Thursday, October 29, 2009

China Town

Our first day in Singapore was spent figuring out how to catch the right bus from the marina to Harbourfront Center; finding a working ATM; exploring the truly enormous Vivo City shopping mall; figuring out the MRT; exploring China Town; getting back to Vivo City and doing a bit of shopping; and then finding the right bus back to the marina. There was some big golfing tournament held on Sentosa island today and it took us 4 attempts to find the right bus off this island; the first 3 buses were just golf tournament shuttles. By the time we found the right bus I was about ready to say to hell with it and just leave this marina and go to Raffles. But the day got better once we got away from the marina.

Vivo City is a 3 to 5 level shopping mall that is just enormous. It is larger than Houston's Galleria 1, 2 and 3 combined, with the free-standing Dillards and Nordstroms added in. This is the largest shopping mall that we have seen anywhere. And filled with upscale shops. There is one small supermarket tucked in a corner and we found more American products there than we have seen since leaving the good old USA. Of course, everything carries a hefty price, too. A six-pack of Heineken beer priced at $20. A half-pound of bacon for $11.50. A tiny box of Bisquick costs $8.75. You get the picture.

The MRT terminal is beneath the mall. This is the subway and it is really, really nice. The ticket clerk tried to talk us into a day pass for $18, allowing unlimited travel with $10 refunded at the end of the day. Or we could pay individual tickets for each segment we traveled. We opted to purchase an EasyLink Card for $15; $5 for the card and $10 value for travel. This card can be replenished with a credit card at any terminal machine. Plus the rate charge for each segment of travel is reduced when you use an EasyLink Card. The EasyLink Card can also be used on any bus. Seemed like a no-brainer to us.

We rode the MRT to China Town and walked around for hours. It seemed to never end; the narrow streets just went on and on and on and on. With vendors of every kind lining the sidewalks. With hawkers trying to convince us to stop and shop. It was fun. We wished we had waited to eat lunch at one of the hawker eateries instead of eating at Vivo City before we set out to play on the MRT. So we probably will go back to China Town tomorrow for lunch. Lots more small shops and big Chinese stores to check out.

The first thing I did in China Town was have my face and eyebrows threaded. I have always wanted to try this. Unlike most women I cannot have my eyebrows or anything else waxed because it tears off the top layer of my skin. Over the past 2 decades I have tried 4 separate spas where they were skilled in waxing, but my skin is just too delicate for this process and it leaves raw oozing places where the top layer of the skin is ripped off with the hot wax and cloth strips. So threading has intrigued me but I just never found the opportunity to try it. We were walking down a narrow alley and saw a sign for various spa treatments, including facial threading. Full face for only $15 SGD. How could I turn that down! So I trekked up a long narrow flight of dark stairs and found the tiny spa staffed by 2 young Chinese women. They asked me to remove my shoes to enter the shop. Soon I was lying down and one of the women held the thread between her teeth and in each of her hands and deftly removed every trace of blonde peach fuzz from my face and around my eyebrows. It stung a little bit but nothing bad. My face is now smoother than a newborn's bottom. If we lived here I would have this done once a month. If you have never heard of threading, it is a process that Asian women have used for centuries to keep their faces (and sometimes arms and legs and other parts of the anatomy) silky smooth. Tis a bit painful but you know the price of beauty must be paid.

After we were shopped out in China Town we road MRT back to Vivo City. Did a quick tour back through part of that mall and picked up a few salad items at the expensive grocery store. It was easy finding the bus back to the marina. We arrived home seconds before a thunderstorm struck with lots of lightning flashing. No nearby strikes this time. These lightning storms seem to occur daily in these parts but they usually don't last long; not like that 9-hour lightning storm over Borneo a couple of weeks ago.

All in all it was a good first day in the big city.

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