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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Psyched about Singapore! Been There? Looking for Tips

One of my wishes for many years has been to visit Singapore, the beautiful island nation with some of the world's best research and innovation. Plus it's a multicultural gem. After a recent interview of one of Singapore's innovation leaders for my Innovation Fatigue blog, my desire to go there tripled. So you can imagine I was thrilled this week to receive an invitation to speak there in October during their innovation week. Wow! I'm just small fry, but that's a pond I want to swim in for a couple days. Can't wait! Am trying to brush up my weak Mandarin skills. Will be staying close to China Town.

If you live in Singapore or have been there, I'm hoping for travel tips, suggested photo ops, and maybe even a little about the state of the Church there. Also how to eat cheaply. And if there are cool people you know that I should meet, let me know.

A science fiction novel I've been working on in rare spare time has a significant segment that occurs in Singapore, which further increases my excitement about going there.

I'm also intrigued that the name of one of Singapore's beautiful butterflies is the Great Mormon. Any of you know the history behind that? (Hmm, please don't tell me that's where Joseph Smith turned to plagiarize the name Mormon.) Naturally, the Great Mormon butterfly is--you guessed it--true blue. I'll overlook the fact that it is an insect.

9 comments:

MarkS said...

I made a brief visit last year, staying at a beautiful HOliday Inn just north of Chinatown. A couple of suggestions:

-Chinatown, with its myriad of stores and interesting mosques and churches.
-A restaurant section along the river. Each restaurant has an open air and closed in part, and as you walk along you can see and smell the various foods, and be loudly invited/enticed into each restaurant.
-There is a great zoo, which some nights is open for evening tours, which brings out some of the nocturnal animals.

Have fun!

Anonymous said...

Here is some information on the Great Mormon butterfly per Wikipedia:

"The common name is an allusion to the polygamy formerly practiced by members of the Mormon sect according to Harish Gaonkar, of the Natural History Museum in London:

...the origins of giving common English names to organisms, particularly butterflies for tropical species started in India around the mid 19th century ... The naming of Mormons evolved slowly. I think the first to get such a name was the Common Mormon (Papilio polytes), because it had three different females, a fact that could only have been observed in the field, and this they did in India. The name obviously reflected the ... Mormon sect in America, which as we know, practiced polygamy.

The scientific name is constructed from the Latin word for butterfly, papilio, and the Greek word for many, poly"

Have fun!

Myles P said...

Go the Banana Leaf Apollo restaurant where you'll be served delicious Indian food off (you guessed it) a banana leaf! No plates in sight, wonderful food.

Zyzmog said...

I used to travel to Singapore regularly on business. It's a fun place to visit, and if you end up becoming an expatriate, it's a great place to make your home base.

Absolute best place to eat: East Coast Seafood Centre. It's a cluster of restaurants, with the best fish and seafood on the island. The grouper they serve to your table was swimming in the tank ten minutes ago - you probably watched the cook reach in and grab it.

Second best place to eat: Clark Quay. (Boat Quay may be tied with Clark Quay.) Walk down the quay, examining all the menus, until you find a place that serves chili crab and pepper crab. Go twice, so you can get one the first night, and one the second night.

Other great places to eat: any food court. Seriously. Ride the Metro to any residential area, look around for the food court, and have a very enjoyable lunch or dinner.

Singaporeans were crazy about Italian food six years ago, and there were some really good Italian restaurants around. Other exotic restaurants you should try:
- Thai (definitely)
- Indonesian
- Indian (oh my, yes)
- sushi
- dim sum (there's a great dim sum place in Chinatown *drool*)
- Korean barbecue

For down-home Singapore food, grab some satay in any food court, or go into a Kopi Tiam (coffee shop) and order "chicken rice." Wash it down with "fresh lime juice" (a really delicious limeade) or Indonesian ginger ale.

There's a great noodle restaurant called Nooch, on Orchard Road, I think. And if you need some American food, I suggest Dan Ryan's or Chico's and Charlies.

Most of these restaurants have a web presence, or you can ask the concierge at your hotel how to get to them. The Metro is fun to use, the buses are easy once you get used to them, and walking around (even for many blocks) is perfectly safe.

Zyzmog said...

You've probably already researched the church in Singapore, and what I'm about to tell you may have changed.

Singapore has several wards. All of the expats (expatriates, or foreign workers) go to one ward, and foreign visitors are asked to attend that ward also. This gives the local leadership a chance to develop on their own. You'll need to find out when the expat ward meets -- just call the mission office when you get there. Chances are you won't be the only visitor.

The chapel is located in a compound at 253 Bukit Timah Road, easily accessible by bus, taxi or shoe leather. The compound also includes the mission office and a dormitory where the missionaries live.

Zyzmog said...

You'd never guess that I only weigh 190 pounds, since it seems like I only talk about Singapore's food. I have three more "food" topics for you.

Breakfast
If you're lucky enough to stay at a four- or five-star hotel, then you will be the guest of a sumptuous breakfast buffet every day. Because of Singapore's history and its status as a center of international commerce, the breakfast buffet includes breakfast foods from Japan, China, India, the rest of Asia, Great Britain (grilled tomahtoes - yum), the rest of Europe, and even some goodies that you'll recognize.

Mango
I fell in love with mangoes in Singapore. Fresh mango, mango sherbert, mango jellies, mango slush, mango ice cream, mango salsa, mango juice, dried mango, mango any way you can make it. Mexican mangoes are an acceptable substitute when you come home.

Durian
Durian is a delicacy in that part of the world. Durian is a fruit with a tough, spiky exterior, and a soft, squishy inside. If you hold your nose tightly closed, durian tastes good, but if you don't, well, durian smells like ... um, once I was standing next to the runoff ponds at a cattle feedlot in Greeley, Colorado, and the water smelled just like durian.

People say it's delicious. I say it's an acquired taste. I ate durian ice cream, did not develop the acquired taste, couldn't get the aftertaste out of my mouth for a long time, and the burps were like something out of ... someplace.

Andreas V said...

I spent 6 weeks there 2 years ago as a visiting researcher at the National University of Singapore. I loved it! As MarkS said, the Zoo is great. I would also suggest the Jorung Bird Park, which makes for a really good experience--I loved the lorry loft, where you can walk among thousands of these parrots flying around you. The botanical garden is a wonderful refuge of quiet right next to busy Orchard Road. If you like butterflies, there's a great museum for butterflies and insects at Sentosa. Don't miss walking in the central area on Sentosa by the great Merlion monument at night and catch the "Songs of the Sea" show. Also, a hightlight for me was to take a boat ferry to Pulau Ubin and bike around the island on a rental bike.

One cool person to meet is Bishop Neff in the expat ward, if he's still there! They do an amazing job of keeping the ward running in what must be the most extreme transit ward ever. Better prepare to give a lesson or talk if you stay for more than one Sunday!

Andreas V said...

I forgot to mention the Chinese Garden, which is a bit ways out and not advertised very much. I think it would be a great place for photo ops. They have an amazing Bonsai Garden there. If you like animals, there's also a turtle museum (live turtles) that is in the Guiness' Book of Records for having the most turtles (including a two-headed turtle and medusa turtles with long necks).

Mormanity said...

Wow, thanks for some great tips. I've had durian, by the way, and even bought a whole one for my family. Wasn't a hit, but I enjoy it - mostly for the experience.

Will definitely try some of these places you've recommended. Hope this is the first of many trips there.