Gardens by the Bay I
The futuristic trees with the tree top walk.
I have been in Singapore for six weeks now and in spite of the loads of work I do I managed to do a little bit of sightseeing and get an impression of the city. It is an amazing and crazy city, full of superlatives with so many things going on. There is amazing architecture. For example, from my office window I can see the Marina Bay Sands, three high rises which are located right next to each other and linked by a structure that symbolises a ship on their very top. On this “ship” there is the famous Infinity Pool, a pool where the water seems to be ending in the sky. When it is dark there is a laser show that takes place almost every evening at this building. Other buildings look like a high rise from Gotham City, flying saucers, hands, and other shapes. In between all these modern buildings, there are the old colonial buildings like warehouses, churches, or villas. There are parks, all of them beautifully illuminated when it gets dark. And finally this is one of the most international cities I know. People come mainly from China, Malaysia, and India. However, there are many Europeans,
Gardens by the Bay II
View of the gardens with one of the green houses and the Singapore Flyer in the background.
Australians, and Americans. And of course people from other regions of Asia.
Getting around the city is easy. Singapore has a very good public transport system with many tube (called MRT in Singapore) and bus lines. Moreover riding by taxi is inexpensive. However, it can be a challenge when it rains (no taxis available although this is the time when you REALLY need them) and when you assume you have booked one in advance (and then receive a message shortly before the agreed time that there is no taxi available).
My great team back in Hamburg had given me a Three Day Access All Attractions Pass for Singapore and the long Easter weekend was perfect for using this voucher. Good Friday is a holiday in Singapore as well. There were about 15 attractions included in it to which I had free admission and there were others where I would get a discount. I started my tour on the Friday with a ride on the Singapore Flyer, with 165 metres the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. It offers a great view of the city, particularly the Central Business District, Marina Bay, and city centre. The ride takes about half an
Gardens by the Bay III
... with the trees, the Singapore Flyer, and the CBD in the background.
Afterwards I got sort of stuck because on my way to the next attractions it started raining. And when it rains in Singapore it rains cats and dogs. Umbrellas are totally useless because you become soaking wet within no time. That is why all the bus stops have roofs, along most buildings you can walk underneath a roof, and many roads between buildings have roofs as well. That afternoon it rained so hard that after only taking one step out of the bus and straight underneath the roof of the bus stop I was wet. So I did not even try to go to a place where there was no roof and rather had lunch in one of the nearby hawker centres. Hawker centres are food courts where you can inexpensive buy food from various regions in the world (mostly Asia though).
The good thing about the rain in Singapore is that it usually does not last long, so I could continue my sightseeing tour shortly after. I went on a river cruise that started at Clarke Quay and first went up the Singapore River to the River Walk, which used to be Singapore’s red light district.
Marina Bay Sands
The hotel with the "ship" on its top. On the right hand side of the ship there is the Infinity Pool and on the left hand side there is the Sky on 57 where Hetty and I had our fantastic dinner.
Next it went past Boat Quay where there are still the old shop houses, however, these host bars and restaurants nowadays. On the other side of the river there is the famous Raffles Hotel and some other colonial buildings. Then the cruise continued past the exclusive Fullerton Hotel into the Marina Bay. The bay is separated from the adjacent sea by a gate and I learned that it is a fresh water reservoir for the city. By the way, during the assessment centres we conducted for the National Environment Agency and the Public Utilities Bureau I also learned that although it rains a lot in Singapore there is not plenty of water in Singapore. The problem is that there is no room for storing the water and so the city buys a lot of fresh water from Malaysia. After a big loop through the Marina Bay we returned to Clarke Quay.
