25 November 2013
One gets used to everything very quickly: while yesterday the York Hotel hurt the eye by its huge empty halls, today it feels like that’s exactly how it should be.
As always, our formal introduction to the city started with a hop on-hop off bus tour. As one may guess, there are not (and can’t be) many old historical attractions, perhaps only a few Victorian-style buildings. Modern architecture looks interesting: the skyscrapers are not merely concrete towers, but something of fancy and whimsical shapes, and rather than standing each by itself, they form groups, located accorded to feng shui.
Again as always, we started with a full circle on the bus, just staring around, and then made our first hop off in Chinatown, for a detailed acquaintance. We were immediately lured into a street market with all kinds of souvenirs and various Chinese goods. Apart from the usual vendors, there were also stalls touting Chinese calligraphy and offering to write our names in Chinese. These calligraphy scrolls looked so exquisitely pretty that I got tempted.
Then it suddenly started raining heavily, and we hurried to take refuge in the nearest Chinese restaurant. It was completely empty when we just arrived, which seemed suspicious, but eventually everything turned out delicious (more details to follow in the “gastronomic” post), and the place got quite busy too.
Once we treated ourselves to some physical food, we turned to spiritual one and visited the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. It left a very enlightened and peaceful sensation, probably because Buddhism is one of the religions that focus on the person itself, its development and enhancement. The walls of the temple are adorned with statues of the Buddha, each having the same enigmatic half-smile, but with a different hand gesture, each of which apparently has its own meaning.
Another temple located in Chinatown, oddly enough, is the Sri Mariamman Hindu temple. While the Chinese temple had the shape of a pagoda, of course, the dome roof of this one represented a truncated pyramid, dotted with a motley crowd of multi-coloured statues of various deities. We did not go inside, as we would have had to take our shoes off, which would leave us completely barefoot.
The next thing we wanted to visit was Little India, but somehow we ended up going to the Marina Bay waterfront promenade instead. This is the area where Singapore’s financial centre is located, and it’s these skyscrapers that have the most intricate shape. The granite-paved promenade itself is surprisingly unfrequented (compared, for example, with Hong Kong’s waterfront, where we saw crowds of people).
Our main goal of getting off the bus at this particular stop was visiting the observation deck at Marina Bay Sands, and enjoy the night view of the city – we were already all in anticipation of how awesome the illuminated Singapore would look. In order to pass the time while waiting for nightfall, we took a river cruise on a very slow boat, enjoying the view of low colonial-style buildings along the banks of the Singapore River.
Before it even started getting dark, we got caught in a terrible tropical thundershower, and luckily enough, it started when we were about to disembark the boat, so we could quickly take shelter under the roof of The Shoppes mall at Marina Bay, from the windows of which we could observe a dense wall of water, pouring from the sky.
The decision was made instantly, and we headed to the food court to have dinner while waiting for the shower to be over! I really loved the whole idea of this food court, with pretty much all Asian (and not only Asian) cuisine represented here: Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Malaysian, Hakka, Hong Kong, Singaporean, Indian, Teochew, etc., as well as Italian and Mexican.
While we were queuing for the observation deck tickets, the staff honestly warned us: it was an open deck, the rain could resume any moment and we wouldn’t get our money back in that case. But we took the risk (and the lift to the 56th floor!) and stepped onto the wet, slippery observation deck with an absolutely magical view! Needless to say, right at the entrance we were literally forced to be photographed against a green background just to be subsequently photoshopped onto the view of the city. They then tried to foist the resulting photo on us for 50 singadollars, but we stubbornly refused to fork out and instead took tons of pictures ourselves.
Finally it started raining again, although not very heavily, and we got all wet, but really, this sight together with the laser and fountain show were well worth it!