High Class Vagabonds: Weekend In Singapore
A weekend in Singapore
It was obvious: we didn’t fit in. The check-in line at Singapore’s Marriott hotel was littered with business travelers; navy blue suits with classic British tailoring, gold watches, and leather attaché cases appeared to be the norm. Pictures of professionalism.And then… us.
My wife and I were celebrating our honeymoon backpacking through Southeast Asia. While most – if not all – other travelers recently arrived well rested via comfortable business class cabins, we had ridden a local bus from central Malaysia.
Our overstuffed backpacks, flip flops and shorts painted a startling contrast with our austere surroundings. Upon check-in, the helpful staff welcomed us and – without so much as glancing at our tropical attire and overstuffed backpacks – informed us of a special promotion.
For only $50 Singapore dollars more (roughly $45 USD) we’d receive complimentary buffet breakfasts and an evening reception. As a travel agent, I was used to this type of offer and graciously accepted. Especially considering the buffet breakfast was $20 each, it seemed a bargain.
We took the elevator to the top floor, and were delighted with the spacious bedroom, offering not one but two views of downtown Singapore (whose dense rainforest pierced with skyscrapers weaves the most beautiful skyline in Asia).
The king size bed with goose-down comforter was a welcome relief after months of living in beach huts along the Malaysian coast.
After washing up, we prepared for the manager’s reception. Donning our best attire (though still noticeably tropical) we descended to the 7th floor and were pleasantly surprised. Inside were several tables, each offering a tasteful blend of East/West cuisines.
As much as we love Asian cuisine, the cheese selection and linguini tossed with garlic and olive oil were simply too good to pass up. With our plates piled high, we sat next to a charming American couple. They lived in China (on business) and were headed to Bali for a much-needed rest from hectic Shanghai.
The charming wine steward came by with glasses of Champagne and offered several wines from Europe and California. Our thirst for home was as strong as our hunger; California Sauvignon blancs were quickly ordered.
After several glasses we went immediately to bed, exhausted from today; excited for tomorrow. For those new to Singapore, the blend of contrasts can be startling. The economic tiger of South Asia, Singapore’s avenues are full of shopping malls, high class hotels, and bustling business districts.
It’s also home to one of only two rainforests within city limits (the other is in Rio de Janiero). Within a short walk from the Marriott is the impressive botanical garden, where locals and tourists alike flock to for reflections among thick garden groves.
Singapore is also home to perhaps the largest “little India” in the world. There you can savor numerous curries, dosas (crushed lentils spread thin and fried with potatoes) and chaat (crispy savory snacks) while strolling along multi-colored avenues evoking memories of Mumbai.
We wandered through Singapore’s side streets before returning home for the evening.
Breakfast at the Marriott was an event. Like the manager’s reception, there was an aromatic blend of Western breakfast items – ranging from standard fares to Swiss cheese and green onion quiche and European pastries – to Eastern favorites such as Vietnamese pho, sticky buns, and Char Kway Teow (a Singaporean take on fried noodle with crab).
This time we opted for an Asian breakfast, and were pleasantly surprised at the subtle blend of sweet, savoury and spicy that Singapore cuisine is known for.
After breakfast, we headed to the airport to catch a flight to Bali, where we were meeting my sister-in-law and her husband. And even though we didn’t fit in the usual clientèle, the Marriott was like Singapore itself: clean, professional and surprisingly accessible.
Adam Costa the author of the “High class vagabonds: Weekend in Singapore” is the author of Business In A Backpack, which explains how to travel the world while creating and running profitable businesses.