Winter Travels – Singapore (Day 1)

I usually try and split up my holiday by the days, so there will be quite a few of these coming up. 

The plan was to visit Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. Singapore is somewhere I’d been interested in for a while; the other two were add ons, but mean I can tick them off the world map of places visited. It also helped that, in typical style, I arranged it all a little late, and I didn’t need a visa to visit them.

My travels began with a line from a movie. “Keep things together ‘til I get back”. That’s a quote from Star Trek: Generations, spoken by Captain Kirk to Mr Scott (Kirk then goes on to save the Enterprise-B from an energy ribbon, dying in the process; I did not die). I also said it to my colleague who remained in Beijing, as I departed for my adventures. Seemed rather fitting (and it’s an excuse to quote Star Trek, which is always fun), given we’re the last two standing (everyone else has left to go on their holidays). My flight to Singapore, my first stop on this three-country trip, was at about 00:30. I headed to the airport in the late evening, had something to eat and checked in.

Arriving in Singapore at about 06:30, I cleared customs very quickly (although the woman on the customs desk had difficulty scanning my passport into her computer; I thought the holiday was going to be over before it even began, but eventually she did manage to scan it). I was getting picked up from the airport, and had a lovely drive into the city centre, where my hotel was located.

My hotel was pretty central, across the road from a subway station. I had planned to leave my luggage there, go off exploring and then return later to check-in. The driver told me most places are accessible in about twenty minutes’ drive on the island, with maybe the extremes being thirty minutes. In other words, everything is close by. When we arrived at the hotel, there was a mocktail waiting for me, and I was able to check-in immediately.

On arriving at my room, which was pretty impressive, I opened my case and briefly looked for my list of things to do in the city. And, of course, I realised immediately that I’d forgotten the list. I then looked for my Lonely Planet pocket guide to Singapore and also realised I’d forgotten this too! No matter, I had a bigger guide book with me, and set about looking at what there was to see and do. I already had an idea of where I wanted to go (however, the list also contained Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok itineraries; I had a guide book for Bangkok but not for KL. I improvised there).

I felt that, first, I should get to know my bearings, and headed down to the ‘Gardens by the Bay’ area, where there are some big artificial trees which you can climb. It was hot, and I had changed into my shorts (but did not yet have any sun cream. I ended up getting a little sun burnt). The area was, relatively speaking, quiet, but it was pretty early in the day, about 09:30. I paid and climbed the trees, gaining an impressive sight of the surrounding area.

Following this, I descended and went into the two big domes; one was full of plants and waterfalls, the other full of flowers. The first I went in, the Cloud Forest, was like something from Jurassic Park. The waterfalls, and the mist creating an eerie atmosphere.

The other dome had some flowers inside it. There was also a display and a video about climate change, which was quite interesting.

Outside the domes, was a statue of a massive baby, presumably a piece of modern art. And, if you took the time to look up, from any location within the gardens (and, indeed, in many areas of the city centre), your view would have been dominated by a hotel, which looks like it has a ship on top (I went up to the top of this on my last day).

After this (the whole treetops experience, plus the two domes took a couple of hours to do in total), I had some lunch in one of the restaurants on the site, and then went to explore more of the city. At the bottom of the hotel (mentioned above) was a shopping mall, which had inside its very own canal.

Then I headed outside the mall, and went to the Art and Science Museum, where there was an exhibition from the Natural History Museum, in London.

Following this, I headed to the Asian Civilisations Museum, which was okay, and moderately interesting, although my knowledge of Asian history and culture is very limited indeed, so much of the information was a little over my head.

By now, I was getting hungry again, so I went back to the hotel and had a meal in the restaurant there, before heading out once more to the ‘Gardens by the Bay’, and watched the trees light up.

I returned to the hotel for a third time and turned in for the night. The hotel was a boutique hotel, as they are known (though I don’t know what that means exactly), but it was also part-museum. The entrance hall was a museum about the former use of the building, and each room was named after a Chinese person who used to live or work there (I think).

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