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Singapore: Colonial downtown and Bay Gardens

A BIT OF HISTORY ABOUT SINGAPORE

The island that is now Singapore has had a very turbulent history prior to it becoming a British colony in 1819. It was, as it is today, an important port and was fought over and conquered by many influential sultanates and tribal powers. In 1818, Sir Stamford Raffles was appointed as the Lieutenant Governor of the British colony at Bencoolen. He was determined that Great Britain should replace the Netherlands as the dominant power in the. He soon recognized as many had before, the potential of Singapore as a port. The island flourished and grew at an incredible rate as a Crown colony.

World War II saw Singapore captured by the Japanese in 1942 and it remained in their control until 1945. The Japanese invaders were extremely harsh on the local inhabitants and life was hard.

After the War, the British ceded more independent powers to the Malay and Singaporean colonies and self-rule was established. There was a movement for the creation of a Malaysian federation consisting of Malaysia, Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore, and in 1963 this merger was realised. Almost immediately there was unrest which boiled over into sedition and violence. Finally, in 1965 Singapore was expelled from the federation and the Republic of Singapore was born. The rest is history.

Today, Singapore is a thriving and dynamic country. After a couple of days exploring some of the outer areas of the city, we decided to head into the downtown area.

EXPLORING DOWNTOWN SINGAPORE

We decided the best way to explore downtown Singapore was on foot, but this comes with a warning! Located just about on the equator, Singapore is hot and very humid all year round. Just take a few steps and you are soon drenched in sweat. So, the order of the day is to drink lots of water and move slowly!

The downtown area is dominated by the towering skyscrapers of the financial district, but in their shadow, on the opposite bank of the Singapore River, are several buildings from Singapore’s colonial past. Today, these are used for government buildings and museums. Unfortunately, we did not have time to explore the museums, so we continued onward. There is also a splendid cathedral. We followed the Singapore River down to the bay, passing by some large reflective silver balls, which were a little incongruous in the setting of the colonial buildings. A short while later we reached the mouth of the river, where the famous symbol of Singapore, the Merlion –  a mythical creature with a lion’s head and the body of a fish, shoots water into the bay.

Singapore Cathedral
The centre of Singapore's government
Sir Stamford Raffles
The famous Fullerton Hotel

MARINA BAY 

Marina Bay Sands Hotel
The Gardens By the Bay
The Supertrees - with the walkway between
The floral clock at the Gardens By The Bay
Karen at Gardens of the Bay

Returning to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel we met with a friend and travelled up the 57 floors to the Sky Park. There is an observation deck, which costs, $23 SGD for adults. Alternatively, you can go to the CÉ LA VI bar, which is actually slightly higher than the observation deck. For Hotel Guests, a redeemable S$20 entry voucher is required from 12:00 pm to 10:00 pm daily, which is fully redeemable on any food & beverage purchases. This gives the best value. If you are lucky enough to be a guest in the Marina Bay Sands Hotel you can use the rooftop infinity pool, the largest rooftop infinity pool in the world!

Below the Sands Hotel is a vast shopping mall with a collection of the world’s premier brands. This is not really our scene, so after a brief look around we left.

As nighttime came we returned to the Gardens By The Bay and the Supertree Grove, where after dark there are two light shows accompanied by music. This is where the Supertrees are at their spectacular best. The shows are short and free, and we recommend checking them out.

The Marina Bay Sands at dusk
The illuminated "Supertrees"

Planning your visit to Singapore

Reaching Singapore by air is straightforward: the island is one of the main air hubs of Southeast Asia and is often a stopover on one of the world’s busiest long-haul routes, between Europe and Australasia, so fares can be much more competitive than you might expect. There are also budget flights linking the country with the rest of Southeast Asia, with southeastern Chinese cities including Hong Kong, with India and with many cities in Australia.

Travelling to Singapore by land or sea might seem more interesting than flying, but the range of places you can do this from is surprisingly limited. At least there’s a plethora of buses from Peninsular Malaysia, no major town which is more than 12 hours from Singapore.

The Malaysian rail network is inefficient and actually slower than the buses. Schedules change frequently, but in general, there are a few services daily from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore’s Woodlands station, complemented by a couple more from Kelantan state in Malaysia’s northeast.

No long-distance international ferry services sail to Singapore at all.

Getting around Singapore

The best way to get around Singapore is via its Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) subway system. This underground network has lines that stretch across the entire city. However, once you’re in the desired neighbourhood, walking is your best option. MRT also operates bus routes that can get you just about anywhere on the island.

Best time to visit Singapore

The best time to visit Singapore is anytime. The island nation experiences a warm, tropical climate year-round with daily highs in the 80s. And with a steady stream of business travellers, the city’s hotels are seldom at a loss for occupants and maintain reasonable to high room rates. To avoid exorbitant prices, steer clear of popular events or national holidays like Chinese New Year. But keep in mind, rain is likely year-round.

Where to stay in Singapore

1. THE CAPITOL KEMPINSKI (5-STAR)

Restored from the Capitol Building and Stamford House by Pritzker Prize laureate, Richard Meier, The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore offers accommodations within the hustle and bustle of Singapore’s civic district. It features an outdoor saltwater swimming pool. Guests can enjoy drinks at the bar.

2. THE WANDERLUST

Housed in a heritage 1920s Art Deco style building in Little India, Wanderlust, The Unlimited Collection by Oakwood offers free WiFi.

Wanderlust, The Unlimited Collection by Oakwood is a minute’s walk from Jalan Besar MRT Station, a 5-minute walk from Rochor MRT Station and a 21-minute drive from Changi Airport.

3. ST SIGNATURE JALAN BESAR

ST Signature Jalan Besar is amid the vibrant culture, traditional aesthetics and the myriad artistic activities in Little India. It is a few steps walk away from Jalan Besar MRT station and 10 walks from Rochor and Little India MRT stations. You can find the landmark of Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple embellished with colourful statues of Hindu deities in Little India, with graffiti art across a few streets.

 

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