Travelmag Banner
Archives
Search
 Features

Singapore: certainly not boring


Many call it a shopper’s paradise, the Monaco of Asia and even the fine city (Yep, you drop that tissue on the floor and you will get fined). But Singapore has much more to offer to its visitors. Sports, nature, nightlife, art and culture, food, adventure, are some of the options that one can explore.

Since 2005 gamblers have found a new country to come and try their luck in, as Singapore has legalized gambling to attract high rollers to its shores. This has led to the addition of another landmark to Singapore’s skyline, the Marina Bay Sand Hotel and Casino. MBS (as it is called) was opened in June 2010. This engineering marvel has three towers in the shape of packs of cards with a Sky Park located on the 57th floor and spanning the entire 3 towers.

You need to show your passport before you enter the casino, as Singapore citizens need to pay S$100 to enter, while other nationalities enter free. This has been levied by the government to protect its citizens from losing hard earned money at the casino.

Clarke Quay

If New York has its Times Square Garden and London has Leicester square, then Singapore has its Clarke Quay. Restaurants offering all kinds of cuisine and bars selling your poison can be found here.

Themed restaurants like Hooters or the Clinic (where you sit in wheelchairs instead of normal chairs) are located at Clarke Quay. One thing that you immediately notice at Clarke quay is the vibrant décor and the array of lights which light up even the darkest of nights.

If an adrenalin rush is what you seek, then try your hand at the GMAX and Reverse Swing at Clarke Quay to experience some reverse bungee.

A bit about the culture of Singapore, couples who are engaged to be married hire photographers to click their wedding portfolios at picturesque locations. These photos are then displayed at their wedding. I met such a couple at Clarke Quay and they were kind enough to pose for some photos with me. They explained this aspect of their culture to me, and I in turn explained to them that in India we usually get photos clicked only on the day of the wedding or the reception.

Jurong Bird Park

Singapore has a lot to offer nature lovers, like The Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park, Bedok Reservoir Park, the Night Safari, and many green pockets amidst the concrete jungle. Changi International airport also has a Butterfly Farm in the departure area of Terminal 3.

The Jurong Bird Park is situated in South west Singapore. It covers 202,000 square meters and is home to 8,000 birds belonging to 600 species.
Flamingoes, Eagles, Pelicans, Vultures, Ostriches, Ducks, Parrots and many more of these winged wonders can be seen in their natural habitats. Another sight not to be missed is the world’s tallest man-made waterfall, which is in the African Waterfall Aviary section at the bird park.

The Bird Park daily organizes a number of shows with the birds, such as the Parrot Show and the Birds of Prey show (with eagles, vultures, kites and even an owl).
And if you think you’ll get tired of walking around the park, rest your weary feet by hoping on the cute air-conditioned Panorail which will ferry you all around the park.

Singapore flyer

Not everyone can afford a helicopter ride to see the Singapore from the sky. But there is a much cheaper option. Presenting the world’s largest giant observation wheel, the Singapore flyer.

Thrown open on 15 April 2008, the Singapore flyer can take a maximum of 784 people in its 28 air conditioned capsules, for an unforgettable view of Singapore. (Tickets are for S$ 30 per person).

The Singapore Flyer is 554 feet high (42 stories), compared to the London Eye which is only 442 feet in height. The Flyer takes 32 minutes for 1 rotation, letting the passengers soak in the sights of Singapore. Try to head there around sunset time, so you get to view a beautiful sunset unobstructed by the skyscrapers. Plus the city skyline is just beginning to light up at that time, allowing you to see this whole other avatar of Singapore. Initially the Singapore Flyer was rotating in a counter-clockwise direction when viewed from Marina Centre, but its direction was changed in August 2008 under the advice of Feng shui masters.

Cuisine from all over the world is available in Singapore, but I was drawn to something that reminded me of back home. In the Plaza mall in Singapore is a food kiosk by the name of the Flying Bread, which serves vegetarian and non vegetarian rolls. The owners call their cuisine a fusion of Mediterranean and Indian, and the food sure did remind me of rolls that I’ve eaten in Mumbai, yummy.

While on the topic of food, 9 % of Singapore’s population is Indian, so there is no lack of Indian food. Vegetarians can rejoice for they will have a better trip, food wise, in Singapore than at any other South East Asian country. North and South Indian foods are easy to come by. One stall at Sentosa Island was advertising a Vada Pav Vegetarian Burger Set (with mashed potatoes and fruit juice). Need I say more?

MINT (Moment of Imagination and Nostalgia with toys) Museum of Toys.

Hidden away in a by lane, next to the historic Raffles Hotel (near City Hall MRT Station) is your ticket to rediscover your childhood. The Mint Museum of Toys is housed in a modern building on Seah Street but the treasures it holds date back to mid 19th century. (Tickets for S$ 15)

The museum has a collection of over 50,000 toys from 45 countries. But the 5 floors of the museum have only about 7,000 pieces on display at any given point of time. Every 6 months the displays are changed, ensuring that repeat visits will be as exhilarating as the first.

