Day 48 – Singapore
The Malay Peninsula extends down from Indochina some 700 or 800 miles. At the tip of the peninsula, about 100 miles south of Kuala Lumpur, separated from Malaysia by a river, lies the city-state of Singapore. The Republic of Singapore is about the size of DFW in area with about twice the population.
Singapore was founded by an Englishman, Sir Thomas Raffles, who had an idea for a “free port” to take advantage of the very large amount of trade shipping which daily sailed past the island on the Malacca Strait. He established Singapore as a colony of Great Britain, and it remained as such until 1959. For a brief time it was part of The Federation of Malaysia but due to friction between the Malayans, dominant in the federation and the ethnic Chinese in Singapore, it split from the federation and became a separate nation in 1965.
Because of its location, at the base of the Malacca Strait (virtually all traffic between the Suez, middle east, and India headed to or from China, Japan, or Korea passes here) it is one of the busiest ports in the world – behind only Shanghai. It has a strong and growing economy, despite the fact it has no natural resources, primarily due to the strong growth incentives by which its government is driven.
This is our third opportunity to visit Singapore. Prior to visiting, I had an impression of Singapore as some sort of mysterious, dangerous, semi-uncivilized city someplace in the Far East. I was apprehensive about visiting. My impressions could not have been more wrong – it is a clean (really clean), modern, dynamic city, full of friendly energetic people. It does have some rather strict laws, which are strictly enforced, such as no chewing gum, no graffiti, no littering, and no jaywalking. They also have extremely strict punishments for bringing any sort of illegal drugs into the country. As a result, there are no gangs and virtually no crime to speak of.
Our pre-dawn approach to Singapore.
This is a new and modern cruise terminal, sadly without the attached shopping center at the old terminal, but this one is in the heart of the city.
Singapore also has the absolutely best version of our favorite mode of transport, The Hop on – Hop off bus, which was waiting for us in the cruise terminal when we arrived. It has new and improved shade covers on the back part of the upper deck – nice!
We were out of the terminal, through customs, and on the bus in just a few minutes, and out to see the city.
We rode the bus for about an hour – just a general look around the city with some of our table mates who had never been here before.
Sally wanted to try and find a yarn shop (she has been knitting every day on this trip) and I had gotten a couple of addresses from google so when the bus got close, we hopped off and found the shop – no luck it was closed, so we decided to try the other address I had gotten, later in the afternoon. We reboarded the next bus and continued the circuit of the city.
The U.S. Embassy.
The Singapore State Building.
Not all of Singapore is high rises and mansions.
It is quite common to see peoples’ shops with their homes above.
Our next stop was The Singapore Flyer – the largest Ferris wheel in the world.
In the evening one can book the Flyer for a three course meal – one course on each of its 38 minute rotations. The cars are very large and would easily hold 20 for viewing or ten for dinner. Today we are just viewing.
The views are spectacular. Since the Singapore Formula One track winds around the Flyer, views of the track are superb – I wonder what it costs to ride the Flyer while the race is on?
A view of our ship from the Flyer.
Much of the land of Singapore has been reclaimed by filling the ocean – in fact 25% of their entire land mass, or about sixty square miles is reclaimed land, including virtually everything in this shot toward the sea, which includes the Marina Bay area and much of downtown. I love the soccer field built over the water in front of the Formula One grandstand.
The 2600 room Marina Bay Sands, has a restaurant, pool, and observation tower, perched 56 floors up on, across its three towers. It was built at a cost of $5.9 billion (U.S.)
As I have said, Singapore is one of the busiest ports in the world – looking down the Marina Bay channel toward the harbor, one can see the number of boats waiting to load or unload.
The view the other direction, up the channel, is all commerce and residences.
We rejoined our bus for the short ride to the Marina Bay Sands – having decided to take the trip to the top.
There were no lines so we bought a ticket and rode the elevator to the top immediately – if we were coming to Singapore for a stay – I would cough up the extra money and stay here. It is a beautiful hotel with fine restaurants, a shopping center, and a casino – pricey but worth it. If one is here only for a day, put the trip to the observation floor high on your list. $20 for seniors. The views are unbelievable.
The Merlion is the official symbol of Singapore. It is a mythical half lion, half mermaid – the mermaid representing the sea and the lion representing the lion (Singha) that was supposedly seen by an early Sultan as he cruised past the island. The Merlion statue is on the Marina Bay.
We decided to take a break for lunch, rode the elevator down to the lobby, and crossed under the street to Marina Bay shopping center. It reminded us both of the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas with its canals, boatmen, and high-end shops.
After a surprisingly good hamburger at a place called Korean Kraze Burgers, we headed out to find our bus, and even though I tried to get us lost after I got turned around, we found the correct bus stop and shortly our Hop On – Hop Off showed up.
We continued the ride around town – heading for Raffle’s Hotel. On the way, we passed through the Arab Quarter, with its block of fabric stores (one of our major stops last year).
We also passed this Madrassa, just as the kids were getting out of school. In Singapore, Muslim Madrassas are permitted only so long as they include normal curriculum along with religious training.
We jumped off the bus at Raffles Hotel, named after the founder of Singapore, and headed into its “Long Bar” which is famous for inventing the Singapore Sling – which, despite the $25 price, sounded good about now.
Properly refreshed, we decided to complete Sally’s quest for yarn, and attempted to locate the second yarn store I had found on line. A kindly couple in a Chinese book store aimed us about 8 blocks up the street and we took off. After some searching, we found it, it was open, and we made the yarn purchase. By now I was getting a little edgy about making the ship on time. A ship sailing is not something you want to miss – since all you can do is fly to the next port, and rejoin the ship. In this case that would be Cochin, India in 5 days. We couldn’t get a cab to stop (apparently there are designated pick up points – they can’t stop on the street) and finally found a cab station cue at the hospital. Slowly the line inched forward as I kept checking my watch. Finally we got a taxi that would go to the port (I think we still owe a young Chinese lady an apology for stealing her cab) and we zoomed off toward the port. We made it with a few minutes to spare and the speedy cab driver probably got his largest tip of the year.
We were sitting at our dinner table, hot and tired but with our yarn, as the ship sailed out.