We only spent a week or so in Singapore, and our stay was ostensibly to recuperate, catch up on administration (blog writing and photo backups), before heading to Japan than it was to check out the sights.
That said, we found we could only sit inside for so long in a new country before we felt the urge to be out exploring, and here’s the short list of what we found, followed by our Round Up..
After St Andrew’s, we headed towards the marina and the birthplace of the modern day Singapore. Sir Stamford Raffles landed just north of the present Marina Bay in 1819 and established a trading post for the East India Trading Company with the permission of the Johor Sultanate. Today, Singapore is the fourth largest financial centre, and has the third highest per-capita income in the world.
South-west of the marina is South Bridge Road, an otherwise nondescript road except that it has 3 different religious places of worship or reverence along it: Jamae Mosque (Chulia Mosque), Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple, and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum.
My favourite of the street, the recently completed Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, so named because on the 4th floor there’s a golden throne in a golden room displaying a piece of bone purported to be the Buddha’s tooth. It’s so small and surrounded by such grandeur that it’s difficult to see. Fortunately there are screens showing close-up photos and multi-lingual descriptions.
Singapore at Night
Synonymous with Singapore is Marina Bay, and its skyline is dominated by one of the most distinctive and iconic buildings in the world – the Marina Bay Sands hotel.
The ground floors are given over to high-end shops, there’s a 200k square-foot arts and science museum, an exposition and conference centre, a casino and six towers of hotel that lean together in pairs, topped with a spaceship cum boat that is the hotel’s park and infinity swimming pool. We weren’t staying in the hotel, which means we’d have to pay $80
Gardens by the Bay looks simultaneously familiar and other-worldly – the giant SuperTree structures stretch their angular, bare-metal branches skyward like TV antennae, which made me think they’re entirely artificial. However, their trunks are covered in diverse species of plants, kind of like a giant, vertical conservatory.
While the SuperTrees do indeed look super during the day, I think they look even more superer at night, and there’s also a free light show several times every night that is set to music!
One sight that Singapore insists you visit is their mascot, the Merlion, a mermaid lion statue that continuously spouts water into Marina Bay.
Singapore Art Museum
We do enjoy art museums, and the Singapore Art Museum (or SAM as it affectionately calls itself) is set in a beautiful building that houses a wonderfully varied collection of modern art.
Of all the exhibits, we especially liked the nuts and bolts repurposed to look like sea creatures; the delicate miniature landscapes made from retractable pencil leads; the interactive sound installation of sun-baked clay pots powered by the same clay in jars; and the piece entitled “pulling at grass to make it grow” – a powerful reflection on the pressure to educate children sooner and with more testing. All of these were part of the Unearthed exhibition.
TreeTop Walk in MacRitchie Reservoir Park
Singapore, like Hong Kong, has many public parks and green spaces. The nearest to us also included a free TreeTop Walk which we liked the sound of..
While we didn’t see any wildlife from the TreeTop suspension bridge, we did see plenty from the ground..
What photo takes you right back to Singapore?
Summarise Singapore in three words.
- Spotless – even if we hadn’t just arrived from the messy, bustling Bangladesh, Singapore is the cleanest city we’ve visited so far. If it were an animal, it would be a show dog at Crufts
- Familiar – The cars drive on the correct side of the road, and they’re well behaved (courteous even), the roads have traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and, gosh, pavements!
- Muticultural – I must confess to not knowing much about Singapore before we arrived. In the taxi from our arrival flight to our apartment I asked what the main language was and our driver said there are 4: English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay and Tamil. This diversity, together with its growth from imports and exports influences everything from clothing to cuisine
You really know you’re in Singapore when…
You find yourself overwhelmed and unable to choose what to eat at one of the many Hawker food markets. Singapore is an Asian melting pot of deliciousness with local variations and concoctions too many to sample. We tried our best though!
What one item should you definitely pack when going to Singapore?
Your smart casuals. This is a city built on big business, and it takes its leisure time with the same professionally serious vigour – everyone is dressed to impress, always!