Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Singapore Travelogue

The republic of Singapore considered to be one of the original Four Asian Tigers with little more than 5 million population is also proudly the world's fourth leading financial center. It has one of the highest per capita income in  the world. A multicultural population with almost one third occupied by the Chinese followed by the Indians , Malays and the Europeans.  The four national languages comprises of English , Mandarin , Malay and Tamil.

Though the reason for visiting the Island as a vacation spot was none of the above! It is of course one of the closest , most affordable and an easy to navigate country(actually too small to call even a city - a mere 716 sq.km ) from an South Indian perspective as a tourist destination.

The more compelling reason is of course the abundance of relatives one has in the country thanks to its geographical closeness and of course presenting highly lucrative and equal employment opportunities in the Financial and IT industry.

Now that the reason has been clearly established , we move on to HOW we would travel or what mode of operation we would choose to explore the country. After making visits to Thomas Cooks and Cox&Kings of the world it was clearly established it does not help much to travel through them if you actually want to see a country for what it is . Of course if you are on a time crunch and having Indian food takes precedence over all other priorities then any of the tour operators would do depending on your affordability as they all seem to have more or less the same tour itinerary!

It was decided we would explore on our own just as we would do for every other country here after , make our own bookings , choose and skip places to see according to our own interest  , explore places at our own leisure and eat our own kind of food whatever that might be!

The number of budget airlines seems to have phenomenally gone up at recent times to any tourist location and Singapore is no exception. Advanced booking helps to save the cost to a great extent.
Now that the means of transport and where to stay (different relatives and friends homes is another huge cost saving option) has been established we will finally begin to explore Singapore!

The Changi International Airport , the seventh busiest airport by international passenger traffic in the world and second busiest in Asia in 2012. It is not only that but a welcome sight for Indians traveling abroad for the first time or even otherwise.








All the instruction on all public space are seen in Mandarin , English , Malay and Tamil which is a Big Plus for all Tamil literate population visiting the country.

Once through the immigration , public phones are available to call your near and dear ones anywhere in the world. Locals calls are free of charge!

The train or the MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) station is located right inside the airport along with bus stops and taxi stands any of which will whisk you away in to the city. No hassles and no worries on finding the right taxi or the right metered one! They are all the same . The chance of a taxi driver cheating you or taking you to the wrong place are minimal to zero.

Since time difference does not seem to be much but a mere 2.5 hours ahead of IST (Indian Standard Time) there is hardly any jet lag experienced.  Having arrived early morning , we begin to explore the very first day.

Post lunch we step out in to the warm and humid weather of Singapore in light cottons and hiking shoes suitable for long walks. We decide to take the taxi to the Singapore Zoo .

Singapore Zoo unlike the Indian ones tried to offer as realistic an experience as possible in a zoo like atmosphere . Safe yet close seemed to be the motto. For a change the Lion and Giraffes seemed close enough to take a good look and were not asleep for once! The variety of fauna from around the Globe though kept in an artificial environment was breathtaking and to be appreciated. Right from white rhinos to polar bear to free swinging orangutans to pygmy hippos the list seemed in-exhaustive.






Trams with guided tours are available for those who cannot walk the entire expanse of the zoo.

The Splash Safari Show is not be missed with the ever willing Sea Lion entertaining the adults and kids alike!

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The good thing is all the three shows are available for morning and afternoon slots . Hence proper planning would ensure you do not miss the ones you want to experience.

By the time we finished zoo we had a quick coffee and sandwiches at the cafe at the entrance of the zoo gearing for the Most Popular Night Safari .

Just across the road more wildlife waited for us.. The 18:45 hrs show began with the fire breathing locals performing for the waiting crowd .


 Thankfully most of the night safari was on the tram with guided tour in English and Flash Cameras were a strict No No! Hence sit back , relax and enjoy the night life of the animals in their most natural environment possible...

Forgot to mention,go for the Park Hopper Tickets available online as well at any of the entrances of Singapore Zoo or Night Safari or Jurong Bird Park or River Safari which will help to save money.

The second day begins with Sentosa on the mind..

