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Singapore – the Lion City from the land’s end. Episode 2

Singapore: Merlion

Some say that “Singapore is a fine city”. For the ones that love shopping, it’s a fine city whereas for a bit more difficult bunch, it’s “the city of fines”. There is no place that doesn’t tell you not to spit or smoke, not transport durians, not to cross on the red light or not to drink water in the bus as you’ll get fines with way too many zeros. But still, what can one do in Singapore?

First of all, you’ll become a submissive believer in the main religion of the republic – Shopping ! A large number of malls, one more different than the other seduce you into emptying your pockets and credit cards. Although Singapore is more expensive than its neighbor Malaysia (not to mention Indonesia), electronics are significantly cheaper. You can spend day after day on Orchard Road, the boulevard on which tens of luxury malls are crowded or bargain with the sellers from malls like Mustafa Center, Lucky Center or Sim Lim Square that are practicing average prices. You can also taste, eat and end up by stuffing yourself at those famous outdoor terraces called hawker centers, where you can enjoy any kind of Asian food that might cross your mind. But do not forget that eating on the street, outside these terraces is strictly forbidden! And do try to eat early. Restaurants and hawker centers are closed by 11 PM and then only those 7-11 small supermarkets can be of any help.

Singapore is a unique multi-cultural experience. Although Chinese represent 70% of the entire population, there are strong communities of Indians (especially those dark faced Dravidians from Southern India) and Malayans. They live in compact areas such as Little India, Chinatown or Kampong Glam (“kampong” meaning village in Malay) that have the typical characteristics of those nations. You can take your shoes off and visit those adorned Hindu temples with rather kitschy statues, you can pray to the ancestors of the Chinese in the temples strongly infused by the beautiful scent of those perfumed sticks or visit the Malayan mosques. Would you like to find an Armenian church? There you go. Do you enjoy saying your prayers in an Anglican church? Of course it’s possible since the English were masters here for more than a century. In order to sink in more into the Asian culture, you must not miss The Asian Civilization Museum. In this museum you can witness all the wonders of contemporary science (the holograms of touring guides will greet you in some of the rooms there), but also admire stunning antiquities of various nations: Chinese, Malayan, Indian, Thai, Indonesian or even from the Islamic world of the Arabs or Persians.

Obviously, I cannot help mentioning the modern architecture of the city…new skyscrapers rise to skies in a still and grouped manner in an area called CBD – Central Business District. Here, cars cannot enter unless paying a tax withdrawn by using an electronic device which any car entering CBD, Chinatown or Orchard Road must have. Moreover, even in MRT, the subway of Singapore, you can buy a ticket card charged with an amount of money and which you don’t even have to take it out of your pocket when passing through the ticket validation gates. The key words of Singapore are swiftness and efficiency.

But if you go in CBD, you cannot help stopping to take a picture of The Merlion, the statue of a strange animal that is half lion, half fish (the name Merlion comes from the combined words mermaid and lion, i.e. the mermaid-lion) and Singapore’s touristic symbol that The National Office of Tourism came up with in the ‘60s. Furthermore, Merlion has water coming out of its mouth and smiles towards the waterside building called Esplanade – Theaters on the Bay, the Singaporean version of Sydney’s Opera House that is intended to underline the artistic taste of the Republic…The unique architectural design has been said to resemble the image of a durian, thus the building is colloquially known as “the durians”. But this is a depiction that must be ignored since the Esplanade is stunning, especially at night…

An area that should not be ignored is Colonial District, where each detail reminds you that Singapore was a British colony. The main jewelry here is the legendary Raffles Hotel, regarded as one of the best in the world. You can visit it or merely have a cup of tea there (even if very expensive, it totally worth). But make sure you don’t find yourself going there in sandals or shorts, as “noblesse oblige” in this refined place.

