It’s Chinese New Year in Singapore (and in the rest of the world, obviously) and to mark the occasion I not only got a holiday but I also entertained two visitors in the form of Christie and Tom, stopping in Singapore to say hi on their way to Bali. Having guests gave me the perfect excuse to be a proper tourist for a week and sightsee to my hearts content, so thats exactly what I did and, as such, there are going to be quite a few posts in the next few days about what we did. Prepare yourselves people.
Their first two days were my last two days at work, so there was no fun to be had until Monday, when I could celebrate a week off by giving the ultimate Singapore experience tour – of Orchard Road, Clarke Quay, Boat Quay and Marina Bay. Up until now they had mainly been in your classic South East Asia: beaches, markets, villages, dodgy driving and inexpensive alcohol. So I thought, when in Singapore, give the ultimate culture shock by introducing them to the madness of the shopping and business districts.
Orchard Road is somewhere I’ve been meaning to talk about for a while, I’ve been a couple of times already and it is completely mad. 2km of shopping heaven made up of 20 shopping malls (or a crazy number like that) featuring every brand you could possibly want to own, and some interesting bargain bucket type places offering snacks and electrical goods for insane prices. If you love to shop, Orchard Road is the place for you, but I actually think that even for the most hardened shopaholic Orchard Road is a bit much, there are only so many Gucci’s you can take, and I saw at least 4 just walking its length. It’s the sort of place where you wonder how 90% of the shops can actually afford to stay open, wandering around the swanky Orchard Ion mall we saw barely anyone actually in the shops and nearly everyone window shopping like us, while being watched by stern security guards and shop staff. It’s difficult to describe Orchard in a way that would make sense, it’s like Oxford Street if every shop was actually a shopping mall containing 50 plus shops offering a chance to purchase a small bit of someone else’s lifestyle. We also saw the swagest Lamborghini, proving that the sort of people who legitimately shop here have more money than sense. One thing on Orchard worth an honourable mention is the sheer volume of random statues. Don’t fear people, I know I keep mentioning the Singaporean penchant for statues without delivering many, and there is a statue themed post coming, but right now enjoy the offerings of Orchard.
After blowing our minds we exited Orchard for the relative calm of Fort Canning Park, on our way down to the Quays and our ultimate goal – Marina Bay. I’ve got near to Fort Canning on two previous occasions but never quite made it inside, and I’m glad to say that, on this particular occasion, I not only made it in but all the way through to the other end. I’ve been looking forward to visiting the park for a while now, and I have to say I was a little disappointed as they are doing some kind of renovation work at the moment (like they seem to do everywhere in Singapore) meaning that large parts of it were shut off. Despite that we were able to see the remnants of the old fortifications, some 19th century canons (something else this country seems to have an excess of) and the house and grounds once owned by Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore. Raffles House was definitely the most interesting part of the park, there was a detailed history about the building of the house and some of its former guests and pictures to show what the view would have been like when Raffles chose the sight. The hill that Fort Canning Park now stands on is supposedly the burial site of the old Malay kings of Singapore, and it seems that Raffles fancied the idea of dying in the company of greatness. There’s also an old lighthouse which would have been used to direct the ships into Marina Bay and a wooden flagpole which was vitally important to the British, mysteriously destroyed by the Japanese and faithfully recreated by the Singaporeans decades later. There’s also a pretty impressive view of Marina Bay Sands, and comparing the modern day view to the pictures of what it used to look over makes you realise how much Singapore has changed in such a short space of time. It’s both fascinating and a little bit sad that so much history has been destroyed by the progress of business and development.
The view from Raffles Terrace proved that we were approaching Marina Bay, albeit ever so slowly, and so we continued down to Clarke Quay and Boat Quay. I’ve visited, and talked about, both on here before (don’t believe me? You will now!) so I won’t really go into them, except to say that we had a more thorough scout around Clarke Quay than I had previously, and it might be expensive and a bit too edgy for the likes of me, but it’s still very nice and somewhere you could easily have a drink as the sun goes down. There are also some bars that really feel like you could be back home (on a really, really nice day, obviously) and this really cool mural which came with a very detailed description of what it’s about, that unfortunately I can’t remember.
The Quays done, we were tantalisingly close to Marina Bay, and so we followed the river around and, unfortunately, overshot the Merlion and had to double back. This place can be really very confusing. I’ve sort of seen the Merlion before, through throngs of people on New Years Eve and from my boat tour, but this was the first time I’d actually made it into Merlion Park and around to properly see her face. It’s a pretty formidable beast and, as I was to discover later the the week, the Singaporeans really do love their Merlion. After visiting the city’s number one tourist attraction it was onto Marina Bay proper through the river front terraces of the swanky One Fullerton and Customs House where we lamented on how the other half live. This is an area that I again only saw on New Years and it was fascinating to be able to walk round freely, without hordes of people, and actually see things. It also proved to me that downtown is the place to be.
I’ve made this sound like a pretty speedy walk, but it actually took quite a few hours for us to get this far, and the sun was going down as we approached Marina Bay Sands and the Gardens at Marina Bay. Before I return to the latter (somewhere else I’ve previously gushed about, go see) I want to spend a moment on the former, and on the reason why this post is called ‘Shop & Dine’. I know I’ve said before that Singaporeans love to shop, but I’m not sure I really appreciated the extent to which this is true until I did a week of sightseeing. In most MRT stations you see posters advertising your ability to be able to ‘shop & dine at SMRT’ and the truth is that ‘shop & dine’ should really be the national motto. It’s almost impossible to go anywhere where you can’t both shop and dine, and that’s no exaggeration. You can shop and dine at the MRT station, you can shop and dine on the bridge on the way over to Sentosa, you can shop and dine at Marina Bay Sands, a building that is essentially just a hotel. In fact, you can do more than just shop and dine at Marina Bay, the Shoppes at Marina Bay offer a shopping experience, you can genuinely travel around the basement floor in a gondola on their own indoor river. When I say the addiction to shopping is insane I’m in no way exaggerating.
And finally onto the Gardens at Marina Bay. It’s somewhere I’ve visited before, so I won’t go on, but that was on New Years Eve which is a weird time to do any sightseeing, and I was there after 10 so it was eerily quiet. Christie and Tom wanted to see the Super Trees and, as they are quite possibly one of the coolest things I’ve seen in Singapore so far I was happy to oblige. Thanks to some incredibly good luck we got there just as the sun was going down and in time to experience the ‘Super Tree Rhapsody’. Performed every night it’s basically a light show set to music, which is a description that in no way does it justice but believe me when I say that it was amazing and something I would have never known about had I not stumbled across it. During the rhapsody the trees were a variety of colours, some deep reds with twinkling white lights and others deep blues and greens, that changed in time to the music. We arrived just after it had started, and approaching them as they began their show was quite something, let alone being sat under one when it finished. Suffice to say that we were all suitably impressed, and I felt that my first day as an unofficial tour guide had been a resounding success.
Leah Out X