It’s back!

bon voyage

On the road again! Didn’t you guys miss this? Get ready for five days of travelin’ stories with yours truly. It’s gonna get weird.

This time I’m staying stateside and traveling for business & fun. Spending the weekend exploring San Francisco then getting serious at the LinkedIn Conference downtown. (Follow me @KaitlynHennigan on the Twitter to get updates and ground-breaking, 140-character thoughts during the three-day conference.)

This is my first time to SF and my first time to travel for work. I just have sooo many questions, like:

Where can I get the best dim sum?
How can I expense a Segway tour?
If I can successfully work remotely all week, does that mean I can stay?

Getting ahead of myself. First things first. Airport dinner.

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Day 10

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Last day in the city of the Merlion. Joanna is back to work, so I decide to taxi back into Chinatown to pick up some souvenirs. I make out like a bandit, even bartering with one guy, and treat myself to a Tiger, banana fritter, and dumplings.

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Back at Joanna’s apartment, I sat by the pool intermittently taking a dip and reading my book. Can’t knock my hustle.

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After some Indian dinner, it’s off to the airport. Just a brief 13-hour flight, 9-hour layover, and 7-hour flight to go until I’m back in Beantown. As much as I’ve loved this vacation, I am ecstatic at the idea of melting into my bed for a solid 24 hours. Except, Friday is the 4th of July…who’s got a cook out to invite me to?

Day 11

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This was a day within a day. Since my layover at CDG was 9-hours long, I decided to go into Paris for lunch. I went straight back to Republique and sat at the market with an espresso and croissant until I finished The Lowland.

Then I head back to Le Barav and have the best lunch ever. Go here, go here, go here. Glass of wine, cold avocado & cucumber soup followed by a roasted leg of rabbit in a delicious sauce, with green beans and potatoes. Unreal. The French know how to do a green bean. The rabbit was cooked to perfection, fell off the bone and paired so well with the sauce and recommended wine.

I just never want to leave.

le barav

Day 9

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We are both feeling it a bit in the morning, so we’re slow moving until a dose of American brunch refuels us. Afterward, we head out to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The large, well-kept grounds feature beautiful flora and the National Orchid Garden, which is not to be missed.

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The surroundings are gorgeous, but I am exhausted. It is nap time. We return to the apartment to see the wonderful news that the pool is reopened! Nap time postponed for dip in infinity pool.

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We head to Blue Ginger that night for dinner. Amazing, as previously posted. Then to Marina Bay Sands for a night cap on one of the coolest buildings in Singapore. The view is not entirely unpleasant. It’s a mix of NYC cityscape and Avatar. Even the huge shipping vessels look pretty at night!

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Day 8

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After waking up at a bright and early 12 pm, Joanna and I head to Sentosa, an island south of mainland Singapore (which is also an island). The home of Universal Studios Singapore and other various themed attractions (indoor sky diving, ski lifts around the island, indoor wave riding pools), Sentosa is advertised as a real life pleasure island for kids and adults. Like most of Singapore, bizarre is the best way to describe it. Colorful signs point toward “Fun!” and “Smiles!” while also reminding you that littering is a kinda, serious punishable offense. Children are running around screaming, it’s 100% humid and the Segway tour just beeped at us…we need a drink.

We walk toward one of the three manmade beaches on the island. The natural coast of Sentosa is rocky and so protected by the Indonesian archipelago to the south that it hardly gets any sizable waves or water movement. Good for avoiding natural disasters; bad for attracting tourists looking for a beach. Therefore, the government trucked in tons of beige Malaysian sand to cover the rocks and create a beach-like environment to overlook one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. So, you can rent a cabana, sip a Mojito, and watch a parade of huge container ships chug across the not-too-distant horizon. The guide books describe these beaches as, “not entirely unpleasant.” Ooo, tell me more.

