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Can Singapore be done in one day? Yes, it can!

July 24, 2007

I arrived at Fragrance Hotel Emerald at 1am relieved that I made it to Singapore in one piece.  I woke up at 8am to take a shower, and I have to briefly comment on this. The shower is essentially a shower head in the corner of the bathroom (no shower door) positioned between the toilet and the sink. There's a drain on the floor and that's about it. This is the first time I've seen a bathroom that's set up for multi-tasking - you can even brush your teeth and take a shower at the same time. How funny is that? 

 

I left the hotel at 10am on the 24th and headed to Clarke Quay, where I embarked on a half hour Singapore River Boat tour. I boarded a wooden vessel, which used to be a primary mode of transport for cargo and people.  During the tour, I saw numerous points of interest including Raffles Landing Point, Esplanade, the Merlion, and many others. The tour was narrated, but I couldn't hear anything since the motor drowned out the audio. Afterwards, I walked several blocks to Chinatown since I wanted to take a Singapore trishaw (bicycle/rickshaw) tour.  For $36 SGD, my guide pedaled down Chinatown Night Market, which is an outdoor marketplace with very narrow pathways. My guide had to keep using his horn to warn people that we were about to run them over. Some tourists were pinned against postcard stands/garment racks, etc. They were NOT amused. I even heard one guy yell, "You've got to be kidding me!" when we made our way through the alley.  My guide cycled past the Chinatown Heritage Center, Chinatown's business district, the Chinese Methodist Church, and Singapore's oldest mosque.  I quickly toured the mosque for 5 minutes before getting back on the trishaw. Overall, the ride was a little pricey for only a 20 to 25-minute duration, but it was such a unique experience, I had to take advantage of it.  

 

Instead of taking a taxi, I decided to spend most of the day exploring the city (with map in tow) on foot. I made my way towards the Singapore River in the sweltering heat.  I walked past the Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles statue (he helped transition Singapore from an "obscure fishing village to a great seaport and thriving metropolis"), the Asian Civilization Museum, Merlion Park, Theatre Concert Hall and the Marina Square.  

 

While at Marina Square, I decided to take my third tour - Amphibious Duck Trails - where I boarded a convertible/dual purpose (land and water capable) vehicle, which was originally a WWII vehicle. Half the tour was in the Marina Bay; the other half was on land.  When we headed into the water, I was afraid I would get soaked. Luckily, there were low tides today and I happily avoided getting wet until 10 minutes later when the wind kicked in and water splashed into the vehicle.  Of course I had to sit in the first row. I took it all in stride and laughed about it like I always do.  Plus, I was super sticky from the humidity so the water actually cooled me down.  The tour guide was extremely helpful. She covered the history behind many of the sites we boated by including the Singapore Flyer (modeled after the London Eye) and many others. The land portion of the tour was equally informative. Saw the new Supreme Court, which oddly has a flying saucer on top of the building plus several monuments before heading back to Marina Square.  

 

 

In "1000 Places to See Before You Die", the Raffles Hotel ($600 - $6000 per night) is listed as a must see destination.  The hotel is stunning.  I went directly to the Raffles Long Bar to sample their famous Singapore Sling before heading a mile or so towards Little India (mostly walked the perimeter on Bencoolen Street). Also discovered an outdoor flea market, where people set up makeshift storefronts to sell used/new goods that were laid out on ground tarps.  At first glance, it looked like a homeless park.  

 

Totally exhausted, I took the taxi back to my hotel.  After paying and getting out of the cab, I realized the driver took me to the wrong hotel (same chain, different location).  I didn't notice at first because the hotel looked exactly like mine. Thank goodness my hotel was only 7 minutes away on foot.  

 

I covered most of Singapore in one day. Tomorrow, I will spend part of the day exploring Orchard Road (Singapore's famed shopping district) before heading off to Koh Samui Thailand. If I had an extra day, I would have explored Sentosa Island. I guess I need to save that destination for my next Singapore visit.  

 

Addendum:  On my 2nd day in Singapore, I spent most of my time on Orchard Road (high end shopping district) just walking back and forth, purely for exercise.  I had several hours to kill before my flight to Thailand. Since I couldn't shop, I really didn't have much to do other than to people watch and window shop, which got old pretty quickly.  When I was ready to go back to my hotel, the taxi driver refused to take me there as soon as I told him the address.  Huh??  My 2nd taxi driver clued me in as to why the first one refused service - My hotel was in the heart of Singapore's red light district.  I had NO IDEA.  Apparently, my hotel is surrounded by other hotels frequented by prostitutes. OH MY!!  I always do my research before I book accommodations, but this completely caught me off guard.  Thank goodness I found this out the day I had to leave.  No wonder my hotel was miles from anything and not on primary tourist maps. That's what I get for being budget conscious.  Lesson learned.  

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