At the end of the day I decided to do the Night Safari in the Singapore Zoo. It starts at seven in the evening when it gets dark. You can either catch a tram or you can walk. As there was a long queue for the tram I
... before entering one of the shopping streets where they sell all kinds of "kitsch".
decided to walk and it was a good decision. There were not many people walking. I attended the feeding of the lions, I saw a tiger, leopards, hyenas, wallabies, otters, bats, deer, and many more and really enjoyed the nice walk in the pleasant evening temperature. What you sometimes tend to forget while in Singapore is that you are in the tropics. Not until you are in a park or on the beach you realise this!
The next day I went to Jurong Bird Park, where I easily spent my whole afternoon. There are birds of all sizes and from different regions of the world. What always hurts me is seeing the big majestic birds of prey in small cages where they are not able to fly. However, the park also has many aviaries that are quite big and which visitors can access so that they are very close to the birds. I watched two shows: one in which birds played different tricks like for example flying through loops or talking, one in which falconers showed how they trained birds. Particularly the latter one was pretty cool and fun to watch.
On Sunday I went to Underwater World
The stinky fruit. On the right you can see the fruit, on the left it is chopped up and ready for sale.
on the island of Sentosa. This is a huge aquarium. It is not new and I found it a bit shabby already. Later on I learned that there is a newer aquarium, which, however, was not included in my pass. I watched a dolphin and sea lion show (not my kind of stuff, but I was already there anyway…). There were some aquariums where you could touch the fish. And the highlight was certainly a tunnel through which you could walk with sharks, stingrays, and other fishes swimming above your head.
I had already been on the island of Sentosa the previous week just because it is not far from where I live. The island is connected to the land by a dam and you can catch a monorail or a bus to access the island. It has a huge shopping mall and hotels and restaurants, a few beaches and some attractions. For example, there is the southern-most point of continental Asia. Apart from this, I have to say that I am not too much into this island. It might be a great place to go to with kids. However, it is noisy and not very relaxing.
Riverwalk, where the Red Light District used to be. Now there are cafés and restaurants.
the first Sunday of May my friend Hetty arrived in Singapore. She was there for business, but of course this also gave us quite a bit of time together. So last weekend we started exploring the city together. We went into the Gardens by the Bay, a beautiful park right behind the Marina Bay Sands. The park looks like in a Science Fiction movie, with two greenhouses in futuristic shape and a few artificial trees. One of the greenhouses has plants from moderate climate zones such as Europe or North America, but the other simulates a tropical rain forest. Visitors can ascend an artificial mountain and then gradually make their way down. The particularly cool thing about it is that it also simulates different zones, with temperatures being lower on top of the mountain and then gradually rising as you walk down. We really enjoyed this. Another highlight was the tree walk, where some of the mentioned artificial trees are connected with a narrow bridge from which one has a nice view of the park and its surroundings. As I said, I felt like in a Science Fiction movie! After walking around in the park we went for another ride
Jurong Bird Park I
Pelicans during the "Pelican Chit Chat".
on the Singapore Flyer – different weather this time, last time it had been cloudy, now it was all sunny and hot and everything looked differently.
After relaxing in Hetty’s hotel room for a while we proceeded to the highlight of the day: dinner at Sky on 57, a very fancy restaurant at the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. We had an aperitif on the terrace facing the Marina Bay and then proceeded to an excellent six course meal on a table by the window overlooking the harbour. Service was perfect, food was great, and the whole evening was just so special. After dinner we sat outside for a while and watched one of the laser shows from a bird’s eye perspective.
The next day both of us were a bit tired, but we went on a hop on hop off bus tour that took us to different parts of the city. It was good to get an overview of what is where and how far places are apart (in fact not that far, the entire city / country is only the size of Hamburg). We made stop overs in Chinatown with its little shops that
sell all kinds of kitsch and in Little India. There of course we went to the Mustafa Centre, a warehouse that is so huge that you could easily get lost in it. And if there is anything you can’t find it does not mean they do not have it, it only means you can’t find it. Amazing!
It was great to explore the city with Hetty and I look forward to seeing her again soon in Singapore because she will have more business to do there. There is more to see and do and I will tell you more!
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