The Singaporean sun seared our backs as we ambled out of Changi International Airport with our luggage, but it didn’t deter us from awing at the Green City.
This was our first international trip as a family, and it felt equal parts surreal and exhilarating to soak in Singapore’s rain, Yellow Flame trees and futuristic, biophilic and art deco architecture, blistering heat and diverse population. As we traversed the streets, Malay, Tamil, English, and Chinese and Singaporean Mandarin swirled around us in a cacophony of excited chatter, berating tones and happy squeals.
We stepped into a whole new universe at Marina Bay Sands’ ArtScience Museum; the surroundings exploded in a brand new culmination of eccentric visuals, sounds and activities. The shutters of cameras went off, mingling with perpetual gasps in the background, and still, none of us managed to articulate how beautiful the place was. The museum was divided into themes, and creative and technological effort was taken to create visuals and sound effects suitable for each one.
As evening approached, we had plans to explore Gardens by the Bay, a paradise sculptured from artificially-grown rainforests. Exploring the rainforest was a refreshing contrast from the museum visit that had left me slightly overstimulated. The variety inside the gigantic greenhouse called Cloud Forest was outstanding. It housed hundreds of species of flowers, cacti, rainforest trees and a 35-metre-tall waterfall. The temperature and humidity levels were expertly controlled in a way that allowed the lush green vegetation to thrive indoors.
At the end of the day, the giant trees played with lights to the crescendo of Hans Zimmer, which truly stole the show. It was not unlike leviathans, beautiful apparitions that were lit up with colourful fires, and judging from all the cheers, squeals and excited screams, everyone was lit up like one of those colossal trees. It was jaw-dropping to experience strangers smiling at each other and cheering under those mammoths. I grasped onto the hope that multifarious communities can unite as a single entity during grand moments of beauty and could also sustain during dire times.
By the end of the show, our feet were aching and our clothes were dotted with sweat. Hunger rolled like thunder in our stomachs and our cheeks hurting from smiling too much. After 15 minutes, we were nose-deep into the soupy goodness of laksa — a spicy noodle dish — and tofu skewers.
On our third day, we went on a city tour, and at that moment, Singapore seemed like a story within a story. On one street, we stumbled across sweet and kind hawkers selling their best fruits and vegetables in stalls made out of wood chipped away with time. Two steps into another block, we were enchanted by the colourful shophouses swathed in bright blue and crimson red and lured in one of those tiny, cute cafes for some Kaya toast and black coffee. We were characters from a children’s pop-up book because the environment seemed to be too beautiful and full of life, as if every part had been elaborately and carefully sketched out.
On our last day, we decided to pay a visit to Universal Studios, and we thoroughly enjoyed the adventure rides and attractions despite the overpriced food. The rides made me feel like the main character straight out of a young adult novel. It was a one-of-a-kind experience to be among thousands of people milling around, all linked together with a common need to explore and enjoy.
Before going to the airport, we took our sweet time exploring the wares on Bugis Street and getting food from the Albert Centre Market. Gone were the high-rise buildings, hi-tech technology and polished behaviour, replaced with bright shops squabbling for space in the small area, daring bargains, local merchandise and mouth-watering food. This [ocal haven had more vegetarian options than a high-end bougie restaurant had offered us, and I was pleasantly surprised. I could write love odes to the traditional Singaporean pancakes with red bean and peanut butter filling. I adored them so much, and they were only one Singaporean dollar each.
Sweaty and sated, it was time to bid goodbye to the Green City. I knew then that I would miss and cherish the blankets of green trees and bright florals, the pleasures we found in the scrumptious and savoury delicacies, the art, the architecture and the fierce-spirited sun.
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