Singapore, country number 14 and the last point of overland travel. The currency here is Singapore Dollars at roughly 2 dollars to the pound. The pricing is relative to a European city setting it apart from the other Asian countries we have visited and at one degree north of the equator, it’s got a lot to say about sunshine!
Our first afternoon in Singapore we headed for its heart, Marina Bay, an explosion of modern architecture and historic sites. Doing a makeshift walking tour of the area we came first across the striking Fullerton hotel which overlooks the Cavanagh bridge.
We followed the river to Marina Bay and stood by the statue of the Merlion which stands overlooking the bay. The half fish, half lion is the symbol of Singapore and is supposed to bring peace and prosperity to Singaporeans. The fish is the symbol of the port city, previously known as Temasek and the lion contributes to its present day name, Singapore or Singapura- city of the lion which came about when a lion was supposedly spotted in the city.
We walked around the bay to the esplanade nicknamed “the durian.” This is a theatre on the bay and the open air theatre section was sound checking a blues band. We grabbed popcorn and a drink and took shade from the sun to listen to the music.
We continued around the bay past the Singapore flyer to the impressive hotel come surfboard which is Marina Bay Sands. We explored the shopping centre here whilst knowing we couldn’t afford the price tag!
After finding dinner we returned to the bay, now transformed by the glittering lights of the financial district after dark. At 8pm we watched the lasers and light show dance from across the bay.
Today we set out to explore Colonial Singapore starting at Sir Stamford Raffles landing point in 1819. This is marked by a replica of a statue which used to stand here and behind him, the towering financial district, a mark of his effect on the country. We walked through here past beautiful old buildings, the Supreme Court and the Victoria theatre. The ultimate mark of British colonialism came in the form of the cricket pitch, still being utilised in the centre of the city. We watched as girls played hockey and men, cricket in the sweltering heat, with a temporary swimming pool court side to cool off!
Next door to here was St Andrews cathedral, a beautiful but relatively small building now surrounded by the central business district. We walked to Fort Canning park or as it was once known, Forbidden hill. The locals used to have great respect and fear surrounding the power of this hill and so it was kept for the gods. That was until 1822 when built upon it was the home of Sir Stamford Raffles. His simple cottage looks out over the beautiful marina bay. The picture of what his view would have looked like emphasizes the great development of his years which have continued until the present day. As our taxi driver told us, ‘every day someone starts digging somewhere in this city,’ such is the fast development. This house became home to several following British Governors and in more recent history, this hill was used extensively as a forts and weapon store during WW2.
From here we walked through the beautiful colonial neighbourhood where convents are being absorbed into modern society as shopping malls. We headed for the Raffles hotel, once the most famous hotel in the world and the birthplace of the Singapore sling. The building is beautiful and several courtyards are open to visitors. We were able to explore three levels of shops which reside in the building and most significantly, the long bar. The long bar had a pub atmosphere, rather different from the grandeur of the rest of the building. It is where the Singapore sling was invented in the 1920’s and now will set you back a pricy 47 Singapore dollars! There is some significance to eating monkey nuts here and discarding your shells on the floor, and true to form there was a carpet of shells.
Near here stands the war memorial signifying deaths in WW2. The four pillars represent the cultures who suffered, Malay, Chinese, Indian and minorities. We walked back to the Marina Bay to visit gardens by the bay. This giant collection of metal trees hold greenhouses, canopies and walkways housing tropical flora. It was a hot walk between the striking structures and it was soon time to return for a cold shower!
Time for our day at Universal studios. We crossed from mainland Singapore to Sentosa island and entered the theme park. It was fantastic, seven different zones based on movies. First we explored New York passing the New York library and riding Sesame Street! Then we entered Sci Fi land and rode the transformers ride which launched us of buildings and through vortexes.
Next a trip back to ancient Egypt to ride the freakishly scary 'the mummy' ride and the not so thrilling treasure hunters ride. At lunchtime we watched a waterworks show, audience soaking included. The show was fantastic, all sorts of stunts and props, helicopters, underwater jet skis and fire.
We visited Skrek in Far Far away, joining donkey for his sing a-long show and looking inside the impressive castle before lunch. Every ride had incredible effort and props gone into it. Lunch was at Mel's American diner complete with a grease style boy band singing and dancing outside.
After lunch we watched monsters rock, a show whereby Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, Shewolf and the mummy get together to perform rock and pop. We also visited Madagascar and Hollywood, watched some incredible street dancing (twice) and met the minions! All in all a fantastic day out.
On our last day in Singapore we headed out of the bustle of town to the Kebbel Harbourfront. Here we walked the boardwalk looking out onto all the outlying islands and the port which has bought Singapore it’s wealth. The boardwalk led us to Labrador park with it’s many World War Two remnants. Singapore was heavily fortified facing the sea anticipating Japanese attack. When the Japanese arrived overland Singapore took but a week to fall. The various forts are now marked to signify the war effort.
We took the MTR into the centre for lunch and a last minute look at the malls. In the afternoon Ricky and I walked to the Boat Quay, an area which used to be a dirty and busy trading area and is now a flashy bar strip. Here we had a Singapore sling, in Singapore, whilst overlooking the Fullerton hotel.
In the evening we headed to Bugis night market and visited the hawker centre for some food. Catching the vendors just before closing we were well fed, the cheapest meal to be found in Singapore.
We have got as far as we can on our overland adventure, from London to Singapore using numerous buses, 25 trains, uncountable Tuk Tuks and motorbikes. Next stop, Sumatra, Indonesia, by air!