After a pretty rubbish night’s sleep due to the time difference my alarm woke me with a start. I had sat it for 8a.m. and so decided while continuing to sleep would definitely have been my top choice at that moment it would be better to push through and try and get myself on Singapore time. After getting ready we headed downstairs to Rise again for their unlimited breakfast buffet and what a treat it was. After ordering some green tea, I started with a dim sum selection while sampling some of my dad’s fruit. Next up was seafood noodle soup from the noodle station and then some duck congee. I sampled some of my dad’s dim sum and beef pastrami before finishing the whole thing off with some cranberry juice. What a feast! We rolled out of the restaurant and back to our rooms to get ready for the highlight of Singapore for me.
To give you some context I am not one for splashing out on high end hotels when there are cheaper very nice options. However, when I visited Singapore previously the one thing I had really wanted to do was to go to the Marina Bay Infinity Pool. Not being a guest this had not been possible, but this time around the pool was our plan for the morning. We changed into our robes and headed up to the 57th floor. The security to access the facilities is only for guests and since we only had one room key my dad headed back down to pick up the other while I found some loungers in the sun. We spent the morning; reading, swimming, and just taking in the absolutely amazing views. It really was quite breath-taking swimming right up to the edge and being faced with the skyline of the city. An experience I will definitely not be forgetting in a hurry!
After a few hours chilling it was time to explore the city! We had signed up for a walking tour with SneakPeak Singapore and so we wandered over to the Asian Civilisations Museum, the meeting point, taking in the skyline and views of the bay area. The sun was shining and it was a lovely walk past the famous Fullerton Hotel with views back to our boat hotel. We arrived in plenty of time and so indulged with a mango iced-tea at Prive ACM before meeting the group and our guide Darren. He was a friendly, polite guide who had a fantastic knowledge of Singapore and we learnt so much from him over the next few hours. After the initial introductions we headed down towards the Singapore River to learn about the history of Singapore and how it got to become a British colony. Raffles was the one responsible for the colonisation by taking advantage of brotherly rivalry between the Sultanates in charge. The elder brother had been ousted from his position when he was off getting married and his father died suddenly allowing the younger brother to swoop in. So, the crafty British used the bitter elder as a pawn by offering him his position as Sultanate back if only he signed over part of the land to the British. And so, until 51 years ago Singapore was a British colony. It was so important due to its geographic location on the straits of Malacca and so meant the British could take advantage of all the passing spice route traffic and de-route the custom away from the neighbouring Dutch ports. We then crossed the oldest bridge in Singapore – the Cavenagh bridge (originally built in Glasgow before being dismantled, shipped and re-assembled) before walking around to Boat Quay. Darren explained how different this would have looked a few hundred years ago with thousands of small boats ferrying goods from the large ships docked out at sea. Merchants were working constantly hauling goods out of the boats and into nearby Chinatown. The quay is designed in the shape of a carp, a fish of wealth and Darren explained that the financial crash of the 1980’s was attributable to something that pierced the belly of the metaphorical carp. We could not think for the life of us what this could be, until he explained the MRT began construction at this time and a feng shui expert attributed the financial difficulties to this and so he advised that from this point the Singapore one dollar coin should be in the auspicious 8 sided octagonal shape to appease the alignment. This is still continued to this day and so everyone who carries one of these coins in their pocket throughout the city is said to be transporting positive energy.
We made our way to the edge of Chinatown where we visited the first ever Chinese temple in Singapore – Wak Hai Cheng Bio temple. It was really small and simple but oozed the peacefulness you get as soon as you enter one of these temples. The annual ghost festival was taking place and so Darren explained during the festival Buddhists believe that the dead rise and come back as spirits and so to appease your ancestors you burn fruit and especially Joss Paper in wads. It was interesting to see the fires as we wandered around Chinatown. Our next stop was the Tam Hock Seng bakery for a small sweet snack of Tau Sar Piah a yummy ball of flaky pastry filled with sweet bean paste. After passing the Nagore Dargah Shrine which was erected for the initial Indian community who lived side by side with the Chinese in Chinatown we got to the Thian Hock Keng Temple, a much more elaborate Chinese temple with little gremlin like creatures at each of the 4 corners to symbolise the presence and work of the Indian community in helping to erect the temple. It was lovely to see the mixture of different customs and religions and how everyone worked together to build the multi-cultural Singapore we know today.
After a short break where Darren kindly provided frozen grapes and wet wipes to help us cool down we continued through Chinatown where he explained that his own family had arrived from China just before the Japanese war in the 40’s and the struggle they had had to get food as they had yet to gain citizenship and so were not given the ration cards the local population had. As a result of this they ended up stealing the identity of another family who had sadly died in a bombing raid and to this day his mother still has the name of the ‘stolen’ family. The men converted back after the war but it was expensive and so a right only given to the future male generations of the family. By this point we had worked our way through history to Singapore in a more modern era and Chinatown was no longer able to hold the growing population. As a result the government started the city plan and this can be see on a scaled model in the Singapore City Gallery. There are not many countries in the world where a scaled model would allow you to make out individual buildings but with Singapore being so small it gave a fantastic sense of the development the city has seen in the last 40 years and how they continue to develop and reclaim land to build the Singapore dream. The gallery is free to visit and very interesting.
Our second last stop was Maxwell Food Centre, Darren’s personal favourite hawker centre. We had some sugar cane with lemon and ice-tea as well as some complimentary ropiah from one of the stalls thanks to Darren. It was great to sit and chat to some of the others on the tour and find out what all their plans are, Singapore is such a travel hub you have people stopping here going pretty much everywhere. After a nice rest stop we headed into Tanjong Pagar Public Housing area where Darren took the opportunity to explain how expensive housing is and how most people opt for public housing. However, even this is around 1.2million to buy and there are strict requirements which must be met prior to applying. This includes; being in a traditional family unit; ie. a married woman and man. Many couples here therefore ask their partner if they want to apply for a house rather than get married. In order to afford these exorbitant prices people pay 20% of their income into a government saving fund which can only be used to buy a house, for healthcare or your child’s education. However, it does mean that otherwise your income is tax free. After wandering around one of the older developments we made our way to a modern one with a viewing deck – Pinnacle @ Duxton. It was $5 to access and completely deserted unlike Marina Bay with fantastic 360 degree views of the city just as the sun was about to set. Darren took lots of pictures for the whole group before we headed back down and said our goodbyes to the group.
We were headed back to Maxwell Centre for dinner and another couple and young German guy decided to join us for food. Having read a few blog recommendations and following Darren’s favourites we opted for Ah Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice, Hainanese Curry Rice with chicken and cuttlefish and China Street Fritters which came with noodles and sausage, egg and fish fritters with some great spicy sauces. We tucked in with beer and ice-tea from the nearby drinks stalls. It was absolutely delicious and it was nice to chat with some of the others on the tour and chill out for a bit. We said our goodbyes to the couple and wandered back through Chinatown market taking in the lanterns and market stalls before making our way around to the bay again and back to Marina Bay.
We used the crossway through our hotel to access Gardens by the Bay and arrived just in time for their nightly lightshow which they choreograph to music, with tonight’s theme being retro. It was beautiful! We just lay down on the ground and looked up to watch the magnificence above. It only lasted for 15 minutes from 8.45 and so we got back to the hotel for just after 9p.m. After a busy day we decided the only thing left to do was go for a late night swim. The infinity pool was stunning with the lit up skyline as a backdrop and since it was still 30 degrees was lovely sitting enjoying the breeze. We ordered Singapore Slings and beer and wiled the evening away drinking and just looking out over the edge at the views.