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We have a beer and decide to bar-hop down the beach. It’s Sunday, the sun is shining, and we’re at the closest thing I’ll see to a beach this vacation. The next bar just happens to be the Mambo beach club, which looks like it would have been a great spot for spring break circa 1994. However, it’s hay day is long gone. The lining of the pool was disintegrating and the painted sign on the swim-up bar has faded to nothing. The pool was filled with very tattooed 20-something’s, drinking and smoking, while a DJ played house music just a bit too loud. It was a hot mess, and I did not care. In to the cess pool I go. I get a beer at the swim-up bar and chill for a bit in the grossly warm wading pool. I look around and realize that I am literally the only person without a tattoo. All the patrons looked about my age, mostly male, and 85% covered in coy fish and phoenix birds. Oh, and tribal tattoos. So much tribal. I finish my beer and am slightly disgusted with myself for staying so long.

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Heading back toward the tram out of Sentosa, Joanna and I hear the very distinct guitar notes of Ants Marching. A Singaporean trio seems to be covering all your favorite hits from every 90s school dance. We can’t pass up this golden opportunity for weirdness, so we belly up for another round of Mojitos. Renditions of Mr. Big, RHCP, and Blind Melon seem to be totally lost on the severely inebriated Australians, but we were loving it.

Where are you from? The man next to me asks mid-way through some Matchbox 20.
Boston. What about you?
Ireland.
Seriously? I go all the way around the world, and I still can’t escape, I think.
Oh, really? What part? I ask dutifully.
Well, Dublin originally, but I grew up in California and Oregon.
I absorb what he’s just said and notice the lack of any discernible accent.
You’re not fucking Irish, I say reflexively with a laugh. Joanna chokes on her drink.
What do you mean? He says sheepishly, like he’s been caught.
How long did you live there? Four years. Have you ever been back? No. Do you have any family there? Not really.
Yeah, sorry buddy, you’re American.

He agrees with me and I apologize for blowing up his game, it seems like this line usually works a little bit better for him. He tries to keep flirting, but I see his wedding ring and am annoyed by his general persona, so Joanna and I bounce.

Overall, Sentosa was like a time warp to a dying spring break trip from the late 90s with Segways. An experience none-the-less.

 

 

Day 7

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Outfit:  I’m already sweating. Tank top, black skirt, sandals. It is HOT here, homies.

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Activities: Joanna and I wake up, enjoy some coffee, cereal and BBC, and get ready for the day. We meet up with Pallavi, one of Joanna’s coworkers, who has lived in Singapore with her husband and son for 6 years. She takes us to Chinatown where they sell everything. Tailored clothing, engraved chopsticks, luggage tags, artisinaly carved jade, tea sets, snow globes, house shoes. Just really everything you could want. I buy nothing, but vow to return for gifts. Get ready for you zodiac Chinese paraphernalia, family members.

We enter a Hindu temple (shoes off) and take some pictures. We enter a Chinese temple (shoes on) and attempt to do the same. As soon as I step in toward the giant, gold-plated deity, a small, uniformed man gets in my face speaking quickly and ushering me backwards. From what I can discern he is pointing to my shoulders (bare) and my knees (uncovered) and then to the street. Oh, OK, I think, this is what Asia is like for the ladies. To be “fair” I was given the option of wrapping myself in brown burlap to enter further into the place of worship. No, thanks, ancient gods. I’ll take my dignity elsewhere. There’s gotta be someone out there who appreciates my knees for the intelligent, attractive, independent knees they are. And, fuck you.

Pallavi is unphased. She is Indian, she says, so staying covered is just part of the deal. I silently thank the sperm and egg that brought me to fruition in the US and not Mumbai.

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We grab some lunch and taxi over to Gardens by the Bay. Nothing solidifies Singapore’s “Amusement Park of Asia” reputation quite like this attraction. It has the world’s “largest indoor rainforest” and the largest “indoor flower house” and the largest “electronic trees forest” and the tallest “indoor, manmade waterfall” and…Singapore has a small dick, apparently. It feels like Las Vegas, like the facade might fall down any second and you just see desolate desert for miles and miles, except here it would be ocean filled with huge shipping vessels for miles and miles. So bizarre. We find a bar nestled under the electronic trees and have some beer. Very refreshing actually and the falsely planted palm trees don’t feel half bad. It’s almost like South Florida…

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Later in the evening we decide to chance the Night Safari. I am officially getting my Asian tourist cherry popped. The Night Safari is an evening tram ride through Singapore’s famous uncaged zoo. Uncaged, meaning no cages. We hop on the tram after witnessing what I can only explain as a Night Safari Chipndale’s fire-breathing male review…

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…and head into the dark (fake) forest. The driver/guide warns in English to keep hands inside the tram and to turn off flash photography as it will hurt and scare the animals. Literally no one in our tram car listens to these instructions.

