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A few days in Singapore

Singapore

March 6, 2015 – March 9, 2015

Full Singapore Photo Gallery Here.

After the modern conveniences of Malaysia we headed by bus to the small nation of Singapore. If we thought we had seen the peak of technology and advances before it was only because we had not seen Singapore yet. This tiny nation is essentially one huge modern metropolis and was the next country on our list.

Singapore is a small diamond shaped island on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. Gaining its independence from Malaysia in 1965 (it was actually kicked out of Malaysia for its troubles) it is one of the youngest nations, and with just 277 square miles of land is also one of the smallest. But for a new country with a troubled past it has worked hard and jumped ahead by leaps and bounds and now has one of the biggest and most important economies in the region, and has recently topped the lists of the most expensive cities in the world.

Exploring Singapore near the downtown cricket fields.
Exploring Singapore near the downtown cricket fields.

Traveling by bus, we crossed a bridge into Singapore and stopped briefly in their huge state of the art, bus immigration station, and got our stamps and headed back to the bus for the short drive across the entire nation from north to south. The northernmost stretch of the country is lush and green and dotted with golf courses and there is even a large and very popular zoo. The further south you go the more skyscrapers and dense civilization you can see. The southern shore is one big sprawling mega-city while the east is dominated by the airport and the west by the large seaport, which has been so important to Singapore’s successful economy.

It is one of the cleanest cities of its size anywhere in the world.
The canal running through downtown was massive polluted years ago, but a huge cleaning project has transformed the canal and the surrounding city.  It is one of the cleanest cities of its size anywhere in the world.

Much like Malaysia, Singapore is clean and ultra modern, but unlike Malaysia it is quite expensive. We stayed in the Ibis Hotel near Little India, which was above our normal price range, in fact lodging alone took the lions share of our daily budget.

I wish we had this back at home, throughout the city you will see lit up signs showing exactly how many parking spaces are in all the nearby parking lots!
I wish we had this back at home, throughout the city you will see lit up signs showing exactly how many parking spaces are in all the nearby parking lots!

Dropping off our things, we headed out into the city to explore. The first thing you will notice is that it is warm and comfortable outside, the countries record low is 67 degrees, it never gets cold. Sometimes it can be very hot. It is also extremely clean and easy to get around. Strict laws with penalties such as canning, ensure that the streets are nearly pristine and graffiti is non-existent, we can’t remember seeing any anywhere. In fact it was the cleanest city of its size we’ve ever seen. As for getting around, the ultra modern and super clean subways will take you cheaply and quickly anywhere you want to go on the island.

Little India a few blocks from our hotel, not quite as authentic as real India, though much cleaner.
Little India a few blocks from our hotel, not quite as authentic as real India, though much cleaner.
The ultra modern lifestyle is not universal through the city though, these highrise apartments still hang dry their laundry.
The ultra modern lifestyle is not universal through the city though, these highrise apartments still hang dry their laundry.

Though Singapore is definitely not a budget destination, it does have a few redeeming qualities in the cost area, food is abundant and can be found cheaply. Food courts and street food are nearly as common as in Malaysia and nearly as cheap. Shopping here can also be cheap if you stick to the street shops, be careful of fake goods though. If price is not an issue though, there are miles and miles of malls everywhere you look, in fact it would be a challenge to get more than a few blocks from one, and one street, Orchard Road is nothing but malls lining each side of the road for a dozen blocks or more, exotic cars and high fashion are as common here as Starbucks coffee cups.

