Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Singaporean Safari

Singapore MerlionI landed in Singapore on New years' eve with a little more than 2 days at hand. Singapore is clearly the model of efficiency in every aspect - from its stunningly clean environs, a well connected public transport system, perfectly managed tourist attractions, and its impressive airport (easily the best airport I've seen in interior deco and traveler service).

Sentosa is, of course, Singapore's most famous tourist destination. A nice cable car, with great views of the harbor, takes one down to the island resort. With attractions ranging from a museum-like tour on the history of the island nation, a captivating glass walkway across shark-filled waters to beautiful man-made beaches, Sentosa seems to be a fully-contained getaway destination.

Singapore's zoo might not be the largest I have seen, but certainly one with the widest range and one of the neatest. The orangutans, the meerkats and the elephants are certainly a must watch. The night presents the Night safari - 'safari-type' view of the animals in their night time surroundings. Very innovative, but extremely crowded and dominated by Indians on organized tours.

Orchard road is Singapore's central shopping destination. Filled with designer showrooms and roadside shops selling everything under the sun, it’s a total shopper's delight (if only for those fat on the wallet). Down the road lies the Hilton hotel. On that day 11 cars were parked at the entrance of the hotel. One was a Bentley, 5 were Lamborghinis and 5 were Ferraris. Some wealth, this city has.

The Singapore riverfront is certainly one of the most beautiful places in the city. From Robertsons/Clarke quay, all the way till esplanade - it’s a calming and beautiful setting. On new year's eve they had lit up the entire esplanade area with colorful floating balls in the river. Though incredibly beautiful, it was also well crowded with almost the entire city landing up to watch.

Singapore has quite a bit of Indian (primarily Tamil?) influence. Apart from the Tamil name-boards everywhere and Little India, Indian temples lie spread across. I managed to catch the main aarthi at the Srimariamman temple (which lies in Chinatown, a short walk from the riverside), right on new year's eve - so cool. The Saravana bhavan in Little India serves a great dinner palate (maybe even slightly better than their outlet in Delhi).

Given the time I had, I couldn't cover as much as I would have ideally liked. However, I was impressed by whatever I saw. In sum, Singapore is the probably the neatest (and most efficient) city / country I've seen till date - truly a place where the east (with its cultural richness) meets the (efficiency of the) west.
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