Posts Tagged With: Singapore

Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay – Where Myst Meets Pandora

Supertrees1

Welcome to Pandora at Gardens by the Bay

Back in 2003, the first time I visited Singapore, the main attractions were the Merlion, the shops along Orchard Road, and the marvelous Night Safari (which are all still there and still worth visiting, I might add). When I arrived in November 2017 there was a new show in town, a massive land reclamation project called the Gardens by the Bay that is easily the tiny island-nation’s showpiece.

Located along the southern shore near the cruise ship port, this public plaza with a dose of sci-fi is a great place to wander. I myself did my wanderings late at night, when the humidity was down .3% from during the day going from 1,000% to a mere 997%. There were few tourists and the lighting was surreal, though for dining and photography, I’d also recommend coming during the day. But in the glow of the nighttime, the analogies of the title came clearly into focus.

Some of my favorite computer games growing up were the MYST series, where players must explore multi-tiered worlds of unique structures and mazes. Gardens by the Bay specifically reminded me of Riven, where you have to navigate a jungle of passages and walkways (some over the top of others). The other sci-fi analogy prompted by the scene were the jungles of the fictional planet of Pandora from the movie Avatar – particularly the phosphorescent colors at night, which are resplendent in the Gardens’ premier attraction – the Supertrees.

Supertrees2

Take a stroll on the aerial walkway for a scene out of Myst

These futuristic marvels of varying heights (25 to 50 meters tall) house many plants along with environmentally-friendly solar cells, but mostly they just look really cool – especially when lit up at night. There’s a free light and sound show among the trees at 7:45PM and 8:45PM, and if you get there before 9PM you can take a stroll on a 128 meter long aerial walkway (for about $8) for a closer look and an out-of-this-world experience. With the massive (and very chic) Marina Bay Sands hotel looming in the background, this is arguably one of the best views in the city.

Marina Bay Sands

The Mighty Marina Bay Sands Hotel – an impressive backdrop

There’s a ton of other attractions not only contained within the Gardens, but also nearby, including a rather cool helix-shaped bridge and water views of the famous Merlion. For more information, check out the official website here.

I’ve previously mentioned that Singapore is a great place to visit (See the post A Boring Place to Visit But A Great Place to Live?). With the addition of Gardens by the Bay, that conclusion has doubled, and I heartily recommend a visit here to anyone considering a trip to Southeast Asia.

Have you been to Gardens by the Bay? Tell us about it by leaving a comment below.

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Categories: Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Boring Place to Visit But A Great Place to Live?

The Merlion--Singapore's iconic mascot

The Merlion–Singapore’s iconic mascot

Before arriving in Singapore, I met a British man on a dive live aboard in the Andaman Sea who summed it up as: A boring place to visit but a great place to live. This struck me as odd, as I’d always assumed that the things that make a place a nice place to live would also be fun to visit. Yet when I got there, I could see what he meant by that, even if I didn’t find this island city/state anywhere near as boring as he let on.

 

First, Singapore is orderly. As anyone who has traveled through central or southeastern Asia can attest, this is not the norm. Roadways are clean, public transportation is dependable and the culture truly understands the importance of air conditioning (sitting nearly at the equator this is not a surprise). The city and skyline are modern (with the exception of the venerable Raffles Hotel) with all the conveniences and trappings of modern consumer culture. Crime is extremely low, no doubt in part to the stringent (many would say excessive) penalties for offenders, many of which carry the death sentence. So I guess I can see what he meant by it being a nice place to live–safe environment, easy commutes via the ring-shaped metro line, and all the chain restaurants one could ever need.

 

Skyline, Singapore

Skyline, Singapore

What I wasn’t so convinced about was his claim of it being boring. I mean, sure it doesn’t have the same chaos as India or Thailand, nor the world-class attractions of either, but this doesn’t mean this is a dull place at all. Orchard Road—the swanky part of town offers plenty of shopping opportunities. There are amusement parks and lots of water all around, with all the entertainment opportunities such venues present. There’s an awesome botanical garden showcasing native flora and original rain forest. And best of all they’ve got the Night Safari—a zoo that opens in the evenings when the animals are more active. Housed in discreetly-lit habitats, this nighttime adventure is both a great idea and star attraction.

 

So to sum up my own take on Singapore: Boring? Not at all! Up there with New York, Paris or Hong Kong? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. A nice place to live? Possibly. So long as you can give up certain freedoms like conscientious objection or chewing gum and don’t mind a living in a constant state of 1000000% humidity then yeah, I imagine it’s a great place to live.

Categories: Destinations | Tags: , , , , ,

If You’re Going to India, Turn Right at Finland (And Other Stopover Ideas)

Many experienced travelers are familiar with the art of the stopover—that bonus destination on the way to your intended destination. For the novice, this is when your flight passes through another city on the way to your final destination, and you’ve arranged to stop over, and spend some time there before moving on. For many, any unnecessary stops are a nuisance, but if you play your cards right, you can use such stopovers to maximize your trip’s experience.

 

I’ll get into my “maximizing” concept in another post, but for now I’ll just say that those pesky stops on your way there or back can offer the chance to sample a destination you may not have initially targeted. And if you’re already in the neighborhood, why not take the time to stop over and smell the roses?

 

A Day in Helsinki Was A Free Bonus On My Trip To India

A Day in Helsinki Was A Free Bonus On My Trip To India

As a case in point, on my way to New Dehli, our flight (on Finnair) stopped in Helsinki, arriving at 8 in the morning and not continuing on until 8 that evening. What to do with that long layover? Why, head out into the city and explore, of course! Our group had coffee downtown, toured the sprawling World Heritage Site at the Suomenlinna Fortress, and navigated the subway system before returning for our onward flight. Did we see everything? No. Did we see enough? I think so. And in this case, the gray, Scandinavian orderliness served as a tremendous contrast for the colorful chaos of India. The best part? There was no extra charge for seeing firsthand another world capital and gaining some insight on another culture—albeit it one with far too many vowels.

 

Sometimes airlines will charge a fee for a stopover, but usually this isn’t much (less than a hundred dollars). Almost always it’s worth the price. Traveling on Iberia Airlines, my wife and I enjoyed a few days in Madrid on our return from Rome—for only about $45 apiece. Definitely worth it to see some original paintings by Dali and Picasso in the capital of a former empire. Not to be forgotten too is arranging stopovers on award travel. So long as the space is there, often airlines will be willing to oblige at least one stopover on your itinerary. And again, if you’re not paying for it, why not?

 

When in the neighborhood, why not stop in Hong Kong?

When in the neighborhood, why not stop in Hong Kong?

A key factor in effective stopovers is your choice of airline. Most national carriers have their hubs in key cities. So if you’re heading out to Bangkok and always wanted to see Hong Kong, try Cathay Pacific. If you wanted to see Singapore, use Singapore Airlines. I think you get the point. Your routing makes all the difference as to which stopover options are available.

 

So instead of selecting the nonstop only button when choosing your flights, why not expand your horizons and see where that stopover might take you? The bonus experience will be the icing on your trip’s cake, and allow you the chance to explore yet another small piece of the big wide world.

 

Have you ever deliberately arranged a trip to take advantage of a stopover? Leave a comment for us all to discuss.

Categories: Miscellaneous | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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