A Final Farewell from Singapore

Food 4 - Maxwell Road Hawker Center

The interior of the Maxwell Road Hawker Center — one of my favorite sights on the planet

Over two years ago now, when I was in the planning stages for this entire crazy adventure that I’ve gotten myself into, my initial intention for this Round-the-World trip was just that: to embark on a journey around the world.  If you’ve been following my journey since then, you’ll long ago have realized that, as it turned out, I never saw the outback in Australia, my feet never touched the soil in South America, my only adventures in North America were my brief resting periods back home in the Midwest, and the thought of a chilly expedition to Antartica never even hit my radar.  In fact, aside from the first 4 or 5 months in Europe and a few quick stops in Africa, the entirety of my journey was spent wandering around and through the various countries and cultures of Asia.

Whether it was the tantalizingly delicious (and sometimes horribly foul) smells that you encounter walking down the street, the futuristic mega-cities with skylines straight out of a science fiction movie, the contrast between the ultra-modern and the lost-in-time traditional duality that exists, the urban crush of the major metropolitan areas or the untouched beauty of the rural countryside, or the gentle, welcoming smiles of the locals, who are more than happy to receive me as a visitor, any way you look at it, I was hooked (but then again, maybe it was just the food!).  Regardless, I knew right away that my “Round-the-World” trip was quickly going to morph into simply a “Round-Asia” trip, and I couldn’t have been happier.

When staring down the imminent conclusion of my entire journey and attempting to figure out a proper way to finish things, however, I felt the best way to put a bookend on this portion of my life was to allow my time in Asia to go full circle and return to the first country I visited: that of the island nation of Singapore.  Being completely honest, I was a little nervous to return to this bright and vibrant city, as after traveling through so many other dirtier, grittier, and generally more difficult locations, would the city that first captured my love of the continent still hold the same appeal?  Would the experiences I’d had over the previous year and a half cloud my perceptions of this return visit?  Alas, my fears were of course unfounded, of course, and everything that I loved about my first visit quickly came rushing back.

Further, I have written about Singapore previously (three times in fact), so I won’t bore you with any repeated descriptions, but I will finish off this final farewell tour just the way I began, with a quick two-day teaser to whet your appetite.  And in case you’re curious, you can find my previous entries on Singapore here, here, and here (that last one was a food post, too, so definitely check it out if you’re hungry).

The colorful streets of Chinatown

The colorful streets of Chinatown

My visit happened to coincide with the Singapore Night Festival, where a variety of art exhibitions and musical performances were the highlight

My visit happened to coincide with the Singapore Night Festival, where a variety of art exhibitions and musical performances were the highlight

Taking a step out on the Marina Bay Sands Sky Park

Taking a step out on the Marina Bay Sands Sky Park

Looking back over the city's skyline

Looking back over the city’s skyline

Sunset near the Clark Quay

Sunset near the Clark Quay

The lively nightlife scene along the Quays

The lively nightlife scene along the Quays

Chinatown 1 - Outside my Hostel

Initiate entirely appropriate freak-out -- it's the Merlion again!

Initiate entirely appropriate freak-out — it’s the Merlion again!

Chinatown 6 - Mural

The nightly lightshow at the Marina Bay Sands

The nightly lightshow at the Marina Bay Sands

Beyond the quick slide show above, one area that I will expand upon is the newly completed Gardens by the Bay.  During my last visit, the entire area was one large construction sight, but getting a chance to see the finished product is something that I’ve eagerly been awaiting ever since I heard of its completion.  Designed to showcase a variety of plant, tree, and flower species, to further the on-going conservation process, and to simply offer citizens a scenic area in which to relax, this collection of bio-domes, gardens, and technologically advanced super trees is a sight to behold:

Looking down upon the Gardens by the Bay

Looking down upon the Gardens by the Bay

The grove of Super Trees, towering upwards of 50 meters in the air and especially coming alive at night, when they are thoroughly illuminated

The grove of Super Trees — towering upwards of 50 meters (about 16 stories) in the air and especially coming alive when illuminated at night — boasts some seriously progressive technology aimed to further sustainability efforts, as each tower contains photovoltaic cells and a “living skin”

Gardens by the Bay 30 - Skyway

There is also a suspended platform known as the Skyway that allows you to get off the ground and up into the canopy to enjoy the views (not recommended for those with a fear of heights, however)

