It has been said that Singapore could be simply dismissed as the Island of ‘McDonalds’ of South East Asia! Despite this, over the years many of my friends who had visited Singapore had always highly recommended a visit to me without exception, writes Terry Willey.
However, it was just last Christmas time that my first visit to Singapore was more by chance than intention while traversing the long route to Australia to visit my son with Singapore Airlines. I suppose it was my general desire to sample this intriguing place for the first time that gave me a real excuse for breaking my journey for three days on each leg.
I set about finding an established colonial type hotel in the centre of Singapore. Following my arrival I was taken from the airport to my hotel in the city centre which was a 35-minute drive and during this period I was able to engage quite extensively with the taxi driver who was not afraid to boast that Singaporeans are very proud and competitive people. There is a Singaporean word ‘kiasu’ which means ‘afraid to lose’ and over the days that followed this clearly was the case. It struck me as an extremely clean place and I was advised that you could be arrested for dropping chewing gum or rubbish on the streets. The people were charming and keen to hear about English culture and the city had an undeniable Asian feel to it with a mix of Malaysian, Indian and Chinese traditions.
There was so much to see and I was able to enjoy the most exquisite Oriental food which was beautifully presented. I arrived on Christmas Day and was able to see some of the most wonderful Christmas lights and markets boasting to be the 10th best in the world! The zoo is most definitely worth a visit and was very extensive and offering a night safari. The public transport is efficient and reasonable and taxi drivers were apologetic for charging 20 dollars for a 30 minute drive.
I had been given the impression that Singapore consisted of much concrete and modern architecture. However, this was not the case and beautiful gardens and greenery existed everywhere with the central reservations of most roadways and dual carriageways lined with lovely trees. I learnt that the Singaporeans were superstitious and in fact deeply religious and my visit to their National Museum and Art Galleries demonstrated the real heart of the Singapore people and a desire to make their mark in the world.
Taking the sky high views on the cable car over the sea estuary to the amusement parks of Sentosa Island and the Universal Thyme Park almost seemed another world from the Asian city itself and perhaps this is why it is divided by the cable car ride, which if nothing else, is worth taking for the experience providing you have a head for heights!
On my last day of the second three day visit before returning to London I was determined to visit The Marina Bay Sands Hotel which is famous for its architecture and stands on three huge stilts with the top elevation resembling a boat, including a swimming pool installed at a height of over 1,500 feet. This was the first time in my life that I was able to look down upon fireworks being set off from the harbour and to see the entire night lights of Singapore while dining in the roof top restaurant, an experience which I shall never forget.
Added attractions and not to be missed, are the Singapore Flyer, similar to the London Eye but larger, the open top bus around the City and the Duck amphibious vehicle taking in the sights of the City and harbour.
Your visit would not be complete without a sample of the famous Singapore Sling drink and if you are feeling extravagant then take it in the famous Raffles Hotel bar. Singapore left such an impression with me that if I am able to visit Australia again it most certainly would be my preferred ‘stop off’ option, or in fact a separate holiday destination as there was still so much more to see and experience.