As everything in Singapore must be organized, grouped and well-thought, there’s also an area of bars and outdoor terraces. It is situated in Boat Quay on the riverbank of Singapore, separating the colonial area from CBD. You can find there picturesque image of some traditional one-story small houses just at the foot of the skyscrapers reigning supreme. It is here that “towkays”, the heads of Chinese mafia used to live as the goods were unloaded on this river right before their eyes. In the ‘80s, when the harbor was moved together with all its business deals to another place, Boat Quay became a ruin but the government declared it a protected area (it is one of the few historical sights of Singapore) and turned it into an area of leisure and fun. Other areas were completely remodeled by government order – be it either the former neighborhood of Bugis prostitutes, either the warehouses area from Robertson Quay, all were modernized and turned into malls, luxury hotels, restaurants or dance clubs.

It is fair to imagine Singapore as huge modern metropolis dominated by skyscrapers. Well, despite the lack of space, there is also a sort of rural side of the city that is dominated by vegetation. In order to have a more human metropolis, the Singaporean government made sure that everywhere could be found vegetation and numerous flowers. And the area climate sure helps. The center of the island is a huge park, a true oxygen lung of the Republic where you can go for walks but not have picnics! On the other hand, I sincerely recommend you to visit Singapore Zoo. Considered as one of the best in the world, the Zoo beautifully recreates the natural habitat of the species represented there. You won’t find here any cage or confinement as animals are prevented by natural obstacles from leaving their living space. Thus, two steps away from the lion’s den is the antelope enclosure and next to the tiger you can see some very relaxed and bored zebras. I spent there a few lovely hours among kangaroos (I saw a few of them having a “box match”!), lions, zebras, various kinds of antelopes, parrots, snakes, giraffes, hippopotamuses and rhinos (a nervous one bumped into a rather silly zebra that stood in its way) and also saw the famous last dinosaurs– Komodo dragons which can be found in the wild only on the uninhabited island of Komodo from the neighboring Indonesian archipelago. The Singapore Zoo houses 6,000 animals from 410 species, including rare species on the brink of extinction such as the white Bengali tiger, white rhinos and some animals that are here a bit out of place such as seals and polar bears! Besides, at nighttime you can partake in the so-called Night Safari when a small train takes you through the park and can witness their nocturnal behavior.

Another place worth mentioning would be Sentosa Island from the extreme southern part of the city. Although it is situated outside CBD in an area where one might expect to see a huge harbour, Sentosa Island (in Malayan, the word means “peace and tranquility”) is the preferred promenade place of Singaporeans, perhaps because the access of vehicles is strictly forbidden. But the best way to reach the island is not by vehicle but by cable railway which offers a splendid view over Singapore and Sentosa Island. On the island there are numerous attractions. You either escalade the head of another Merlion in order to enjoy the entire view, either visit Underwater World, a superb aquarium where a horizontal escalator takes you effortlessly through transparent tunnels and see sharks and other marine creatures swimming all around you. For 35 euro per person, you can dive together with the sharks and if you find yourself there after 7 PM, the lights are closed and visitors are given flashlights with the help of which everything can be seen from a different perspective.

On Sentosa Island you can walk through a mini-jungle, see a wonderful light and laser show in front of the musical fountain at night (Magical Sentosa Show) which cost around 2 million € or can witness the eruption of a volcano every 30 minutes in Volcano Land, play golf or visit other few museums. If you want to relax, you can’t do that better than in the splendid orchid garden where the multi-colored flower petals enchants the beholder or play volleyball on the beach with imported sand from Palawan. Although tempting, it is not a very good idea to go in the water – next to Sentosa there are hundreds of anchored ships that are in a more or less good condition and there are also all kinds of commercial ships crossing the waters from various parts of the globe…I’d rather dive in the pool! And considering that the area is very far from any residential neighborhood, well, here at night you can unleash yourself at the parties taking place directly on the artificial beaches of Sentosa Island.