Gardens by the Bay 22 - Skyway

The flower dome, a completely enclosed and climate controlled bubble that houses species of flower from almost every region of the world

The flower dome, a completely enclosed and climate-controlled bubble that houses species of flowers from almost every region of the world

A particularly beautiful rose

A particularly beautiful rose

The multi-story waterfall with the Cloud Forest, the twin sister to the Flower Dome

The multi-story waterfall with the Cloud Forest, the twin sister to the Flower Dome

A raised walkway weaves in an out of the waterfall's platform, allowing visitors to observe the change and perspective as they move around inside the dome

A raised walkway weaves in an out of the waterfall’s platform, allowing visitors to observe the change and perspective as they move around inside the dome

Super trees and Bio-domes aside, as anyone who’s ever been to Singapore well knows, the real reason to visit (and why it didn’t take much arm-twisting to get me to return) is for the food!  And my second run through the various hawker centers — complete with a checklist of all of the foods I needed to try again — proved to be just as delicious as my first run through a year and a half ago.  In fact, upon stepping off the flight from Myanmar and arriving at the same guesthouse I stayed at last time, the owner (who didn’t know I was coming), looked up when I entered and without missing a beat said, “Oh, it’s great to see you again!  Are you back for another food adventure?”  I guess my long list of questions and recommendations last time left an impression.  Anyway, on with the food photos:

It's hard to start a culinary tour in Singapore with anything other than Chicken Rice

It’s hard to start a culinary tour in Singapore with anything other than Chicken Rice

A sizzling pot of Chili Crab -- oh how I wish there was someone making this back home!

A sizzling pot of Chili Crab — oh how I wish there was someone making this back home!

Rojak -- a mix of fruits, vegetables, deep-fried bits, and whatever else the chef wants to throw in, all mixed together in a spicy-sticky sauce and topped with crushed peanuts.  It sounds as though it shouldn't work, but somehow it does.

Rojak — a mix of fruits, vegetables, deep-fried bits, and whatever else the chef wants to throw in, all mixed together in a spicy-sticky sauce and topped with crushed peanuts. It sounds as though it shouldn’t work, but somehow it does.

Char Kway Teow -- a favorite noodle dish from the streets of Penang that has been readily adopted by the Singaporeans

Char Kway Teow — a favorite noodle dish from the streets of Penang that has been readily adopted by the Singaporeans

The smoky haze created by a line of Satay vendors all delicately fanning their flames

The smoky haze created by a line of Satay vendors all delicately fanning their flames

The resulting plate of Satay, an Indonesia staple that, again, has quickly taken root here, as well

The resulting plate of Satay, an Indonesia staple that, again, has quickly taken root here, as well

The common morning threat that is Kaya Toast and Coffee (a coconut-and-butter jam served with toast and very runny eggs)

The common morning treat that is Kaya Toast and Coffee (a coconut-and-butter jam served with toast and very runny eggs)

Oyster Omelette, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like

Oyster Omelette, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like

Rice Porridge with Chicken topped with chiles, fried shallots, green onions, and a raw egg -- my favorite breakfast on the island

Rice Porridge with Chicken topped with chiles, fried shallots, green onions, and a raw egg — my favorite breakfast on the island

Wanton Mee -- a Chinese-influenced dish of roasted pork, small wontons, and a bowl full of egg noodles

Wanton Mee — a Chinese-influenced dish of roasted pork, small wontons, and a bowl full of egg noodles (I elected to add the large pile of chiles myself

Sambal Stingray -- a new one for me, but that I'm fell in love with immediately

Sambal Stingray — a new one for me, but one that I fell in love with immediately

SIDENOTE — Speaking of food, I have to send a special thanks to a blogger friend named Stephanie, who, when she heard that I was returning to her home country, offered to take me out for a meal.  Upon meeting at our designated hawker center, she asked me which of these various dishes I wanted to order or at least hadn’t yet tried.  When I mentioned the Stingray (pictured above), she quickly disappeared to place the order.  When she returned, however, she wore a sheepish grin on her face, and I had to inquire as to what mischief she had been up to.  It turned out that she not only chose the Stingray, but placed orders for a total of SEVEN different dishes, a veritable feast fit for an entire extended family.  Although there was no way we could possibly finish them all, I have to tip my hat to her and say “touché.”  You know me all too well, Steph!

