Day 58 – March 4, 2015 – Wednesday – Singapore

We arrived in Singapore early this morning and have a very busy day planned. We have a four hour tour this morning then a few hours break and another tour this evening to see Singapore at night.

Singapore officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign city-state and island country in Southeast Asia. It lies off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula and is 85 mi north of the equator. The country’s territory consists of the lozenge-shaped main island, commonly referred to as Singapore Island in English and Pulau Ujong in Malay, and more than 60 significantly smaller islets. Singapore is separated from Peninsular Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to the north, and from Indonesia’s Riau Islands by the Singapore Strait to the south. The country is highly urbanized, and little of the original vegetation remains. The country’s territory has consistently expanded through land reclamation.

The islands were settled in the second century AD and subsequently belonged to a series of local empires. Modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles as a trading post of the East India Company with permission from the Johor Sultanate. The British obtained sovereignty over the island in 1824, and Singapore became one of the British Straits Settlements in 1826. Occupied by the Japanese during World War II, Singapore declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1963 and united with other former British territories to form Malaysia, from which it was expelled two years later through a unanimous act of parliament. Since then, Singapore has developed rapidly, earning recognition as one of the Four Asian Tigers.

Singapore is one of the world’s major commercial hubs, with the fourth-biggest financial center and the second busiest port. Its globalized and diversified economy depends heavily on trade, especially manufacturing, which represented 26 percent of Singapore’s GDP in 2005. In terms of purchasing power parity, Singapore has the third-highest per capita income in the world but one of the world’s highest income inequalities. It places highly in international rankings with regard to education, healthcare, and economic competitiveness. Approximately 5.4 million people live in Singapore (June 2013), of which approximately two million are foreign-born. While Singapore is diverse, ethnic Asians predominate: 75 percent of the population is Chinese, with significant minorities of Malays, Indians, and Eurasians. There are four official languages, English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil, and the country promotes multiculturalism through a range of official policies.

All of our guides were proud that they owned their own home and have a relatively high standard of living but it comes with a cost. The average person works long days often without a day of rest. Our driver yesterday evening said he started the morning at 5:00 AM and it was after 10:00 PM when he delivered us back to the port. He said he usually sleeps 4 hours a night an occasionally 5. Nevertheless the people we met were cheerful.

Singapore is a beautiful city/country. With its different areas of ethnic variety one can find almost anything in the world here. In addition, it is so small our driver said no one can be lost for very long!

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The port early morning as we sailed in.

Our first stop was a Taoist temple built in 1821. The workers are unloading rice which is used in temple ceremonies. I was not clear about the details, but what I understood is after a worshiper gives his offerings, the priest gives them rice.

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This is a memorial for the deceased.

There are little cards which have the deceased information and occasionally a photo. Where you are located in the display depends on what you pay.

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We then went on a bumboat ride from the Clark Quay. The following photos will be offered without commentary. We did another ride at night and those photos appear later.

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Merina Bay Sands Hotel. A 2500 room hotel with 3 towers which supports an “island” with over 250 trees and a waterfall.

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This sign was on the fence of the Presidents House. Singapore takes its law enforcement seriously. You can be fined for chewing gum and it’s the death penalty for dealing in illegal drugs.

One of several masques.

These school children were playing a game with a bird like toy with a feather. Sort of like kicking a ball and keeping it aloft. This was on Bussorah Street, a pedestrian street in the ethnically Moslem section.

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The famous Raffles Hotel

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The Long Bar at the Raffles, the original home of the Singapore Sling.

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Kay enjoying her Sling and peanuts. This is the only place in Singapore where you can throw trash on the floor and not get fined!!!

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Kay spotted this vehicle and wanted to get a photo for our son Clint. She didn’t want me to put it on the blog, but I did anyway. Just too good to pass up.

