True fact: I got horrendous food poisoning and/or the stomach flu on my 30th birthday, and in addition to being brutally ill on the night I entered this new and exciting decade, I couldn’t get out of bed for any festivities for the next five days, which means I missed my birthday weekend. It’s like my body was like, THINK I’LL JUST STAY 29, THANKS. Anyway, no big, because a friend and I’d already planned a joint 30th birthday shindig in Singapore in late January, when the majority of this year’s Luce class descended on that city for a music festival. So I just decided to wait to turn 30 until that weekend.
To make the occasion really super special, Rob gifted me enough airline miles that we could both fly the Singapore Suites to the party. If you want a really good synopsis of what it’s like to fly the Suites, you should read this dude’s hilarious account of his long journey in the Singapore Airline’s version of first class. Basically, instead of a measly seat, you get your own cabin. If you’re a couple (or I guess good friends), you can book cabins next to each other, and then sit together in one mega cabin. This is especially fun if you ever want to lie down in the bed your seat converts to, because adjoining seats can convert into a double bed. Where you can, you know, cuddle. And really only cuddle. Because despite the Do Not Disturb sign you can illuminate, the suites don’t actually fully close — there’s a gap at the top.
None of that really matters, because despite the fact that our flight was seven hours long, I never actually made it to a point when we could lay our seats down flat and cuddle. We boarded the plane accompanied by a handler, who delivered us to flight attendants who knew our names without looking at our boarding passes (like, did they google us?). When we sat down, they handed us a wine list that started with Dom Perignon and ended with a very old Port. Casual. I’ll start with the Dom, I said, trying to act like that was a thing I often say. My plan was to pivot into a glass of Riesling, coast into a little Premier Cru Burgundy, and then land in Singapore the tune of that aforementioned Port. My plan was foiled when they kept refilling my glass of Champagne. At least a bottle deep and no dinner later, I was holding onto my armrest, “reading” my Kindle through my one open eye, and thinking, WHAT IS REALITY. In other words, I flew too close the sun, like the high school kid discovering peach schnapps for the first time.
Next it was time for a seven course meal, for which my inhibitions were loosened enough to greedily ask for the Asian celebrity chef menu but still also have the cheese and dessert from the western menu. As the plates rolled out, I managed to shift into the Pinot, but then, as soon as the dishes were cleared, I passed out on my non-converted-to-a-bed seat and slept like a baby for two hours, only to awaken when we were descending. I figure I consumed about $500 worth of wine, but I still lament all the value lost on my one brush with a lifestyle I’m not likely to revisit anytime soon.
Only stressful thing about flying in that cabin: the flight attendants freshen up the bathroom right after you use it. I know this because the toilet paper was always refolded into a neat triangle when I went in, and it smelled like heaven and orchids. A pleasing experience for the occupant, but it caused me undue anguish and performance anxiety. Like, what if I need to, you know, USE the bathroom? Could you not go in there the SECOND I leave? Then there’s no way to shift blame to the group.
Anyway, we met up with the crew the next day and got down to business exploring restaurants. I’m sure there are other lovely things to do in Singapore, but I did basically none of those things, with the exception of going to the zoo at night, a highly recommended activity if you believe the guidebooks. I would also highly recommend it if you need something to do that’s not just stuffing your face all day erryday for like five days. The animals are more active at night, and, so long as you are not prone to panic, you can walk through a flying fox cage where dog-sized bats chill like seven inches from your head and eat fruit. Sometimes they fly, and then you want to scream and run, but you have to control yourself and walk quietly to an exit, trying not to throw up. Pretty fun. Our friend Christian gave the zoo a six out of ten, but the flying fox cage a nine or ten. After reflecting on the experience for a few weeks, I think that’s pretty accurate.
Back to the food. Here’s a fairly complete list of the things we ate and drank in Singapore: fancy coffee, fancy kefir soda, raw vegetables in trendy combinations, vegetarian Indian food from the best restaurant in Little India, fish curry soup called laksa from a Hawker market (supposedly the best laksa in Singapore), roasted suckling pig at a music festival, frozen margaritas, terrible nachos, fries topped with salty egg, more frozen margaritas, killer huevos rancheros, an acai bowl, more fancy coffee, a fancy ice cream bar, gummy mochi filled with chocolate, fried bits and bobs acquired from the street, burgers, fried crab sandwiches, wings, more frozen drinks, achingly good dim sum at 1 a.m., and custard buns, which a couple members of our group spent basically all of their free time trying to hunt down. The ones we found were so good, we ordered like four rounds of them. And we ate that Indian food at East Coast Park, which hugs the waterfront — that’s where we celebrated our birthdays, welcoming in a new year as the sun set. Surreal.
And then I got food poisoning. Along with half of our group. In Singapore, which is so clean you can basically eat off the bathroom floor. Because apparently this is how my 30th year is going to go.
But let’s not dwell on that! In the middle of all of this, we went to a music festival at a park that overlooks the wackily shaped Marina Bay Sands where we danced our little hearts out and got sparkly temporary tattoos (a nice complement to the sparkly temporary tattoos we applied by our ownselves before the show). Rob had a euphoric moment seeing CHVRCHES. I thought it was pretty good, but was busy raging at the girl next to me, whose backpack was jammed into some rather intimate areas of my torso. GET OFF MY LAWN I’M OLD NOW.
Reflection time: Singapore was SIGNIFICANTLY more charming than I expected. You hear a lot of people in this part of the world calling Singapore “Asia Light” — it’s full of expats, clean, and incredibly functional, and the language of business is English. I thought, therefore, that it was going to feel a little soulless and strip-mally, or super futuristic, like the skyscraper part of Pudong in Shanghai. Not so. It’s colorful and diverse, and a lot of colonial architecture is slipped amid more modern buildings. The city is legitimately pretty. There are food markets everywhere, and there’s plenty of green space for recreation. The frozen drinks are on point, too. I think it was a nice break for our buds who’ve spent their year in less developed parts of Asia — you can get all the creature comforts of the west in Singapore, and it seems like you don’t have to work to do basic things (cabs are metered, prices are set, pharmacies are stocked with familiar brands, you can get passport photos taken in the subway station). We heard a lot of Mandarin spoken around town, too, which was kind of fun. Downside is that it’s expensive, but not so much more expensive than Beijing in a lot of ways. Probably the best indication of how we felt about it: we kept our metro cards instead of cashing them in for our deposit, reasoning we’d likely be back in time to use them before they expired.