Singapore, Singapore
1° 17' N 103° 51' E
Jun 16, 2009 11:49
Distance 1435km

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Blog 15 Singapore

The first friendly welcome to Singapore was received before we even landed, being handed an immigration card that stated in bold red letters ‘Death Sentence for Drug Traffickers’. Now neither of us should have had anything to worry about, but you do start to wonder if you should have checked every pocket of your bag before check in – just in case…

 

Finally clearing immigration (via the now standard thermal imaging system to check for swine flu) we found the first airport for several weeks free of taxi touts and rip-off merchants. Visiting the tourist information office in the terminal building, I was actually given some impartial advice for once and we hopped on to the hotel shuttle bus which will take you to any hotel in the city for S$9.

 

The Fragrance Rose hotel is located in a fairly residential area which I would imagine, most ‘transit’ passengers never see but probably represents the ‘real’ Singapore with fairly communist looking tower blocks situated around small communal eating areas.

 

Not being lose to the MRT (underground) system, we had quite a walk the first morning to the nearest station but once we had managed to purchase a ‘tourist pass’ we had unlimited travel on all public transport at our fingertips.

 

Being Scottish and seeing a chance to get some value for money, we used this pass over the next three days criss-crossing the city (twice literally since we managed to get on a bus route that had about thirty stops before ours – not bad in a country that consist of one city).

 

We actually spent as much time as possible out of the hotel since the room had no window, a ‘bathroom’ that was a toilet cubicle with a shower head and floor space that barely gave us room to sit our rucksacks down. OK it was cheap in a city that seems pretty expensive but not somewhere you would choose to spend much time.

 

The city centre is a totally different place with huge amounts of money having been invested in modern skyscraper office blocks, shopping centres as far as the eye can see and riverside restaurants. This is the pristine, Singapore that most people see but it is interesting to have seen the poorer and (slightly) less pristine areas of the real city.

 

Doing our usual, we tried to squeeze as much as possible into the three days we had in the country and walked for miles around the various landmarks, including a walk along some of the Formula 1 circuit, easily recognised by the floodlighting still in place from last year’s race.

 

The ‘night safari’ was recommended by a couple of people and while it gave the chance to see several nocturnal creatures in their ‘natural’ habitat (it was actually a land-train ride through a man-made jungle) after holding tigers and crocodiles, it was a bit tame. That said, the walk through the bat enclosure was an amazing experience, seeing the foot high fruit bats (that we had seen flying around in India) close enough to be able to take photographs. Actually, I say we, but only one of us would actually go into the enclosure….

 

The recently completed Singapore Flyer (a bigger version of the London Eye) gave a spectacular view of the city and with the accompanying audio guide, an interesting commentary on the history and social interaction within the city.

 

Visiting the Asian Civilisation Museum gave a surprisingly fascinating explanation of how the city came about, how the different ethnic groups were given their own areas to populate and how the city has developed to what we see today.

 

Of particular interest (having worked for Faber Maunsell for a number of years) was the reference to the civil engineer Charles Edward Faber, who was responsible for building many of the bridges in the city in the 19th century. However he is best remembered for (when accused of not allowing enough clearance for ships to pass below at high tide) suggesting that the river should be dredged to increase freeboard.

 

The island of Sentosa is basically one large theme park which can be accessed by road or monorail but for the real grand entrance, the cable car across the harbour has to be the best option.

 

Having wasted time and money on ‘the Merlion’ showpiece, we quickly compensated with a couple of rides on ‘the luge’ – basically a plastic sledge with wheels going down a concrete hill. Very childish but very fun.

 

After several bus and ‘tram’ rides from one end of the park to the other to try and find / attend attractions that operated on a timetable, we saw a rather disappointing dolphin show before heading back to the ‘underwater world’ complete with Perspex tunnel to view the ‘creatures of the deep’.

 

After finding a quite reasonably priced Chinese restaurant inside the park, we had dinner and went to see the ‘Songs of the Sea show’. Again this was basically aimed at children but included a spectacular laser imagery display projected on to a wall of seawater spray pumped into the air. Only slight snag is with an onshore wind, we were deluged in a saltwater rain throughout the performance.

 

No trip to Singapore can be complete however without a trip to the famous Raffles Hotel (named after the original British captain who landed and claimed the island as British territory before planning the city layout) and a Singapore Sling in the Long Bar. Having paid S$55 for the privilege, we made sure that we followed the tradition of eating peanuts and dropping the shells on the floor.

 

Having visited Clarke Quay earlier in the day, we decided to head back to the restaurant area on the last evening for dinner. The options boiled down to Hooters, or The Highlander (the first ‘Scottish Cuisine’ restaurant we’ve come across so far). After being met by the surreal sight of a Singaporean bagpiper playing ‘Highland Cathedral’ in the outdoor eating area, we opted for the taste of home.

 

For some reason, the Singaporean government had recently ruled against the serving of haggis in the restaurant (if anybody is looking for some contact The Highlander restaurant who now have a large stock of tinned haggis to dispose of!). However, we can report that the Aberdeen Angus steak and venison burgers are well worth trying.

 

Finally heading back for our last night in the shoe box, we spent a final restless and pretty sleepless night on our PVC mattresses before dragging ourselves out to daylight and a taxi to the airport. Following yet another McDonald’s breakfast (they do some rather good pancakes, even if they do call them ‘hotcakes’ in Singapore) we checked in and headed through to await our flight to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) in Vietnam.

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