Monday, March 30, 2009

RetroTravel: Singapore

Surprising Singapore never stops to surprise its guest. And I was one of them when I had the opportunity to visit it on a very short overnight trip. One of the surprises was that I thought as one of the most progressive country in South East Asia region, you'll expect a lot of skyscrapers and all industry scene around but it was a "forest city" or shall I say a city in a forest. What I mean is that aside from high-rising buildings, the country is green! With so much ornamental plant landscapes and trees lining in cluster in every corner of the city, I would say Singapore is an eco-friendly country which I really admire.

The icomic landmark of Singapore - The Merlion.
Another one was there is a quite large no. of Indian ethnicity in Singapore. All I expect were Chinese descent but there are citizens already, immigrants and some were making a living in the country. It also surprises me that Singaporeans are fashionable people. They go in what is "in" in style and trend of clothes... making shopping in some of the places quites expensive. The trip was so short as it is not enough to enjoy the place. That's why I'm planning to go back there. It is on my list of the countries I want to visit again. Hopefully, my target is this year. I want to go back. It's a shame, but I haven't seen the famous Merlion!

Singapore is a city-state in Southeast Asia. Founded as a British trading colony in 1819, since independence it has become one of the world's most prosperous countries and sports the world's busiest port. Combining the skyscrapers and subways of a modern, affluent city with a medley of Chinese, Indian and Malay influences and a tropical climate, with tasty food, good shopping and a vibrant nightlife scene, this Garden City makes a great stopover or springboard into the region.
Singapore is a small country on a small island, but with over four million people it's a fairly crowded city and in fact second only to Monaco as the world's most densely populated country. The center of the city — consisting roughly of Orchard Road, the Riverside and a chunk of Chinatown — is known in acronym-loving Singapore as the CBD (Central Business District).

Singapore is a microcosm of Asia, populated by Chinese, Malays, Indians and a large group of workers and expatriates from all across the globe. Singapore has a partly deserved reputation for sterile predictability that has earned it snickering descriptions like William Gibson's "Disneyland with the death penalty" or the "world's only shopping mall with a seat in the United Nations". Nevertheless, the Switzerland of Asia is for many a welcome respite from the poverty, chaos, and crime of much of the Asian mainland, and if you scratch below the squeaky clean surface you'll find more than meets the eye. Singaporean food is legendary, with bustling hawker centres and 24-hour coffee shops offering cheap food from all parts of Asia, and shoppers can bust their baggage allowances in shopping meccas like Orchard Road and Suntec City. In recent years some societal restrictions have also loosened up, and now you can bungee jump and dance on bartops all night long, although alcohol is very pricey and chewing gum can only be bought from a pharmacy. Gambling casinos will be opening up in about 2009 as part of Singapore's new Fun and Entertainment drive, the aim being to double the number of tourists visiting and increasing the length of time they stay. (Wikitravel: Singapore)

Everything is Singapore Airlines at Changi Airport

It was in this Singapore trip that I was first able to see and use the NAIA Centennial Terminal 2. Philippine Airlines was solely operating in the terminal. And our flight was an early 7am flight to Changi Airport. NAIA Centennial Terminal 2 was spacious, modern and very clean. The atmosphere is so light as the exteriors and interiors were designed in white colors to give spacious and light feeling. On the other hand, Singapore's Changi Airport is one of the biggest airport I have seen. Interiors were decorated with orchids (which is their national flowere, specifically - Vanda Miss Joaquin) and ornamental plants. Arriving and departing passengers were mixed in flow as there are no seperate dividers for the flow. Recently, I heard they opened Terminal 3 of Changi. And base on pictures of what I saw, it is giving again a superb facility design.

We stay at the Ate Cita's residence, a Filipino immigrant and resident with a business in the country. We visited the shopping disctricts in Orchard Road. We take a look at its shopping malls around. There also quite many shops selling latests gadgets of cellphones and disk players. Some of the istalls are owned by Indians. Be ready to walk the mile long road of this shopping district as it can be tiring for a day to explore it. But Orchard Road is beautifully toured at night where all lights are lit up and people troop the streets.

