Our day was scheduled to start bright and early at 8:00 am. At first, I thought this would be a challenge, considering I am not a morning person and usually sleep in past 11:00 am. To my surprise, I woke up at 5:30 am without the assistance of my alarm. I credit jetlag for my early rising. I got ready leisurely and headed down to the lobby for a breakfast of noodles, sausages, toast, and eggs. I’m sure I’ll get tired of eating the same thing every morning by the end of the trip, but for now, these breakfasts are delightful! After filling up on carbs and coffee and topping off my water bottle, we headed out for the day. We ran down the street and just barely made it onto the bus.
After a short bus ride, we hopped off onto what seemed like the side of a small highway. We started walking along the side of the road, then up a steep hill to a forested area full of neighborhoods, parks, and wildlife. We explored this area for a few hours. On our walk we saw lots of things that you definitely wouldn’t find in North Carolina. Some of my favorites included signs titled “What Not To Do When You Encounter Wild Monkeys” and a vibrant lime green tree snake camouflaged in the leaves. Sadly, we did not encounter any wild monkeys.
This site was quite interesting to me, because it felt like a patch of forest was thrown in the middle of the city. In the tropics, biodiversity increases tremendously; Singapore is no exception to this. Everywhere I looked there were multiple species of plants coexisting and thriving, but if I looked past the plants, there were skyscrapers and highways in the background. It’s fascinating to see these two opposite environments – city and forest – exist right next to one another.
Toward the end of our walk, we crossed a large bridge that went over a highway and stood ~65 meters above sea level. Here you could truly see the stark contrast of the bright, green, lush forest and the beautiful architecture of the city in the background. To finish the morning, we came across a small area with a restaurant, a koi pond, and a large bell called “Bell of Happiness.” Together, we rang the bell for good luck. I also stuck my hand into the koi pond and got one of the fish to nibble my finger.
At 11:00 am, we left the forest and headed to Chinatown. I felt slightly familiar with this area after visiting on the 18th. We were all very hungry by now, and went to the food court to grab lunch. Alessandria, Maddie, and I waited in line for 30 minutes to get Michelin Star rated chicken rice for 2 Singapore dollars (1.50 USD) from Hawker Chan. Personally, I didn’t think it was worth the wait, but the others enjoyed it!
After lunch, we walked to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown. I had to wear a wrap skirt around my legs to go in because I had shorts on. In the temple, there was entire floor dedicated to explaining the life of Siddhartha Gautama and the creation of Buddhism. The centerpiece of this temple was the Buddha Tooth Relic, which is housed in a gold stupa in a closed off chamber. It was an incredible experience to learn about this religion in an actual temple where people came to practice it. I saw people praying, burning incense, and giving offerings. On the roof, there was a beautiful garden and a prayer wheel that stretched from floor to ceiling. It was at least 12 feet tall and was surrounded by cases housing hundreds of statues of Buddha, each only a few inches tall.
After leaving the temple, Michael, Lucas, and I walked around Chinatown for a bit. We looked in the small shops, admired the various souvenirs, and bought some post cards. We had the rest of the afternoon off, and decided to go to Labrador Park Nature Reserve. Unfortunately, there weren’t any Labradors there, but we did see some interesting wildlife, a monitor lizard, and a lot of jungle fowl. This park was absolutely beautiful. It was situated right along the ocean and had some amazing views. There were also remnants of what used to be a British military battlement in the park, which were very interesting to see. After walking through the park, our feet hurt and the boys were getting sunburn, so we decided to head back to the hotel and rest. Overall, today has been a successful day of exploring and learning about Singapore!