Sentosa Island is a complete entertainment package, in the form of an island resort with activities  for all age groups. It is visited by approximately 5 million visitors annually.
It comprises of Resort World Sentosa , Beaches , Imbiah and Siloso Point. Located at the southern most end of the country it is conveniently connected by train (MTR station : Harbour Front) , cable care , foot and bus services at frequent intervals.

We  had taken the MTR to Harbour Front Vivo City mall , the starting point of the Sentosa Express.
Each ticket costs around 4 SING Dollars for unlimited rides valid for an entire day. Ticket counters are available in Level 3 for various attractions on Sentosa with package deals for more cost saving options.  On a weekday it shouldn't be a problem to buy tickets from counters in the island directly expecially if you are one of those who are quite picky about what you want to see and explore like we did.

Sentosa Official Website  is a good guide to consider before planing your itinerary for the day.

Our first stop, The Resort World Sentosa comprises of Universal Studios , SEA Aquarium , Adventure Cove Park which are the major three attraction among many others. There are also various light and laser shows in the evening that one shouldn't miss as some of them are for FREE like crane show and lake of dreams. 

I have shared some photos of SEA Aquarium . Found it really worthwhile and spent almost half a day on it. The aquarium is exotic and they claim to have the world's biggest acrylic viewing panel (3rd photograph).




In the viewing panel you get to see huge sting rays of various types , fishes of all kinds and every other imaginable sea creature apart from sharks of course! It was very calming to see the huge ocean viewing panel with really soothing music in the background. Many were enjoying the scene and relaxing in the serene atmosphere by resting for sometime in front of the panel . There is a restaurant adjoining the viewing panel for those who want to relish all kinds of sea food delicacies .

The ticket also combines the maritime sea museum ,the typhoon theater show and one another show (picture below) which are not to be missed.




The typhoon theater show gives an unique experience of a ship wreck with rain water spraying on your face, stars above your head and with thunders rumbling behind your dangling legs as you are seated.

All in all an enjoyable experience. Costed us 38 Sing Dollars for the entire SEA Aquarium per person.

We then moved on to Imbiah station which houses the Merlion replica , Images of Singapore , Cable Car ,Skyline Luge , Butterfly& Inspect Kingdom among others.  The 360 degree view (almost since the floor is opaque) of the cable car was breathtaking . It gives a bird's eye vie of singapore covering 4 stations with two Harbour front stations , Sentosa and Mount Faber.


Again you have the option of hoping on and off  at any station. Worthwhile experience and would consider it more value for money than the Singapore Flyer. Since the cable car is moving and covering a wider area compared to the flyer, moving in the same place.

Finally we ended up at the Songs of the Sea show for the earlier 7.45 PM show on the beach. The 40 minutes show is a different experience for just 13 sing dollars comprising of laser , flame jets , water sprays with lively music.


The third day consisted of a visit to the most famous Jurong Bird park at the Jurong Hill.

Jurong Bird Park Official Website will help to plan your itinerary much better especially so that you don't miss any of the bird shows. Conveniently the shows are available for both morning and afternoon slots.
This world's largest bird park (in terms of number of birds)is one experience you shouldn't miss even if you are or may not be an aviary lover/expert. Boasts of approx.9million visitors annually (2010).

It is a colorful sight to behold with twenty five different types of exhibits ranging from the unique African waterfall aviary , penguin coast to lorry loft to the world of darkness. The Flamingo pool with a huge flock of eye catching Red Carribean Falmingoes at the entrance welcomes you in to the park promising you more such colorful experiences with the speaking macaws from all over the world including the Ink Blue Hyacinth Macaw with the yellow circled beak and eyelids from the Rio Movie , huge white pelicans at the pelican cove (my personal favorite bird) , the flightless ostriches and emus , the majestic eagles and vultures among others.












Something extra for the children to have a big refreshing splash after a tiring walk around the park,



The ever present tram is a good option for senior citizens to hop on and hop off at various important exhibits around the park without walking the entire way.

There is ben&jerry's ice cream parlour and burger cafes help you refresh for a quick bite . The strategically located located souvenir & gift shops at important exhibits inside the park and at the entrance completes your visit to the park.