“Ladies and gentlemen, meet the African Buffalo!!”
*flash**flash* *flash* *flash*
“Um, some guests are still using their flash. Please, turn your flash off, or , do not use your camera.”
*flash* *flash* *flash* *flash*
“Please, for the safety of the guests and the animals, do not use your flash.”
*flash* *flash* *flash*
The tram stops and the driver gets out to come speak directly to my tram car, full of a group of Indian men who are not receiving the message.

This pattern goes on maybe 5 more minutes when the tram stops again and I stand up and shake my hand in the Indians’ faces’ behind me. “DO. NOT. USE. YOUR. FUCKING. FLASH,” I say in slow English pointing to their cameras and making very direct and menacing eye contact, my specialty. They laugh in my face. I want to commit multiple homicides. I refrain and the tram driver again comes to speak directly to these eight men who continue to use their flash in the pitch dark. They laugh at him.

Next flash, Joanna has had enough. She turns around and channels her mom (as we all do in these situations) almost climbing over the four rows behind us to point (grab?) at the main perpetrator. “You! Yeah, hit him for me. You! What the hell is wrong with you? Stop using your camera if you can’t figure out how to turn off the flash. Just stop it. Now!” Silence. I am so proud. I know Patti would be too. I think that is the end, but no. These guys are dicks.

Pallavi to the rescue. The next flash (Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Asian Tiger!) she turns around and in quick yet calm Hindi tells them she understands they probably don’t understand English (ZING!) but they’ve been asked politely to stop using their flash. They grumble, but no more after that. She wins and exemplifies why knowing multiple languages is the key to always getting your way.

Safari ended up great, we saw an entertaining and humane live animal show, ate some dumplings and got home happy. All in a days work.

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Day 6

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I felt revived post-flight from a nice hot shower, so Joanna and I head down to Clark Quai (“key”) for a few drinks and some Singaporean chilli crab. The quai is full of all sorts of bars and restaurants within full view of the Marina Bay Sands hotel, which puts on quite the impressive laser show at night. The area was well populated with Singaporeans and tourists bustling through the riverside shopping and dining areas. For all the action, it’s much more reminiscent of Las Vegas or Epcot Center than a metropolitan city. You could sip an Irish whiskey with your fish and chips at the pub or cross the quai bridge 200 feet and eat some Indian biranyi with a Tiger lager. Seemed a bit bizarre, but I was too interested in this chilli crab to turn up my recently French-ized nose toward Singaporean culture.

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We arrive at Jumbo seafood, a popular Singaporean chain, for our 8 pm reservation. After a bit of a snafoo (Joanna is told she made a reservation at Jumbo Riverside and we are at Jumbo Riverwalk, about 500 feet away. Uh, OK.) We are seated and order some beers, chilli crab and steamed bread. We are given bibs and served some salted, shelled peanuts. Crab arrives and we dig in. SO delicious. The crab in shell is cooked in a spicy broth/sauce and is just the right amount of hot. I devour legs and body, obsessed with sucking out every bit of meat. Yum.

We finish our meal and our plates are cleared. Joanna observes that her place setting is covered in crab carcass and spilled sauce, while my side of the table is largely untouched. Another case of you can’t take the New England out of the girl, I surmise. I haven’t met a lobster I couldn’t disassemble in under 60 seconds. Crabs, ain’t no thang.

We decide to have an after-dinner drink at a different bar within the quai area. I casually ask Joanna where it is people “go out” as I’ve heard Singapore has epic night life. She’s not sure. I could swear it was a quai along the river, but I can’t remember if it is this one. Within 30 minutes, I am sure.

