Cosmopolitan City of Singapore

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May 27th 2011
Published: July 3rd 2011
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long awaited meeting with this city

We said goodbye to Australia but not for ever - we already know we will be back one day;-) It was amazing trip but here came the time to experience something different to OZ and different to other Asian encounters we had had in the past. So many people who travel a lot mention Singapore as a must visit place.... so many times we have heard from our friends and colleagues: "have you been to Singapore? No? Then you definitely must go"; " I could live in Singapore easily"; "It is such a different place that it feels like you are not in Asia" etc etc... So when the Australia came up as a plan we knew immediately that we wanted to fly through Singapore and stay for few days on the way back to see what it is all about;-)

We landed very late at night and as usual we had to find the cheapest way to get to city center where we would be staying. Surprisingly, it happened to be the easiest way as well ;-) We followed the crowds to the MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) station straight from the terminal, paid 2$ each and we were on the way to the City (if you are staying for longer it is worth to but a 10$ pass as each journey works out cheaper). Wow, how easy and convenient. The only thing we had to figure out was how to get from the City Hall station to the Ibis hotel which we resolved quickly by taking a taxi. All together 10$ for the airport transfer which was not bad at all ;-) The hotel was fabulous, great accommodation, great location and service. Ibis on Bencoolen is a walking distance from major attractions, the closest district is Little India which was exactly our fist place to see in the morning. Tomek packed all his camera equipment in a really big backpack and we marched outside of the hotel......then the heat hit us hahahha It was not even that hot (30C) but humidity must have been 90% or above as it felt more like 50C hahha As optimistic as usual we did not return to the hotel to change the pack but headed on. Little India had many Hindu temples, Buddhist temples and mosques to see but I guess they seem much nicer if you have never been to India ;-) We thought they were nice but by the time we finished walking around it was noon and we were sooo tired. We felt that we have not seen anything spectacular and we wasted time and energy by going there ;-( We had to cool down a bit so we made a stop in one of the shopping malls. Initially when I saw the map with 80% of it marked as shopping centres I thought it was crazy but later on we were so grateful that there was a mall on every corner so that we could just walk in and chill a bit ;-)

A bit of window shopping, electronics store and mango lassi later we decided to take the MRT again to cross the town and see Chinatown. We knew it will be sth different and we will love it for sure;-) This is when the rain broke for 10 min or so which actually cleared the hot air a lot making it easier to walk around. Unfortunately, it stayed clouded for the rest of the day so light wasn't great for photos ;-( We walked through some shopping centers and I saw a hairdresser studio with no clients inside so not even thinking long I walked in and asked for a bit of trim ;-) I just love the way Singapore women have their hair cut and it did not make any difference to me that Asian hair would be completely different to mine. They are long I can cut them shorter if anything goes wrong I thought hahha The fact that the girl spoke almost no English was not good at all however I was very happy with the result for S$10 ;-) Even later on (with no humidity to make them look weird) at work people asked me what I did to my hair.... so Singaporean haircut - thumbs up ;-)

The most impressive of all temples we saw that day was the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple - impressive five-storey building with beautifully carved roofs and the most spectacular looking interior we have ever seen!!! All gold and Chinese red with thousands of Buddha statues build into the walls and massive altar in the middle with golden Buddha statue. It was even difficult to take a photo because of all this gold and glimmer ;-) Beautiful place and must say impressed us more than the Kandy's Tooth Relic Temple in Sri Lanka. You could tell it is on the tourist 'must do' list as it was very crowded. Just around the corner from this temple stands also pretty amazing Thian Hock Keng Temple - Singapore's oldest Hokkien (traditional Chinese) building. And this place was deserted and we spent some time admiring beautiful carvings of the centrepiece and amazing doors with golden paintings. From there it was just a few minute way to the Esplanade but first we decided to visit one of the food courts on the way. It was in the end the lunch time and all the tempting smells around did not leave us much choice but dine;-) We had no troubles finding China Square Food Center where Tomek would go for the wonton soup (again) and crispy duck and I had some veggie noodles. That is the thing we love some much about food courts - you can choose from so many different types of food that there is no way meat lover and vegetarian would be disappointed in one place ;-) I am not really a vegetarian but I do prefer veg to meat ;-)

