The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Monday, 11 March 2013

Sights of Singapore: Changi Airport, Little India, Night Safari, Sentosa Island, and Katong

I left Singapore feeling that three days in Singapore wasn't enough time. For the first 10 years of my life, I grew up just across the causeway in Johor Bahru (the southernmost city of Peninsular Malaysia), my older siblings received education in Singapore, and we made frequent family trips to Singapore. However, despite the close proximity and relatively frequent exposure during my early childhood, I don't recall much of Singapore beyond the famously extravagant Christmas lights and the shopping along Orchard Road. Hubby and I paid a visit to this city as part of our honeymoon trip more than 8 years ago, but it was only a day trip with barely enough time to go to Sentosa. It was good to actually stay a few days in Singapore to give ourselves some time to explore the city with more depth. There are still a couple of things left to do on our Singapore list, and I am sure there will be more opportunities to visit the Lion City.

Changi Airport

Changi Airport is something of a tourist destination in itself. With three large terminals to explore (construction for a new fourth terminal is underway), I deliberately gave us a 2-hour layover in Changi when flying from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur on the first leg of our trip, and we also spent a couple of hours there before boarding our mid-afternoon flight back to Hong Kong. Although HKIA is amazing for its functionality and efficiency, it can't quite compare to Changi Airport which has won almost 400 awards and accolades as best airport from various international organisations. It's really the best airport to transit through, and there are many, many wonderful things you can do to pass the layover time, such as taking a nap on one of the specially-designed snooze chairs in the free rest areas, take a swim in one of the pools, hit the gym, watch a movie or stroll through the butterfly garden. Changi is also the most aesthetically beautiful airport I have ever been in, and I've been to a few around the world. Changi Airport's motto is "The feeling is first class", and it certainly is a first class airport.

Admiring the lush Orchid Garden complete with 700 orchid plants in full bloom and a koi pond. As orchids are my favourite flowers, I was stoked to come across this in Terminal 2 during our short layover on our way to Malaysia:

An Angry Birds exhibit with a space theme in Terminal 2, which totally delighted my boy who is a bit of an Angry Birds fan (though he doesn't play the game much) and has a current obsession with astronomy and everything to do with outer space:

A larger and fancier Angry Birds space-themed exhibit in Terminal 3. My boy is wearing an Angry Birds mask from Sentosa (it came with the cable car tickets - see below):

Little India

After checking into our hotel and dumping our luggage, we went to have Indian for lunch in Little India. There were lots of Indian eateries and shops selling Indian clothing, jewellery and goods, and if you need to change some currencies, the money changer at Mustafa Centre is the cheapest place in Singapore to exchange currencies.

We happened to walk past Masjid Abdul Gaffoor, a beautiful mosque on Dunlop Street:

I think this was along Dunlop Street on our way to Serangoon Road from Jalan Besar:

Night Safari

The boy had a decent nap after that long walk around Little India, so we made a spontaneous decision to do the Night Safari later that night. This was the second time in less than one week that our 4-year-old stayed up beyond 12-midnight - way past his usual 7:30pm bedtime. That boy was a little trooper, and he loved going to the zoo and seeing the animals at night. No flash photography were allowed anywhere in the Night Safari (though there were many inconsiderate visitors who ignored that request), and I gave up taking photos after my fifth or so blurry shot. So I don't have any photos to show of the nocturnal animals.

At the entrance to Night Safari, with the Chinese new year decorations still on display:


On our second morning, we hopped on the free shuttle bus to Sentosa, operated by Resorts World Sentosa (this service is only for tourists, so be sure to bring your passports along with the embarkation card). We attempted to explore the island using one of the free buses that departed from the Resorts World but it was raining buckets by the time we arrived in Sentosa, so we ended up just sitting in the bus to return back to Resorts World. We had lunch while waiting for the rain to ease up, and when we saw that the rain was not ceasing, we hopped back onto the bus to do some sight seeing in the drizzle. By the way, just for your amusement, the Singaporeans like to joke that Sentosa stands for So expensive yet nothing to see actually

The Forum, a vast undercover space that provided many of us with shelter from the downpour:

The gigantic replica of the Merlion, the national mascot. It stands 37 metres tall:

The view of a wet Singapore from inside the cable car:

I guess there is a bit of an Angry Birds craze in Singapore. We were given free masks and collectible Angry Birds cups with our cable car tickets:

Katong/Joo Chiat

The first I heard about Katong was when a namesake restaurant opened up in the mall downstairs from our apartment in Hong Kong. This restaurant served up a pretty good food, at least compared to other Singaporean/Malaysian eateries in HK, and it is our go-to place whenever we want to fix our cravings for Malaysian/Singaporean food in HK. We spent the better part of our third day in Singapore exploring the streets and the food that Katong had to offer. We made a beeline for Koon Seng Road, where there are carefully preserved Peranakan shophouses to look at.

On Koon Seng Road, the colourful shophouses line both sides of the streets:

A row of shophouses on one side of the road... (click for a larger view)

... and a row of shophouses on the opposite side of the road. Aren't they pretty?

I will write about the food we had in Katong in due time, so stay tuned!

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