We sat outside at one of the less busy bars to enjoy a beer, but soon enough the bar directly across from us fills and a queue forms. The line comprises very young, club-attired patrons. And they are drunk. Then the smoke machine starts. I soon realize I much prefer Parisian cigarette smoke to Singaporean club smoke. I run to the bathroom in between rounds, which is actually a public bathroom used by multiple bars in the complex. I enter a stall to the sounds of vomit hitting toilet water. Perfect. I’m transported to Scorps cerca 2007. Ugh. Homegirl finishes her solid purge and comes out to check on her makeup. Looks ratchet. I feel simultaneously bad for her face and happy that I am not in her position.

Arrive back at our table to see the lines at all the surrounding bars have exploded and the Ke$ha is blaring. It’s 12 am and Joanna and I are ready for bed. Adults, I guess? We head to the taxi line.

En route we see what we can only determined to be a very belligerent Australian man with a wad of Singaporean dollars in his hand being lead out of the quai by four Singaporean police officers. POLICE. SINGAPORE. This is a country that has been described to me as a “benevolent dictatorship” or a “a country that democratically elects its dictators.” You do not want to be a foreigner blacked out in Clarke Quai…just my humble opinion. The man disappears, our taxi line moves forward.

A few seconds later a threesome stumbles up to our place in line – one guy, two girls, all holding hands,and looking like puke is in their imminent future. I avert my eyes, hoping if I pretend they are not there, they will disappear. They do. Our taxi line advances.

A few more seconds later, the eruption we were all anticipating, happens. I missed the actual event, but I turn around to see an impressive splay of vomit covering the next 5 feet in front of me. A completely unconscious 20-something male is lying on the sidewalk next to his masterpiece. His like-stated friends stare in shock and awe for a few moments before dragging his seemingly lifeless body across the pristine Singaporean sidewalk. I think, this must be a cane-able offense. The guy behind me observes the young man must have had Hainanese chicken and rice for dinner. Nice.

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We hop over the puke and into a cab. I can’t stop watching this poor gang of drunks. The kid is still completely unconscious and lying on the sidewalk. My brain goes into mom-mode. How will they get home? Does that kid need help? Make sure he’s on his side so he doesn’t breath his puke! Then I force my brain off. This is my vacation. They are not my problem. I will enjoy my chilli crab and my sleep. Good luck and good night.

The food

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Singaporean chilli crab. A totally touristy thing to do, but a must. The crab was messy and wonderful coupled with a Tiger beer. Hot climates know how to do a lager right.

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Leaving Clarke Quai we stop at the only street food cart I’ve seen. They are very regulated in Singapore, so you’ll find most street food in very organized, clean hawker centers. It’s an ice cream cart and is one of the only street vendors allowed because of it’s traditional (and less litter causing) wares. Except, this is Singapore, so let’s make it weird. You go to the guy at the cart, choose from some random ice cream flavors (sweet corn, yam), hand him money, then he takes a brick of ice cream wrapped in cardboard out of the cart. Using a cleaver he chops off a slice and wraps it in a piece of white bread. This is literally an ice cream sandwich. It is really pretty good, and I would say, it is the only useful thing to use white bread for maybe other than washing your car windows.

Oh man, hawker centers are what heaven must be like. These cafeteria-like open markets are not for the faint of heart – dead chicken (still with their heads!) and fish line the food stall windows – but the most delicious, and cheap, food comes from their stove tops. We go for Hainanese chicken and rice, a favorite in Singapore. The stuff is great – steamed whole chicken, sliced over rice, served with oyster sauce, a bowl of chicken broth and scallions, and steamed bok choy. How healthy is that? And I can’t explain how flavorful. Just yum.

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Turns out the man serving our food was the former chef of one of the stalls just a few rows down. He was disgruntled for one reason or another and decided to start his own enterprise a few months prior. The scandal rocked the hawkers. Joanna heard first hand about the “chicken wars” from the woman selling her fresh lime juice (like lemonade, but with lime…you get it). We picked the right stall because his meal was bangin’. Also, Singapore loves Anthony Bourdain because his picture was hung on every street cart and hawker stall in the city. Congrats?