A Final Farewell:

Just as I made Singapore my first destination in Asia, it is also my last.  So this visit marks the final destination of my entire 2+ year International journey, a trip that I’m sure I will remember fondly for the rest of my life.  When I look back upon all of the adventures I got myself into, the various experiences I had, the beautiful places I’ve been, the crazy things I’ve eaten, and the amazing people I’ve met, I can’t help but smile a smile so big that my face begins to hurt.  Further, I know that I should have some profound or philosophical thing to say right now to conclude my entire experience, but to be honest, it is still too near, too blurred to make out a coherent theme or single encapsulating thread.

As the weeks move ahead and I re-adjust back to a semi-normal life — one where I have access to long-forgotten comforts such as my own place to live (I’m writing this from my new apartment back in Columbus, OH, in fact), friends and family on the same continent, and access to more clothing options than the 3-4 outfits that I can carry in a small backpack (which I shall promptly burn and hope to never see again) — I’m sure my mind will continue to process my experiences and I’ll have a proper post ready to sum up two years of life lived upon the road.  For everyone who’s followed along so far, I can’t thank you enough for the love and support you’ve shown — I couldn’t have accomplished a trip of this magnitude without you.  So with that, I bid you cheers from a recently returned travel junkie who’s no longer lost but has found his way back home!

Post Script — A few folks have already asked me how I spent the last night of my trip.  Whereas most thought I would treat myself to a fancy dinner (as Singapore definitely has a plethora of options), I actually chose to return to the Bar in the Sky that I visited previously to watch the sunset and spend a few introspective moments collecting my thoughts and reflecting back upon the last few years of my life.  Here are a final few photos:

One Altitude 2 - View

One Altitude 23 - View

One Altitude 32 - View

A photo of me taken on the last night of my 2+ year "Round-the-World" trip

The last photo of me taken on the last night of my 2+ year “Round-the-World” trip

About andrewamiet

I'm a 29 (now 31) year-old former desk jockey who is now making my way around the world, experiencing all of the sights, sounds, tastes, people, and culture that the world has to offer.

20 Responses to “A Final Farewell from Singapore”

  1. Happy for you that you are embarking on a new phase in life, but feeling a little sorry for myself that we will not be able to eat vicariously our way through Asia. Well done and welcome home!

  2. Andrew, Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us! It’s been a delight to travel along vicariously with you on your journeys. You’ve caused my bucket list to lengthen! I very much admire you for carving out time at this stage of your life to live so fully. You’ll never regret it. Best wishes for whatever comes next!

  3. Ah Singapore! Nice touch ending where you (sort of) started out. It holds good memories for me also as being the start of my adventure in Asia, Luckily I met some pretty cool and inspirational people 😉 to show me how easy it can all be, and where to eat stuff, not to mention how to feel like James Bond in a rooftop bar on the 65th floor!

    Good work as ever on the recent set of blogs, I’m sure it won’t be the last time you set foot somewhere exotic (if indeed a more exotic location than Ohio can possibly be imagined). So enjoy your retirement but keep an envious eye on those vapor trails over Columbus taking escapees on new adventures to the eating places of the world.

    • Ah yes…my trip couldn’t truly come “full circle” unless I got a message from Paz! I was definitely thinking of you when I returned to the rooftop bar, as it was obviously you and I who went together last time. And you’re right — I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for future adventures. Even though I’m probably here in Ohio for the indefinite future, I’m sure I’ll be able to squeeze away for a week or two here and there to visit some new and distant lands. Thanks again for following along, for the great comments below, and for being one of those amazing people I met along the way that made my trip some much better! And just remember, you’ve still got an open invitation to come hang out in exotic Ohio anytime you can pull yourself away! (It’s tough to resist, I know!)

  4. You showed us so much, Andre, and I know you will always cherish the experience. I hope you can make some of the dishes (find ingredients perhaps at Jungle Jims outside of Cincinnati). And come visit Oregon when you do a proper exploration of the byways and trails of this country! (OMG, what food we are finding!!)

    • Someone else just recently recommended Jungle Jim’s, too, so I guess it is high time that I get down there and finally check it out. Obviously, I owe you a hundred thanks for following along and supporting my trip as long as you have. It’s been great getting to know you, and when I do (and I intend to, hopefully sooner than later) make it out to Oregon, you’ll be the first one I call!

