First Day in Singapore

I am so thrilled to be in a pedestrian-friendly place again that I’ve walked about 8 miles every day since arriving here a few days ago. On my first full day here, I put on my sneakers and headed out the door with my camera to see what I would find. Though central Singapore is fairly small, it’s vibrant and modern and clearly a cultural melting pot.

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Back to the maps! This is roughly the loop I took on Monday, starting from my budget inn at the top of the map and going clockwise.

Images of Singapore always show crazy inventive architecture – tall buildings that blend the hyper modern with naturalistic and almost floral curves, often lit up like neon rainbows in the night. Well, those buildings are there, but I haven’t seen them at night yet, and while Singapore is certainly modern throughout, it’s not all a towering steel jungle. In a way that’s nice because it makes the city feel more real and accessible, and I feel like there’s more to explore beyond what you see in the magazines.

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This is the first view I get when I walk outside. I’m staying in an area that’s all sweet two-story buildings, with the big office towers off in the distance.
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The sweet and artsy Haji Lane in the Malay-Arab district of Kampong Glam, where I’m staying. There’s always live music in the evenings here at one of restaurants.
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A Chinese New Year’s celebration at one of the many malls in Singapore (there is one every few blocks! I suppose to escape the heat. It’s quite convenient actually).

Singapore is still celebrating the Chinese New Year, and there are plenty of decorations to commemorate the Year of the Rooster. In some places here (mostly mall lobbies), there are panels with 2017 horoscopes for the different signs. Since I was born in the Year of the Dog, apparently my horoscope tells me that I should “have fun now, but prepare for the future” – hah!

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The National Library of Singapore – it’s enormous and impossible to contain in one photo! I haven’t even been inside yet.
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Yet another mall – Singapore was clearly planned with malls in mind! I’m used to New York City, where the city gets in the way of any malls. Since I didn’t grow up with big malls or Costcos or Targets, I assumed that they were a natural part of the suburban experience, not to be found in big cities.

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Driving is on the left here, but it’s hard to tell which way people will walk on the street. I got used to walking on the left in India, but some of the Singaporeans and expats walk on the right. It’s a bit of a cultural gamble every time you spot someone heading towards you!
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The “Singapore Flyer,” known as the observation wheel.
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Now we’re getting to the famous buildings. This is the Marina Bay Sands resort, which looks like a giant cruise ship sitting atop a tall wave. Surrounded by shops, a convention center, a museum, and more, the actual “wave” towers are filled with luxury hotel rooms. (Apparently the tower design was inspired by decks of cards).
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The beautiful Helix bridge on the way to the Marina Bay Sands.
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The building that took my breath away: the ArtScience museum, part of the Marina Bay Sands resort complex, designed as a lotus flower.
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One of the fancier malls in Singapore, this is the shopping center associated with the Marina Bay Sands resort.
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It’s difficult to convey the sheer enormity of the Marina Bay Sands hotel, but this is the best I could do.

Little architectural details that can’t be captured in photos make the whole area truly remarkable. Some sections of the resort walls are blanketed with small interlocked discs, reminiscent of chain mail, that flutter and clink in the wind like a soft wind chime. They give the impression that the building itself is rippling as these metal sheets move with the breeze, causing the light to reflect off in different directions.

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Across from the hotel is the Gardens by the Bay, a large manmade nature garden.

Leaving behind the futuristic Marina Bay Sands area, which is all on reclaimed land, I came to the central business district of Singapore. Here I was reminded of New York’s financial district at the southern tip of Manhattan, close to my favorite area of Battery Park City, where there’s a similarly beautiful walkway along the water.

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The Marina Boulevard on the edge of the Central Business District.

After passing through the Central Business District, where I saw crowds of businesspeople going on lunch breaks, I stumbled upon Chinatown.

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The main street of Chinatown, all pedestrian and filled with shop stalls.
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The entry to a huge Buddhist temple in Chinatown.
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In the courtyard of the Buddhist temple.
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Off the main shopping street of Chinatown, there are lots of Chinese restaurants (well, all over Singapore there are lots of Chinese restaurants!).
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This is definitely the biggest decoration I’ve seen for Year of the Rooster.
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I was stunned by this building, the Parkroyal Hotel with massive amounts of green.
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I also liked this chrome and copper set of buildings nearby.
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All of a sudden, I left behind the steely buildings for this colorful scene – I felt like I was back in Sweden! This rainbow building used to be a police station.
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The old police station building now has various art galleries inside.
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Another shot from inside the old police station.
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Finally, I returned to my area in the Malay-Arab district. I’m staying just two blocks away from the Sultan Mosque pictured here.

It was a great first day, and I saw a lot. I’m very impressed by Singapore, and the amount of times it reminded me of Manhattan surprised me (certainly it’s more similar to NYC than anywhere else I’ve been so far on the Watson).  It’s easy to see why it ranks so highly on every list, including health. Okay, that was a lot of photos – that’s all for now!

 

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