One thing which stands out at most of the tourist attractions in Singapore is their thoughtfulness in designing them keeping in mind all age groups from toddlers to senior citizens.

Some other places of interest we were able to cover apart from the ones described above are of course the All Famous Merlion , Singapore Flyer , Little India , China Town , A few Hindu temples (Lyon Vinayagar (Picture on the right) and Mariamman Temple :oldest in Singapore in China town) .

Surprisingly we enjoyed a  delicious lunch in the Mariamman temple  consisting of Sambhar rice , Curd Rice , Kootu (Mix of vegetables) , Potato curry (spicy potato mix) , Fried pappad along with Milk Paysam /Kheer ( Sweet made out of milk ,sugar and semolina).

The tooh of the Buddha relic temple was also a good one to visit with the museum on its upper floors which is a good collection of various buddhist Chinese articrafts , idols and paintings .






Since we had visited just before Diwali in October last week(Biggest festival for Indians in Singapore) we could observe the various decoration on the streets in Little India.



The Mustafa Shopping Complex in Little India seems to be a popular shopping destination for all Indians. It has a old a new complex. The old complex itself occupies an entire street is a 24 hour shopping mall convenient for tourists from across the world. It has right from vegetables &fruits to apparels to 100% pure gold.

Personally found it over stocked similar to a warehouse (especially the apparel section) rather than a standard Mars& Spencer or a Lifestyle (in India). The cosmetics and toiletries section was appealing to me more than others.  Most of them are of course imported from UK , Australia , Malaysia and other parts of the world but reasonably priced with great variety under one roof.

China town seemed to be a better shopping destination for souvenirs personally for me. The common mantra seems to be buying 3 souvenirs for 10 Sing Dollars. This seemed applicable for most of the items like key chains to necklaces to bags.



Apart from the merlions and other usual souvenir stuff, I picked up the Chinese one (to the right)from China town which the sales girl explained to me in broken English depicts the story of 12 sisters( apparently a popular Chinese folklore ) with the fable on the side in Mandarin and English.


Guess I have covered most of the places we managed to cover in a span of 6days . Of course the more adventurous ones could spend more time on the Sentosa Resort like the Universal Studios which we skipped because most of the rides didn't seem suitable for elderly and the ones with weak heart( as they caution us) . The 5 star hotels , spas and golf courses in the resort could offer a more luxurious and leisurely way to spend your time in Singapore.

In spite of its ever growing migrant population and crowded streets it still is very organized and has adopted the latest technology in its functioning . We hardly had to wait for a MRT/Bus more than a minute or look for a empty taxi more than a couple of minutes.  The only turn off I could think off was of course the Weather! It is hot and highly humid even in late October . I can imagine how it would be in Summer then.So brace yourself for the same before you plan the trip with plenty of sunscreen and light cotton clothes .

Do give your comments as I plan to make my travelogue a regular affair and would like to know your feedback to improvise as I go along.
If you would like any more information on Singapore too feel free to get in touch, I will try to get back with the right information as much as I can.

Thanks!
As the saying goes " The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page" so keep exploring!

6 comments:

  1. Hi Jo. Your travel blog gives a real insight about Singapore and really useful if some one is going for the first time . Keep the good work going.

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  2. The last saying you mentioned is my opening line in y blog... Wordlesstravelled!! I think I need to start writing my travel blog and bring it to action!!! You have written very well and in detail.... Very useful for the first timers!! Have to admit, did not read it completely as it is little too lengthy and am not getting time nowadays to just dit and read peacefully!! But well done!! :)

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  3. Well explored land I would say by you. Very informative and useful for travellers. Good pointer on the weather it will be kept in mind while making travel plans
    Keep up and read more pages of world :)

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  4. Hi Jo, your travel blog is nicely written and gives a 'travellers' perspective, who always have deeper understanding and richer experiences of the places rather than being a mere 'tourists' who just goes around in coaches. Good work...Eagerly awaiting for more.

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  5. Hi Jo, congratulations on your first blog. The write-up is inspiring me to book the next flight to Singapore! Like your candid style of writing. The photos & videos make it all the more lively. Way to go girl !!!

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  6. Thanks for all the encouraging feedback

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