After getting a little bit of sleep from the long journey to get here, the time had come to explore the city-state of Singapore! I made an early start of the day to try and catch the first bus of the day for the tours, taking a nice stroll through the city to get to Suntec City where most of the Hop-on/Hop-off tour routes begin. Along the way, the first thing that you can’t help but notice is the incredible blending of old and new here, as the smaller, older buildings with ties to the various ethnic groups that call Singapore home are blended in with the taller, modern buildings and sky scrapers. It really is a neat blending of old and new.
Along the way, I became a bit side-tracked as I discovered that there was a market located off of Waterloo Street with a wide assortment of vendors, selling everything from food to kitchen tools to trinkets. It was also quite busy on this day.
I had thought that it might have been just because it was a popular market, but as it turned out when heading further in, there was a rather large gathering of people tied to a significant event of Buddhism on this day. I was not able to find out what the significance was, but what was occurring was that people were buying incense, lighting them from several small fires, and then walking with them toward the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple. As they arrived to the temple, they would continue on in with the large group of people that would be pulsed in by the local police for the sake of crowd control. I wish I knew more about the significance of what was going on, but it was still a really neat discovery to see this taking place.
One theme that would be prevalent here in Singapore as well as Malaysia is there cultural diversity, and the way it felt as though these people of different background live in harmony with one another. Not even a full block from the Buddhist temple was the Sri Krishnan Temple. This was this first time that I had seen a Hindu Temple in person before, and I was in awe of the beautiful craftsmanship of the design and ornamental pieces on the roof.
Much of the first half of the day would be spent on Singapore’s hop-on/hop-off tour buses to get a bit of an introduction of the city. Since this was my one culture day for Singapore, I figured I would do this to get a sense of the place and learn a bit about the city, then head to a few places of interest after the tour later in the afternoon and evening. I was under the impression that this was going to be with CitySightseeing, a company I had taken tours with before in South Africa since that was who my ticket that I purchased on Viator was through. As it turned out, the different hop-on/hop-off tours and a few other tours have all partnered together here in Singapore, so when you purchase a ticket to take one of hop-on/hop-off buses, it is actually good for all of them, which meant that there were more routes to choose from. Just as it was with the buses back in South Africa, there were audio plus to put headphones in to listen to a prerecorded narration of the tour.
To kick things off, I hopped onto the Yellow Route first, which would go the furthest away from Suntec City. In this route, it starts (as a couple of their routes do) with a drive around the Marina Bay area taking you buy the Singapore Flyer (large Ferris wheel), Marina Bay Sands (the three-tower building with the deck on top connecting them) and ArtScience Museum (The building that looks like a lotus flower). As you continue from there, you make your way to the Singapore Botanic Gardens at the far end of the route passing along some incredible buildings along the way. After passing through the botanic gardens, the bus then heads back toward the beginning going through Orchard, which is one of the main places in Singapore for shopping with a large number of retail locations to be found. Some interesting facts that I learned from this tour included the fact that 25% of Singapore is from landfill and that their cargo port sees over 90,000 crates of cargo every day!
After completing the first tour route, I went into Suntec City, and in the area right beside where the tour busses pickup, I found a quick service restaurant called Old Chang Kee, which offered a variety of “food on a stick” type items. I thought I would give their Cheezy Chicken Ball OnStik a try, and it was unhealthily delicious!
On the other side of the main shopping area of Suntec City, there is a huge fountain called the Fountain of wealth, which sits between a set of five buildings that represent the thumb and four fingers of the hand, while the fountain would essentially be in the palm of the hand. The fountain is recognized by Guinness World Records as the largest fountain in the world. What I didn’t realize at the time that I saw it was that the large ring itself was the main fountain. At the time that I saw it, you could go into the fountain area and walk around the mini fountain in the middle with your hand running through the water three times for good luck. When the main fountain is on, access into the fountain basin is not available. Even though I had missed the main fountain operating, it was really neat to see the fountain in “accessible mode” so to speak.
Getting back to the busses for another ride, this time I took the blue route which was a shorter loop that would go by the Marina bay area to begin, and then heads Northeast toward the Little India and Kampong Glam, Singapore’s Islamic quarter. The downside of this route was that some of the landmarks featured passed by fairly quickly so it was hard to get good photos or videos from on the bus, but those wanting to explore these areas could take advantage of the hop-on/hop-off option for these buses to do so.