Earlier, toys from a country could be identified by the material used and the workmanship of the toymaker. But with the advent of globalization, children would be forgiven to believe that Santa Claus resides in China instead of the North Pole.

The toys are stored in dimly lit glass cases, and care is taken to prevent sunlight from entering the display areas. This is done to prevent discoloration of the toys owing to harsh lights.

Even flash photography is forbidden in the interest of the toys.

Do bear with the little ones, if they ask where a certain toy needs to be plugged in to use it.

Sentosa Island

Sentosa is a small island ½ km off the southern coast of Singapore, measuring just 5 sq km in size. But the visitors to this island are anything but small, measuring 5 million in the year 2009.

A wide array of activities are on offer for all age groups, from roller coasters at Universal Studios to Luge (a mix between a go-kart and a toboggan) riding and Segway riding at the Beach Station, from fodder for nature lovers at the Butterfly and Insect Kingdom at Imibiah Lookout to soaking in some history at the Fort Siloso, from playing a round off golf at Serapong to taking a dip in the sea at one of the beaches. Sentosa has something for everyone.

Even a full day seems less to enjoy all that Sentosa has to offer. But for whatever duration you plan to stay at Sentosa, don’t forget to take in the Songs of the Sea show (Tickets for S$ 10). It is a must watch sound and light show that is conducted every evening at 7.40 pm and 8.40 pm. A delight for children and adults, I guarantee that you will experience many ‘WOW’ moments and a few jaw dropping ones as well.

Formula 1 Race

Since 2008 Singapore has added another feather in its well decorated hat by successfully hosting the 1st night race in Formula 1 history. A mind boggling array of lights convert the 5.073 km Marina Bay Street circuit into a place where it seems that the sun never sets. 240,000 Formula 1 fans watch the race live at the track in Singapore, and millions across the world.

The city gets into Formula 1 mode much before the actual race, with part of the streets being blocked off from the Tuesday before the race. On Wednesday, I got lucky as the barricades were not completely placed around the track and I snuck onto the actual race track for a look. It’s an overwhelming feeling when you actually get to step on the track where you’ve watched your heroes race their mean machines. Let me put this into perspective for my cricket loving friends: imagine being allowed to walk on the cricket pitch at the Lords. Yep, same feeling. And the icing on the cake was seeing Fernando Alonso (2 times world champion) cycle around the track with his engineer. The cherry on top of the icing would have been to see Michael Schumacher, but I guess that will have to wait till some other day.

There is a lot to do at the race track, besides watching the actual race. International music stars like Mariah Carey, hip hop superstar Missy Elliot, American Idol alum Adam Lambert, etc entertain and stunts by bikers on dirt bikes enthrall the crowd. At the same time the aroma of scrumptious food and the sheen of F1 merchandise vie for your attention.
Along with Formula 1, the BMW cup and the Porsche Cup races are also held on the same day, but at an earlier time.

An hour and a half before the actual start of the race, a drivers’ parade is conducted. The Formula 1 drivers are ferried around the track in vintage cars. This is the best opportunity to see the Formula 1 drivers, as otherwise they zip by, tucked in their Formula 1 cars, faster than you can say “hello”.

As the sun begins to set, the lights come on and the track comes alive, engines roaring, loudspeakers blaring and fans cheering. You can feel the excitement rising in the stands. My own heart starts to beat faster in anticipation, and I almost forget to use the ear plugs which I had bought at the venue. Ear plugs? Why would I need those? For the first few laps of the race you might not need them, but to prevent damage to your eardrums and to save yourself from a splitting headache, its advisable to use them. Once the race begins, the sound of 26 Formula 1 cars going at full throttle is (for lack of any other word) deafening.

As Singapore is a street circuit, chances of overtaking are few and far between. This leads to riskier overtaking maneuvers by drivers, which unfortunately can lead to accidents. At these times the safety car comes out.

My friends and I were seated in the Bay Grandstand. Our seats were just above the corner of the track, where the cars take a 90 degree left turn and go under the stands (turn 18). This was also the site of the crash of the cars of Bruno Senna (Hispania Racing) and Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber). Plus the straight before the turn was the point where Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus car caught fire in the last few laps of the race. Besides getting a ringside view of all this action on the track, we also had a splendid view of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino.

It was an eventful race, but in the end only 1 driver gets to stand at the top of the podium, and what a celebration it was by Fernando Alonso and the Ferrari team.

As the crowd heads home after the race, so do I, but not before soaking in as much of the atmosphere as I can. After all watching a live Formula 1 race had been one of my dreams, till today that is.

It has been a fantastic 4 days, but I will be back again, for there is so much still to see, so much still to explore in this small but extraordinary country.

See you soon Singapore, thank you for your hospitality.

   [Top of Page]  
 Latest Headlines
Asia Pacific
Central Asia