My experience of Singapore in 13 images and a few more words
April 02, 2016 • 1 Comment
Click here to go to my itinerary directly; or continue reading to experience Singapore and its essence as I felt it.
I spent nine days in Singapore trying to gather the essence of what this tiny island nation has to offer. Like a typical tourist, which is atypical of me, I had a list of all the hot-spots to be visited in my crammed itinerary. I must say I feel that I saw and experienced a lot, but there is so much more that this country has to offer that cannot possibly be absorbed doing touristy things in a span of mere 10 calendar days. I will however try to layout in this blog the things that I did and experienced as I explored this country.
One thing that struck me about Singapore is the fact that there is a meticulous human influence to everything that happens here - planned, well-structured, and efficient. Be it the network of their high-speed expressways or the consistent looking state-provided housing facilities or the well connected networks of public transit system - everything is measured, consistent and efficient.
Coming to the topic of public transit, well it is one if the most well connected systems I have experienced so far. Their Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) network connects all the major areas of Singapore. To add to that, their public bus system is very well organized and integrates well with the MRT and LRT system to provide a seamless experience for a passenger to get to their destination without much hassles to switch across these three major modes of public transit. And not to mention the apps, information kiosks and well-placed sign-boards that makes it extremely easy for a tourist to navigate through these systems. And, for those who prefer an absolute seamless travel, there is always the option of hiring a taxi service. But mind you, taxi is more expensive and dependent on traffic congestion, while the MRT and LRT are more predictable and accurate with their schedules. So for all those who are planning to explore the city-state and are not bound by tight schedules, I would suggest them to utilize the well connected public transit system and avoid the more expensive taxis. This would be a more environmental friendly option as well.
As you see in the picture below, the expressway network in Singapore is really good and road transit coupled with MRT and LRT would be the best option both for your pockets, environment and your time-sensitive schedules!
In addition to the human influence, I must add that almost every public service bears a heavy state influence. Well, herein I don't mean to say government intervention in a negative way. I would like to say that there is a sense of state-imposed restraint and that it is necessary to achieve the current levels of efficiency. I guess this policy is indispensable owing to the limitations imposed on this nation by is limited geography and scarcity of natural resources. It's all about being efficient, not liberal and egalitarian.
The state however, has been striving hard to best offset its constraints with an infusion of skilled work force from different countries. The liberal immigration policies along with its capitalistic market ideologies have ensured that Singapore has become a melting pot for diverse cultures and bears the hallmark of being a typical modernistic culturally relaxed society. Although a global destination now, Chinese, Malay and Indians are the dominant ethnic groups in the 21st century Singapore. This tiny island nation has everything ranging from the bargain-busy Chinatown to the colorful Little India and everything that can fit in between. If you truly want a bite of of Singapore's cultural flavor, a visit to Chinatown and Little India is mandatory.
If you are in Chinatown, one must definitely visit the magnificent Buddha tooth relic temple. And in Little India, after grabbing a bit of delicious Indian dishes, be sure to visit Mustafa mall - it is crazy. You can find anything and everything here. You name it and you'll get it.
Other thing I must not miss about this city-state is its sultry weather. This is coming from a guy who has spent most of his life in the extremely hot and humid weather of Mumbai. This shouldn't be surprising knowing that Singapore is an equatorial country. Well almost, it lies just a degree to the north of Equator and therefore its sultry weather should come as no surprise. This was probably accentuated by the fact that I spent a lot of time walking in the city and on the brightest and sunniest of the days. Like you see in the picture below, trust me, carrying an umbrella would be a wise idea for any one who is planning to explore the city biped - both for the sultry weather as well as the unpredictable rain showers!
So far, the places that I have been referring to are really the heart and soul of Singapore in terms of people and culture. But then, Marina Bay represent a completely different Singapore - a plush, glittering and extravagant global hub. One of the most expensive structures in Asia, the Marina Bay Sand's and Sky Park is an epitome of Singapore's expedient politics. The $5.5 billion resort is a 55-story casino crowned with a cantilever aerial park is one of the most impressive feat of architecture in recent times. It is a must visit on the list of almost all the visitors. Everyone almost always spends a few hours atop this monument soaking in the grand view of from the harbor, Gardens by the Bay, barrage, city center and extending all the way to the East Coast Park.
