Have you ever dreamed of going to Singapore? Smelling the east asian spices, walking through the enchanted botanical gardens, sipping high tea on top of the city, shopping in the biggest fashion houses in the world; What’s not to love about this city/state/country? Other than durian, of course.
When an opportunity arose for me to model in Singapore, I jumped at the chance to go. Up until this point, the only place that I had traveled to in Asia was Istanbul, and let’s be honest, that doesn’t feel like the Asia of your dreams. I was also able to take my boy fired at the time, now husband, Ian with me, so I wouldn’t have to brave the 23 hour flight alone. We boarded our Singapore Air flight and headed east. If you’ve never flown on an Asian airline, you’re missing out. They are by far superior than almost any airline, especially better than American airlines. The food is incredible, regardless of what class you’re in. I think that Ian was served fish curry for breakfast and, as a chef who is crazy over exotic foods, he was in love with Singapore before our wheels hit the ground. Of course, once we did land, we were ushered into the stunning Singapore airport, complete with it’s own botanical and butterfly garden. Who has a butterfly garden in their airport? The customs staff was very friendly and we promptly made our way to The Fullerton Hotel.
The Fullerton is one of the few colonial relics left in the city. It used to be a British post office, but had since been converted into a stunning hotel. We had a gorgeous view of the bay, ferris wheel, and what appeared to be a boat perched on top of three massive sky scrapers, which is evidently an insane hotel with an infinity pool for risk-takers, that seems to disappear over the edge to imminent death.
If you’ve read my travel blogs before, you probably already know that I prefer long flights over short ones. That being said, flying for an entire day will throw off even the most seasoned traveler. We tried to stay awake for as long as possible after landing. The client that I was modeling for suggested that they take Ian and I out to dinner at a traditional Indian curry house called the Banana Leaf Apolo. My husband is a chef and his special is Asian-fusion. I would say that he loves curry probably more than anything else in the world, other than me, of course. He makes curries at our restaurant all of the time, even though they are not on the menu. He’s funny like that. So, obviously we went to the curry house and encouraged on incredible delicacies that were served on banana leaves.
I wasn’t vegan at the time, but I easily could have been. Any curry house has a wide variety of vegan dishes. Meat is too expensive in many countries and if you add the cost with constantly downing power outages in the third world countries that leave the meat rancid, along with the fact that many religions don’t eat cow, pig, or sometimes any meat at all, you are always sure to find vegan-friendly meals available. Assuming it’s not in America because we put meat and butter in everything! Ian and I feasted on at least 12 different curry dishes, only stopping to sip on jasmine tea and rose lasses. We were asleep before the sun set.
I talked about curries being popular in poor countries, but Singapore is not a third world country. Quite the contrary, actually. Singapore is filthy, stinking rich. Just try to order a beer! The cheapest beer that they sell is Tiger beer, a honey colored lager that is made locally, and you can have it for the mere price of $18/bottle. Want a Guinness? That’s over $30. Budweiser? Even more! Singapore is a very small island, so everything that doesn’t grow naturally there has to be shipped in for a premium. There are also many strict laws in Singapore that you would never see in the western world. For example, it is illegal to use a public toilet and not flush completely. It is also illegal to smoke, chew bubblegum, and if caught doing drugs, the penalty is death. So, perhaps the alcohol prices also speak to the government not wanting people to get drunk and make wild choices like not flushing properly.
I woke up around 2:30am and tried my best not to wake Ian, which is such a lie because I am so loud when I wake up… I did my best to patiently wait for breakfast. The Fullerton serves a massive brunch spread starting at 5:00am. I was dressed and ready to eat by 4:00am. We went down, obviously the first to arrive, and it felt just like the scene in “The Little Princess” when Sarah and whatever her friend’s name was have this incredible imaginary feast in the boarding school attic. If you're not with me, just picture table, upon table, upon table of breakfast treats from all over the world. There were smoked meats and cheeses, omelets, fish soup, rice, bacon, toast, curry, fresh mango juice, dazzling exotic fruits, and seafood… It was a kaleidoscope of food, and we engorged ourselves. This, of course, is one of the many benefits of being a plus size model. I can eat before a photo-shoot.
