DISCOVERING LION CITY, SINGAPORE

Singapore is such a fascinating country.  It is a global city and the world’s only island city-state. Furthermore, the country is very young.  Singapore became independent just 50years ago. And more interesting is its multicultural setting. Its residents comprise Chinese, Malay and Indian. What is surprising is that approximately 40% of other residents are foreign-born nationals. Most are from China or neighboring countries and many from Eurasia and the UK.  These foreign-born nationals have either a temporary or a permeant residence to live and work in Singapore.

And the country boasts four official languages, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil and English. You would be able to find all four languages everywhere in public sphere. Singaporeans are mostly bilingual in their mother tongue and English as their common language. That’s quite awesome, isn’t it?

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See all four languages on this sign

Given that the city is highly multicultural, Singapore has a rich heritage of food dishes. Its foods are an attraction for tourists. You’ll find a blend of Malaya, Chinese, Indonesia, Indian and Western influences. There are so many restaurants as well as street hawker stalls in most corners of the city. I was able to enjoy a bit of every ethnic dish. To name a few that were really delicious are the Hainanese Chicken Rice, Chilli Crab, Laksa, Hokkien Prawn Mee, Satay, Kaya toast, Fried Carrot Cake and the British Fish and Chips. Also, their drinks were amazing, too. There’s this drink called teh and kopi which I think is a mix of tea and coffee. It was unbelievably good. Their sugar cane juice was champ. I ordered this drink more than twice during my stay on the island. This little island country is a great food haven. You must come to Singapore hungry.

I stayed at two different hotels with some friends.  The first three nights we stayed at an ordinary hotel near the site of the 5th WFD Asia Conference and then moved to stay one night at the Marina Bay Sands, one of the finest hotels in Singapore. We actually spend two days at this hotel.  The Marina Bay Sands is a kind of resort that had a large casino, shops, two theaters, a museum, several restaurants, a skating rink and a sky park with an infinity swimming pool and observance deck set on the top of the building.  The pool was the world’s longest elevated swimming pool.  And the pool provided a 360- degree view of the Singapore skyline.  We stayed on the 49th floor, the last top floor with sleeping rooms. Our package included a really nice bedroom with a balcony that looks out to the bay and the Garden by the Bay theme park,  a pass to the sky park on the 57th floor with the pool and access to the observance deck.  Also, included were exciting foods at Club 55 that was on the 55th floor.  Our food simple though so much, we had an afternoon tea buffet of scones, cakes, cookies and fruits and in the evening we had drinks at canapés.  The Club 55 had huge windows that looked out to the city or to the bay.  We had a choice where we wanted to sit.  For our afternoon tea we looked out to the bay and in the evening we, sat by a window looking out to the city.

After a couple of drinks, we went to the Garden by the Bay park to watch the Garden Rhapsody light and sound show. We entered the park that was lit up in bright colors and found a spot to lay down on the ground to watch the light show.  It was beautiful.  Next, we hurried over to the city side to watch another light show but with the spray of water.  We immersed ourselves in the show called,  The Wonder Full.  It was a spectacular showpiece with water spray and laser effects with a story about human life against the Singapore cityscape in the backdrop.

The next morning, we watched for the sun to rise from the Jacuzzi.  It was cool.  After our Jacuzzi and American size breakfast at the Club 55, some of us went to Chinatown.

We were lucky to have the opportunity of a private tour to Chinatown by a local/native and licensed Deaf tour guide.  Our guide is of Chinese national and knows American Sign Language.  She was able to give full information on almost everything we passed by on the way to Chinatown.  We spend our morning at the Chinese Heritage Centre.  We received an interesting lecture about Chinese migrants to Singapore and with a tour inside an old tenement house.  We saw how many Chinese people and families lived in a very small cubicle space.  I was in awe how they managed especially for a family of 8 persons.  The tour was so fascinating.  And the history was interesting, too.  I was amazed how much the Singapore Chinese tolerated and also contributed to the development of the country.

I also learned some other interesting things about Singapore, particularly that the country had always been thriving port where many ships and vessels would dock for a few days. From there trade on the island unfolded and many traders decided to settle on the island to establish trading centers, warehouses, and businesses. The settlers were diverse, people from different countries.  Singapore became the center of trade in the Southeast Asia.  And because of so many different people, the island never had it easy.  People disagreed, fought and started wars.  There were ongoing years of social and economic turbulence on the island.  Eventually, after independence from Britain, the nation developed rapidly.

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Look down to the city from the Marina Bay Sands Skydeck

Today Singapore economy is heavily based on trade and its multicultural human capital. I think Singapore’s story is interesting.  The education was stimulating. I’ve promised myself to come back to visit other cultural heritages and to visit the Singapore National Museum.  And so, I asked my guide how many days would she recommend for an educational tour of the country.  She said four or five days because there were four major cultures, Chinese, Malaya, Indian and British.  She added that I would need to check out Singapore’s biodiversity. I thought, Yes, there are many natural gardens not to miss.

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In the Garden by the Bay Theme Park

The Singapore gardens are nothing like you’ve seen before. It’s not a traditional kind of English or Japanese garden. It has a technology mix and is awesome. I learned that Singapore has a green policy and that has changed the country so much that it has a new identity as the Garden City.  Its green policy has covered the island with tropical flora, green parks, and gardens. I read in a brochure that nearly 10% of Singapore’s land has been set aside for green parks and nature reserves. And due to the efforts, Singapore was ranked fourth in the 2014 Environmental Performance Index. Indeed I can tell you not just how so clean the city was but how much green there was in-between all the high-rise buildings. I felt as if everyone is trying to transform the city into a garden island.

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Supertrees

A visit to the Gardens by the Bay is a must.  I was luckiest that my plane departs later in the evening.  It allowed a few more hours to grab another visit to the garden. Here is some history about the garden. The huge garden site open to the public in 2011. And since then all the plants have grown and are still growing. The mission includes that it become a tropical forest. And the moment I stepped in the garden, I was in awe of the amazing landscape of the Supertrees that stood 25 to 50 meters tall and are covered with 200 species of plants onto its special panels. And come alive at night with a dazzling display of lights bursting across the sky. And there’s an aerial walkway that lets you get a panoramic view of the garden and an up-close look at the Supertree technology. It was all a unique experience to stroll around the garden.

We also went to visit a conservatory. There were actually two conservatories, the flower dome, and the cloud forest.  I wished I could have visited both but because of my flight I had to pick one. And so, I picked the flower dome.  There was a special exhibition of African flowers going.  I was excited to see African flowers again.  The flowers I saw on my last tour to Africa in 2015.  As we entered the dome, I realize it wasn’t just flowers that they were showing but also African baobab trees, too. I suddenly became so fascinated to how they could get such trees to Singapore because they were huge and probably heavy too. There was a cactus garden with some caucus from the USA. Another interesting display were the plants called “live rocks”. They were small caucus plants that looked like rocks and the display had everyone to look for the live rock plant among real rocks. There was art work displayed with the plants and flowers. One art scene with fish sculptures among caucus was interesting. The arrangement of the sculpture fishes and the caucus looked like an underwater scene. I thought it was pretty. Other artwork included floral and wood sculptures. After we exit the dome, I thought the Cloud Forest exhibitions would also be interesting, too. I promised myself to come back again for the Cloud Forest and other sites of the garden.

Eventually, it was time for me to go, to return home to Japan. I suddenly sense a sadness that the fun of seeing and learning new things has come to a stop. Though I’m very happy to know that I can come back again soon. I’ve made new friends in the city to also come back to. Thank you, my friends, in Singapore for showing me your beautiful country.