Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Singapore Sites

I like to call it our 33rd wedding anniversary celebration, although in reality it was business for Bob that took us to Singapore on the 18th of December, 2013.  Three nights in this tiny country was only enough to scratch the surface of the diversity of culture offered here.  We stayed in the lovely Pan Pacific Hotel which is near Marina Bay and within walking distance of many of the recognizable tourist sites.

While Bob was at work, I acquainted myself with our surroundings and found that we were located in the middle of shopper's paradise.  Ground level was not for pedestrians, but rather the 2nd story connected buildings and malls via walkways and bridges, so as to avoid the train system carrying the masses to destinations throughout the city.  If there were a national past time, it would be shopping!  I decided to walk toward the closest visible attraction, the Singapore Flyer.  This is the world's largest giant observation wheel.  Sitting inside one of 28 city-bus sized capsules provides a panoramic view of the city in one 30-minute rotation.  With limited visibility that day, I declined the notation to give it a try.  My curiosity wass peaked as I glance across a river and saw some shell-shaped domes and Avatar looking trees, which I determined to investigate another day.  From the flyer, I followed my gaze toward the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino. It's distinctive design, featuring a ship atop three towers, provided compass-like orientation for me the whole time I was in Singapore.  Arriving at the bay, I found what I call the "lotus flower" Art Science Museum and spotted the iconic Merlion in the distance.  People were writing wishes upon large white balls which were then tossed into the bay.

Walking toward Merlion Park, I passed the Esplanade Performing Arts Center.  It is know as the "Durian" because it's spiky roof resembles the fruit.  (More on the durian below . . .)  At night the roof lit up in red and green as seen from the observation room at the top of our hotel.  The mythical symbol of Singapore is a cross between a lion and a fish.  There are actually three Merlion statues in Singapore, and the "mother" and "baby" figures are found close together on the bay.

The walk from Marina Bay to Chinatown was a little farther than anticipated.  When I arrived, it presented a familiar colorful market place offering all kinds of cheap souvenirs and decorations for the Chinese New Year.  The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Sri Mariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore (built in 1827) are situated in the middle of Chinatown.

The return walk took me past several architecturally interesting buildings including City Hall with it's Dome Shaped roof, where the Japanese officially surrendered after World War II, and St. Andrew's Cathedral.

The concierge at the hotel suggested that I walk along the Singapore River which cuts through the heart of the city, and in particular to visit an area called Clarke Quay.  I'm glad I took her advice, and found Clarke Quay to be a colorful an lively place for shopping, eating, strolling, or even taking a river boat ride.

Dinner one evening took us into Chinatown with business associates where we enjoyed some beautifully presented, and somewhat interesting dishes.  After our meal, the group was determined to have me experience eating the "King of Fruits", the Durian.  I had heard Bob talk about this Asian fruit - particularly its powerful odor, and I wasn't so sure I would enjoy this adventure.  However, market in Chinatown was known to sell this rather pricey and very unusual produce, and after a short walk, there I was without an excuse.  Pinching the mushy flesh from off the seed between my thumb and forefinger, I couldn't help but agree with those who describe the smell as "rotten onions, turpentine, and raw sewage".  Karen, the office assistant who insisted on us enjoying this delicious treat, was savoring every bite of this dessert she had been craving.  How could it taste any better than it smelled?  The answer - it didn't!  Although there is a hint of something sweet in the flavor, I found the whole thing pretty repulsive from appearance, to texture and flavor.  My portion remained uneaten, just like the stuffed raw squid from dinner.

One day Bob and I had time to spend together and walked over to Gardens by the Bay, which is the futuristic park I had seen across the river from the Singapore Flyer.  What a beautiful place to explore!  We were fortunate to have been blessed with pretty pleasant weather in this normally hot and muggy country, and so wandering through the park and gardens was a nice way to spend the morning.  As suspected, the shell-shaped domes are greenhouses featuring plants and flowers from around the world.  It would have been fun to visit in the evening when the steel-framed tree forest and gardens light up and come alive with music.


I always thought we would live in Singapore one day.  Bob has traveled here often through the years and it was a real treat for me finally be able to see some of the sites for myself.  If you can tolerate heat and humidity, the orderly cleanliness of the country, ease of communication, endless shopping, and diversity of culture here would make Singapore a nice place to live - or at least visit for a while.

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