I had a very full itinerary in Singapore. I was there to shoot, but also to speak on behalf of the National Eating Disorders Association on healthy body image. In Asia, we believe that everyone is thin because that’s what the media shows us. In reality, like every other civilization, there are people of all shapes and sizes. There’s a reason that I’ve worked so little in Asia and it’s because culturally, they frown on full-figured bodies. It was really life-changing for me to speak to everyone in person and hear their perspectives. I was also able to have high tea at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, the aforementioned building that appears to have a ship on top of it. The people attending were all there to meet me and discuss the fashion industry, along with it’s unrealistic expectations. I don’t have to tell you that the high tea was absolutely insane.
Truly, no detail is overlooked in Singapore cuisine. Ian and I toured the world-famous botanical gardens afterwards and then dined at Jumbo Seafood on Singapore’s national dish, chili crab! I grew up on the water and we used to pull blue crabs off of our dock and have them for dinner. Crab is probably the hardest thing that I’ve given up going vegan, just out of nostalgia. The Singapore chili crab is cooked with loads of spices and served whole, in a big soupy bowl. All meals in Singapore are served with jasmine tea. It’s like water; You don’t even have to request it. To this day, if I sip jasmine tea, it takes me back to that dinner on the Quay (which we would call a dock in America). We walked back towards the hotel, through a pedestrian tunnel covered in graffiti, which my future husband was dying to see.
As soon as we walked into the tunnel, there was a musician who started to play Eric Clapton’s, “You Look Wonderful Tonight,” which is one of our songs. It was all hopelessly romantic, but things with Ian always are. He is the creative one; The artist, writer, chef, extraordinaire. He is the only person that I have ever been able to travel with and not want to murder by the end of the trip.
Ian and I began to take note of the lack of historical buildings around us. Obviously, our hotel was historical, and we would see bronze statues around the city depicting British people interacting with natives, but other than that, everything looked pretty new. Apparently, because of rapid urbanization, many historical buildings have been demolished to make way for massive skyscrapers that can accommodate the number of people now living and visiting there. Our driver told us that construction workers continue working through the nights in order to meet their deadlines. It's kind of sad to think about losing the bones of the city to shiny metal substitutes, but Singapore does not have a lot of space, so part of me understands the loss. One thing that you will notice, which is not neccessarily historical, but you will see everywhere, is the Mer-Lion; Half lion, half mermaid. I could not make this up.
If you are familiar with Andrew Zimmern, the guy who eats every disgusting food on the planet, you may know that the one food he refuses to eat and absolutely loathes, is durian. This is the stinkiest fruit in the world and is actually banned in many places. The outside looks a bit like a blowfish and the inside looks like mango. Our host brought us some on our last night. As soon as we opened the container, we closed it again. Ian and I are pretty adventurous, but holy cow, that shit smells bad! It's like a mix between, turpentine, rotten food, and body odor. Unfortunately, putting the lid back on would not suffice. We relocated it to the hallway. Within minutes, the entire hallway reeked! Finally, we had to call concierge to come remove the stuff. Apparently, this happened pretty often. Ian decided that consuming durian is a joke that Singaporeans play on unwitting tourists. "Oh, yes! We LOVE durian! It's so yummy!" Lol I'm not sure if that's the case, but it seems likely enough to me.
Singapore is extremely safe, clean, and welcoming. I should also mention that the people spoke better English than most Americans. I mean it. There was no language barrier anywhere that we went, even at the street markets! It also has every major fashion house in the world. If you like to shop, Singapore is the place for you! It would not be as enjoyable on a budget, so if you're backpacking, I'd stick with neighboring countries like Kuala Lumpur or Malaysia. Singapore is also in the middle of so many other countries that my only regret is not hopping over to another destination for a few days. I mean, if you're flying for 23 hours, what's a few more to get an extra stamp in your passport?
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