Trip Start Oct 12, 2010
84Trip End Mar 24, 2011
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Where I stayed
My flight from Hong Kong to Singpore took 4 hours on Jetstar, one of the few airlines I've flown that provided no food, snacks, complimentary drinks or in-flight entertainment (feels like being home on Air Canada)! Walking out of the Singapore airport into hot, hazy weather and seeing palm trees and people wearing shorts was such a treat
I took an airport shuttle bus to my hotel, which is in the Marina Bay district of the city, which fronts onto the harbor and the Singapore River. This hotel (the Pan Pacific Marina Bay) is 'SWANKTASTIC' (as Rayne would say) and is the poshest place I think I've ever stayed in!. It has internal glass elevators looking down into the lobby area and the hotel is connected to the Marina Square mall and other surrounding complexes by escalators as well as outdoor covered walkways. My room was upgraded so I have incredible amenities and a million dollar view. I have remote controlled night shades and sunscreens, an office area, spa bathroom with several smaller rooms in it, flat screen pull-out TV, master control boxes (for lights, air conditioning and alarms) by the bed, the biggest bed I've ever seen (like 2 kings put together) and turn-down service (which I turned down because I didn't know what it was - it seemed unnecessary to have someone turn down my duvet and fluff my pillow but the chocolate would have been nice I guess)! My view is of the harbour and the river, along with the Singapore Flyer (an 'observation wheel' aka ‘ferris wheel’ like the London Eye), the Marina Sands Casino/Hotel complex (that looks like Stonehenge with a surfboard on the top), the Financial District and the famous Merlion (more about him later). The view from my balcony is phenomenal both day and at night when everything is lit up and you can just stand out in the warmth and watch Singapore shine and twinkle
I've had 3 days to explore the city. Singapore has a reputation as a 'sanitized' city where there are strict government regulations on things such as jaywalking or chewing gum so the city is safe, well-organized and clean. I did a 2 day hop on/off bus tour of the city that has 3 routes so that you see everything and the ticket includes the Singapore Flyer and a river cruise. I had read and heard that the Singapore Botanic Garden and National Orchid Garden were ‘must see’ attractions and I thought they may be nice but a little boring…. WRONG! Nice and not boring at all! The Botanic Garden ticket was included in my hop on/off tour and the park is expansive and lush with lots of palm trees and other varieties of trees and bushes as well as ponds and lakes. It is a place where you could totally relax for a whole day, just sitting in shady areas and enjoying the verdant beauty surrounding you. Part of the garden area is a tropical rainforest – apparently Singapore is one of only 2 cities in the world which has a tropical rainforest within the city limits – can you name the other? Still thinking? OK – I’ll tell you – our guide said it is Rio deJaneiro.
The National Orchid Garden was also a sweet treat – this is a very well maintained and groomed garden with lovely pathways, more lush greenery and mature palm trees everywhere and beautiful, delicate orchids throughout the garden area
My tours took me through various areas of the city. Orchard Road is the main shopping and hotel district of the city and although I drove through there several times, I never felt the need to stop and browse through its very high end shops or swanky hotels. The road is glitzy and glamorous but it seems a little shallow and boring too. The areas that are worth much more time and energy are in the ethnic areas such as Little India and Chinatown. I spent an afternoon in Chinatown, going through its many shopping alleys and hawker stalls – I was seeing red by the end of a few hours as everything is decorated in red for the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations (starting on February 3 when the Year of the Rabbit begins… bunnies rule for 2011). Chinatown is busy and fun. There were incredible line-ups for famous and popular restaurants and although the vendors were assertive, they weren’t aggressive like in other markets I’ve been
Little India looked like the most colorful and interesting of the ethnic areas of Singapore and I didn’t have the time to explore all of it but I did go to the Bitang market, which is like a shopping arcade – scores of shops and marketstalls in narrow alleyways under a covered roof. These shops didn’t really impress – mostly trinkets and cheap-looking clothes – nothing of quality that I saw and very crowded. The outdoor streets of Little India looked amazing from the tour bus – sari and spice shops and bright colors splashed everywhere. I did see a bizarre procession going by one afternoon – an older man wearing a big cage like apparatus with lots of singing, chanting and drumming followers. Interesting. Little India would be worth a much more thorough tour with a chance to taste some of the food in its stalls and restaurants and a chance to see and smell and take in all of its spicy character
The river cruise which was included in my tour was really worthwhile too. You got to see the Boat Quay area with its fantastic Singapore seafood restaurants right on the waterfront (like the waterfront restaurants on the Halifax harbourfront but more of them, spicier and more colorful). There are many intriguing sculptures all along the waterfront which are whimsical and fun. We motored past some amazing museums and galleries that I would like to come back and explore as well as the iconic buildings on the mouth of the harbor that I had previously mentioned – the Sands Casino Stonehengian complex and the huge Singapore Flyer (which is the world’s largest ferris wheel by the way).
The most iconic of Singapore’s sculptures is the Merlion, which is a beast situated on the mouth of the Singapore River that is half lion and half mermaid. This is Singapore’s emblem and is found on most Singaporian souvenirs etc. It is a large white statue that sits out by itself in a little area on the harbor walkway and it spouts tons of water through its mouth. It’s legend is based on a story that one of the founders of the city saw a lion in the area many years ago (although lions are not found in Singapore) and the Merlion was created to represent this legend as well as incorporating the mermaid due to its marine history. It’s pretty funky.
So there you go – Singapore – it’s modern and fancy and well-off, has fascinating ethnic and cultural areas that are so worth seeing and a lush tropic rainforest feel with stunning gardens and greenery. I would need at least another 3 days to mosey around Little India, Chinatown, finish the organized tours and to try all the incredible food that it’s well known for. I hope there will still be some Singapore Chili Crab left for me when if/when I return!