We re-crossed the equator on Friday with appropriate festivities and so are back in the northern hemisphere (technically back in winter; the temperature is about 90ºF.) We arrived in Singapore early afternoon on Saturday. The approach into the harbor is second only to Sydney. The skyline is filled with remarkably stunning architecture.
Our plan for the afternoon and evening was to pick up a transit card for unlimited three-day travel by bus, subway (MRT), and LRT. Then visit Chinatown and the Gardens by the Bay. We did all that and saw a display of traditional dances by a local dance company. Because we hadn’t had time to eat for almost 12 hours, for the first time since we got on the boat, we went to the 11:00 supper buffet. Until now we had wondered why they had it. We had observed that some people take cruises like this for the ports of call; some for cruise atmosphere; some for the multiple daily opportunity to dance and the ready availability of dance partners; some by all appearances come for the buffets.
The transit pass is a great deal; $20 SG for unlimited rides for three days. The conversion from US to SG dollars is about $1 US equals $1.4 SG, so our cost was about $14.25. The stunning thing about it was there was one ticket window selling passes for a line of all the cruise ship passengers who hadn’t booked excursions through the cruise line. After a wait of at least 45 minutes, we arrived at the window and the clerk needed to explain what the pass covered and what it didn’t. We had heard it several times while standing there. Then we learned they did not take credit cards, US dollars, or AUS dollars; only Singapore dollars. We hadn’t heard that.
I left Doré holding our place, found an ATM, got some Singapore dollars, returned to the head of the line (with remarkably little grumbling from our fellow travelers) and the clerk wouldn’t take fifties, which is all the ATM gave out. We managed to scrounge up change for the fifty from the people in line, who were more than happy to get rid of us.
Chinatown was more of a real business district and less touristy than we typically see in the US, although there were plenty of tourists and souvenir shops. And a colossal statue of a rooster in the main street; this is the year of the rooster (and fire but we didn’t see any of that.)
The Gardens by the Bay made the trip worthwhile. Stunning indoor and outdoor gardens, rainforests, waterfalls, and lots of flowers even though this is the tail end of summer. The real attractions in the Gardens are man-made ‘supertrees’. These are several times as tall as the natural trees (hence, the ‘super’), shaped like tall skinny cooling towers, which they almost are.
They have several functions, including collecting rainwater for the gardens and venting for whatever mechanicals are under the garden. Pictures of trees are on another camera. This is one of the indoor mountains and waterfalls, cleverly labeled “The Falls.” Most importantly for the tourists, the supertrees have observations decks and suspended walkways connecting them. And the frosting on the cakes, they are covered with LED lights that make an impressive sight after dark and a spectacular light show at dusk. Las Vegas could learn something here and I won’t even mention Minneapolis and the Lowrie Bridge.
We were at the Garden on Saturday afternoon, at the end of summer break for students, so it seemed a significant percentage of Asia was there too. I cannot understand the compulsion to take as many pictures as you can of yourself standing in front of, but not looking at the thing you came to see.