Aug 25, 2010

Singapore Always Surprises

Singapore is one of the most perfect places so it is no surprise that the world’s largest flyer is in the city. We visited Singapore the first time in 1998 when our son, Jim, was an exchange student for a semester at National University of Singapore. We have returned several times. On this trip Jim, interested in seeing the changes that have taken place, flew in from San Francisco to join us. The best place to view the city is from the Singapore Flyer which opened in 2008 and is currently the world’s largest observation wheel. It is located in the new Marina Bay area where the Marina Bay Sands Resort is scheduled to open later this year. The Sands Resort will be the world’s largest hotel with over 2000 rooms, a unique sky garden, theaters, discovery center, restaurants and floating pavilions. Since Jim was going to school in Singapore the Marina Bay area has been developed, mainly on reclaimed land.

The Flyer is 541 feet and takes about 30 minutes to make one complete circuit. Each capsule holds 28 people and can be set up for dining, weddings, and other special events. A narration along with a map details the sites as the Flyer makes a complete rotation. Built beneath the Flyer, thus hiding the foundation and supporting structure of the Flyer, is the Yakult Rainforest Discovery area with tropical trees, waterfalls, and pools with koi fish. It is an excellent use of space and in keeping with Singapore’s name as the Garden City.

The Flyer complex is a hub for tourism with shops, restaurants and tour buses. We boarded the FunVee hop-on-hop-off tour that took us past the major parts of the city including the city’s other icon, the Merlion. The Merlion is half fish and half lion. The name Singapore means “Lion City” but studies have determined that lions never lived in Singapore. We stayed on the bus for the whole circuit then took the Hippo River Cruise. I think the views of the city are best from the Flyer and river cruise. The city is very clean and the guide on the boat said it took 10 years to clean up the Singapore River because they had to remove 15 feet of sludge from the bottom of the river.

We stayed at the Pan Pacific Orchard hotel – there are two Pan Pacific hotels. The other is in Marina Bay. The Pan Pacific Orchard is just off Orchard Street, the shopping street, with everything from GAP to Starbucks. Jim really enjoyed the food at the hotel recalling, “There was nothing like this in the dorm!” The breakfast at the Club Lounge offered a variety of international choices each presented in traditional serving dishes. Jim and John opted for Seafood Soup with Vietnamese Noodles while I tried the Roti Canai “flying bread” with Vegetable and Lentil Curry. Their Sunday Buffet was just as impressive. It seems that Sunday buffets are very popular in Asia.

We had an early flight from Singapore to Siem Reap so we stayed at the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport. The dinner buffet was another amazing expanse of international food with everything from lobster to kobe beef. Many airport hotels in Asia look like resorts with beautiful pools, spas, and lots of greenery. No matter how many times we visit Singapore there is always something new to see and do.