After being in Bali for 30 days we needed to renew our tourist visas and to do so we had to leave and reenter the country. The closest place to do this is Singapore, a two and one half hour flight away, so the school arranged for us to fly there. Their plan was for us to take an early morning flight, get our visas processed and return on a late evening flight that same day. We elected instead to leave at a reasonable hour and spend enough time in Singapore to have a look around and return two days later, again at a reasonable time.
We visited Hong Kong for several days some years ago, staying with friends who were living there. In addition we have visited several other Asian mega-cities like Seoul, Taipei, Bangkok, and Beijing, so why not add another to the list if only for a day or two.
Stephen searched around the internet for a place to stay that would get around the vertical character of so many of these places. She found a well situated, two-story, boutique hotel in a quiet neighborhood aptly named Lloyd’s Inn. We dropped our passports at the broker and walked the quarter mile to Lloyd’s.
Needless to say Singapore is vastly different from Bali. Structured, orderly, clean, wealthy.
Soon after our arrival we learned that the city nation was in mourning for the passing of it’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. As we came to learn, this wasn’t simply the death of another politician but of a man whose vision lead to what is a remarkable place. It became apparent as we spent time in the city that he left a lasting legacy from the time of its creation until the present. Coming in from the airport the free-flowing freeways were lined with lush tropical plantings, streets were clean, buildings in fine condition. Leafing through the many sections of English-language newspapers eulogizing Mr. Lee, I learned that it had not always been that way but rather had been a muddy poverty stricken place. He worked to establish a corruption-free government and to attract foreign investment, he established funds for housing for all of Singapore both rich and poor. His love of plants has left its mark all over the city.
Not wanting to be overwhelmed by the size of the city we decided to take a citywide hop-on hop-off tour bus. However after waiting for nearly one hour after a scheduled arrival we gave up and headed for the nearest metro station where we bought a two day pass. The sleek, spotless subway of course had full wi-fi for the device addicted, that is to say, everyone. Although we didn’t see as much traveling underground, it was rapid and we visited first Chinatown and then Little India. We went again this time to the central city and the waterfront. On our list of tourist attractions was the Helix Bridge, a curved footbridge over waterways and highways supported by a double helical structure designed to represent DNA. A museum in the shape of a lotus blossom, a multi-tower skyscraper connected by a ship-like structure at the top, and the Singapore Flyer are some of the architectural marvels down in that area.
After emerging from the subway we had to navigate past countless glitzy shops before getting to the waterfront and the Helix bridge. What a stunning creation. A very wide footbridge, it had many tourists like ourselves and an even larger number of locals out for their jog. A sequence of nucleotides is represented along its length and the walkway itself passes through the center of the curving DNA. A number of viewing platforms puncture the strand to allow for a look at the skyline; I hope these don’t represent mutations in the DNA.
We wandered over to the Singapore Flyer, a 540 foot diameter, 42 story, Ferris wheel described as an observation wheel by its owners whose cheesy by line is “a moving experience at every turn”. Although it can accommodate nearly 800 passengers in 28 “capsules”, traffic was light and we shared our car with a Philippine couple. It takes about 30 minutes for a full revolution giving you plenty of time to look around. Among other things, we could see the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest dome at the Gardens by the Bay and a large number of ships waiting to dock out in the water.
It turned out well not riding the hop-on bus deal since we returned well past their hours of operation after a long stroll through the gardens. A high tech and somewhat gaudy LED light show in the Supertree Grove in the gardens drew plenty of evening visitors.
With an afternoon flight the next day we had all morning to visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens which were a bus ride away in the opposite direction from downtown. This enormous arboretum and garden covers 183 acres and was established in 1822. There are collections of various plant types such as the ginger family or bromiliads. In addition it was used as a sort of agricultural experiment station supporting the cultivation of crops such as rubber. Paths lead through tropical forests and flowering plants, a very special urban retreat. The highlight of the gardens for us was the Orchid Garden, an area of 7.5 acres dedicated solely to orchids. Lucky for us most were blooming. There is a
misting house for those that need moist conditions and a cool house for orchids needing cool conditions. One area is dedicated to hybridized orchids and a VIP orchid garden, giving names of famous people to original cultivars much like roses are named; a new hybrid was that day named after the late Mr. Lee.
Our passports stamped with a new visa were delivered to Lloyd’s Inn. We returned there to check out and were able to go to the airport using the metro system. Singapore is a pleasant place and worthy of an even longer visit than we were able to give it.