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Singapore: Back to the Future

singapore-1 Singapore’s Hotel Marina Bay Sands ... one of the world's most photographed buildings

 In my many trips to the Far East, while flying to my destination I often imagined entering a time tunnel, flying many years back. 

This is in contrast to my flight to Singapore, where I landed in the future.

It's hard to tell now that this tiny, booming country, speckled with sky-high buildings and posh shopping malls, was once a colonial backwater.

A melting pot of cultures in a picture-perfect setting, Singapore has it all.

Racial and religious harmony is regarded by the Singaporeans as a crucial component in the success of the country's existence and Singaporean identity. As an example of this, I saw near my hotel an Indian temple and a Chinese temple, one next to the other, and further on the street were located a church and a … synagogue.

All live together in dignity and harmony!


Hindu temple in Singapore

While strolling in the streets and in the different quarters, I was often astonished by the unique things the city offered.

The Singaporeans seem to say: Although we are less than a dot on the world map, nevertheless our motto is to stand out positively in everything we do. And indeed they have something to boast about.

A remarkable statistic is the fact that with its independence in 1965, Singapore was included among the so-called "third world" countries. From a country that had only one port city with a backward economy, a tiny country (one-third of the area of the State of Israel) without natural resources, a country of refugees, most of whom came from China, Malaysia and India, it has become one of Asia's four leading economic centers in less than thirty years.

The population of the city-state is 5.6 million, and it is proud to be the place which has the world's highest percentage of millionaires residing in its city.

Since most inhabitants speak English (although their pronunciation is Chinese, and as such it is very difficult to understand them), and since the city is of compact size with an exceptionally good public transportation system, it is easy to tour and generally safe.

The city is composed of different quarters, such as Indian, Chinese, Arab or Malay, each with the very authentic character of their motherland.

The most important quarter is the glittering city center district, which is speckled with sky-high buildings and is the economic heart of the country.

Wishing to be a green city, the city is proud to have among its many skyscrapers also "living towers", such as the Hotel Oasis or Royal Park, which are draped in tropical vegetation. Some balconies of the buildings grow palms, orchids and exotic plants, and they form a marvelous green tube between the gray skyscrapers built from metal, glass and concrete.

Wherever possible there are generous public areas for recreation and social interaction, and every tiny piece of land has been turned into a spectacular garden. It starts from the wide avenue leading from the airport into the center of the city, and continues to the port where the large cruise ships dock.


Gardens at Flower Dome

 Of course I visited the iconic Hotel Marina Bay Sands, which became the symbol of the city.

The hotel has more than 2,500 rooms, including an ice-skating rink, a museum, a huge casino, a spectacular 150-meter swimming pool with a panoramic view of all of Singapore, a variety of restaurants, theaters and cinemas, and an annex with a shopping mall with world class shops.

If you get tired of walking or maybe want to do some window shopping from another angle, you can sail along the canal (which flows between the shops) in a gondola – like Venice, Italy.

This mega project was developed at the cost of $5.5 billion(!), making it the most expensive building in the world.

And of course there is also a Jewish aspect ... the building is owned by Sheldon Adelson and was designed by Moshe Safdie (Canadian Israeli).

In the hotel complex is located one of the most beautiful attractions of the city, named 'Gardens by the Bay'.

This $1 billion techno-garden theme park is absolutely stunning, certainly the most surreal place I've ever been to.

The compound is divided into three main parts.

One part is a complex named the 'Supertree Grove', displaying artificial trees at a height of 50 meters. The "trees" are actually vertical gardens on which exotic plants and orchids grow and climb. Among the "trees" are spanned hanging bridges, enabling a leisure walk and view from above.

When darkness falls, the mechanical trees come to life with a fabulous coordinated light and music show, known as the Garden Rhapsody.

Within the compound are also two greenhouses. The most impressive and magical one is the 'Cloud Forest'. It is truly a magnificent creation that left me slack-jawed.

Already at the entrance you feel like you are walking in a cloud-misty forest (which is different from a rainforest). It features a 35-meter hill covered in lush vegetation, and from the top falls the world's tallest indoor waterfall!

The "hill" is covered with thousands of amazing plants, among them delicate species of orchids, ferns and rare tropical plants. Around the "hill" are trails, enabling you to walk close by the plants while taking in all this beauty.

There is another beautiful flower garden in the complex, which is a giant conservatory.

At the southern end of the city-state there is a small island called Sentosa, built for fun and recreation, which offers lots of attractions.

From all the many attractions I chose to visit the Aquarium, which is considered the second largest in the world (after China). The complex contains a large variety of aquariums with over 100,000 marine animals from different parts of the world.

There you can see fish from the tiny seahorse to giant sharks, including hammer sharks. At the end of the tour, after seeing coral and fish in a variety of colors, after passing through the tunnel with the fish swimming all around and above me, I reached the impressive and huge aquarium, which is eight and a half meters high and contains more than 50,000 marine animals (including those over 5 meters long).

Standing near the aquarium, it feels like you're standing on the ocean floor being swallowed up into the deep blue of the marine world.


Jurong Bird Park

I also visited the Bird Park, which is also considered the largest in the world. The park is located in a large and beautiful area of ​​gardens, lakes and waterfalls. I enjoyed watching a nice show of birds, but generally I was disappointed by the fact that most of the birds are in cages. It's like walking in a zoo for birds, less my cup of tea.

I even found time to go to say hello to the Merilon statue, which is the amulet of the city.


Merlion, the official mascot of Singapore

The city offers many more attractions - and continues to produce many more - but unfortunately I couldn't visit them all due to lack of time.

Still, one cannot leave the country without visiting Orchard Street, which is the main shopping street, a well-kept street surrounded by greenery.

Just taking a stroll down this street is an amazing experience, exploring the prestigious posh shopping malls where you can find all the super brands that the world offers.

There's always something different going on, and it's not unusual to find fairs and shows taking place here. Buskers and other impressive performers entertain you all the way along the street.

This 2km-long street was chosen in 2012 as the best shopping street in the world.

 

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Thursday, 26 November 2020

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