What the Hell is a Merlion?

Yes, I watched Crazy Rich Asians once and booked a trip to Singapore… 

So yes, I do travel to places other than the Midwest…who knew? Remember oh so long ago when I posted about traveling to China? Yeah well, I also went to Singapore and tried to make the most of it! 

As I was planning my study abroad experience, I started pinching every penny imaginable, even begged my parents for spare change, and booked a three day trip in Singapore for $350 flat to round out my Asian Adventure. 

You’re probably asking “Miranda, how?!” Well, I’ll tell you: 

The flight from HK to SIN was less $100 and I found an AMAZING hostel on Airbnb for $30 a night. I booked one tour that was a little pricey, about $100 for an all-inclusive full day, and I also bought a $20 Big Bus Tour ticket that included a discount for the observation Ferris wheel and for the deck of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. I got daily free coffee at my hostel and was able to fill up my water bottle every morning before I went out. I was sick for the first day and a half I was there so I didn’t eat or snack much, and ended up spending most of my food budget at the airport for dinner before my flight home. 

A portrait of a young girl in her top bunk with a fever and swollen tonsils! Day 1 was a blast!

But let me tell you, for being sick and for it being a million and one degrees while I was there, I did a hell of a lot in the two full days I was in Singapore. And I think it was all thanks to the forethought I had to book tours that took me to every corner of the city and to every neighborhood. The tour I was most proud of was the five-hour food and culture tour I planned for my first day. We enjoyed eight different snacks/meals in six different parts of the city. Our wonderful guide, Daryl, taught us about Singapore’s rich history and explained the city’s mixture of Malay, Arab, Indian, European, and English influences. I could not have asked for a more informative, or cooler, tour guide. Plus the food was fucking amazing. 

The Man. The Myth. The Legend. The Guide of Hello Food Tours.

My favorite culinary taste was a tie between the Dosa in Little India and the spicy Laksa in Roxy Square, mostly because I was still a little sick and they were so spicy that they were pretty much the only things I could taste. 

While Daryl took us all over creation to feed and educate us, it wasn’t until my solo day that I truly saw everything. And I’m talking 15,000+ steps of discovery. This was all thanks to my other brilliant idea to book myself a ticket on the hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the city that would not only be a cheap form of transportation, but also another educational opportunity. There was a stop so conveniently placed right in front of my hostel in Chinatown that picked up promptly at 10:00 am, so after my Michelin Star rated meal for breakfast that cost me roughly $5 USD, I got my free coffee from the hostel and boarded the first of many colorful bus lines to all parts of the city. And yes, that Soya Sauce Chicken was worth the hype. 

While on my personal adventure I saw:

  • the beautiful Marina Bay Sands (the place where they have the engagement party at the end of CRA)
  • the hawker stall where they went their first night in Singapore in CRA (I promise this wasn’t supposed to be a movie tour)
  • The Fullerton Hotel 
  • The US Embassy (straight up looked like a prison)
  • The Singapore Botanic Gardens
  • The Cathay (first cinema to screen American and British cinema in Singapore)
  • The Formula 1 track
  • The Gardens by the Bay
  • Marina Bay Sands observation deck

As the title of this post suggest that I had no idea what the heck a Merlion was, but I was excited to see the famous statue for myself and learn the origin of its iconic symbolism from the little voice inside of my tour bus headphones. 

A little history for you; Singapore was founded by a Malay prince who saw a lion when he first stepped foot on the island. “Singapura” traces its roots back to Sanskrit, more specifically to the word “Singa” for “lion” and “Pura” for “city” – which also explains Singapore’s nickname as the “Lion City”. The body of the fish is in direct reference to Singapore getting its start as a humble fishing village. 

And so the Merlion was born and has now become an iconic symbol of this beautiful country. My friend Rachel had been there a few weeks prior and the statue was under construction. I’m so glad I got to see it in all its glory.

My day of fun, and sun, ended with me sipping a pint of Tiger beer (the pride of Singapore) and scarfing down shrimp fried rice at a table in the courtyard of the Chinatown Food Market. The perfect way to end a perfect day. 

I left Singapore the following evening and made the long journey back to North Carolina with only a few hiccups along the way. (Maybe I’m the cursed one when it comes to travel???) I will be forever grateful for my parents who instilled the trait of spontaneity and adventure in me and who encourage me to take every opportunity to explore the world. I thank my boy Daryl and the Adler Hostel for their hospitality but above all, I thank the Big Bus Tour’s top deck for giving me the stupidest sunburn line on my thighs from riding around the city uncovered all day. Wear sunscreen kids! 

If you haven’t checked out my previous post about spending two weeks in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, please check it out!! And if you’re wondering what I listened to while I bopped around Singapore, it was the entirety of Betty Who’s discography because I knew I was going to see her in Atlanta two days after I arrived back in the states. That’s me! Always on the go!

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