What A Nice Surprise!
Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
144Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Marina Bay Sands
Many people marvel at the beauty of Singapore and her progressiveness
* Population: 5.18 million
* Located in Southeast Asia between Malaysia and Indonesia.
* Singapore was united with other former British territories to form Malaysia in 1963 and became a fully independent state two years later after a separation from Malaysia.
* Since then it has had a massive increase in wealth, and is one of the Four Asian Tigers. The economy depends heavily on the industry and service sectors.
* It is the world's fourth-leading financial centre, the world's second-biggest casino gambling market, and the world's third-largest oil refining centre.
* The port of Singapore is one of the five busiest ports in the world, most notable for being the busiest trans-shipment port in the world
* The country is home to more US dollar millionaire households per capita than any other country.
* The World Bank notes Singapore as the easiest place in the world to do business.
* The median age of the resident population is 38 years in 2011.
* Singapore is counted amongst the 20 smallest countries of the world. However, it is the second most densely populated country in the world, after Monaco.
* In 2011, the Chinese formed the majority at 74 per cent of the resident population, followed by the Malays with 13 per cent and the Indians with 9.2 per cent.
* In 2,000, the World Health Organization ranked Singapore as the 6th best health system in the world, much higher than the United States, Canada or the UK. Currently, it sees some 8,000 patients a year, of whom about 90 per cent are foreign patients.Tourism receipts from medical travelers last year hit an estimated S$940 million, a jump of about S$200 million compared to the year before.
Fast forward to today. Singapore is a bustling cosmopolitan city populated with high-rise buildings and landscape gardens. Brimming with a harmonious blend of culture, cuisine, arts and architecture, Singapore is a dynamic city that’s rich in contrast and colour. In fact, you can even say that Singapore embodies the finest of both East and West.
The one thing most people had associated with Singapore is that it has been a fairly rigid law and order town and has a fine for just about everything
The one punishment we made a particular note of was for visitors overstaying their visa by 90+ days- caning
Alright, 'nuff said, now I don't feel as in the dark about Singapore and I hope you don't either.
We had planned this trip around the Chinese New Year, January 23rd, and Vic managed to get us a place right in downtown Chinatown, a perfect location at a really cute boutique hotel. It may be the smallest room we have stayed in- other than the bed, no furniture, shelves, closet or cupboards, bathroom is about the size of those on cruise ships. It is clean, flushing toilet and hot water so I am very happy. We arrived in plenty of time for New Year and managed to walk around Chinatown while we waited for midnight They have pulled out all the stops with the decorations, stunning.
The lights, lanterns, dragons (this is the Chinese Year of the Dragon- the Water Dragon specifically so it's supposed to be a good year for most of us) and there is quite a good crowd milling about, you can feel the excitement and anticipation in the air
It did start to rain, as in, the heavens opened. At midnight we stood together near the stage in our matching blue rain ponchos- the fireworks used to announce the New Year were a loud and scary reminder of our machine gun experience in Phnom Penh- this was followed by more traditional fireworks but the rain probably limited the show (the Tottenham firefighters put on a better show every Canada Day!). The dancers and other performers did have a look at the stage but it was not covered and, we are assuming, not a safe place for performing. Too bad, it looked like a lot of "hair and makeup " effort on the part of the female dancers, not to mention some beautiful costumes, and I am sure many hours of rehearsal.
Up and at it early the next day, and yes, I will admit, out first visit to McDonald's since August, and it was great! An Egg McMuffin and latte, but the real bonus was sitting with an older gentleman who has made 6 trips to Singapore from Australia over the years and was a wealth of knowledge. Map in hand we were off. Beautiful weather, beautiful city, NO traffic since it was now a holiday and for the next two days we were promised a quiet city as most of the residence had two days off
A beautiful Hindu temple, The Sri Mariamman Temple is Singapore's oldest Hindu temple. Located in the downtown Chinatown district, the temple serves mainly South Indian Tamil Hindu Singaporeans in the city-state. We have rarely seen this style before as it is mostly from the south of India.
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Nice, interesting, saw the tooth.
Took famous MRT subway, (up to 90 kms per hour). Looking at the map of the subway system for a minute or two and Vic says, " looks like we take the yellow line two stops, transfer to the purple and get off at the ninth station.". I am standing there like an idiot still trying to find the " You Are Here" bubble.