I visited Singapore twice so far, the first time after a few weeks spent in Indonesia, a superb country but typically Asian (and you know the saying: “you don’t have a second chance to make a first impression”). Singapore was a totally different urban experience after returning from the terrestrial paradise that Bali is. It was a too sudden return in the Western world that is so agitated and always in a hurry, a true shock before heading off to the North, towards Malaysia and Thailand. Singapore is an interesting place to visit, although you’ll be left with the feeling of an artificial city – it has nothing to do with Asia, it can be easily placed anywhere else in the USA or Europe…Only its inhabitants and their appearance reminds us where we are. But you must not be disappointed as only a few steps away, over the bridge is Malaysia and a few kilometers more to the South lies Indonesia. Outside the borders of Singapore, you will discover the true and fascinating Asia…

Transport
Singapore is maybe the most important air hub of Asia. In order to visit other parts from Asia, you can pamper yourself by taking advantage of the luxury offered by Singapore Airlines, one of the most expensive airlines in the world or pay a few Singapore dollars on flights from the entire area by using the low cost Singapore airlines such as Tiger or Jetstar /ValueAir, as well as the services of Air Asia.

Where to eat

There are hundreds, maybe thousands of varied restaurants in Singapore. If you want to get an idea about the local flavor, go to the so-called “hawker centers” which are practically large spaces with tables in the middle and surrounded by kiosks from where you can buy Chinese, Malay or Thai food at some very good prices. But please be careful and eat only in the delimited spaces as consuming food products on the street is strictly forbidden.

Climate
Singapore is 1 degree north of the equator thus the weather is constant throughout the year. There are never temperatures below 20° C and never over 30 – 32 ° C. On the other hand, no matter the season, short and violent rain episodes are guaranteed. It is then the moment to enter a mall or stop for a coffee at Starbucks. The most humid period is from November until January and the so-called dry period is from May until July.

Customs interdictions
If bringing in drugs is obviously not a good idea, you should also be aware that even a Playboy magazine in your bags might bring you a lot of troubles. The “nanny republic” is also a prude one, thus erotic publications, as well as going topless on the beach are aspects really frowned upon. Other forbidden products are: fireworks, coins and banknotes like the ones used in the Monopoly game, lighters in the form of pistols, counterfeit goods and large quantities of chewing gum. If you bring in drugs that require prescription, you must have on yourself the prescription or at least a document from your physician that confirms the need for such medication.

Pictures of Singapore:

 Photos of Singapore: Quay

Quay

Singapore: Quay

Singapore: Quay

Singapore museums

The Museum of Asian Civilizations

Singapore:  Merlion

Merlion

Singapore; Durian

The durian

Singapore: Merlion

Merlion, the symbol of the city

Singapore pictures

The Mosque

Singapore

Enjoy!

Singapore

Singapore: Buddhist temple

Buddhist temple

Picturs of Singapore: Buddhist temple

Singapore photos

Hindu temple

Singapore: Hindu Temple

Singapore

Singapore: mosque

Why the Muslim religion is superior to those polytheistic…

Singapore temples

The ceremony held by Brahmins at a Hindu temple 

Singapore photos

The large mosque

Singapore

Another mosque

And out of nowhere … a storm in Singapore!

Singapore: zoo

At the Zoo

Singapore photos: zoo

Lazy kangaroo

Singapore pictures: zoo

Singapore zoo: Orangutans

Orangutans

Singapore zoo: Orangutans

Singapore

The Komodo dragon

Singapore Zoo

Singapore zoo

You can be just a few steps away from the animals 

Singapore zoo

Photos of Singapore zoo

Some tasty zebras

Photos of Singapore zoo

White tigers!

Photos of Singapore zoo

Non-speaking parrots but beautifully colored! 

 

Până acum există "1 comentariu" la acest articol:

  1. Joan says:

    Thanks for all the details on travelling around in Singapore. There is definitely plenty to do here! blog.globehop.co has useful tips for travelling around Southeast Asia that you may be interested in :)

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