Friday, January 14, 2011

Singapore City Tour

As I tried to do in every city I went to I dedicated one full day to doing a big city tour of Singapore. I had gotten so used to seeing the sites on my own so it was a welcome change to have my dad along this time. Singapore gets hot very quickly so it’s a good idea to do outdoor activities in the morning before the heat of the day hits. We decided to start our tour at the Singapore Botanical Gardens. The gardens are absolutely stunning and I could easily see myself spending at least a full day in them, but unfortunately we were short on time so we only had one morning to look around. Singapore is famous for their orchids so our first stop was the orchid garden where we could see many indigenous species of orchids that had been named after foreign dignitaries who came to visit Singapore. The park is home to many beautiful flowers, plants and trees and many local birds can be seen too.
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Singapore is a bit of a melting pot of many different Eastern cultures and has large populations of Indian, Chinese, and Malaysian people. Because of all the different cultures in the small country there are many different ethnic areas to explore. Little India is a fun place to explore and grab a bite to eat or purchase some authentic Indian goods. I had just spent a month in India so I wasn’t really interested in doing much shopping for scarves or jewelry, but if you haven’t been to India there are interesting goods galore in this area.
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Another interesting neighborhood is Chinatown where you can find many authentic Chinese wares and food. There is also a beautiful Buddhist temple that reminded me of the many pagodas I saw throughout China.
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A visit to the Merlion Park is a must-see on any tourists list to Singapore. It is a very large statue of a mythical creature that is part fish-part lion. The fish aspect comes from the fact that Singapore was once a famous fishing town, and the lion part comes from when foreigners came to Singapore they thought they saw a lion stalking in the jungle, but turns out it was just a shaggy tiger, there were never lions in Singapore. From the statue you get a great view of the skyline of Singapore and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and it is a great place to snap some photos. A short walk from the statue brings you to the landing site of Sir Thomas Raffles who founded the city of Singapore. The statue is right on the Singapore Quay, which is a fun area to walk around with a bunch of little restaurants and bars. You can eat outside, but during the day it is so hot that sitting outside can be unbearable.
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Another must-do activity that I recommend is visiting the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling. The drink was created in the bar and it is fun to people watch while you sip on the fruity drink and munch on peanuts while you throw the shells to the ground (as is tradition in the bar). The whole hotel has a very colonial vibe and sitting in the bar under the palm fans made me feel like I was in a time capsule.
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One last activity to end the day with is a ride on the Singapore Flyer. The Singapore Flyer is a gigantic capsule Ferris wheel similar to the London Eye that takes you soaring above the skyline of Singapore for a wonderful 360-degree view. We chose to do it at night to see the city lights all light up, which was beautiful, but it would also be fun during the day to see the sun shimmering on the water. Little tip- it says online to book in advance, but it is constantly running and you can get on about every 10 minutes and it isn’t usually full, so if you don’t want to plan in advance you can just show up and purchase tickets for the next capsule.
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Overall I found Singapore to be a wonderful city with an amazing combination of shopping, culture, dining, and nature. It definitely gets marked down with Cape Town as my favorite cities of the trip!

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