I have heard people saying that Singapore is in China. Others that it is the capital city of Malaysia or just a big city in the area not knowing of which country. In my personal opinion, it is the twin Indo-Malaysian brother of Hong Kong. Another former British colonial city in Asia that has developed himself into one of the greatest economical regions in the world.
Singapore is considered the first country and probably the only one that was forced to be independent. Yes, as you are reading. The Malaysian government gave Singapore their independence without them asking for it. As a proud Malay told me, one year after being released by the British colony, they unified Malaysia. Despite the discriminative policies of Malaysia where Malaysian Malays were to be considered with more right, Singapore government was claiming equal rights for every citizen. The central government, seeing that the Singapore government was powerful and to avoid the expansion of their ideas, on the morning of 9 August 1965, the Parliament of Malaysia voted 126–0 in favour of expelling Singapore.
Since then the ruling government has worked in order to create the greatest economy hub in the world. It is the great Asian success history. In last 40 years the country has evolved from corruption and chaos to one of the safest and clean places in the world. Zero tolerance and strict laws have changed the multicultural behaviour into a common global respect and tolerance.
So far, right now, despite some stewardess or customs agents might not know whether Singapore is or not a country or where it is located, the Singapore passport is the best travel document in the world.
However, for traveling, it is an expensive destination, even more if we compare it with its Asian neighbours. Still you can find ways to make it no so expensive and even cheaper than an average Europe travel.
By now I have spent several days in the metropolis. Since I arrived I like it. The underground is far from the best organized as it lacks of maps, signals, and indications. However, there are plenty about rules applied.
As soon as I got out of the subway in Chinatown where I have been staying – Cheap hostel and pretty centred – I found myself speechless. The cleanest Chinatown ever. Chinatown is an old town surrounded by modern skyscrapers. In the area are included some 21st century canopies to protect clients from the rain. The habitual chaotic street shops were organised alongside the streets in both sides leaving enough place for pedestrians to walk the street.
As I get late afternoon I did little more than learn as much as I could from an Argentinian that came all the way here to train and compete fighting in the MMA. It seams that it is growing here this combination of Martial Arts and that Singapore host some of the best training centres.
The following days I combined my routine by visiting the city at the time I meet with locals. Couchsurfing helped a lot.
In between the main spots to visit is the Marina Bay. It is basically an artificial Marina where you wont sea many sailing vessels. In the side of the Esplanade are the auditorium and exhibition halls. It is a complex of two buildings shaped like the fruit king of the region, the Durian. Reason enough for locals to called with that name. From the platform of bars and restaurants that looks to the Marina Bay is the view towards the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the Marina Bay Mall.
We walked all the way there through the Spiral bridge. On the Marina front just in front of the mall is the platform and the fountain that every night at 20:00, 21:00 and 22:00 (only weekends) amuse the tourist with a fantastic water and lights show.
On the side is the ArtScience Museum and a – I bet – not cheap Louis Vuitton store. As we did, once finished the Show here, we walked across the mall and behind the hotel to get to the artificial Garden by the Bay. You probably have seen this garden in pictures. Here there is also a light show over the metallic trees. As it is already over Halloween, we can say is Christmas time. Here Christmas is well celebrated, probably due to the shopping and economical benefit rather than religiously. Most of the population is not Christian. In between both shows there are 20 min delay so perfect timing. Both shows are visible as well from the rooftop of the Marina Bay Hotel.
Not far from the Gardens there is a food court – these are the best place to save money when looking for a bite. Food is local, good and for S$6 you can get a good meal. I was surprised it was so close to all the touristic attractions.
A local CSer took us a bit further to the Marina Barrage. It is the defence that protects the marina from the differences in the sea levels. The interest of coming here was not the concrete building, but the garden terrace from where there is a magnificent view of the city. Such a romantic place to visit with your couple or some friends, a bunch of beers and a PicNic. Up to you.
As well in this area is the Merlion. A ridiculous Lion Mermaid sculpted with no other reason or motivation than to be a touristic attraction where Chinese could take a selfie to publish in their Instagram.
Out of the city centre there are Little India and Chinatown that are worth a visit. Both are to be walk along the streets looking to the facades of the old two or three story residential buildings. In the Ground floor, here the first floor, is normally a shop or commercial business. In between two of them there is normally a door that connects to a corridor or a staircase that goes inside to the patio or up to the house. Both areas are arranged in a perfect grid.
Distance are very walk-able and from little India, without even realising it we got to the Muslim area and the mosques. A bit further is the big mall of Bugis Junction.
In terms of eating is easy to find a food court almost all around the city and if not, there are always nice little restaurants everywhere. Still cheap options. Little India however is not a good place for grabbing a beer. After an incident that in the area, Alcohol get to be banned. Regarding who tell you the story you might get a different version of what happened.
From Bugis in the way to Chinatown is Clarke Quay, a riverfront walk full of terraces. The perfect place for a CS meeting and have a drink until late night without going to an expensive club. I attended the CS meeting on Thursday but during the one on Friday, last night, I had an expensive drink at Ce La Vie, the expensive bar on top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
If you are thinking on visiting the rooftop to catch the city view from there you have several options.
- Get a room at the hotel, about US$400 and you also get access to the swimming pool.
- Get a visit to the SkyDeck S$23 from where you can have a perfect view of both sides, the bay and gardens by the bay, and take as many selfies as you want.
- Go for a drink at Ce La Vie S$20 before 21:00 as entrance fee and discounted on your consumption. Beer S$18-20 Cocktails S$23
- Don’t go
We decided to go for the 3 option and after a drink at Ce La Vie we spent the night at the club with the magnificent views towards the bay.
Back to the city sightseeing, in Chinatown there is the Buddha Tooth Temple. A Chinese castle shape building where is stored as a relic what is supposed to be the tooth of Siddhartha. I found it a bit to big to even be human. Do not forget to climb upstairs to the terrace to sea a view over the rooftops of all Chinatown with the tall skyscrapers on the back.
In the area there is also an Hindi temple very popular among tourists, but I found it was a bit more of what you see in Malaysia and not as impressive.
On the same street after the Buddhist temple and the Hindi, there is a little mosque. I kind of like this neighbourhoods.
On one side of Chinatown I learnt about the urban development of shanghai, it’s origin and melting pot at the URA building. There are two big models of the city and several interactive panels showing information of all the urban and society aspects of Singapore along its history.
One step farther there is a tall building with a platform connecting 7 towers that you can climb for S$6 previews registration at the tower G.
The last sightseeing, I have visited in these days was the Botanic garden. It is a bit out of the main town, but easy reachable by MRT.
The Botanic Garden is not as impressive as the Gardens by the Bay, but it also hosts a great variety of plants and you should not get surprise to find great big lizards crossing your path.