Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Our next destination  was to be the much-admired and popular tourist spot, Singapore. The climate here is usually hot and humid, with intermittent showers. The population comprises of Chinese, Malay and Indians. The currency is Singapore Dollar which is equivalent to approximately 46 INR.

We were traveling from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Singapore by coach - some 370 kms (around 6 hours driving time). We started after breakfast before 8 am. The long journey became interesting as we played 'Musical Tambola' and 'Antakshari.

We had been clearly instructed that we should not carry hard drinks, cigarettes and chewing gum to Singapore - it was illegal. Chewing gum? Seriously? Apparently so. So the chewing gum that some of our group members had, were distributed and chewed and thrown away before reaching Singapore. 

Around 2.30, we reached the Malaysia border, completed our Immigration and boarded the bus. In 10 minutes, we were at the Singapore Immigration. We had to disembark from our coach with our luggage and go through the formalities as we would, at the airport. It was not too bad for all the warnings; we were all through in 45 minutes. 

Another 45 minutes drive saw us at our hotel Chancellor@Orchard. A posh hotel located in Orchard Street, the Champs d' Elysee of Singapore. But the hotel provided free internet only for 50 Mb! The rooms were modest in size and each one had 
a water dispenser installed, for drinking water.

Day 1

We had a brief rest before setting out for the evening's sightseeing. We were joined by our local guide Irene.
We first visited Gardens by the Bay, a nature park spanning 250 acres of reclaimed land in central Singapore. The park, a national icon and premier urban outdoor recreation area, is part of a strategy of the government to transform Singapore from a "Garden City" to a "City in a Garden" and to enhance its greenery and flora.

The park consists of three waterfront gardens: Bay South Garden, Bay East Garden and Bay Central Garden. 

Bay South Garden, inaugurated in 2012, is the largest of the three gardens at 130 acres and
showcases the best of tropical horticulture and garden artistry.

The conservatory complex at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore, comprises two cooled conservatories – the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. Both are very large, around 2.5 acres and the Flower Dome is the world's largest column-less glasshouse. The construction of the glasshouses is special in two ways - it has such a large a glass-roof without additional interior support (such as columns) and the constructions aim strongly at minimizing the environmental footprint. Rainwater is collected from the surface and circulated in the cooling system which is connected to the Supertrees. 
The Supertrees are used both to vent hot air and to cool circulated water. 
The Flower Dome is the lower but larger of the two, at 3 acres. The Flower Dome is 125 ft high and maintains a temperature between 23 °C and 25 °C, slightly lower at night. 
It replicates a mild, dry climate and features plants found in the Mediterranean and other semi-arid tropical regions (e.g. parts of Australia, South America, South Africa). 

The Flower Dome features seven different "gardens".
Variety of foliage, verdant greens, waterfalls and exotic blossoms greeted us in every direction.
We also saw Singapore's national flower, the orchid 'Miss Joaquim Agnes' - colorful and resilient.

We saw even 'Carnivorous flowers'!

The Cloud Forest is higher but slightly smaller at 2 acres. It replicates the cool moist conditions found in tropical mountain regions, found in South-East Asia, Middle- and South America. 
It features a 138 ft "Cloud Mountain", accessible by an elevator, and 

visitors are able to descend the mountain via a circular path 
where a 115 ft waterfall provides visitors with refreshing cool air.

The "Cloud Mountain" itself is an intricate structure completely clad in a variety of orchids andferns.

Then there was the section for earth's treasures - 

with rocks 
and ores.

Supertrees are tree-like structures that dominate the Gardens' landscape with heights that range between 25 meters (82 ft) and 50 meters (160 ft). They are vertical gardens that perform a multitude of functions, which include planting, shading and working as environmental engines for the gardens.

The Supertrees are home to clusters of unique and exotic ferns, vines, orchids and also a vast collection of other plants. They are fitted with environmental technologies that mimic the ecological function of trees – photo voltaic cells that harness solar energy which can be used for some of the functions of the Supertrees, such as lighting, and collection of rainwater for use in irrigation and fountain displays. The Supertrees also serve air intake and exhaust functions as part of the conservatories' cooling systems. 

We completed our round of the gardens and found ourselves vantage points at 7.45 for the fantastic night view at the Light and Sound show at the Supertree Grove. 
It was fun to squat wherever you got space and watch the changing colorful lights. 

Our dinner was at Riverwalk Tandoor, after which we returned to our hotel.

Day 2

Clarke Quay  is a historical riverside quay in Singapore. 

We undertook the river cruise and enjoyed the iconic buildings lining the area - including the Opera House and Hotel Sky Park. 

The 'Merlion' there was having a 'shower', so he was veiled. 
Nevertheless, we got to see the baby Merlion and Papa Merlion.

We also visited the memorial for the 'Unknown Warrior' of Subhash Chandra Bose's INA formed with mainly prisoners of war from the British Indian army with Japanese support to liberate India from the British rule. We felt elated and proud as we sang our National Anthem there, that too, on our Republic Day!

Then we had lunch at an Indian restaurant. A bonus visit was the one to the temple right opposite to the restaurant. 
Interestingly it had idols of Budha as well as Ganesha.

Our next destination was Sentosa Island. The place is hugely popular with both locals and tourists alike, and is Singapore's mega theme-park on an island. Sentosa Island has several popular, soft, sandy beaches along the southern coast. The island was named "Sentosa" in 1972, which means peace and tranquility in Malay (from Sanskrit, Santosha), from a suggestion by the public. 

