Marina Bay waterfront and the largest light and water spectacular in Southeast Asia, Wonder Full.
This is a free twice daily event, about 8.30pm and 9.30pm depending on the day. It is wonderful, and wonderful from many angles, near and far. In the picture on the right is the Science Museum, in the centre Marina Bay Sands hotel and shopping centre, on the left is the fascinating double-helix bridge.
Singapore Pictures of Attractions
Prior to the light show an exotic drink by Marina Bay, with an exotic view.
Singapore is a tiny city state, just 20×30 kms (13×19 miles) in size but wielding huge ambition and a dynamic, mixed population composed mainly of Chinese, Malays and Indians, numbering about 5 million.
Singapore and its 60 or so islands is located at the far south end of the Malay peninsula, connected to its large northern neighbour Malaysia by two causeways. Entry is possible by bus, train, car or bicycle (the Japanese army introduced that last idea quite dramatically in 1942). To the south is Indonesia.
In Malay language this is called Singapura, Lion City, even though lions never lived here. Tigers did and still do, albeit in the fantastic city zoo.
Love it or hate it, if you’re travelling in Southeast Asia you’ll almost certainly pass through Singapore at some point. A few years ago government surveys showed that most visitors were only staying a couple of days on layovers, so a policy was established to attract visitors for longer. It worked for us. We spent 5 days there and loved it. Paradise found! Albeit expensive.
Travellers taking a Singapore holiday should be ready for an immaculate, organised but sterile metropolis, Asia without the poor: no beggars, stray dogs, aggressive touts, dirty streets, bag snatchers, stinky buzzy motorcycles or biting insects, but with drinkable tap water, delicious food that doesn’t give you the runs, air-conditioning, wide roads, manicured green spaces and clear, logical road signs.
Sentosa island, Silosa beach, Singapore
This city state has many attractive features for travellers not least of which are that it’s a great hub for flights, its sheer efficiency and reliability, spectacular buildings, beautiful landscaping, appealing tourist attractions and the ease of communication for both English and Chinese speakers. And this is not Public Relations talking! I’m writing this in Bali and thinking, how could Singapore get it so right and Bali get it so wrong?
The answer of course is/was smart, authoritarian, uncorruptible, forward-looking leadership. This started with the foundation of Singapore in 1819 by British national Stamford Raffles. The process accelerated with Lee Kuan Yew – a star law student at Cambridge University- Singapore’s first Prime Minister.
Lee is the founding father of modern Singapore, taking it “from the third world to the first world in a single generation”.
Lee Kuan Yew’s son, Lee Hsien Loong is now the Prime Minister of the city state.
Singapore tourism’s principal downsides are the oppressive humidity, the high cost of living compared to Asian neighbours and the lack of soul, with only rare glimpses of its exotic, trading-post past. Somewhere along the line cleanliness has overtaken culture – censorship still demands that women’s breasts in major art works be covered on television, there is not a leaf out of place in the Botanic Gardens and forward planning is of Brave New World proportions.
That being said, in an increasingly unstable world of disease, terrorism and failure travellers who want safety and efficiency can’t go wrong in Singapore.
A few facts
Language: 50% of the population speak Mandarin Chinese, others Malay and Tamil but most Singaporeans are well educated and use English as a common language between each other so communication should be no problem.
Religion: 33% Buddhist, 18% Christian, 15% Moslem, and the rest Taoist, Hindu or Dudeists.
Local tap water is safe to drink.
Electricity is 220 – 240AC and sockets usually take UK style 3 pin plugs but adapters are cheap and widely available.
Smoking is banned in air conditioned areas and public transport as well as in taxis and lifts.
Tipping is not common even in taxis, though residents may round up the fare to the nearest coin.
There are strict laws against littering of any kind (chewing gum was banned in 1992 but the rules were relaxed in 2004 under the United States/Singapore Free Trade Agreement to allow the sale of chewing gum considered to have health benefits).
Americans, Canadians, British, Australians and citizens of the EU receive a Social Visit Pass on arrival, providing their passport has more than 6 months validity. Officially tourists should also hold sufficient funds for their holiday, a confirmed return air ticket (or bus ticket if coming by land from Malaysia! ) and entry permit for their next destination.
The length of the Pass depends on nationality. British and Irish get 30 days, others get 7 or 14 days but all can request an extension to 90 days on arrival.