Our first stop checking out the malls wasn't a mall at all but this Nature Aquarium pet store, which I had read about before coming to Singapore.  They sell very high end equipment for fresh water nature aquariums.  Google 'aquascaping' to see some examples.
Our first stop checking out the malls wasn’t a mall at all but this Nature Aquarium pet store, which I had read about before coming to Singapore. They sell very high end equipment for fresh water nature aquariums. Google ‘aquascaping’ or ‘iwagumi’ to see some examples.  Krista was happy to oblige me because our favorite Malaysian coffee chain, Old Town White Coffee, was located nearby.
Orchard road, several miles of high end Malls.
Orchard road, several miles of high end Malls.
Food courts with seemingly endless rows of stalls, selling all types of food from around the world, are a common sight and a great place to get a quick cheap meal.
Food courts with seemingly endless rows of stalls, selling all types of food from around the world, are a common sight and a great place to get a quick cheap meal.
Poh Piah - We first found these in Malaysia and they were even better in Singapore, essentially a veggie wrap stuffed with a dozen ingredients, yum!
Poh Piah – We first found these in Malaysia and they were even better in Singapore, essentially a veggie wrap stuffed with a dozen ingredients, yum!
Ya Kun Kaya Toast - A local favorite, their toast comes covered in a sweet 'Kaya' spread and dipped in runny eggs has been a breakfast staple in the city for 50 years.  Served with coffee, thick and black with some condensed milk for a sweetener, its like a hot coffee milkshake!
Ya Kun Kaya Toast – A local favorite, their toast comes covered in a sweet ‘Kaya’ spread and dipped in runny eggs, it has been a breakfast staple in the city for 50 years. Served with coffee, thick and black with some condensed milk for a sweetener, it’s like a hot coffee milkshake!

If shopping is not your thing you can just wander the city and check out the sites. Singapore is a very safe and easily walkable city with lots to see everywhere you go, and cold drinks are nearly always at hand to cool you down on a hot day. We visited the Asian Civilizations Museum, which easily challenges the Natural History Museum in New York for its sheer size and impressive collections. Plan on spending an entire day here if you only casually glance at every exhibit.  Most of the museum’s collection was closed for renovation when we were there, yet it still took us two hours to see only a quarter of the museum’s collection.

The Asian Civilizations Museum. A massive and nicely laid out collection of exhibits, like these dancing statues.
The Asian Civilizations Museum. A massive and nicely laid out collection of exhibits, like these statues.  We caught them dancing when they thought we weren’t looking.

Downtown

Strolling through the skyscrapers along Singapore’s wide clean sidewalks is a day in itself. The buildings in this city are all very new and ultra modern with all of them competing with each other for most unique design. The clear winner of course is the colossal Marina Bay Sands, a hotel, mall, casino mega complex which dominates the skyline just east of downtown. The Marina Bay Sands is actually three towers with a massive flat top, resembling a ship, built atop. Everywhere you can spot people taking pictures of it and each night the building has a light show lighting up not only the building but much of the surrounding city.

 

We set out one day to explore the city on foot.
We set out one day to explore the city on foot.

 

Central Downtown, this building was one of our favorites, besides the Marina Bay Sands of course.
Central Downtown, this building was one of our favorites, besides the Marina Bay Sands of course.
Lau Pa Sat, a large food court with surprisingly good and cheap food smack dab in the very center of town.  The wide open block makes and great place to eat and check out the buildings in every direction.
Lau Pa Sat, a large food court with surprisingly good and cheap food smack dab in the very center of town. The wide open block makes a great place to eat and check out the buildings in every direction.

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The inside of the Singapore Library.  They have a great ancient maps collection on display on the 9-10 floor.
The inside of the Singapore Library. When we visited they had a great ancient maps collection on display on the 9-10th floor.
Downtown Singapore is built on the shores of a small bay surrounded by skyscrapers, offering great views in every direction.
Downtown Singapore is built on the shores of a small bay surrounded by skyscrapers, offering great views in every direction.
Leading into the small bay is a winding canal lined with shops and jogging trails.
Leading into the small bay is a winding canal lined with shops and jogging trails.
The Marina Bay Sands is one of the most impressive buildings we've seen on this trip.
The Marina Bay Sands is one of the most impressive buildings we’ve seen on this trip.