Gardens by the Bay, Supertree groves, Cloud Forest Dome and Flower Dome are a few more interesting destinations near Marina Bay. These destinations are a welcome change from the crowds and extravagant architecture and attempts to showcase a more nature-centric face of Singapore. Think of issues such as greenery, quality of life, global warming, environmental friendly initiatives, conservation, renewable energy and such topics when you visit these destinations.
And I must say that it does a good job of instilling the importance of the aforementioned elements. I felt that the Cloud Forest Dome does a particularly good job of impressing the importance of greenery and the perils of our utter disregard towards nature.
After Marina Bay Sands resort and Sky park, another extravagant and touristy icon of this tiny island nation is the hyper-commercialized Sentosa Island. There are a lot of things that one can do in Sentosa, but I will include only a few that are surely not to be missed - the S.E.A aquarium, the Wings of Time laser show at Siloso beach, Fort Siloso and the cable car ride that offers beautiful views of the Sentosa and Singapore Harborfront. There are many more activities that you can splurge on in Sentosa, but these four are on the top of my list.
A visit to Sentosa aroused mixed emotions within me. It was wonderful to soak in the thick tropical greenery as I got a birds-eye view of the entire landscape. Juxtaposed to this greenery was the vast expanse of the Indian ocean and the natural essence that was missing on my trip so far was seemingly being quenched high above in the tiny confinement of my cable car compartment. And yet, as I alighted from the cable car and stepped onto the island, all that serenity was overwhelmed with sheer commercialization. The Starbucks, Hard Rock Cafe, the resorts and Disney worlds all came to the fore and the tropical greenery seems elusive yet again. Well, amidst all this I must admit that I really enjoyed looking up to the magnificent Merlion statue, a mascot used for national personification of Singapore.
Sentosa took me back to that feeling again - control and restraint. While the nature and this commercial glitz seem to co-exist in harmony, something about this resort island seemed restrained and balanced in a forceful manner, not natural. The tropical groves wanted to expand its footprints only to be restrained by the concrete walls of this resort island. This feeling of restraint and regulation followed me every where I went - be it market, places of worship, resorts etc. Sentosa was no different.
Speaking of nature, Jurong bird park is yet another place for tourists wanting to experience flora and fauna of Singapore. I had hoped for the much elusive wilderness as I walked in the park. When I say wilderness, I do not intend it in literal sense, but wild in the sense of being free and unrestrained. Well, I must say that contrary to all my expectations Jurong bird park was an epitome of control and restraint for me. It has everything that a bird lover and naturalist would want - well trained birds, all exotic and colorful, well cared for and nourished. Lakes and streams, thick foliage and even waterfalls! But everything is planned, controlled and regulated. The birds are trained, puppetted and restrained. Well, at nearly 100 feet tall even the magnificent waterfall is an artificial setting. In fact it is the tallest artificial waterfall in the world.
I am not saying that this overpowering feel of being controlled and restrained is necessarily bad , good for that matter. It is just the omnipresent emotion that I experienced in Singapore. And while I was there, I never felt the need for more freedom, I must say that I was a mere tourist. I don't know how this restraint affect the everyday life of its citizens. I don't know if it really matters to them. I don't even now if it is really even a point of contention there. But for me an overpowering sense of being channeled prevailed at all times. For me, the waterfall perfectly symbolize how I felt - even though it appears to be falling freely under gravity with no external influence; even though it appears to be gushing and thriving in a perfect tropical setting, deep down I felt that it was just too perfect to be free. It was being guided and channeled. The flow measured. The spillage controlled.
It's still a very young republic and amidst all these regulations , last year in 2015, Singapore celebrated 50 years of Freedom and to celebrate this milestone some wonderful events were planned and and monuments erected. According to the Singapore national heritage board, the Jubilee Walk is an eight-kilometer trail that connects the past, present and future elements of the Singapore story, from ancient Temasek to the colonial era, to nationhood, rapid urban development and beyond.
Well, having articulated everything I experienced, I must say that now that I am away from the tiny city state, I do miss being there. I do miss the convenience of well regulated machinery. In all fairness, Singapore has managed to achieve a lot more in lot less time. And to a large extent all this can be attributed to the well regulated and controlled democracy that one sees and feels in Singapore. Well, isn't grass always greener on the other side?
For the remaining three days during my stay in Singapore, I mostly spent working and experiencing the local flavors of Choa Chu Kang area - the local markets, stores and visiting some relatives!
What I missed -
Keywords: chinatown", gardens by the bay, lion city, marina bay sands, merlion, singapore, singapore tourism
Wow.what a nice way to explain singapore..loved the snaps .
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