Singapore

I love walking tours so I found one that was from 1-6 but that meant I had all morning to myself.  I decided it was high time I hit up a museum, so I spent the morning at the National Museum.  I thought I’d only be there for an hour or so (as museums aren’t often my thing) but I really loved this one!  They have an exhibit right now covering what it was like to live in Singapore over the last 100 years that was down right fascinating! I found their Story of the Forest immersive art exhibit a bit odd, but it was amusing to watch children get excited at the moving animals on the walls.

These mystery book vending machines are all over the city and I love it!

I slowly made my way over to the Asian Civilations Museum where my walking tour was set to start.

I found three ‘pay what you can’ walking tours in Singapore but only one was running while I was there.  It was my last pick of the three, as there is a recommended $18 donation, but it was the best walking tour I’ve ever been on! Seriously, if you’re doing to Singapore contact Darren at SneakPeek Singapore.

We started at Cavenagh Bridge and the Singapore River, which is where the city’s harbour used to be.

And then made our way to Wak Hai Cheng Bio Temple, which even the locals don’t know is situated right in the middle of the downtown core.

We stopped to take a look at Singapore’s tallest buildings (there’s a height restriction due to flight paths).

And continued on to the Fuk Tak Chi Museum. It was once the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore and now is an example of restored architecture in Chinatown, and features a model of what Chiantown looked like in the past.

We went by the Tan Hock Seng Bakery, which has been in the same location for 80 years (apparently this is unheard of, as rent gets more and more expensive), where we were treated to some treats! And continued down through Chinatown.  These storefronts are not very wide, as the buildings were only taxed on their width.  So they are narrow but very long.

We went by the Thian Hock Keng Temple, where Buddhists, Taoists and Confucians can go to worship. The building across the street also belongs to the temple.  The temple caretakers used to live there before they realized they could rent out the space for a profit.  So they tore down the homes and built the office building.  However, the caretakers told the architects to incorporate eyes into the building, so everyone would know they still had eyes on the temple. There’s a mural on the back wall of the building, all painted by the same guy.  He was actually there finishing it off which was pretty cool.

We stopped by the Maxwell Hawker Center for an little snack.  Here Darren purchased Chicken Rice, Carrot Cake (a savory dish made with turnips), fried banana, and more so we could try traditional dishes.  I also had some sugarcane juice which tasted like lemonade.  Simply delicious!

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From here we went to the Urban Redevelopment Authority building, to see the Singapore City Gallery.  Perhaps my favourite part, this is where the city planners are and they have two scaled models.  One is of the entire city, and on a slightly larger scale is one of the downtown.  It shows every current building and planned developments in the next 10 years.  SO COOL! In the bigger model some of the buildings are much more detailed than others and that is because for every new development, the contractor must provide a too scale model.  So for condo buildings, this is the model they are using to sell the units so it will be more detailed than others.

We stopped by a public housing unit next, and learnt a little about the housing situation here.  80% of the population lives in public housing, but it is very different from what you’d expect in North America.  Here, as long as you make under USD$12,000 a month (just over $100,000 a year) you qualify.  There are other conditions, but most of the population lives in these.

The Singapore government has legislation in place to promote an ideal society (or what they believe is).  One of their beliefs is a men and women should marry, so in order to qualify for public housing you must be married (to the opposite gender).  Our guide’s sister is engaged, so her and her fiance put themselves down on the public housing list.  It takes about 2 years to get a place, but they must show their marriage certificate to get their keys or they lose their 10% deposit ($40,000).  So they have a saying that you don’t ask someone to marry you, you ask them to buy an apartment. You must live in the unit for 5 years, and then you can sell it if you wish.

If you are single, you can’t put yourself on the list to purchase a unit until you are 35.  At that point the government has given up on your chances of marriage.

Not to say that public housing is cheap.  In one of the buildings we went by a 3 bed, 2 bath unit sold for 1.2 million.  But the same unit in the private building across the street sold for 1.8 million, so people try to get in the public buildings if possible.

Interestingly, the government has a mandatory savings plan which is how many people are able to afford their homes once they get married.  If you make $5,000 a month, 20% is automatically put in a savings account (so $1,000).  This can only be used for down payments, retirement, or education.  Additionally, the employer must put an additional 17% of your salary in the fund each much.  Because they can’t use it for very many things (basically a RRSP and RESP combo account for us), it grows and grows and often people can purchase homes without incurring any debt.

