from our first moments in Singapore, to what awaited us over the next six days: magnificent design; function as an element of style; a respect for the environment; attention to clean, aesthetic public spaces, and a super friendly hodgepodge of smiling people from many different countries, all incredibly happy and proud of their heritage and their blended identity.

Marina Bay at Dawn ©Esplanade Theatre Singapore / Flickr

Our hotel, overlooking Singapore’s famous Marina Bay, The Fullerton, offered a front row seat for the nightly laser light performance encompassing all the cultural and touristic buildings around the harbor. Directly in front of us, we couldn’t stop admiring the stunning Marina Bay Sands, a luxury hotel, casino and convention center comprising three elegant towers connected at the top by a structure in the shape of a ship. Tourists and locals alike love going up to the very top to enjoy a drink at Spago and ogle the views to die for.

In Singapore, design is king, and the Art Science Museum at Marina Bay Sands embodied for us the essence of creativity in architecture. The museum, which resembles a huge, open hand, features exhibits and frequent programs which strive to illustrate and illuminate the relationship of art, science and technology and the world we share. To Ilan and me, the aesthetic of the building symbolized all of that and more, even if just from the outside.

Gardens by the Bay © Mac Qin Singapore / Flickr

Another site that left us awestruck was the Gardens by the Bay, a magnificent nature park of reclaimed land, consisting of three waterfront gardens that balance sustainability, a huge array of horticultural specimens and impressive architectural design. There are plants and flowers from around the world, a 35-meter man-made waterfall, a cloud forest and even a canopy walk, and then, just as you think it can’t get any better, you arrive at the Supertree Grove, where you stand in awe of the man-made trees of metal and light that come to life twice an evening in a Garden Rhapsody of sight and sound.

Recently, Anthony Bourdain, the chef turned TV travel guru, aired a segment from Singapore. He said that whenever he thinks of food, he thinks of Singapore. And it’s true that Singapore, that tiny city-state that would fit neatly into half of Los Angeles, features a dazzling array of culinary delights. In fact, in 2016 Singapore became only the fourth Asian country, and the first Southeast Asian country, to receive a Michelin Guide. The country boasts 29 restaurants with at least one Michelin star, including six with two stars and even one highly coveted three star Michelin restaurant. You can even eat the world’s cheapest Michelin star meal at the Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle hawker stall. Of course, that’s just the start of Singapore’s acclaimed street food scene.

Singaporean Food © Alpha, Luca Boldrini, Gabriel Garcia Marengo / Flickr

In all honesty, the beauty, artistry and aesthetic grace of Singapore left us wondering if there was a more beautiful city anywhere on earth. And having now spent a week exploring, we can definitely understand why curious travelers from the USA and from all over the world are visiting in ever growing numbers. There’s plenty to see, do, explore and enjoy, and we’re ready to go again, and hopefully soon.

P.S. Keep an eye out for a future post where I elaborate on the opposite side of the coin: how you can discover the deep history and traditional culture of Singapore on your next visit. And don’t forget to check out all of our Singapore packages right here.

#FriendlyFiles follows Friendly Planet’s adventurous staff as they travel the world. It is crucial that our team experiences first-hand the sites, hotels, food and transportation so that we know exactly how the trip will feel for our travelers—and to help us as we strive to provide experiences, not sightseeing!

10 street foods you must try in Singapore

Chef Jon Ashton samples Singapore's street food © Jon Ashton

When Chef Jon Ashton landed in multicultural Singapore as part of his 5-week-long food tour of Southeast Asia, he had exactly 36 hours to eat his way through dozens of hawker stalls. “I did the most eating I’ve ever done in that time,” he said. “When you get food that is so bloody tasty, it hits your lips and it’s like the best kiss you’ve ever had in your life. You just want more.”

So how did he do it? “I am a clever eater and I wanted to try everything,” said the British-born chef of working his way through Singapore’s legendary street food sold from stalls that line huge food court-like emporiums. Armed with a notebook and his brother filming Jon’s interactions, Jon simply asked at each stand if he could watch them cook and take notes. “I told them I had many other hawker stalls to taste that day and they understood,” he said, managing to only consume a few bites of each dish.

Eating was not the only purpose of his trip. As chef contributor to Parade magazine, Crystal Cruises guest chef for the past nine years, and the host of hundreds of live cooking events around the country, Chef Jon wanted to better himself as a chef.

“I want to evolve and grow my portfolio,” he said. “I wanted to cook in villages with ingredients I’d never seen. I want to have that integrity in my work. If someone is watching me on television or taking time to read a recipe I’ve written, I want that person to trust me. Ingredients are often expensive, so if you buy them, I want you to trust that they will work for you,” he said.

“One of the most exciting things about that entire trip was seeing the food stalls and meeting the people behind them,” said Jon. “Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world, and the most famous chefs in the world have restaurants there. But the inexpensive hawker stalls are where the excitement is; the food coming out of them is exceptional. You see the lady who is 90 years old who has probably been at that stall for most of her life.”

Always a fan of starting at the source, Jon urges one splurge while visiting the city-state island at the tip of the Malay peninsula: slipping into a seat at the Long Bar at Raffles Singapore Hotel to sip the national cocktail, the Singapore Sling, created right there in 1915. “It’s something you have to do, like going to Harry’s Bar in Venice,” says Jon.

What else shouldn’t you miss? Check out Jon’s list below, including tips on where to try most dishes.

See Jon in action at his website, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.


The Way of Tea in Japan

Japanese tea ceremony

The Japanese Tea Ceremony, also known as the Way of Tea, is steeped in ritual and tradition, and can sometimes seem intimidating to the casual tourist. Luckily, we discovered this beautifully shot 3-minute video by Saneyuki Owada. It’s a presentation of the Way of Tea by Tea of the Men, a Japanese culture art performance group whose mission is to make the Japanese Tea Ceremony more enjoyable, more interesting, and easier to join for all.