Boat Quay.
City overview at night.
Those are just few places I have been in avery short trip. Anyway, below are the districts where most of the places of interests can be visited from Wikitravel: 
 * Riverside (Civil District) — Singapore's colonial core, with museums, statues and theaters, not to mention restaurants, bars and clubs.
* Orchard Road — Miles and miles of shopping malls. Bugis and Kampong Glam — Bugis and Kampong Glam are Singapore's old Malay district, now largely taken over by shopping.
* Chinatown — The area originally designated for Chinese settlement by Raffles, now a Cantonese enclave in predominantly Hokkien Singapore.
* Little India — A piece of India to the north of the city core.
* Balestier, Newton, Novena and Toa Payoh — Budget accommodations and Burmese temples within striking distance of the center.
* North and West — The northern and western parts of the island, also known as Woodlands and Jurong respectively, form Singapore's residential and industrial hinterlands.
* East Coast — The largely residential eastern part of the island contains Changi Airport, miles and miles of beach, and many famous eateries. Also consists of Geylang Serai, the true home of Singapore's Malays.
* Sentosa — A separate island developed into a resort, Sentosa is the closest that Singapore gets to Disneyland.

Sentosa is one of the places that interests me. It was developed into a popular island resort complete with beaches (artificially-made), hotels, restaurants and bars to specially cater to tourists. It is also where a famous oceanarium Underwater World located. What I also like is that all transportation in Sentosa (except taxis) are free. But basic admission to the island costs $3 per person. Other admissions charges to other places are not included. Sentosa, which means peace and tranquillity in Malay, is visited by some five million people a year. Attractions include a two-kilometre long sheltered beach, Fort Siloso, two golf courses and two five-star hotels, and the upcoming Resort Worlds at Sentosa, featuring the new theme park Universal Studios Singapore to open at 2010. I have read that some places are quite pricey but this will definitely be part of my itinerary when I visit Singapore again. More info here... Click and these too. 

I am also fascinated with the Merlion - Singapore's symbolic icon. Too bad i haven't seen the Merlion ladmark, so definitely it will be in my itinerary on my next visit. The Merlion is an imaginary creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish. Its name combines "mer" meaning the sea and "lion". The fish body comes from Singapore's ancient name back when it was a fishing village — Temasek — meaning "sea town" in Javanese. The lion head represents Singapore's original name — Singapura — meaning "lion city" in Sanskrit and Malay. There's a statue one in Merlion Park near the Singapore CBD and one in Sentosa. It has also been featured in many souvenir items. More info here.

Singapore is one of the most cosmopolitan city in the world. It is one of the most prosperous country today too as it has a progressive economy. I think it is also one of the most livable place in the world. They have reliable systematic mass transportation like Mass Rail Transit and Light Rail Transit that covers most points of interest to visitor so getting around is easy. Plus Singaporeans are mostly fluent in English so it is easy to get acquainted with them. And because it is a "forest city" expect clean air to breathe and less pollution in this cosmopolitan city of Asia.

Sentosa Island.
Siloso Beach - an artificial beach in Sentosa Island.
There are rapid developments in Singapore's tourism. Casinos are legalized and up-scale resorts, water theme parks, concept stores and hotels are building up for Resorts World at Sentosa which will also feature Universal Studios (a first in the region to open in 2010). Marina Bay are also in the works to feature casinos, gardens and parks cater to especially to the growing tourism industry of the country. When all attractions completed it is expected to boost tourism growth and expects to visit by millions of tourists including me! 

With all this interesting developments and new attractions in Singapore, then I can't wait to explore it again. Learn more about the surprising Singapore see Uniquely Singapore.

RetroTravel: Singapore is my travel recollection to Singapore last November 10-11, 2000 and is part of my RetroTravel series where I share my old travel trips in the past during pre-digital picture era of my travels. Some photos are from and credited to the following: ktelontour, piratheepan and sutanto.


  1. i've been here but it feels like i have a lot of things to still do when i come back...

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