Seven highlights of (Middle Earth) Singapore in a Day – Travel Diary
We survived the 7.5 hour flight from Down Under to Singapore, managed to adjust our mobile phone so we could call to friends in Singapore, and home, find an ATM and catch a cab to Orchard Road
, our destination for the night…..
As I was staying such a short time, I was prepared to pay with the credit card for most purchases, and just had cash for small items like drinks etc. Of course, I was ushered into the first available cab in the queue, a not too glamorous, old Toyota Cressida ( are these even allowed on the road here?) to find that the driver DID NOT accept credit card.
Singapore is a cashless society, I have been told!!! Not completely, it seems. So, it was a matter of either retrieving all our bags now safely stowed by the taxi driver in the boot of the cab, and find another cab, or continue on, giving him the little cash I had. I chose the less embarrassing option! But at least I had the good sense to negotiate the fare! And after that, the cab driver drove at the speed of light to our destination. I wondered why we were passing almost every other car on the road!!! Presumably to keep within the dollar figure he had quoted me
Arriving at our destination, our firend’s condo on Orchard Road, I was told to look out for the “snowman” and tell the gatekeeper who I was visiting. Simple enough, but what was a snowman doing in the equatorial humidity of Singapore? Christmas decorations harken back to colonial times, perhaps? Yes that was it, alright.
Snowman found, friend found, we settled in to admire the awesome view from the 17th floor, right in the very heart of Singapore. 24 hours ahead of us to take in the sights.
I had been here once before, way back in ( cough cough) 1985, so things were bound to have changed a little. Still I recognised some things. And others, I knew there was no point in seeing again. The sightseeing agenda was as follows:
1. Botanic Gardens – Cluny Road Open from 5am – Midnight. (Free entrance)
2. Orchid Gardens – within the Botanic Gardens Nominal (free in school holidays) entrance fee
3. Hindu Temple – Donation for photography
5. Buddha Tooth Temple
6. River Cruise – $14 Singapore dollars
7. Marina Bay Sands Entrance fee to Observation deck
1. Botanic Gardens are a restful way to spend an hour or two. If you need a break from shopping til you drop in Orchard road, rest a while in the closely located Botanic Gardens. On Weekends, this place gets really busy, but during the week you will only meet a few tourists there and perhaps some ex-pats with their maids pushing the ex-pat’s child in a stroller. Incidentally, many of the larger central apartments here in Singapore have maid’s rooms, which wouldhave to be the pokiest room known to man. Not even the length of a bed!!! But back to Botanical matters and you will find therein a small lake with several white swans (frequented by the ubiquitous small child and mother throwing scraps of bread), as well as plants from different parts of the world located in separate sections of the Gardens. It is a popular place for wedding photos, even during the week.
Cafe and Souvenir shop and ice cream kiosk also in situ. A Choc Frappe is one of their specialities and much needed in the humidity in order to keep hydrated.
2. The Orchid Gardens located on the high point of the hill in the Botanic Gardens, opened in 1985 are a serene and marvellous place, even for those not interested in flowers. A humid climate must be nirvana for Orchids, as the masses of blossoms on these plants and the way they decorate the environment with them has to be seen to be believed. A feast of colour for one’e eyes and one might even glimpse a rare bird or two.
Innovative and creative, they have painted a picture with orchids of all colours and types and divided them into Seasonal shades. There are even a group of crossed hybrid plants with celebrity names.And the famous Graffiti tree, is to be found there as well. Couples in love would scribe them names in the bark in order to make their love as eternal as the tree. NB: You are no longer allowed to scratch one’s name in the bark as it was killing the tree. What a death ? To be Killed with love….
Entrance was free for school children the day we went, as it was during the Singapore school holidays. The entry charge is really only minimal anyway.
3. Next stop was the Hindu temple and to this we caught the bus. Hindus ares a minority in Singapore but the temple is an important place to visit, as a tourist, because of its unique architecture.
Visitors are allowed, but please be respectful of the temple and remove your shoes before entering. Also cover your shoulders if exposed which mine were because of the heat. They ask for 40 cents in order for you to take photos, but this money goes towards mantaining the temple so it is not an onerous charge.
Here you will find all sorts of stalls and vendors willing to haggle. Alongside you can ensure your continued hydration with juices – try an interesting soursop flavour, or lemonade that was more like lemon lime juice. If you really want lemonade, you will have to ask for a sprite or seven up!!! Mango juice was also very refreshing. Smoothies eat your heart out.
Stalls prices in Chinatown are cheap but cheaper elsewhere in Asia, for example, Hong kong currency conversion is a better rate for Australians and no doubt, Americans too. AUD is pretty well on par with USD.
5. Buddha tooth temple
Four to five floors of temple splendour. Maintain Quiet and cover your shoulders when inside. Most of the floors photography is not allowed, so always check.
The Buddha tooth is quite small and contained in a box, on the top floor, and even during the week you will see many people actively praying and paying for gifts for the various gods. Also a floor with a library, reading room and small shop.
6. Singapore is a fabulous city for viewing the marvels of modern architecture. The River cruise is a great way to see all of this. There are various departure points, but you can not get off at all these points, only get on.
7. Marina Bay Sands
As if Singapore did not have enough Architectural icons, the recently Marina Bay Sands complex is a Feat of engineering that appeals to everyone’s eyes. The boat section actually holds the 3 enormous towers up. Visitors can purchase a ticket to the observation deck (on the boat’s pointy end) and you might find you have to queue for the lift. To visit the middle section where the large pool is located, one has to take a guided tour or be a guest staying here. So we just peered through the glass door.
In a storm, which during the months of October to February, expect electrical Tropical storms. In a storm, the observation deck will be closed, but if you visit before the storm, you will get, as we did a bird’s eye view of not only the amazing Singapore skyline but the storm rolling in…. so we headed down the lifts before the throngs of tourists escaping the storm, invaded the lift foyer. The storm hit as we reached the bottom and we took a taxi back to Orchard road. There is a River cruise stop here at Marina Bay Sands so you can also take the cruise from here.
Well that was Singapore’s seven major highlights all achievable in a day. To finish off a perfect day with Annette, we browsed some shops at Tanglin Mall where we found some interesting bakery treats and had Pizza.
Before flying out, on a midnight departure, we walked further up Orchard road and saw an lovely Christmas lights display.
Singapore… On the Equator – humid, fast and full, but a middle earth that is definitely something to ponder about.