Friday, November 16, 2007--Singapore
Singapore is like a return to civilization as we know it. The country is mostly English speaking. All the signs are in English. There are recognizable stores and food places. And, what’s this? An automatic flush toilet! We have to pay ten cents each to enter but oh, is it worth it!
All of this however is countered with a guide who is inconsiderate of her tour group. She forges ahead before the last person is off the bus and starts her commentary before everyone is gathered together. The driver rushes through the city so fast I think I am going to get whip lash from turning my head to see things.
We visit Mount Faber for a bird’s eye view of the city. The guide points outward in one direction and says, “Malaysia” and in another direction, “Indonesia.” The other islands are so close it is difficult to distinguish between Singapore and the other countries. Singapore is so near to Indonesia that they complain to the Indonesian government about the smog that is created and floats their way from them burning trees to make fertilizer.
There is a big distinction between poor housing and the wealthy homes. Still the poor here look better off than what we have seen on our prior stops this trip.
The city is neat and cosmopolitan. There are lots of green areas and everything is decorated for Christmas—compliments of Hitachi. Their advertising is all over it.
We stop in Chinatown long enough to see a Hindu temple. Unfortunately our guide is done with her talk by the time our half of the bus arrives. I feel uncomfortable. This temple is very busy with worshippers who are kneeling and praying. There are fires burning in pots and whatever is burning smells bad and is creating a lot of smoke. For three dollars, we can take pictures. We decline and leave. Outside we take pictures of the temple’s roof which is dotted with statues of white cows.
We wander through a side street full of vendors’ stalls but not seeing anything of interest, we return to the bus. Unfortunately we do not have time to explore some of the other streets in Chinatown which look interesting with older historical buildings that date back to the 1820s according to our ship’s information sheet.
Our final stop is the botanical gardens where we wander down paths lined with graceful orchids of all sizes and colors. The garden is known for its hybridization of orchids. There are many plants dedicated to world leaders and celebrities. I stop to take a picture of a pure white delicate orchid dedicated to the princess of Japan. I know Aya will be interested in that.
We opt to leave the bus at the Duty One Plaza where the shuttles leave for the ship. There is plenty of time to wander on our own. We find an upscale shopping mall in a tall building and locate an ATM to get some Singapore dollars for a McDonald’s lunch—a taste of home and a reminder that our cruise will soon be done.
After another walkabout (as the Auzzies say) we return to the mall area and a McCafe that is selling lattes and cappuccinos. We enjoy two large cappuccinos in the sidewalk café and watch the traffic. When we are finished, the attendant is quick to take our cups and napkins. There are large fines for littering in Singapore and gum chewing is not allowed. That’s what keeps the city so clean.
The air conditioning on the ship is a welcome relief from the heat and humidity. The temperature is only 88 but the humidity makes the air heavy. Singapore is one degree north of the equator. Whew! No wonder it’s so hot!