The Road to Singapore (Sentosa by day, an Orchard by night)

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Asia » Singapore
November 23rd 2018
Published: December 8th 2018
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Sentosa island

Today started off dry and what’s more, sunny. Now there’s a first. It was still pretty humid but not oppressively so. Checking our itinerary, Sentosa island was our first stop, and not, as I incorrectly said, Semosa Island, thinking there would be lots of tasty stuff to eat!!

After breakfast we walked the short five minutes (still in the sunshine!!) to little India MRT station. It is very easy to buy ‘metro’ tickets. There are ample ticket machines on each concourse with simple instructions. The cost depends on the distance. There are day cards that can be purchased for 24 and 48 hours travel but one has to pay a deposit. As we wouldn’t be spending all day travelling by metro, this option wasn’t cost effective. On this occasion we took the North East line for one stop before changing to the North South line for five stops then alighting at the terminus Marina South Pier. This cost S$1.70 (just over £1.00.) All the MRTs we travelled on during our time in Singapore were very sanitised. By that I mean they may not have the character or ornate craftmanship of the Moscow metro, but the Singapore metro is very spacious and spotlessly clean. There are also Perspex barriers between the platform and the track. When the train pulls in, the doors open. Red lines on the platform, either side of the doors indicate where the boarding passengers should stand allowing commuters to disembark. It actually works. On entering the platform, there were small orderly queues right down the full length. No pushing or barging. Very civilised!!!

We exited the MRT station through the VivoCity Shopping Mall on to what is known locally as the boardwalk. Sentosa island is located on the Southern tip of Singapore and is connected by a half mile causeway. There are several ways of reaching the island. The most adventurous way had to be the cable car, drifting 200 feet above the harbour into the heart of the island. The quickest way to the island is to take the free Sentosa express shuttle train. As we had plenty of time and it was early in the day so our energy levels were as high as could be expected in the humidity, we decided to walk the causeway. I say walk. There is a travellator adjacent to the boardwalk, walking had never felt so easy!!

We were finally on the island. Now, what to do? Sentosa Island is marketed as a Resorts World. Resorts – plural, as it is home to six unique hotels, a world-renowned Asian spa, a casino and five world class attractions. To me and my sceptical nature, an average family could easily spend over £500.00 in a day. However, we were not an average family and as the day progressed it was doubtful that £5.00 was going to make it in to the Sentosa economy from the Hodgson holiday fund!! The main attraction on the island was Universal Studios. Here was also a S.E.A Aquarium and a waterpark as well as a newly revamped Maritime Experimental Museum. What the hell is an experimental museum. Are you just trying it out, or what?? Roisin then pointed out that it is an Experiential Museum. She could see by the continued blank expression that I was still trying to process this new information. The Experiential Museum, it turns out, is an interactive experience where you can journey in the tailwinds of renowned seafarers, flee pirates on a burning ship or visit a typical buffet on a cruise ship for an all you can eat extravaganza (I made the last bit up!!)

We followed a trail that led us past the casino, the Trick Eye Museum and the Xtreme VR attraction. We cut through an arcade (known as the Forum) with many established local Singaporean eateries such as the Hard Rock Café, Starbucks, Texas Chicken and Fratelli Pizzeria!! Exiting the forum, we were immediately hit by our first hint that Christmas is just around the corner (Ok, its only still November so it’s a pretty big corner) but nevertheless, in all their glory was a display staggered up the central aisle of several flights of stairs. Blue metallic reindeer, cuboid in design to give the illusion of giant origami models, stood with their front legs perched on blue metallic gift boxes decorated with snowflakes. At the top of the stone steps, a small rectangular pool constantly blew six jets of water twelve inches or so in to the air. At the end of the pool, Rodin’s Thinker was still trying to figure it all out!!!

Passing a more active fountain, there, standing thirty-seven metres tall was Singapore’s national emblem, the Merlion. Singapore has been called many names by the different races that used this strategic island as a trading post. However, it wasn’t until the 14th century when a Sumatran Prince took refuge on the island from a storm that he gave it its modern name. Prince Utama spotted what he thought was a Lion. He named the land Singapura; Sanskrit for Lion City. In reality, this must have been some other type of animal as the lion isn’t, and never has been, indigenous to this part of the world. Unless, of course, one had escaped from the zoo earlier that day!! Through the ages, the lion has since been incorporated in to Singapore’s seafaring folklore to create what we were now looking up at - the mythical creature, the Merlion; head of a lion and body of a fish.

This was pretty much the end of the line (lion - geddit??!) The trail beyond the merlion headed down to one of the golden sanded beaches that formed part of this resort. It wasn’t quite the end for one of us. The only way was up. Due to Roisin’s aversion to escalators I took the five stories of escalators on my own to what was advertised as the observation level. The edges of the terrace, however, were covered by thick (though very well maintained), flora and fauna obliterating any chance of a decent panoramic view of the Singapore skyline. At the top of the observation level was a Madame Tussauds, several gift shops, a café, and the attraction known as the Skyline Luge, a go-kart without wheels that followed one of several tracks the 600m to the bottom of the resort. I learned that the ‘observation’ part of the observation level was, in fact a 131m Tiger Sky Tower. I headed back down to the waiting Roisin knowing that there will be other opportunities to capture the skyline of the city from a bird’s eye view.

