Our apartment in Singapore lies just off of Orchard Road which a major hub of entertainment and shopping. Before we arrived, Andy described the street as being similar to Chicago’s Michigan Avenue with not one, but twenty Water Tower Place Malls.
While that somewhat gave me an image of what to expect, I was not ready for how over the top the opulence is here. If you walk a 100 yards between Ion and Ngee Ann City, two malls which lie directly across the street from me as I write, you will pass two Louis Vuitton stores. If that is not enough a third lies around the corner. Amazingly, the malls are packed and people have bags. In fact, they have lots of them. If there is a recession somewhere, someone forgot to tell Singapore.
Several of the malls connect underground with tunnels lined with dozens of stores. There are enormous food courts called hawker centers in the lower or uppermost levels of the malls. Initially it all is overwhelming and blends into a fluorescent haze of store displays, “Sale” signs and food smells.
Our first week Andy told me meet him after work in front of L’Occitaine, a French store that sells very expensive soaps and toiletries. We had past it a day earlier, how hard could it be to find again? I found a L’Occitaine store across the street. It looked like the wrong one. I asked the sales woman if there was another store nearby she said there were three more! After dragging the children and stroller to the next place only to find he was not there. We gave up and came back home. Ugh!!!
Orchard Road, like the rest of Singapore, is full of surprises and contrasts. Across the street from the Forum, generally children’s stores and education centers like Aidan’s Lego school, lies Orchard Towers. This mall has many clubs and bars, but is most notorious for a brothel the locals have dubbed ‘Four Floors of Whores’. So much for the country’s squeaky clean image.
Orchard does seem the most lively at night. I am still trying to overcome the shock of seeing so many children out past ten. I love this photo Andy took of row after row of taxis perfectly lined up near Orchard Road on a Saturday night around midnight. Red on the roof means the taxi is occupied.
The second day after we arrived, I smelled the distinctive and pleasing aroma of buttery caramel corn. Many visitors to Chicago are familiar with Garrett’s where the lines to get the popcorn treats are always long and the smells inviting. I looked up and sure enough there was the sign. Perhaps Singapore’s “Miracle Mile” is an apt description after all – just like Michigan Avenue only on whooping doses of steroids!