Anyways back to the pictures! One of the public housing buildings has a rooftop patio that anyone can go up (for $6) so we went up to watch the sun come down.

I’m off to Cambodia tomorrow, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in Singapore! It was the perfect gate-way country to my Asia adventure, but I’m excited to see the ‘real’ Asia over the next 2.5 weeks.

Singapore

On my second day in Singapore, I headed to the city’s other famous gardens – Gardens by the Bay.

There are two (air-conditioned!) domes where I spent most of my time.  The first was the flower dome, and featured an amazing tulip collection.

The second dome simulated a cloud forest environment. You also got to walk across footpaths 6 levels above the ground so that was certainly fun.

I’m sure you noticed this building in some of the previous pictures.

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That is Marina Bay Sands Resort, and my next destination! They have a SkyPark on the 58th floor that you can go to, but I decided to have lunch on the 57th floor instead, and get the view from there.

And then I got up close and personal with some of the buildings I saw from above as I slowly made my way to the nearby Bugis Street Market in search of more shorts (my pair is falling apart and it’s too hot to wear anything else!).

While my search at the market was unsuccessful, it was a cool experience.  I walked through 5 stories packed full of clothing, shoe and accessory booths. Every time I thought I saw an exit it was another escalator going to yet another floor up! I ended up having to go to the mall across the street to complete my task, but the market was really cool.

Here’s some slightly better photos of the Park Royal Hotel.

From here I had a short break in the hostel, before heading back to the gardens by the bay for dinner and their nightly lights show.

Singapore

Janetta has a friend in Sydney who is from Singapore, so she very helpfully connected us so I could get advice from a local.

I started my first day with a visit to the Botanic Gardens. I’ve been to a lot of gardens in my travels, but these ones were the best!  They were also the most well-attended, but it never felt crowded.  We were all taking our time and enjoying the gardens together.

There’s an orchid garden in the botanic garden, so that was a good mid-way point for my time in the gardens. I’ll be the first to admit I’m a horribly plant photographer, but you can’t say I don’t try!

From there I was back in the main gardens, slowly making my way to the opposite side of where I entered.

I spent a good three hours exploring the gardens.  When I started around 9, it was very humid but not hot, and I thought I’d be able to handle it just fine.  Then 10 came around with the sun and I was boiling!  The exit I used from the gardens was attached to a metro station, so I was very pleased to be in air condition!  The metro itself reminds me a lot of London (and not just because of the many transit lines).  I’ll take a picture of the metro map, but here’s one of the stations.

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I made my way to Tiong Bahru area, which was sold to me as the more hipster area.  It was very strange walking through these streets and finding amazing home stores and bakeries like I would back home. I had to take a break after this – I was spoiled by 20 degree weather in Adelaide and Sydney and the heat was making me tired (plus jetlag).  So after a nice rest at the hostel, I got back out to explore some more!

This time I headed into the downtown core.

I also made sure to stop by the National Gallery.  I’m not so much a fan that I’ll pay to go in an art gallery, however you could go to the rooftop garden for free and get some great views of the city.

I had enough energy left that I decided to walk to Chinatown.  On the way I passed some really great ways they’ve incorporated greenery into the city itself (pictures aren’t great but I’ll try again in the days to come).

Chinatown was fun! I didn’t purchase anything, but it was nice to see the lanterns hanging on many of the streets.

My last stop was dinner.  Many people had told me to go to the Maxwell Hawker Center.  Hawker centers are basically like the food building at the CNE – there are many booths filling the outside of an open-air building with communal tables in the middle.  It was good and affordable – two of my favourite travelling words.

 

Sydney to Singapore

Today was consumed by my 8 hour flight to Singapore.  These last 100 days in Australia and New Zealand have been so wonderful, but I’m very excited to see something different and have new experiences.  Plus it means I’m starting to move towards home which is nice.

My plane windows were actually clean for once, so I snapped some pics as we got closer to Singapore.  I’ve never seen so many islands before (or caught the sun setting from a plane), so I thought it was really cool to see.  I have no idea which countries are here, but I was glad to have had a window seat.