Travel Notes from Singapore (with photos)
I am back in India from an expedition to Singapore. I recommend you to save money and make a trip to the country that is disciplined as well as progressive. Alongside a professional work environment, there are several opportunities for shopping, entertainment and recreation.
My flight landed Monday morning and then we set off for Hotel Holiday Inn Atrium. After a sumptuous breakfast buffet that had decent vegan options, we had a quick nap and hopped onto a bus. A brief city tour was followed by lunch at an Indian restaurant, Mughal Mahal at Novotel. Then we went to Sentosa island, VivoCity mall, Bugis Street and Mustafa mall. We did a fair amount of shopping from these places, with Mustafa having far too many options in electronics, utensils, chocolates, fruits including Indian mangoes, etc you name it they had it. There is Arya Samaj opposite Mustafa 1 in an area called ‘Little India’ because it has a lot of people of Indian origin. Tamil is one of Singapore’s official languages, and I could see signboards in Tamil almost everywhere I went including the metro rail, buses, public spots, etc.
While shopping I was surprised that the rates were uniform which made me believe that tourists can trust the shopkeepers on genuine rates. A shop at the upscale VivoCity mall offered me similar rates as I got at various shops on Bugis Street. My travel itinerary was bound to be in a positive direction, thanks to the diligent efforts of Dr. Varinder Nayyar, Mr. Rajiv Jerath and Mr. Surender Kanwar.
On Tuesday, we went to Universal Studios. I’ve been to Universal Studios in Los Angeles and the Singapore one is nearly competent in terms of attractions and rides. Compared to the one in LA what’s not here are film sets, which is understandable since Hollywood is where movies are shot. The exclusive souvenirs were attractive and naturally more expensive than elsewhere in the city due to brand value. Around 6 PM I took a free train ride from Universal Studios to VivoCity mall where Ritu didi picked me up in her car. I was delighted seeing her artistically decorated home in one of the world’s most livable community housing, she and her husband Jai jiju came from India in late 90’s to gradually establish their life here. Looking at how Didi has brought her daughters made me very happy because both Rhea and Esha are well behaved and treated me with respect.
Singapore has tonnes of greenery everywhere, I saw trees and plants on all the roads. It is not a concrete jungle in any way, which helps control the temperature and hence I didn’t sweat despite the running around I did at places. I figured out that Singapore is not just a country with professional work environment, they’ve also ensured that it is a liveable country in terms of basic amenities, transport facilities and affordable government housing. Expensive commodities are cars, private accommodations and International schools. The Governments have made cars difficult to buy with the intention of controlling traffic on roads, and it is successful thanks to a connected network of public transport. Wherever you are it is easy to catch a bus, train, taxi, walk or ride your bicycle on a separate track.
In one of my taxi rides I talked to an elderly cab driver (only Singapore citizens can drive taxis) who was working hard though he was 70 plus. That made me feel one has to work genuinely hard to survive in Singapore, and in return they give you benefits in the form of a safe, peaceful life with various opportunities for making money.
On Wednesday we went to Gardens by the Bay. Looking around I remembered my family back home because they’d have really loved this place. Gardens by the Bay has a lot, and I mean a LOT, of flowers, trees and plants. Its architecture is an inspirational instance of structural engineering, and the gardens are a sure thing for anyone who loves Botany. The enclosed area is a greenhouse environment with controlled temperature to ensure that you don’t sweat, you are not hit by insects and there is no dust pollution in the air. After climbing up and down the artificial waterfall, we took a taxi to Singapore Flyer which is half an hour ride showing the city landscape. I met a kind gentleman from Bangladesh who was in Kuala Lumpur for the last two weeks and had come to Singapore for a quick trip. Not only him, Singapore is the place of many such tourist stories, with people coming in from all over the world to experience “the fine city”. It is remarkable that the country permits both tourism and corporate industries thrive together in a limited area effectively. If more cities were as smart as Singapore they’d be more livable, not only for the current generation but the future ones as well.
Then we had our meal at Bayview Tandoor restaurant, before proceeding to onboard our cruise. Besides tourism, Singapore earns revenues from transport as it is a major docking station in South East Asia. There were a lot of security checks at the station, after which I browsed few duty-free shops to purchase items for my friends back home. Our cruise ship, Star Gemini, had a lot of Indians on board that meant several vegetarian options including Sattvik ones. We decided to use our rooms for no purpose other than sleeping and to spend rest of the time exploring the ship. The cruise organisers ensured that our time was well spent, by organizing a lot of activities and shopping offers on board. Among the several live shows and attractions, we saw an entertaining magical performance by Mr. Richard Burr and his wife Ms. Josette.