I learned that Singaporean tourist attractions differ from US tourist attractions in three ways: cleanliness, behavior of children, and food options. I’ll speak on that last point here. Basically, you could not choose an unhealthy option. You were limited to a fresh veggie stir fry, steamed chicken and rice with chilies, a fish head curry, fresh prawn dumplings, homemade noodles with fresh broth, a variety of Indian dishes with freshly made naan, and the list goes on. I went with the dumplings and was not disappointed. Paired with steamed bok choy and oyster sauce? Stop it.

Monday night we get a reservation at Blue Ginger, a restaurant Joanna read about in Fodor’s. It’s kind of a mix of all the foods you can find in Singapore in a very Western restaurant environment. The service was excellent and the food was amazing. We had the chicken thighs in blue ginger sauce, the steamed cod in garlic and soy sauce with tofu and more steamed green veggies with meaty Chinese mushrooms and oyster sauce. Highly recommend if you’re ever in the area.

Other tid bits…banana fritters – fried banana – can’t go wrong, pass on the moon cakes – traditional baked item – pretty bland and dry, durian fruit – a Sonic, the hedgehop looking fruit that smells sweet and at the same time rotten, and finally, I wish I had the guts to try the fish head curry – the eye balls are supposed to be the best part!

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In conclusion, Singapore contains all my favorite hangover takeout food within a 4-mile radius and all from really good authentic cooks for cheap. Approved.

The flight

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A 13-hour flight for a nervous flyer may seem like a monumental (and foolish) undertaking, but with the help of an Ativan prescription , good book recommendations and a key aisle seat position, the task was actually not so terrible.

The worst part of AF254 was boarding – walking through the Premium Economy section with wide, fully-reclining seats before being hit with the pitiful reality of my cattle car-like 39E in Economy. I chose the seat on check-in because it looked like no one had yet chosen the seat to its right. Bingo, bango. Except when I get to 39E, 39D is in fact occupied and my new neighbor looks a good 7 inches wider than the seat she sits in, spilling over (and under) the arm rest into my seat territory. I prepare for battle.

All for naught. She appeared to be well aware of her body and kept her elbows and arms on her side of the border. Goes without saying she was European. An American of the same build would claim his/her rightful domain, plus all surrounding disputed and shared areas, with no apologies. It would have been miserable. But, no. Good flight, good food, got some sleep and arrived on time in Singapore around 3 pm local time.

Only issue was swelling in my feet. Has this happened to anyone else on a long haul flight? I got up to walk around a few times (since my mother had me convinced I was going to get a blood clot), but when we landed, I noticed my feet had ballooned and my ankle bones had disappeared. Hoping it goes away…

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Taxi to Joanna’s, unpack, and shower.

 

Day 5

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Outfit: Had to give the vintage Chanel scarf some Paris time!

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Activities: L’Orangerie museum. This museum was made for me. It was like a Now That’s What I Call Art greatest hits CD and it took me an hour flat to see everything. No lines, no crowds, no slow group tours. Just me and Monet.

They also had an impressive exhibit going on showcasing only drawings from the famous impressionists and neo-impressionists. The drawings were all pencil, pen, charcoal, or crayon and just incredible. I’ll file “drawing” along with “sculpture” and “airplanes” in the How do they do it!?! part of my brain. I bought postcards like a good tourist. No pictures allowed inside, but I did snap this of Place de la Concorde, right outside the museum. This is where they used to publicly execute everyone. This was the guillotine’s mainstage. Now it’s a traffic circle surrounding an Egyptian column Napoleon brought back from his African conquests.

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I wrapped that up by 11 am and considered going back to the Arc De Triomphe, but decided against it. I found a café and had a delicious coffee in the sun. Then I went to a bistro for lunch al fresco. Crossed the croque madame off my food list. Followed that up with a framboise macaroon from a nearby bakery. Polished off my last bottle of vin and packed up my stuff. And look, even the air traffic controllers have called off their strike! Fantastique.