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The city lights up at night, aside from the architecture, many buildings also strive to have unique and often changing light displays.
The city lights up at night, aside from the architecture, many buildings also strive to have unique and often changing light displays.
The canal is spanned by several pedestrian only bridges, this one lights up and night and slowly cycles through every color over a few minutes time. Wait for your favorite color and snap a pic.
The canal is spanned by several pedestrian only bridges, this one lights up and night and slowly cycles through every color over a few minutes time. Wait for your favorite color and snap a pic.
The Helix Bridge, spans the opening of the bay.
The Helix Bridge, spans the opening of the bay.

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Marina Bay Sands

The Marina Bay Sands, Hotel/Resort/Mall is one of the newest and most impressive and dominating sights on the Singapore skyline.  We had admired it from afar, and now it was time to go up and check out the view from the top.  There are two ways this can be done, you can either pay to go up to the observation deck on the overhanging bow(front) of the ship like structure on top, or you can go up to the bar and buy a drink.  Since both options are almost the same price, the drink option is slightly cheaper, we elected to get a drink for the price of admission and headed up top for a look-see.

 

The view from the bar overlooking the 'bow' of the observation deck.
The view from the bar overlooking the ‘bow’ of the observation deck.
We quickly learned that if you go with the 'sit at the bar' option, you are relegated to the bar only, and cannot walk the deck, but the view is the same.
We quickly learned that if you go with the ‘sit at the bar’ option, you are relegated to the bar only, and cannot walk the deck, but the view is the same.

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The view looking north towards central downtown Singapore.
The view looking west towards central downtown Singapore.

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The view looking east, roughly towards the airport, and the lines of condos along the shore.
The view looking east, roughly towards the airport, and the lines of condos along the shore.

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The city really lights up at night, and many buildings, including the Marina Bay Sands, puts on a nightly light show.
The city really lights up at night, and many buildings, including the Marina Bay Sands, puts on a nightly light show.  The best time to visit is in the early evening, so you can see it in the daylight and during and after sunset.
Inside one of the three towers of the Marina Bay Sands.
Inside one of the three towers of the Marina Bay Sands. The fuzzy thing hanging near the top is a sculpture that didn’t show up too well in our camera.

Chinatown

If you’re looking to brave the heat for some outdoor shopping and good Chinese food you can visit Chinatown.  Here streets hawkers are selling cheap, most likely knock off goods and great food!

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Gardens by the Bay

Between the Marina Bay Sands complex and the ocean is a large public park called Gardens by the Bay.  Dispersed through a maze of wandering paths and forest there are huge glass atriums.   One was built to contain a massive man made cloud forest, and another called the Flower Dome was built to contain a biodiversity park of flowering plants as well as other interesting  species from all over the world.  Its worth a visit and can by seen in an afternoon.  Be sure to stick around afterward for the nightly light and music show outside after sunset.  Large metal artificial ‘trees’ covered in vines are brightly lit with changing colors timed to music.

The cloud forest.  A completely contained man made mountain full of species of plants found in the cloud forest.  You can walk around inside and peer out through windows, and walk around the floating walkway a hundred feet or so off the ground.
The cloud forest. A completely contained man made mountain full of species of plants found in the cloud forest. You can walk around inside and peer out through windows, and walk around the floating walkway a hundred feet or so off the ground.

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The Flower Dome, is home to hundreds of different species of flowering and unique plants.
The Flower Dome, is home to hundreds of different species of flowering and unique plants.

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Huge artificial trees, rising higher than real ones, and lit up at night beneath the Marina Bay Sands.
Huge artificial trees, rising higher than real ones, and lit up at night beneath the Marina Bay Sands.

Our time in Singapore was a nice treat from the typically more remote places we have been visiting.  We found a few days to be plenty to see all that city has to offer, and enough to push our budget to its limits.  For anyone planning a visit, you can see just about everything in three or four days and then move on to a cheaper location.

We took the convenient subway all the way to the airport, where Krista was entertained by an art display of moving metal teardrops.  Then we were off to Thailand for a few days before making our way into Laos.

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