On Thursday morning our ship arrived at Port Klang Malaysia. After following few processes and passport checks we set out for Kuala Lumpur. Our first stop was at Batu Caves that has a huge statue of Lord Vishnu, few temples and caves that required us to climb 272 steps. The locals informed us that the Indian movie star Mr. Rajinikanth has shot his movie ‘Kabali’ here, during the shoot he sat on a chair which is now a tourist attraction. We didn’t feel away from home, the place looked like somewhere in South India.
Then we went to KL towers and saw city skyline from the top. This was followed by a short photographic stop at Petronas Towers where by chance I met a third generation immigrant from Moga, Punjab. Due to people observing Ramadan, the streets on our way back to the cruise were busy, which meant more time to view and observe the things around us.
Thursday night was experience of a lifetime, we were lying at a basketball court on top of the cruise, with winds blowing all around, and stars visible in the sky. This got me thinking about so so so SO many things. I was wishing this moment will remain like this, forever, and then, I remembered why I was here for
On Friday afternoon we offboarded our cruise whose staff members were from a multitude of countries such as Vietnam, Nepal, China, India, Sweden, etc. They are like the people most of us had grown up with, who have chosen to provide a comfortable experience to someone else by staying away from their biological families for months, and by surpassing borders the ones on cruise become their extended families.
Every human has a unique story to tell, a list of life changing experiences to share and a host of photogenic memories they leave us with because we don’t know when we’ll meet them in future. We can simply make the most of our time on earth.
After following the strict security measures we got out from the cruise and went to Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The guys at reception were kind to grant us a room on 49th floor, the city view was delightful, as was the ambiance. Looking at sheer opulence of the hotel, instead of going to the downtown we decided to spend some time exploring the place.
The food court was alive with so many people and a host of meal options that offered decent variety for tourists of diverse ethnicities. I met a guy from Arjun Nagar Jalandhar and another one from Ludhiana, who helped us with our meal selection.
The hotel houses few of the most premium brands in the world. Make sure your luggage has enough space because there is a lot that can be purchased here. World foods, natural products, superhero merchandise, exotic tea, collector’s items — Marina Bay Sands sells some of the plushest goods.
We came out of the hotel and saw a fleet of three F1 cars (Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari) that could be driven at SGD 300 for 30 minutes. To do some more shopping we hired a taxi to Chinatown and experienced another vibrant aspect of Singapore. Chinatown is the place for shoppers who want to buy affordable, unique items such as Chinese lanterns, Handmade Indian soaps, Thailand hand fans, Tintin merchandize, etc. The street is next to a Tamil temple, whose Evening Pooja sounds reminded me of my days at Chennai.
Before sunset we took train ride to Bugis Street, had dinner at Mughal Mahal restaurant in Novotel and were back at Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Around 10:40 PM, we went up to the top floor swimming pool. I won’t describe anything here — all I’ll say is that is was something worth experiencing.
Saturday, as I was leaving from Singapore, I felt that I’d be back again. It could be a business trip or a vacation with family. I actually felt happy at the progress of Singapore because they’ve worked consistently hard to reach here, it is a triumph of the underdogs. Try to go there with your family, friends, business partners or anyone who means something in your life. A trip to Singapore is worth saving your money for, because it’s not only travel it is a unique experience.
Here are some travel tips for Singapore:
- Most people in Singapore use public transport. If sightseeing is not your priority then take the train, otherwise use a bus or taxi.
- In few public places and the MRT I saw signboards that said “No Durians”. I wondered what was the big deal, until I had a Durian Juice at Bugis Street. For the next couple of hours I avoided meeting people as it had a pungent smell.
- Singapore has a coastal climate, prefer light clothes and keep a foldable umbrella in your purse/bag.
- Because Singapore is an Asian country, you can bargain with shop owners, however do that nicely. For instance if they offer you 3 items for $10, then ask what you’ll get if you purchased items for $20, chances are they might offer you an additional item. I don’t think there’s anything of the type where you begin at $10 and bring it down to $7.
- Some shops are near foreign exchange counters and few of them like Mustafa have it inside their premises. Most shops accept Multi Currency MasterCard/VISA cards, not all, always keep some cash with you.
- Shop till you drop as Mustafa 1 is open 24 hours and many other stores operate 10 AM to 10 PM.
- Be disciplined wherever you are. If a local asks you to wait in queue then obey it respectfully. Till you are following the rules there ain’t much to worry about.
- The only minority in Singapore are those who break the law.
Till my next travel notes, I hope you do well in your life. Do good and enjoy the special moments with your acquaintances.
Originally published at yajuarya.blogspot.com on August 1, 2016.