Sentosa Island is a man-made island built for fun and recreation with many attractions including the expansive Resorts World, Universal Studios Singapore, Tiger Sky Tower, 2 km long sheltered beach, Fort Siloso, two golf courses, the Merlion, 14 hotels, and the Resorts World Sentosa, Butterfly & Insect Kingdom, and one of the largest collections of aquatic animals in the world, SEA Aquarium, all of which continue to draw repeat visitors from all over Asia. 

We took the cable-car ride which provides astounding panoramic views of Mount Faber, one of Singapore highest points. Admission to Sentosa Island is SG$ 6 for adults and SG$ 4 for children between 3 and 12 years. So cheap, you might wonder. Wait! There are separate charges for the various attractions on the island. We didn't have to count our pennies every time as the tour package included everything - that's the best part of such group tours.

Sentosa receives some twenty million visitors per year. 

The first attraction is the Sentosa Merlion, 
a gigantic 37 meter-tall replica of the Merlion which was completed in 1995, housing two viewing galleries and a souvenir shop. 

On the island, we took the free monorail service that makes a loop round the island, and provides a scenic view of Sentosa. Otherwise, you could avail the free bus service or rent a bike.

The decorations for the Chinese New Year were an eyeful.

We were excited to go around Madame Tussauds Wax Museum located there. 
What I observed was .....
.... the statues of Asian luminaries looked more life-like than those in London - but naturally. 
It was exciting to rub shoulders with my favorite world leaders too.

We then entered the S.E.A. Aquarium (South East Asia Aquarium) with the world's largest viewing panel, intended to give visitors the feeling of being on the ocean floor was the world's largest aquarium by total water volume, until overtaken by Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Hengqin, China.

The S.E.A. Aquarium houses the world's largest collection of manta rays, including the only giant oceanic manta ray in captivity and a wide variety of sea creatures including relatively uncommonly-exhibited species. such as the guitar-fish and the chambered nautilus.

Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom is a landscape garden with over 15,000 live butterflies, representing more than fifty species housed in a cool outdoor conservatory. The Insect Kingdom houses some 3,000 species of rare insects from around the world.

Next it was time for the 'Wings of Time' show, a multimedia extravaganza performance which started its run in 2014. 
A series of triangular projection screens 120 m long, is propped up on the water surface while the rest of the equipment (water jets, water screens, lasers and projectors) is hidden at the back. Wings of Time features pyrotechnics displays, water fountains, water screens, laser projectors, flame bursts, a live cast and an open-air viewing gallery which can comfortably accommodate 2,500 visitors.
Two shows are put up every evening after sunset.
The show was a unique experience - it was a blend of live persons as well as animation and laser techniques.

Dinner was at Indian restaurant 'Tandoori@Fortuna Hotel', located close to the renowned 'Mustafa' mall. 

The road was beautifully illuminated for 'Pongal' festival. Singapore boasts of a sizable Tamil population.

Day 3

We started our next day with a quick round of Jurong Bird Park, inaugurated in January 1971. 
 It is now a world-famous bird zoo where there are specimens of magnificent bird life from around the world,

including a large flock of Carribean flamingos. It is currently the world's largest bird park in terms of the number of birds, and second largest both in the number of bird species and land area. 

The best part was that we could get to feed the birds as they settled comfortably on our hands / shoulders.

Penguin coast, designed to resemble a ship, houses five species of penguins 

which live in an indoor, climate-controlled den with access to an outdoor enclosure. 
We also enjoyed a couple of thrilling bird shows - each of the shows were packed to capacity and 
a few lucky volunteers from the audience got to participate in the shows.

We then went to Universal Studios Singapore, located within Resorts World Sentosa, inaugurated in 2011. 
It features 24 rides, shows and attractions in seven themed zones which surround a lagoon. 
Each zone is based on a blockbuster movie or a television show, featuring their own unique attractions, character appearances, dining and shopping areas.

You haven’t seen Singapore until you’ve seen it from Sands Sky Park Observation Deck, soaring 57 levels above the heart of the city. 
We enjoyed the dazzling night view of panoramic vistas of - stunning Marina Bay, the architectural wonders of Flower Dome and Cloud Dome,  Supertree Grove......

We were thrilled to have some family moments as my cousin and my husband's nephew visited us at the end of the day in our hotel room with their families.

The next morning we checked out of our hotel and reached Changi airport. 

One of the best and busiest airports in the world, Changi's Terminal 4 provides a fully automated experience - for passport and visa scan and issue of boarding pass. Then we went through automated Immigration, where we scanned our own boarding pass. Security check proceeded smoothly and we found ourselves in the sprawling and beautiful airport lined with inviting shops. 
The New Year decorations were an added beauty. I have to add that the airport itself is an iconic place worthy of visit in Singapore.

We bid goodbye to the tourist paradise, admiring the city-country which has been continuously adding to its vivid tourist attractions - in fact 3 days are not sufficient to include all attractions in the itinerary - we could not do the Singapore Flier (as it was under renovation); 'Night Safari' was not included in our packed itinerary; we did not have much time for shopping either. We couldn't help admiring the invitingly clean country, its rapid strides of progress based mainly on tourism, and its disciplined multi-national citizens, as we boarded our flight to Bangkok, Thailand.