"Singapore Flyer"- sorry more facts:
* Opened 15 April 2008
*Cost US $ 180 million
* Described by its operators as an observation wheel, it reaches 42 stories high, with a total height of 165 m (541 ft), making it the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, 30 m (98 ft) taller than the London Eye
* Each of the 28 air-conditioned capsules is capable of holding 28 passengers, and a complete rotation of the wheel takes about 30 minutes.
* Initially rotating in a counter-clockwise direction when viewed from Marina Centre, its direction was changed on 4 August 2008 under the advice of Feng shui masters!!!!!
This was an amazing experience and, at $30 each, worth it I thought. The view as you could imagine was breath taking. We then ventured into the food area where you could buy " government regulated " street meat and dishes from the turn of the century, or at least that's the way it looked to me. I had the famous Chicken Rice and Vic had the famous Oyster omelet, I hope this all ends well........
Next day we managed two different tours on open top double decker buses, great way to see the place on such a beautiful day. The architecture of these buildings is like nothing we have seen before. Some of old Singapore appears standing in between the skyscrapers and the buildings seem to complement each other. Every building is uniquely different, so much thought put into every aspect of it's design. The City's extremely green and the parks are so clean, what a pedestrian friendly place
We also took a " bumboat" tour of their Harbour which is beautifully laid out, perfect, I wish Toronto had implemented these ideas. We pause at the famous Merlion statue spewing water from it's mouth into the Harbour- very impressive.
Knowing that I had to suspend my lifetime memberships to PETA, WWF, ZooCheck, and Ontario SPCA, to travel like this, Vic took advantage and doesn't he go ahead and buy us tickets for, "the only night safari in the world". Now, I did in fact Google this and saw that the Singapore Zoo was rated as one of the top 3 zoos in the world- they had implemented a very serious code of ethics in the treatment of their animals, so we went. It actually seemed like a good idea, as 80% of animals are nocturnal, or so the sign said. We opted to walk (about an hour) instead of the open air tram. The enclosures (no cages thank goodness), were defiantly animal friendly, large, clean, lots of vegetation (no concrete), so you really had to look for the animals, which was great
Next day, like Christmas, I leap out of bed already packed and ready to go to the luxury hotel!!! Check in is not till 3pm, but I am determined to challenge that and have a pre rehearsed speech to deliver if we are challenged at the front desk.. 10 minute cab ride ( thanks again Vic), and as luck would have it we checked in early 11:30ish and our room was ready for us!
The Marina Bay Sands (related to the Sands in Vegas) Hotel
But the reason we were here was to swim in the horizon pool 55 stories up. You could only do this as a guest of the hotel so with the Jaws Of Life, we pried open Vic's wallet and spent more on one night here than we had in the combined previous 3 weeks in Asia. I cannot put into words how magnificent that view from the top was, it really did take your breath away. It felt almost dream-like to look out over the beautiful pool that drops off to nowhere and yet the tops of all the skyscrapers are in the same view. I will let Vic's incredible photo's document this experience for us.
The full effect of being in the highest horizon pool in the world really became apparent when you were swimming, you never wanted that view to leave your sight. Both Vic and I agreed that it wasn't as scary as we thought it would be
We stayed in the pool for four hours that afternoon, the only thing that drove us out was the fact we hadn't eaten in almost 24 hours. We found a nearby food court and ate quickly before heading out to explore. The hotel was located on a bay and so lots going on around us including a lantern exhibit that was truly amazing. It seemed set up for kids but very talented artisans, so much effort and attention to details. We had drinks at a very trendy bar directly across the water from the hotel and witnessed a spectacular laser show put on by our hotel. The show included synchronized fountains and classical music. Really made me think the Bellagio ( fav hotel in Vegas) could use an upgrade. The show was great. We walked back and got some amazing night time skyline shots and another look at the lanterns, then you guessed it, back up to the pool for a nighttime swim. Our room, without a doubt, the nicest room we have stayed in so far this trip. The bed was so comfortable and a fluffy pillow- real pillows, not the sandbags we have been sleeping on these past few months. We would have had a good nights sleep if it wasn't for the sunburn!!!!! Who knew you could burn like that when you are underwater- the pair of us! The next morning, coated in sunscreen, Vic went in again. I stayed on the edge, with the chills from too much sun and monitored Vic's sun exposure. It was with a heavy heart we had to leave our little piece of heaven. Grabbed a bus to the airport and we were on our way back to Cambodia. We thoroughly enjoyed Singapore, and I know that it wasn't the last we will see of it. We'll be back......