Singapore – March 29 – April 1, 2015
Crossing the border from Malaysia to Singapore could not have been any easier. We decided against the route that required taking a taxi to the bus station, then taking a bus to the border, then once at the border having to grab our bags and walk across the border, then once across grab another taxi to our hotel. It just sounded too confusing and really… what could possibly go wrong with a plan like that? That would have been the cheaper route, but what 11 months of travel has taught us, is that cheaper definitely isn’t always better. So, we opted for the quick, comfy route where we were picked up at our hotel and didn’t step out of the van until we reached our hotel 2 hours later. Our driver had all the appropriate papers we needed and we filled them out during the drive. Once at the Malaysian border we pulled up to the immigration booth, our driver handed over our passports, they were stamped and handed back. We drove about 10 more minutes until we were at the Singapore border. Again our passports were handed over stamped and given back. The driver then hopped out to show the immigration officer our bags, he took a quick look (and I mean quick) and we were off to our hotel. How much did this peace of mind cost our family of four? 300 Ringgits (about $100 Canadian). Yes, we have flown across countries for less than that, but we gladly paid the fee and we would do it again if the same situation reoccurred.
Singapore is an amazing country, with a population of over 5 million. We weren’t surprised to hear the loudspeaker calls for prayer ringing out in the distance, but we no longer felt like we were in a South East Asia country. All the street signs were in English, there was no litter, there were garbage cans along the streets (something we rarely saw in SEA), there were not empty buildings or abandoned construction sites/partially built buildings. The streets, sidewalks, buildings were all well-kept and maintained, with no power poles with dozens of coiled and loose power wires hanging here there and everywhere. We really felt like we could have been back in any large North American city.
Singapore has many rules and laws and we found it humorous whenever we came across a sign or poster. There are a few of them.
Singapore is an architect’s dream city. Standing amidst the beautiful buildings was amazing. You just stand there awestruck, almost in disbelief, wondering how the architect’s achieves such feats. This city is filled with architectural inspiration. If you aren’t an architect, believe me, you will have a fleeting thought of becoming one, or at least pulling out your box of Lego and getting busy.
Raffles hotel – Built in 1889, the raffles hotel is one of Singapore’s most distinctive colonial-era buildings that has survived war. But what we thought most interesting, is that the Raffles Hotel is the birthplace of the Singapore Sling Cocktail.
Lau Pa Sat – is the home of the 175 year old market. Unfortunately, we arrived too late in the afternoon and the hawker stalls were shutting down for the day, so we did not get to enjoy wandering through the market.
Marina Bay Sands Resort – is said to be the world’s most expensive standalone casino resort built at a cost of $8 billion. The resort has over 2,500 hotels rooms, a shopping mall, museum, two theatres, restaurants and a skating rink. But what makes this property so amazing is the 340-metre long Skypark shaped like a ship. It is so amazing to see. Maybe on our next trip to Singapore we can pay the $360/night to stay there and swim in the infinity pool high in the sky overlooking the city.
Civilian War Memorial – is also referred to as the chopsticks. Was built in 1967 in memory of the civilians’ mass murder during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore from 1942-1945. The four pillars represent the Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian minorities who were the victims of this atrocity.
Hop On – Hop Off Bus
We only had 48 hours in Singapore, so we decided to do the Hop On – Hop Off bus, which as you know, we love doing when we are short on time.
A few of our favorite stops include:
This iconic half-fish and half-lion fountain was a must see when visiting Singapore. We saw more people snapping photos at this stop than anywhere else in Singapore. We, too, enjoyed taking goofy photos here.
Singapore’s historic Chinatown is a mix of old and new, filled with traditional shops and markets as well as cool shops and outdoor cafes. We enjoyed hopping off here to grab lunch and check out the shops. If you’re looking for a souvenir, this would be your stop.
Our hotel wasn’t far from Little India, so one evening we hopped off the bus and walked through it on the way home. We were excited to see the Hindu temples, the colors and smells. However, as we walked through it, it appeared like many other communities we have walked through. People going about their daily business, street vendors, and the like. What we also noticed was that there was garbage on the sides of the streets, something we had not seen elsewhere in Singapore. Maybe we were walking down the less touristy streets of Little India. Maybe it was the wrong time of day. Maybe, just maybe, we were expecting more than what we saw.
Gardens by the Bay
This park spans 101 hectares. It is huge. Our favorite part of the park were the Supertrees Grove which are tree-like structures that range from 25 metres to 50 metres in height. They are covered in foliage and resemble giant trees. The park is filled with lush greenery and landscaping that creates a beautiful oasis, that we enjoyed wandering through and exploring.
While Len and Noah went up to walk amongst the treetops, up some 50 metres to stroll on the elevated walkway in the canopy of the Supertrees, Aurora and I went in search of the Children’s Garden. Wandering through the park, past exotic plants and flowers we finally found the Children’s Garden and a water spray park. Unfortunately, we never anticipated playing in the water in the Gardens, so we didn’t have a bathing suit. Aurora stood there, melting in the heat, watching all the happy kids running through the water. Never wanting to pass up an opportunity for fun, I encouraged Aurora to seize the moment and go in with her clothes on. It only took a minute of hesitation before she passed me her sandals and ran in. She had so much fun. I’m so happy to see her seize moments like this.
We didn’t stop at the Conservatories or the Cloud Forest and we were in the Gardens during the day so we didn’t get to see the Supertrees Grove all lit up at night. These are all things I would want to do if we ever have a chance to visit Singapore again.
A few more pictures from the bus.
Before our arrival and during our time in Singapore, the country was mourning the death of it’s founding Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew. He passed away on March 22nd, at the age of 91, when we were in Malaysia. On radio, television, billboards and prominent memorial signage in Malaysia and Singapore we saw and heard a lot about LKY. It became very evident to us how well respected he was in Singapore, Malaysia, and we can only assume, all over Asia. He was the Prime Minister of Singapore from 1959 (when Singapore gained full self-government from Britain) until 1990. Under his leadership, Singapore became one of Asia’s wealthiest and least corrupt countries. The day we arrived in Singapore, March 30th, was the day of LKY’s funeral.
Even though our Canadian dollar is a little over par with the Singapore dollar, everything in Singapore is expensive. Everything from hotels to food drained our pocketbook. We enjoyed our time in friendly Singapore and can understand why so many people love it there. I’ve never been to New York, but I think Singapore is kinda like the New York of Asia, a big, bright, lively happening city, and I am glad I got to spend a couple days in it and see a little bit of it.