After this route, it was time for a short break to give my phone a chance to recharge a bit as I had been taking a ton of video and photos from the first part of the day, and wanted to get out of the sun for a while. Once the phone charged a bit and I cooled off, I went over to a monument that I had seen on the bus earlier which was dedicated to the civilians of Singapore who been lost during the time that the Imperial Army of Japan during World War II. The memorial includes for large pillars that represent the four main ethnic groups of Singapore, one for the Chinese, one for the Malays, one for the Indians, and the last represents the other minority groups of Singapore.
After visiting the memorial, I decided to take one more ride on the tour buses before doing some exploring on my own. For this one, I would take the brown route which would go into the core of Singapore’s downtown core with the largest skyscrapers, and then over to Chinatown. It was incredible to see some of the incredible architecture of these buildings in the core of the city as there were some really unique buildings.
Once I had my fill of tour bus riding, I began to head back over to the Marina Bay area as there were several things I wanted to see over there, and as I began my walk, I found the area that is a focal point for the Singapore Grand Prix of Formula 1 racing, as the garages for the cars were located near the starting area of the track. What was neat was that while the race wasn’t taking place, you could easily walk along it.
After a short visit to the track, I began to head over to the Marina Bay area from the track with some excellent views of Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands. To get into the area by these attractions, I took a walk on the really neat Helix Bridge, which allowed for some great photo opportunities in a couple of decks on the bridge going across.
It was at this point that it had dawned on me that I hadn’t had an actual meal yet, so it was time to get some food. As I entered the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, I found this really cool interactive video display near the food court, which would react to the movement of people on it. This was a hit with the kids as they were running wild on it and enjoying the way they were changing the display.
After doing some searching through the food court, I chose to get some Hainanese chicken rice. This dish included a piece of chicken breast served with rise that was cooked in the juices of the cooked chicken. The chicken itself had a drizzle of an orange sauce, and I tried the garlicky-chili sauce that was suggested on the menu board. The sauce had a real kick to it as is was pretty darn spicy, but absolutely delicious!
After eating, I took sometime to enjoy the waterside area near Marina Bay Sands Shoppes. In the area of the ArtScience Museum there are a ton of lotus flowers in the pond that surrounds it. As you walk down the boardwalk, there are some incredible views of the Singapore’s skyline!
It would be at this point that I was ready to catch the first coasters of this trip as my friends Rick and Keith had been to Singapore a few weeks earlier, and they had told me about a special carnival that was taking place called the Prudential Marina Bay Carnival. This was a pretty large carnival that offered a wide variety of rides to choose from. Of course, I rode on the two coasters that were available here, including the Euro Coaster and Sharky. Neither one would have been anything major, however it would be the first two coasters of the trip and in Singapore!
The highlight of the carnival was this funky flat ride called Jumper Jumper, which had inverted style seats that would hang from the arms, and the arms would move up and down with a bounce to them while the seats could spin around. This was a really fun ride, and one that I wish was more common in the states as I have not yet seen it in any North American Carnivals.
Once I had a chance to enjoy a few rides of the carnival, I was ready for a couple more sights before calling it a day, the first being Gardens by the Bay and the Supertrees. These iconic structures are the ones that light up at night with a show taking place in the later evening hours, and for those who are fans of the film “Crazy Rich Asians”, this is where the wedding reception scene takes place. While there are several things to see within Gardens by the Bay that require an admission ticket, to come to this area itself is free of charge. Getting to take the suspension bridge from one Supertree to another is about eight Singapore Dollars. This is a great way to get an elevated view of the area, especially of the gardens.
The final stop of the day would be to the Marina Bay Sands building. This unique building features Sands Skypark, which is the observation deck on top of the building. While there had already been several great areas for views on this day, this may have been the best viewing location, especially as the timing worked out for being able to enjoy the nighttime lighting of the skyline of Singapore!
And with that, my personal batteries were all but dead at this point as I was exhausted. Between still trying to adjust to the time zone, and having spent a full day out and about, I was ready to get to bed. It was an excellent day with some great sights, and it was just the first day with many more to come! Up next, the second day in Singapore would grant the opportunity to enjoy the first major theme park of the trip before heading across the boarder for the Malaysia portion of the trip.