  5. Glad I loaded up on breakfast before reading this – kaya toast (drizzled with condensed milk) is such a guilty pleasure, and I do miss the flavours of Southeast Asia! I also had a bowl of delicious chicken porridge (“bubur ayam”) for my last meal in Indonesia, it was flavoured with turmeric and a wealth of other ingredients. The sambal stingray reminds me of photos I saw in two of Bama’s posts on his hometown – he mentioned smoked ray and something tells me it may be a variation on the same dish.

    Andrew, it was such a pleasure to follow along on your global adventures and food escapades. Thank you for being such an inspiration to all of us who can only dream of long-term travel… I’m now planning my own extended trip slated for 2015. 🙂 Thanks too for drawing my attention to the wonders that exist in my backyard, I was born in Singapore and used to go back every Easter, but that eventually stopped in 1998. Your posts have got me curious to see how much it’s changed in the last 15 years.

    Best of luck for the next chapter of your life – I’m sure you’ll find yourself here in Asia sooner than you think, and maybe by then you’ll have made the transition from backpacker to expat!

    • It’s funny, when I was eating the Stingray, I was reminded of the same smoked ray from Bama’s post (I think I may have even commented on that way back when). Regardless, it — along with nearly everything else edible in Singapore — was delicious, and well worth making Singapore my last stop. You should definitely get back to visit before too long!

      And thanks again, James, for following along and supporting me on my journey as long as you have. Now that I’m back on stable ground for a while, I’m definitely going to be turning to your blog to vicariously satisfy my travel desires! Looking forward to your continued adventures, and best of luck with getting your 2015 trip together!

  6. Congratulations! And I’m so happy that Singapore is your final destination. And you captured moments of your last day in Asia beautifully. Very inspiring, as always.

    “So with that, I bid you cheers from a recently returned travel junkie who’s no longer lost but has found his way back home!” – Thank you for these words and for sharing your adventure through words, photos and stories.

    • Thank you for the great comments and support in following along with me on my trip, Dahlia. I’ve been enjoying following along on your adventures in Australia so far, and best of luck with the rest of your PhD program!

  7. Lol! You just had to get the Merlion shot in here!!! Awesome shots again! I’m still amazed at your camera skills….just goes to show that it’s not the camera that maketh the shot but truly the person framing and pressing the little small button 🙂 If you do get round to eating out at the Singapore diner where you are, be sure to include some shots !!!

    • Thanks, as always, Steph! And I appreciate you not minding that I mentioned an anecdote about our meal out in the blog above (I guess in retrospect, I probably should have asked first). And I’ve already stopped into the Singaporean restaurant once with the intention of a repeat visit in the near future, so I’ll definitely have a few photos for you soon. Thanks again, and I’m eagerly awaiting your photos and stories from Kyoto and Osaka!

  8. So now that you are back, when can we expect you to come over and fix us a meal. We have a wok that is ready for you. Glad you had this adventure, Drew. We sure did enjoy following along.

    • The only thing I like more than eating is cooking, so next time I’m back in Urbana, I’ll have to give you a shout. It’s been too long anyway, so it would be great to catch up again!

  9. We keep some Dogfish Head in stock also.

  10. Wow! Many things have changed since my last visit to Singapore back in 2010. However the food scene remains as tempting as it has always been. I’ve been enjoying your blog since the first time I found it, Andrew. And as I’ve ever mentioned to you that I used some of your food posts as my own reference to sample as many local dishes as I possibly can when I traveled. Should you ever dropped by Indonesia, just let me know and I’ll tell my mom to cook that smoked ray for you. 🙂

    Good luck with everything and hopefully I’ll see you gallivanting throughout the world again in the not-too-distant future!

  11. Andrew, I’ve only discovered you via Bama and James – just in time to read your wrap up! I’ve been pouring through your excellent posts, nodding and smiling for hours now. What a fabulous journey you’ve been on. My husband and I have wandered the world for years, with breaks to nest for a while, but we always seem to gravitate back to the road. Wishing you all the best in this next great adventure, Terri

    • Thanks, Terri! And although I’m at one of those “nesting” stages, I’m sure that it won’t be long before I’m back on the road again, in whatever capacity. Thanks for reading, and good luck on any future adventures!

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