May 282005

Today I did some sightseeing on my last day in Singapore and took a whole bunch of pictures. I also walked.

A lot.

I also rode the train system, which is arguably one of the best in the world. It’s scrupulously clean, modern, efficient, easy to navigate, and everything’s in English (bonus!). The streets of Singapore, however, are easy to get lost in. I thought downtown Detroit had a screwy layout, but it’s got nothing on The SG. The main roads are on a grid (sort of), but the minor streets that sprout off of or between them are like some giant automotive fractal pattern. It took me almost half an hour to go ONE block, trying to get from the Suntec City mall to my hotel, mostly because of construction. I went up and over and down and around and back again, ended up on a roof, dead-ended in a MALL of all places, and finally made it back. Most of downtown is an underground mall, with the only way to tell one tri-level subterranean shopping area from another is by the signs hanging from the ceiling. Once I paid more attention to the signs, and the arrows on them, it made it much easier to find my way around, and I got everywhere I wanted to go without much hassle.

First I took a cab over to Malay Village which, according to the website, was a kind of heritage museum and shopping area. I got there about 90 minutes before it all opened up, and I wasn’t very impressed. The “traditional Malaysian village” wasn’t open either, and from what I could see of it, it was pretty low-rent. I gave up and started looking for the train station since I was sure it was cheaper than a cab and I wanted to try it anyway. It’s one of the few clear memories I have from my last visit to Singapore 15 years ago. Of course I got lost. I went north instead of south, then wandered back and forth along the road trying not to look TOO clueless, and failing. I was away from the downtown area in more of a working class section of the city, and I felt very tall and VERY white. I found a 7-Eleven(!) to get a bottle of water and ask directions, and got back on track. I took the train over to the marina area and wandered some more, snapping some pictures. I also visited the Merlion fountain, which stands on the edge of the marina area and sprays a jet of water from it’s mouth into the harbor. I don’t know how it manages to spit in public and not get fined; everyone else does.

Afterwards I tried to get back to the hotel and rest, and had my “wandering in the desert” episode I mentioned above. After cooling off and dumping my pictures to the laptop, I headed back out to see Sentosa Island, one of the major attractions of Singapore. It’s a large island off the southern tip of the country, reachable by bridge, ferry, or cable car. I chose the cable car and paid the extra cash for the glass bottom car. Not only did I get a better view, I got to skip the huge line of Chinese tour groups and go straight up the elevator. I felt very VIP. And still very tall and very white. 🙂

The cable car runs over 150′ above the water and even though I have no particular fear of heights, even I had a second or two of vertigo when I passed over the support tower midway across. The view is spectacular however, and definitely the route of choice when going to the island. The best way to describe Sentosa is kind of like Busch Gardens, without the rides. There’s an orchid garden, a giant synchronized fountain show, bike and hiking trails, a 200′ long mosaic river/fountain, golf course, beaches, all surrounded by tropical rainforest. I walked and walked, and walked some more. It was very cool to walk through an actual jungle and hear all the frogs, insects, and birds. There are even troupes of long-tailed Macaque monkeys, but I didn’t get to see any. It was just like the stereotypical jungle you see in movies, and everything smelled intensely green. All I needed was a fedora and a bullwhip, and I would have felt just like Indiana Jones, at least until I got run over by a tour bus. I had intended to stay for the 7:40pm fountain show, when everything is lit up, but after seeing the end of the daytime show, it just wasn’t impressive enough to stay another two hours, then work my way back to the mainland and to the hotel. In total, I was there about four hours, and by then I was tired, sore, and drenched in sweat. A geologist could have probably determined my age by the number of layers of mineral salts I was coated in. I didn’t get to see even half of what was there, but I was happy I got to wander on my own in a new place for awhile. I’ll post all of my pics on my website gallery when I get back, but here’s a tease:

About five more hours before I check out and head to the airport. I’m going to try and stay awake until then, and for the seven hours of the flight to Narita, so I can sleep as much as possible on the way to Detroit and start to reset my body clock. Dunno if I’ll manage to not sleep, but I’ve already had a raspberry frappucino from the Starbucks across the street and there’s coffee and tea in the room. See you all tomorrow!

 Posted by at 9:01 am

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