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A Mclaren, the only one I have ever seen. I believe this is the lower end model MP4, but I am not sure. It starts at about $700,000. The Mclarens can price up to $3,000.000.00, yes that’s THREE MILLION DOLLARS

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Chinese Year is almost over, only two days left…

After a lite lunch and a few hours rest, we were ready for our next excursion. This one was arranged through Cruising Excursions Agency. This is the 3rd of 6 tours we have scheduled through this agency. We were a little hesitant at first, not having used the company before. The first two went just as planned but we knew this one was a little more complicated since the pickup time was 5:30PM and the tour started at 6:30PM. Everything went well, but just getting to the start of the tour was an adventure itself. We were met outside the cruise terminal promptly at 5:25 by a driver with a nice van for the 4 of us. He told us he was taking us to the Swisshotel Stamford, one of the nicer hotels in Singapore, where we would meet our tour guide. He let us out and we were soon greeted by a gentlemen who took us to a large tour bus which had only 4 other person aboard. We then stopped at two more hotels and picked up a total of 4 more passengers. After another 10 minutes of travel we turned into a student hostel parking lot where we disembarked. At this point our names were checked off and we directed to another tour bus for our particular tour. The tour hasn’t even started and we have been on 3 different vehicles! It turned out this was the start of our tour, on time, at 6:30. Wow, what an experience just to start a tour…

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Our Chinatown tour guide Bennie. He was very entertaining and informative.

Our first stop was at a Master Calligrapher’s shop. Here he translated our names into Chinese characters onto a fan. I can’t believe I didn’t photograph him doing it, but I was too fascinated with the process to even think about the camera.

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This is the inside of his shop. It was a cacophony of sights, sounds and smells. In addition to the calligraphy, it was also an antique store.

Here are our fans, “Kay” on top and “Wendell” below. He didn’t want the spelling, only the pronunciation.

Next we walked through Chinatown to the restaurant where we were to have dinner. Like most things here for the locals, if you didn’t know it was there you would never find it. We literally walked through the back of a sidewalk vendor’s stall to find an unmarked stair which we took to the second floor of the building. Here there was a sign announcing the name of the restaurant.

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We had dinner at Yum Cha. I didn’t ask the meaning, but it sounds like “good food” to me…

It looks like they specialize in Abalone, and it is not inexpensive. We only had eggrolls, soup, tempura style fish, garlic & ginger chicken, broccoli, rice and a custard type desert. The meal was good, but not like we usually expect our “Americanized” Chinese food. What was really good was getting to share our table with two other couples from Melbourne, Australia. We enjoyed exchanging our travel stories. Meeting new people is part of the fun of travel…

The long narrow stairway down to the street.

We then spent about 30 minutes wandering through the market area of Chinatown.

There were many tailor shops who do custom tailoring. I thought this was a particularly interesting item.

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So many colors!!!

Following our walk, our trishaws were assembling. The drivers were all trying to entice you to choose them. The one we selected was not the oldest, but he was far from the youngest. As it turned out, he spoke very little English. He made up for it with his enthusiasm. I had a hard time getting his photograph, because every time he saw me with the camera, he wanted to take our photo.

Our trishaw driver.

The Chinese New Year lanterns at night, beautiful.

In an effort to impress us, our driver let all the other trishaws leave first and we were in the back all through the market area. As soon as we reached the streets he sped up and passed everyone.

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The year of the Goat.

When we reached a red light, he would hop off the bicycle, grab the camera and take our picture. Janet and Carl’s driver did speak English and he said they generally worked for about ten hours a day pedaling the trishaws and some of the drivers must have been in their 60’s.

In about a 20 minute ride the trishaws took us from Chinatown down to Clark Quay where we were earlier today. We did the same boat ride as we did this morning. The only difference being that it was night this time. It was a totally different experience.

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Our new Aussie friends.

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The Merlion. The national symbol of Singapore.

Merina Bay Sands Hotel

Carl wanted to do the bungee jump, but we just didn’t have enough time!

After the boat ride, we were met by our bus which took us back to the Swisshotel, where our taxi driver was waiting for the 20 minute ride back to the Harbor. I talked with him on the drive back about his job. He was formerly worked in aerospace until he retired. (I am not sure if he really meant retired or changed jobs). He said he enjoys driving it Is much less stressful, but his days are long. He started at 5:00 this morning and we were his last fare and he dropped us off after 10:00 PM. He said he works all the time. This is the same story we heard yesterday as well. The Singapore people are moderately well off, but everyone works, and works hard.

Tomorrow we are free. We are thinking about walking across the boardwalk to Sentosa, the nearby island which is an entertainment park of sorts.

Until tomorrow…

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