Next thing on our list was to take some touristy photos in front of the famous Merlion ;-) There is a beautiful Fullerton Promenade and loads of restaurants and coffee shops leading to this point so really nice spot just to hang out if you have spare time. Unfortunately when we got to the Merlion it was all surrounded by scaffolding and the fountain was not working so there was no way to take nice photo ;-( How disappointing that they had to do this during the time we are actually in town.... ow well what can you do other that just move on to another nice place with another great view;-) This place is full of them so no worries. Esplanade was great, we even stopped for a bit in the outdoor theatre watching some people playing tennis with juggling clubs - how bizarre - very entertaining though ;-) From there it was just a few min walk to the famous Raffles Hotel. Our first intention was to have a drink there as recommended by so many people we know but when we got there, the Long Bar was closed ;-( We could only sit in the courtyard but that did not seem so fun. We ended up sightseeing the Arcade Building and we moved on to yet another food court..... Were we already hungry? hmm.. no..... but it was on the way so why not try something new hahhah And Tomek was even more looking forward to the big and cold bottle of Tiger than food itself. At this point of a day we did 9h of walking in a really hot weather so beer made us very sleepy and made our night safari plans very uncertain.......

Of course we did not go to the zoo which we regretted later on but more importantly we did not go to the Clarke Quay to take some nice night photos. This was our last day and our flight was at midnight so we had to make it very packed with activities. We headed to the nearest MRT station in order to get to the Harbour and then to the Sentosa Island for a day ;-) We initially intended to walk or take the express rail from the Harbour to get there but we decided to take a cable car one way for the spectacular views;-) It happened that one way ticket is 24$ and two way 26$ (ridiculous as it is) so we took the return. The view was amazing and it was worth the money for sure. Sentosa Island itself did not impress us the way we may have hoped..... It is great and fantastic place for families but it is packed full with tourists like Disneyland ( it kind of is Asian equivalent to it with the Universal Studios theme park)!!! We came in the morning and left maybe around 3:30 pm and people kept coming in even bigger groups - madness... We saw people getting excited by artificially build 2m waterfall... really???? We thought...... everything seems made up...they even put jungle noises in the forest to make it more effective hahhah there were few nice things though. Great beach and we would have loved to have time to just spend there and relax and the Underwater World we visited. We were not so keen on spending another 50$ for what really is a theme park but we have never been to one so why not;-) It was great!!! From the beginning you enter where you can touch the sting ray and baby shark, through observing really giant water animals like Spider Crab, Giant Octopus, Green Turtles and Living Fossil Fish to the underwater tunnel with sharks and more sharks and finally sea lions and pink dolphin’s lagoon. The time we visited, pink dolphins just started their mating season so we could not see any ;-( The only negative comment I would have about this place is the space they give to the animals. It is really small and packed especially for the turtles and rays ;-(

We grabbed some food in the food court over there as the rest of the island was relatively expensive and we headed back to the city. We stopped again at the Merlion and the scaffolding was down (but no water) so we could take some photos in the end hahha. We planned a quick stop in the electronics superstore (or Geeks' World as I call it) to buy new netbook for travelling. Back at the hotel they just had a happy hour so we stayed a bit at the bar and had a glass of nice red wine to celebrate the end of our amazing trip ;-) As mentioned before we still had one more thing to do this evening, which was taking some night photos. It is good that we bought the netbook as we could clear our memory card instead of investing money in the next one (good excuse). Tomek got Lonely Planet Photography book from me for X-mas and it has loads of great night shots from Clark Quay . That is why we really wanted to try to make it there. What a cool place to spend the evening. Looked very urban with the skyscrapers around, fashionable and upmarket with all the modern places and suited up people. Live music, posh restaurants, bars, art galleries and a mixture of people and languages from all over the world. View rather different to the one we had in any of the food courts over the past few days ;-) It was very difficult to believe and remember that we were somewhere in Asia as it could have been London, New York or Sydney for instance. This was a new addition to the Hindu and Buddha Temples, Chinese Pagodas, Muslin Mosques, Raffles-the example of colonial English architecture we have seen as well as Indonesian and Malaysian food we have tasted. If a definition of cosmopolitan is having constituent elements from all over the world or from many different parts of the world then this place is truly cosmopolitan.

Singapore - It was nice to meet you ;-)

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23rd November 2012
View from the Esplanade on the city

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21st March 2013
View from the Esplanade on the city

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