Day 186: A Sense Of Inevitability

Fri. 15th February 2013

Waiter, there's a ship on my skyscrapers!Sometimes, things are just meant to be. It would be wrong to say we have done lots of planning on what we should do in Singapore. As Myf found out, that isn’t really how we work on this trip. However, it would equally be wrong to say we have done no planning. Janet in particular has done some research and drawn up a short list of sights that includes Chinatown and Little India.

The tomb of Iskandar ShahBefore we get to these, we also wanted to see some of the cultural/historic sites in and around the city centre. Ignoring my protest that the MRT (metro) is comprehensive, simple to use and clean, Janet announces that we are walking. Our hotel is centrally located – just off Orchard Road (the main shopping street) and Dhoby Ghaut MRT station. Fort Canning Park, which dates back to the start of the British rule (the original Government House was built there), is also close by and so our tour starts there.

It won't photograph from here!As we found out, its history (unsurprisingly) dates back further than that. Close by the ‘Battle Box’ where the British commanders planned the Pacific campaign prior to the fall of Singapore, is the tomb of Sultan Iskandar Shah. This is typical of the surprises in store for us today.

From the summit of the hill we could see  skyscrapers all around us and in the distance, mostly obscured by buildings and trees there were glimpses of what looked to be a ship resting across 3 skyscrapers. Taking a photograph of it proved to be a frustrating experience, with even the flagpole in front of Raffles Terrace getting in the way of a clear shot.

Raffles Hotel - not quite in our price range!After a brief rest – and a chat with a couple from Gloucester with the same idea – we headed off out the far side of the park to see some more. These included:

  • St Andrews Cathedral (complete with a couple having their wedding photographs taken. We remember back to when my brother, Rob, got married in Taiwan the photos were taken well ahead of the wedding and on display at the ceremony. We can see the advantages of doing it that way);
  • Singapore Cricket Club (though the pitch seems to be set up for football these days); and
  • Raffles Hotel (though even I thought we were too early for a Singapore Sling there). This was also being set up for a wedding reception. An elaborate set was being constructed that seemed to include fake walls made from polystyrene and a giant Starbucks cup).

Cavenagh Bridge (and Fullerton Hotel)All the while, the skyscrapers with the ship get closer – but still resist all attempts at being photographed. Down by the river, we come across some sights we recognise from our last visit here some 15 or so years ago:

  • Raffles’ statue marking his original landing place;
  • The distinctive Cavanagh bridge (with the sign banning cattle and horses on it); and
  • The banks of the river lined with restaurants.

Raffles himselfThe last of these made of think of lunch – and, lo, it was so! (Sorry, the movie Thor is on the TV in the bar at the minute). Over lunch, we work out that that the ship on skyscrapers is is the SkyPark at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel (thank you free WiFi and TripAdvisor). It’s not that far away and there is a publicly accessible observation deck. As we have been looking at it all morning we decide we just have to go.

Helix Bridge across the river to SkyParkWe walk further along the river and then cross it using the Helix Bridge that reminds us of the Spider Bridge in Melbourne. Indeed the whole skyscrapers towering over a city by the river vista reminds us of Melbourne. In Melbourne the architecture was avant-garde, whereas here it seems more show-off. As we walk through the bling and glitz of the shopping mall attached to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel we realise that the two cities also share a love of shopping – though again, it is much more extravagant here. There is even an ice-skating rink and a (small) canal complete with gondola trips for tourists here.

ArtScience MuseumAt the ticket office, we go for a dual ticket that also gets us in to the ArtScience (sic) museum in the next door building that reminds me of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars but, I suspect, is actually supposed to be the petals of a flower. The SkyPark is on the 57th floor of the hotel and our ears pop twice as the express elevator takes us up there.


View from the SkyPark Observation DeckOn the top, there is an infinity pool reserved for hotel guests – us plebs have to make do with the Observation Deck where we get a full 360o view of the city:

  • The F1 track goes around the bend of the riverBack across the river (where we have just come from) we can see the markings for the Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit (though we can’t quite work out how it fits with the grandstands along the river bank);
  • Out to sea there is row after row of tanker and container ships at anchor – are they waiting to enter the port or are they laid up, waiting for the global economy to pick up again?;
  • Into the city there is a view down the river at all of the skyscrapers; and
  • Sandwiched between skyscrapers and the sea is the port with all of the cranes and containers stacked up like Lego bricks.

The view from the top - looking out to seaLooking down and to the side we can see two enclosed ‘domes’ and a set of cylindrical towers set in a garden with an elevated walkway running between them. This must be the Eden Project like Gardens by the Bay that the couple from Gloucester raved about when we met them earlier.

Outside the ArtScience MuseumOnce we have had our fill of the view from on high, we head down and across to the ArtScience museum. Like the MONA museum in Hobart, we get an iPod touch to use as a guide to the exhibits – though it is not as sophisticated as the MONA guide (and the exhibits are not as outrageous). There are 3 exhibitions on:

  • The Art of the Brick – work by an artist whose medium is Lego bricks);
  • Outside In – an exhibition of photographs from the Magnum agency; and
  • Fujians – on the history and culture of a sea-faring province in China.

3D objects are monochrome, 2D painting in colour. Clever!We spend most time in the Art of the Brick. If the definition of art is ‘something that makes you think’, then these are serious pieces of art, just constructed from Lego. Some of the pieces were quirky, most were clever and all of them used a lot of bricks. I really liked the artists studio piece where the model of the studio itself was created in monochrome, but the still life ‘artwork’ was in colour.

That's what it is all about!Photography exhibitions are usually interesting and the collection from 4 or 5 photographers from the Magnum agency was no exception. We didn’t ‘get’ all of the photos and I’m not sure that we would have rated them all 4 let alone 5 stars but we spend time looking at the composition of the photos and how light is used within the picture. We did, however, learn that cloudy skies or mist are not excuses for taking poor pictures. We’ll have to think up some other excuses now!

By this time we were getting tired and I don’t think we really did the Fujians exhibition justice. Singapore and Taiwan are the closest we get to China on this trip and the exhibition emphasised how much we have to learn about Chinese history and culture. Hopefully, (inevitably?) that will be for another trip!


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