Sunday, February 28, 2016

Singapore Days 1-2

Resetting My Circadian Rhythms and Getting My Bearings

Years ago I remember reading about an experiment where a subject descended into a cave for a prolonged period. No longer subject to regular work and lunar cycles, the experiment carefully recorded changes to his natural waking and sleeping patterns. Soon "normal" waking and sleeping cycles began to evolve. Without natural light his normal "free-running" awake cycle approached a full 24  hours before he'd sleep. 

Our bodies actually need natural cycles called circadian rhythms. The rhythms are influenced by light, seasons and other cyclical patterns like eating.  Once the cycles are set we secrete melatonin at key times, we eat at key times and, correspondingly, produce regular doses of insulin. And when we sleep regularly and fully, we descend into deep REM sleep. During REM we produce human growth hormone which keeps our brains sharp and slows down our aging. So people who play internet video all night, or are subject to sleep apnea, or jet lag have disrupted their circadian rhythms. 

I am sort of super sensitized to this after living in Alaska where I experienced my own energy levels fluctuate when exposed to 21 hours of daylight in June or 21 hours of darkness in December.

So when I travel exceptionally long distances I now try to add (and sort of partially write-off) two or three days to allow my circadian rhythms to reset. 

So my first few days in Singapore have been spent adjusting my sleep and eating patterns incrementally to match the local time. When I arrive I fast a bit to align my eating cycles with my new environment. I try to stay awake and take light sightseeing walks. I avoid set tours that force you to hit the ground running. For me reset time is time well spent. I use it to study local culture, learn how to use mass transit, get used to local currency and begin to start enjoying local foods. And, after 2-3 days, I'm usually feeling pretty good and ready to more fully appreciate my new surroundings.

Critical to this is a good, reasonably quiet hotel, with a fine bed. If it is close to a local street scene that provides lots of good food options even better.

Using the above scorecard I gambled on a recently renovated hotel in Singapore's Chinatown with strong recent ratings on TripAdvisor called "The Club". had a really great rate on it too so each night counts towards my "11th night free" electronic punchcard.

The choice has turned out to be a hit out-of-the-park!

  The Club

It is located in a meticulously renovated 1900's era heritage building on a small side street. In one direction it is steps from a wonderful and eclectic restaurant scene. In the other direction it is just steps from the Maxwell Food Centre (a wonderful "hawker" center). 

It offers only 20 beautifully equipped rooms, no two of which are the same shape.  Although small, it also offers great food and beverage venues (one on the roof).

My Perfect Jet Lag Recovery Chamber  

Great Bath Too! 

So on day 1 (arriving Changi Airport at 3:30 AM) I simply arrived at the hotel and crashed.  Around noon I took a walking tour of Chinatown and on to Singapore's Fort Canning Park. The park dates back to colonial times. It sits on a hill right smack in the middle of this bustling city / state. The top of the hill is a well guarded and sealed reservoir. It is a botanists dream with tropical trees, flowers and a spice garden. I also encountered historic artifacts, an art museum, sculpture garden even Singapore's wedding registry.

A View From Fort Canning

 The Wedding Registry

The wedding registry is a governmental office that is a one stop marriage factory. You obtain your license here, there are photographers, there are wedding chapels and gardens. I am starting to appreciate how efficient (and practical) Singapore truly is.

 The National Museum

I plan to spend more time in the National Museum when I am more alert! So I just walked through it (to enjoy some air conditioning). As I left the park I came across an amazing Hindu Temple.

Entry Portal to The Sri Thendayuthapani Hundu Temple
(A magnificent structure dating back to 1859)

With No Land to Waste 
Many Singapore Buildings Feature Elaborate Sky Gardens

I finished my first day's walk along the Singapore River at Clarke Quay. Here I found a micro brewery and enjoyed a pretty great raspberry ale. Then it was back to the hotel and dinner at a restaurant called "Fat Saigon Boy" featuring Vietnamese / Australian Cuisine. All I know is my pork belly and shrimp summer roll, chicken vermicelli (which included fried shallots, peanuts and chicken cooked in coconut milk) and a mug of mango lemongrass sangria hit all the right spots.  Was in bed by 7:30 PM.  Slept about 13 hours.

Day 2 began with a local breakfast of kaya toast (toast square grilled with a filling of custard), good strong coffee, fried dough (sort of a Singapore churro) and 2 soft boiled eggs. Aside from the eggs it was carbo-hell and I really enjoyed it.

My walk began with a stop at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple as it was literally just a block from m hotel. As I entered I realized a prayer and chant service was in progress. This temple is only a decade old and, yes it houses some sort of tooth relic from Myanmar.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple at Night
(Photo from Wikipedia)

 Inside the Buddhist Temple - Prayers & Chants

From there it was time to learn the subway system. I found it to be modern, clean, cheap and efficient. Good thing too in a country where a license to buy a car costs far more than the car itself and expires in 10 years.  Unlike other car-centric Asian countries, Singaporeans have traded cars and traffic jams for superb public transportation and home ownership. This is a country where 90.3% (this is a fact) of its residents own there own home.

I decided to walk through the once infamous Bugis District. Now filled with shopping streets and Saturday stalls with every kind of mystical event (tarot, tea leaves, palm readings etc.) on sale. 

Still some remnants of heritage homes in the shadows of highrises in every direction.  

Something Magical About All of The Spiral Staircases 

My last stop of the day was a trip to Orchard Road. This is Singapore's high end shopping street. The first mall I came across had signs for Vuitton, Dior, Tiffany, Prada and Dolce and Gabana all side by side. 

I actually made only two stops on Orchard Road. One at a noodle stand in the Ion Center food court and another for a double scoop (passionfruit and mango) of Hokkaido ice cream in the Takashimaya department store's basement food court. We spent lots of time eating our way through Tokyo's flagship Takashimaya basement, so this brought back some nice memories. 

As I get older my interest in luxury stuff is something less than nil, so my visit to Orchard Road was a check off, been there, done that thing. 

I did love the giant painted french bulldog.

Overpriced Handbags and Shoes
Available the World Over

 Kinda Loved the Dog

I was fading fast. So it was time to make my way back to Chinatown and The Club. Along the way I stopped to scope out the Maxwell Food Centre (Tomorrow I'll try Singapore's famous chicken and rice).

Returned to My Hotel Through Chinatown

The Maxwell Food Centre

Bagged dinner tonight and was asleep by 8:30. Old guy muscles all sore from another really nice day of gentle exploration.

Roadboy's Travels © 2016

1 comment:

IniquitousFish said...

Your pictures are gorgeous!