To get there we took the MRT (subway), which after living in Boston for so long and riding the dinky green line trains, the MRT seemed pretty luxurious. No squeaks, barely any jerky movement-- riding this public transit system was a breeze. Not only is it fairly straightforwards to get a card (you go up to the kiosk by the turnstiles-- you pay $5 for the card but each ride is substantially cheaper, though there are a few good alternatives for those who are only visiting for less than 2 weeks), but it's also really easy to figure out where you're going. The trains even tell you which side the doors are opening on, and their maps tell you were you are/where you're going. Plus, everything is full of air conditioning. Now why can't Boston's T system have that? (Well, this is the relatively new MRT system that the country did spend millions on, so....)
But back to the story-- shopping on Orchard Road. Note that mid-day, although crowded, is still fine to bring strollers and wheelchairs around. Come rush hour, though-- it's a fast-moving river of people that's almost impossible to cross. Anyway, our first stop: the Ion Shopping Centre.
Imagine your typical high-end shopping mall in America (like South Coast Plaza or the Natick Mall), but add more boutiques and shops you wouldn't find in the States. Even the American franchises are called slightly different things, like McDonald's McCafe, Coffee Bean's Beanery, though there was (surprisingly) a Dunkin' Donuts. Of course, I avoided those like the plague (though as a side note, it's more common to find packets of chili sauce here as opposed to ketchup), and followed my grandma into Ion's basement food court, also known as the "Food Opera." It's a bizarre place, with its picture frames around lights on the ceiling and random animal sculptures all over (including wall trophies). Despite the odd decor, I managed to find two shops with excellent food: the Teochew Fishball Noodle Soup stall and the Chicken Wing store (I bought Satay, though their wings did look good). For the most part, these basement food courts are generally sub-par of the traditional "sweating-my-ass-off-but-it's-so-damn-good" outdoor hawker centers that I grew up going to (which are beginning to die off because very few people in the current generation are willing to stand for 15 hours a day making amazing food). However, the satay was actually cooked over charcoal, and the fishballs were made fresh daily, so I figured I couldn't go wrong.
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I didn't take a picture of the public restroom, but it's worth a look with their push-button sliding glass doors for the changing rooms and handicapped bathroom. (It's also in B4- same level as the food court).
After our adventure in Ion, we headed back past the MRT Orchard station towards Takashimaya-- what I consider the closest thing to Harrod's in Singapore. It's got your fancy designer goods, cosmetics, housewares, bathroom needs, alongside a basement with a selection of fairly authentic Singaporean goodies like freshly grilled ba-kua (jerky) and kuehs (cakes). I don't really recommend anything in their food court, and it's not a terribly long walk to Ion, so I'd recommend eating there instead. We spent a few hours here because my mom wanted to pick out some dresses for work (apparently most nice dresses here fit well and are washable).
Phew. That was a lot for the first day!