“Have you been to Singapore?” my Indonesian date asked me.
“Yes, but only for a half day,” I replied.
“Visa run?” he asked knowingly.
“Yep, visa run!” I responded. “I’d love to go back, to see more of the architecture and some gardens.” And eat my weight in food at that vegetarian Indian place I went to last time, I thought.
Later that week, I received a text from one of the administrators at my school: “Probably you will go to spore this friday.”
A few days later, I pulled myself out of bed at 3:45 in the morning, got ready and went outside to find my driver waiting for me.
After a super shady transaction at Soekarno-Hatta Airport (my school paid someone to smuggle me through the cabin crew line of immigration), I was on the plane and headed to Singapore!
Upon landing, I went through immigration and customs and got into a taxi. Despite using his phone, my driver couldn’t find the street where I needed to be, so I got out the map my school had printed for me and quickly navigated him there.
Once in the office, I handed over my paperwork and passport, and the man directed me to a nearby shop where I could get my visa photo taken. After I had delivered the photo back to the visa agent, I had 6 hours to explore before it was time to pick up my passport.
My first order of business was the Gardens by the Bay. I had seen pictures of the weird tree structures and the big building with the garden on top, and I was eager to see all of it in person.
After ages of walking, I arrived–soaked in sweat–at the south entrance of the gardens. Despite having none of the “big” attractions on that side of the park, I still spent a lot of time reveling in the nature. There was nobody else in this huge section of the park, so it was just me, the flowers, and the bees.
Finally, I started to see some of the exciting areas.
I was so excited as I approached the Supertrees. They looked so cool rising up from the rest of the gardens.
When I had entered the gardens earlier, I’d seen on the map that it was possible to go up and get a view from the Supertrees. I had decided that unless there was an astronomical entry price, I’d go up there.
Of course, I didn’t have internet and hadn’t looked up the exchange rate before I came, so I had no idea if $8 SGD was astronomical or not, but I gladly forked over the money in exchange for a ticket.
It was a short elevator ride to the top, where I was greeted with a wonderful breeze that was such a sweet relief from all the sweating. Though I was a little nervous when I noticed the pathway wobbling a few times, it was overall a really nice experience, and it was totally worth however much it cost.
Next, it was time to move on to lunch in Little India. I found a hidden staircase to the pedestrian path of the bridge over the Bay, which was itself another experience, treating me to an even stronger breeze than before and some lovely views of the gardens and the Singapore Flyer.
Once on the other side of the bridge, my “directions” failed me. In my last-minute prep the night before, I hadn’t bothered to do anything other than take some quick screenshots of the route to the restaurant where I planned to eat, and unfortunately I hadn’t zoomed in enough to see the street names or even the specific area where I should be going.
It took about 30 extra minutes of accidental detours in addition to the scheduled 47-minute walk, but I finally turned down an unassuming side street and immediately recognized it from my trip here 4 years ago.
A little further down the road stood Gokul Vegetarian Restaurant, and I gleefully rushed into the air conditioned establishment and took a seat. After ascertaining that the items marked with a green V were fully vegan, I ordered aloo ghobi and naan. I barely had time to wash my hands before the items were delivered to my table.
Though I initially wasn’t so sure I’d be able to eat everything, I quickly remembered that my appetite for Indian food is almost limitless, and I was soon scraping the last bit of gravy from the plate with a final piece of naan.
Upon leaving the restaurant, I discovered that it had started to rain. I put up my umbrella and started my long walk back to the visa agent’s office.
Although I had wanted to explore Chinatown on my walk there, the rain slowed me down. (My shoes were so slippery that even as I shuffled slowly along on the wet tile sidewalks, I still managed to take several tumbles!) It took me a little more than an hour, but I finally arrived at my destination, soaked in rainwater, which was a pleasant change from the sweat that had covered me just hours ago.
I picked out my passport from a pile of passports on a table in the small office, and then I went back out in the rain to try to get a cab to the airport. Several taxis drove right by, so then I went to a nearby mall and waited fruitlessly in the taxi queue there for about 30 minutes. In that time, I had met a man who was also going to the airport, so when a taxi for hire finally arrived, we jumped in together and rode to Changi airport.
And just like that, my day in Singapore was over, and I was on the plane back to Jakarta, where I was up for work bright and early the following morning!