We awoke to find that last night’s rain had cleared the sky of clouds and we set off in bright sunshine for one of Singapore’s more popular parks Mount Faber. The Lion city has almost as many parks as it has islands and Mount Faber is certainly one of the prettiest. Although not very high Mount Faber offers a dramatic panorama across the island state and out to sea. On the summit with the manicured lawns and flame trees beneath us we boarded our all-glass cable car for the short ride across the river to Singapore’s playground — Sentosa Island.
It’s easy to see why Singaporeans flock here at weekends and on public holidays; Sentosa Island has it all: championship golf courses water — sports nature trails Underwater World beach resorts a magical musical fountain and a host of other attractions under a canopy of secondary rain forest. From our glass cable car we could see the giant Carlsberg Sky tower Singapore’s tallest viewing tower. Minutes after arriving at the cable car station on the island we were stepping into the disc-shaped air conditioned cabin of the Sky Tower. With windows all around we were treated to a bird’s eye view of Sentosa Island and the central business district of downtown Singapore as the cabin began to revolve and make its ascent to the top of the column 135 meters above sea level.
After descending gently to ground level we left the Sky Tower and made for Underwater World the largest tropical oceanarium in Asia. We started our tour with a visit to the “touch pool” where visitors are invited to touch baby sharks stingrays and starfish. The we stood in awe as a moving “travellator” took us on an 83 meter-long journey through an acrylic tunnel surrounded by more than two thousand fish of all shapes and sizes gliding past.
The journey along this see-through tunnel has a hypnotic effect on the visitor; it feels as though you are part of this magical submarine world yet still able to breath. Emerging from our visit to King Neptune’s back yard we made for the other end of the island in time to catch the dolphin show at the dolphin lagoon. Here rare Pacific pink dolphins are put though their paces by their trainers. These highly intelligent creatures respond to all manner of instructions. Twirling hoops on their snouts swimming on their backs and transporting their trainers at high speed across the water like live surf boards. At the end of the half-hour show members of the audience are invited to meet the stars as they come to the water’s edge to receive a friendly pat or the prize of a fish snack for their efforts.
The famous monorail service circling the island was put to rest the week before so we hopped aboard our van at the dolphin lagoon and headed for another giant tower; the eleven-storey high Merlion. This mythical creature Singapore’s official mascot has the body of a fish and the head of a lion. Merlion Tower soars above the island and is a marvel of modern engineering. We entered at ground level and took an elevator to the top where from one of the Merlion’s giant eyes we had another spectacular view of Sentosa and its neighboring islands. With the onset of showers the view was only grey clouds whipping past.
All this fresh air sharpened our appetites and we headed for the S.E.A. Village buffet restaurant for a relaxing lunch looking out to the crystal clear sea.
Refreshed and with credit cards at the high port we ventured forth. Singapore is a shopper’s paradise and it would impossible to list all or even half of the markets and malls available. However early evening saw us visit the Great World City shopping mall within walking distance of The Gallery hotel where we were staying. This mall has several floors packed with upmarket shops selling ladies wear electronics shoes handbags jewelry bookstores etc. We spent a good couple of hours and more than a few Sing dollars before moving on to Chijmes (pronounced Chimes) a former Gothic-style convent school converted into a trendy shopping eating and entertainment centre in the heart of downtown Singapore. There are thematic retail outlets selling wares from around the world—scented candles to hand-woven carpets can be had under one roof. It was not long therefore before our credit cards reached melting point and we repaired to a very chic restaurant and bar — Insomnia — for a cool drink and light evening meal. As we compared purchases in the comfort of Insomnia we were entertained by a live jazz band. Before settling down for an evening of quaffing fine ale to toe-tapping music our guide moved us along for one last round of late night shopping in “Little India” an area with a worldwide reputation for bargains.
There are hundreds of shops stalls restaurants and bars in Little India filled to capacity with a good-natured late night crowd. Soaking up the atmosphere among the heady smells of pungent Indian spices we found ourselves outside the Mustafa Centre a four storey department store where one can buy gold furniture clothes food and all manner of items from the subcontinent on a 24 hour basis. The prices in this Aladdin’s cave are low enough to dispense with the need to bargain. From high-end electronics through herbal cosmetics to a jar of fresh mango pickles the Mustafa Centre has it all. We even spotted Mohamed Mustafa the owner of the centre and a man dubbed by the local media as “The Raja of Little India.” The gentleman’s wealth is reputed to be in the region of US100 million but he still finds time to stroll through his store of an evening chatting with customers and shopkeepers along the way.
Looking at our additional parcels we said to Noor our coach driver — “You’re going to need a bigger bus.”
With a smile he ushered us on board with our bulging bags and slimmer wallets and we were soon back at The Gallery hotel for another welcome night’s slumber.
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