Our stomachs were telling us it was time to eat so, rather than being a captive audience and settle on overpriced fast food, we took the shuttle train from the Waterfront station back to VivoCity Mall where we settled on a concession in the Mall’s food court called the Toast Box. We took the meal deal of a ham and cheese toastie with a coffee/tea and two boiled eggs. I asked for soft boiled. These came with a saucer and a spoon. After cracking the shell I then realised why! I think the eggs must have just been dipped in the boiling water because not only was the yoke runny, so was the albumen!! Hence the saucer and the spoon!! The toastie was nice, though!! Nice bread!!

We headed back to our accommodation to rest up before our evening itinerary arriving just before 3pm when darkness suddenly fell and we were treated to a magnificent thunderstorm. We could have sworn the house shook on several occasions as the storm seemed to pass directly overhead. By 5pm, the skies were once again clear and the streets practically dry. Thunderstorm? What thunderstorm!!

Orchard Road

We first met Adeline in 2017 on the Trans-Siberian railway. She is Singaporean. We kept in touch and as soon as we knew we would be visiting this country, enlisted her help in compiling an itinerary during our stay here. This evening we met Adeline and her nephew, Ashton, who agreed to show us Orchard Road, Singapore’s best-known shopping and dining district. It is the equivalent of Oxford Street in London. We met Adeline and Ashton on the concourse of the MRT station, Orchard. After hugs all round we exited the station on to Orchard Road, hoards of people and a myriad of LED lights. Again, like Oxford Street in London, Orchard Road is one of the main thoroughfares to admire a display of Christmas lights. They had only recently been switched on. This year’s theme was Disney magical moments so what better way to start the display than with a tribute to Mickey and Minnie. The beginning of Orchard road was illuminated primarily in teal. The arches of lights above the road were repeated every hundred yards and each were topped with a silhouette of everyone’s favourite mouse (although I prefer Jerry Mouse. Come to think of it, ‘Speedy’ Gonzalez is above the Disney character in my list of favourite cartoon rodents!!) Every few hundred yards there were also pavement displays such as a miniature Disney castle that presented photo opportunities for the, what was now turning in to a very busy Friday evening crowd.

Not having yet had dinner, Adeline led us in to one of the Malls on Orchard Road where we managed to find a spare table in the rather large food court known as Food Republic. With plenty of seating (although not many vacant spaces) in the centre of the hall, the gathering of many food concessions covered practically every style of Eastern cuisine. This was where Indonesian, Chinese and Korean specialities intertwined with indigenous foods from Malaysia, Singapore and Japan. Roisin settled for a safe sweet and sour chicken dish whilst I plumped for a spicy pork noodle dish, Adeline also chose two Singaporean dishes for us to try: Carrot cake and Popiah. The carrot cake was somewhat different to what I was expecting. There was no evidence of a cake and even less evidence of carrots. It had an omelette texture, well-seasoned and didn’t go to waste!! The second dish, Popiah was like a Chinese spring roll. However, there was no frying involved. The outer casing was similar to the pancakes one receives when ordering crispy duck and hoisin!!

The air-conditioned food court was a welcome break but with appetites satisfied it was time to continue our stroll down Orchard Road. The Minnie and Mickey theme was soon superseded by the electric blue of Disney’s Frozen. Not yet having had desert, Adeline introduced us to the ice cream sandwich. This, to Roisin and I meant a rectangular block of (traditionally vanilla) ice cream between two thin wafers. In Singapore, however, an ice cream sandwich it taken more literally and is just that – a slab of ice cream (not necessarily vanilla!!) wrapped in a slice of bread!! I was going to ask for butter but didn’t want to spoil the moment with facetious nonsense!! This combination worked exceedingly well. It had the same consistency of Baked Alaska but without the meringue! The simple things in life are sometimes the most rewarding. Whilst it is not likely you’d make it into the MasterChef final with this recipe, it seemed to be a firm favourite with old and young alike!

Although friends with Adeline on social media but not having seen her for over twelve months we took the opportunity to reminisce about our adventures across the Siberian tundra and the friendships with mutual acquaintances we had forged along the way. Adeline also gave us a basic insight in to life in Singapore. The climate in Singapore is pretty constant throughout the year hitting around 32 degrees in the daytime dropping to 27 in the evening. There is a rainy season (which we had already experienced) but unlike the UK and Europe, whilst the rains may be heavy and even stormy now and again, they do not last for any considerable length of time.

The lights changed from the electric blue of Frozen to an orange glow and Toy Story. This was to be the final segment in the Christmas Lights of Orchard Road – 2018.

Adeline asked us about the tradition of giving out pocket money in the UK. Roisin and I explained the principle of giving to children. Some receive pocket money in return for chores, others get it regardless. Some receive an amount dependent on how good/bad they’ve been. Adeline stopped us there. It is not what she meant. She then went on to explain about the Maintenance of Parents Act. This is all about showing respect to one’s elders. Under Singapore law, children are expected to support their parents throughout their retirement years. Under the Maintenance of Parents Act any parent over the age of sixty who is unable to maintain him/herself can apply for an order to ensure one or more of their children pays them an allowance!! What if you, as a child reach the age of sixty and you mother is still at the ‘crease’ at 85. Are you still expected to shell out?? Or am I overthinking this?

We had now completed several kilometres walking the length of Orchard Road. We said our goodbyes to Adeline and Ashton and left them at the MRT station, Dhoby Ghaut. From here it was less than a fifteen-minute walk back to our apartment through well-lit and populated streets. This had been an excellent and very pleasing evening. Tomorrow we’ve again arranged to meet Adeline and Ashton who have agreed to show us more of Singapore’s delights by day….and by night!!

Additional photos below
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