Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Short Break In Singapore

Caroline and I needed to get away. We love travelling and going to new places and we'd both only ever transited through Singapore before. Admittedly, Changi airport is an amazing place, but that's still not the same as visiting the place! We had a short break for 6 days going somewhere warm and interesting.

Firstly Singapore was very warm, and the heat and humidity took its toll on both of us. At the end of each day we were thoroughly exhausted from sightseeing around the town in averagely 30C+ days. We stayed in an area just south of the Singapore River, slightly north of Chinatown, and 5 minutes walk to Clarke Quay. The city is pretty flat so walking isn't the biggest problem, but the transport system is pretty good, so we used that a fair bit.

Singapore isn't as old as I thought it was, at least not in its recent history. Modern Singapore can be dated back tot he 1800's, when Sir Stamford Raffles landed on the island and negotiated a treaty which made Singapore part of the British Empire. There is a colonial feel as you wander the streets of central Singapore, and Raffles name isn't usually far away.

Raffles Hotel at the heart of Singapore Colonial District
While there is a heavy colonial feel tot he city, there are also distinct ethnic sections to the city that are rich in cultural heritage. We visited Chinatown (more than once), Little India and Kampong Glam, or Arab Street Quarter to experience some of this culture. Chinatown is fantastic, bustling, loads of food places and, of course, a distinctly Chinese feel to it. Oddly enough our first stop was at the Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple. It was strangely coincidental that our last port of call in Little India was at the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple. All the religious buildings we saw, including the Sultan Mosque and Buddha Tooth Relic Temple were ornately decorated both inside and out.

Ceiling art at the Sri Mariamman Temple

At the doors to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple

Sultan Masjid Mosque at the end Bussorah Street

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
A visit to these areas should include some ethnic dining. I guess our favourite restaurants were the Eight Treasures Vegetarian Restaurant in Chinatown, and Kailash Parbat in Little India but there was definitely something for everyone.

Singapore has a very modern feel to the Marina area. We arrived the day after the Grand Prix was held and they were clearing up the city centre course. By the end of the week, you'd hardly have known a Grand Prix had been held there. The city is very clean, and even though the humidity was high, I thought the air quality was pretty good. We spent a little time in the Marina area, and watched the free evening concert and light show in the Gardens By The Bay.

The massive Marina Park Sands Hotel dominates the Marina

The Helix Bridge

Science Museum in front of the business district
The mix of old and new was nicely explained at the Chinese Cultural Heritage Centre, which gives a great feel for how tough life must have been for early Chinese immigrants to the settlement. Interestingly, I learned that most of what you see in the picture above would not have been visible 100 years ago, as that is reclaimed land built upon much later.

The Gardens were magnificent, and I intend to write a further post about them. It was a great short break in the tropical warmth after a wet and cold Victorian winter, and I'd certainly recommend Singapore as a place to visit.

View from Marina Bay Hotel Skydeck across Gardens By The Bay to the Straits

Singapore Flyer from Gardens By The Bay

Supertrees at Gardens By The Bay

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