Hello & welcome back! In last weeks blog, I shared my initial impressions of Singapore. So, to change things a little, this week I share some of the details of the best places to see in Singapore. Specifically the districts we visited. I’ve split this into 2 sections so come back next week for the second part which will be about the attractions we enjoyed. I hope you are sitting comfortably…
Our hotel was located in the Clarke Quay area of the city within a 5 minute walk of the Singapore River. Close enough to enjoy all this part of the city has to offer without the disruption of crowds of people enjoying an evening out.
There are a plethora of restaurants and bars here serving a broad variety of different Asian cuisines. Everything from local favourites to Chinese, Indian, Japanese – and everything in between. For cheap eats, the well known fast food chains – McDonalds, Subway, KFC etc. are here too. However, for cheap, fantastic food, go to the nearest local hawker centre as you will not be disappointed! The food they offer is delicious and there is a broad selection to choose from. Head for the stalls with the longest queues. They go down quickly & the food is the best!
We really enjoyed walking along the river toward the Harbourside of an evening. Bars have live singers/bands, mainly singing western pop hits. Couples sit at the side of the river cuddled together lost in their own special moments. Others stroll casually long chatting. The atmosphere is very vibrant & wonderful to be part of.
You can take an evening trip on a boat up and down the river. They take you into the bay and back to your starting point. The light show lasts for 15 minutes at 8pm and 9pm every evening. We just made our way down to Merlion park & watched the show from there. Next time I will view from the Marina Bay Sands side to get a different perspective.
To find out more about the history of Clarke Quay click here.
I really enjoyed all the cultural heartlands in Singapore. They all offer something different. I recommend putting them high on your places to see in Singapore list. There is a different vibe in each of them. I really do recommend visiting them all.
I was surprised to see the street ahead of us absolutely crammed with people as we emerged from the Chinatown MRT. They were rushing to buy food and other goods in the market to celebrate the forthcoming Chinese new year. Many were searching for a bite to eat, others were simply rushing from A to B. It reminded me of rush hour on the tube back in London.
We went from the hustle and bustle of the market to the peace and serenity in the temples. We visited two temples – Thian Hock Keng – Singapore’s oldest oldest Hokkien temple and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple – a recent buddhist addition to Chinatown.
In both temples the carvings are so beautiful – the tiny details a testament to the craftsmen who created them. The smell of incense as people lit joss sticks in remembrance of loved ones. The hum and chanting of prayer somehow soothing.
The other thing that struck me was the cultural difference between these old and new temples. In Thian Hock Keng there is no photography of their religious icons and they enforce this strictly. On the other hand, the buddhist temple did not restrict what could be photographed – the simple request was no flash photography.
I think both temples reflect the period they were built and the change in culture over time. There is a simplicity of worship at the Thian Hock Keng temple. By contrast, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is much grander and lavish and reflects the multi-million dollar cost of building it. Despite their differences both temples felt incredibly spiritual and I would highly recommend visiting both.
To find out more about the history of Singapore’s Chinatown – have a look here.
As you walk past the shops the smell of the produce brings the your senses alive. The aroma of the herbs and spices will be something I will remember for a long time. Little India is also full of vibrant colours and they can be seen all around the district.
This is magnified in the Tekka Market where people flock to get their fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, meat and poultry. We arrived early just as the finishing touches were being added to the stalls for the day. Word of warning… the floor at this time of day was covered in water & very slippery – particularly around the fish stalls. So watch your step and take it easy.
There was no denying the freshness of the produce on offer. When we arrived there were not too many shoppers about so the stalls really did look fantastic in preparation for the day ahead. So if you are looking to buy, get there early.
It would have been wrong not to visit the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple. It is one of Singapore’s oldest Hindu temples and really is a sight to see with all its brightly painted carvings – as you can see from the image of the temple entrance below. There was a steady stream of people who were attending to worship and pay tributes to their gods. Having taken off my shoes, I followed the stream around the temple. This is the first Hindu temple I have ever visited. I’m not a religious person, but it has left me wanting to understand their religion and their gods a little more.
The other thing that struck me about Little India were the murals. I loved them. Full of colour and depicting scenes old, new and fictitious. I’ve added my favourites below. We found these off the main roads so do venture down the side streets – just look what you will find.
To find out more about the history of Little India click here.
By contrast the Kampong Glam district was much more sedate when we arrived. It was late morning and we headed straight to the Masjid Sultan mosque. Its huge golden dome shining in the sunlight. I suspect that the morning worship rush had completed a couple of hours earlier.
I’ve never entered a mosque before and as a woman I did wonder whether there would be restrictions on my entering. I was pleased to be greeted warmly by the team at the front door with a welcoming smile. After slipping my sandals off I walked up the steps to enter. I was wearing shorts that stopped an inch above my knees, and a polo shirt tee-shirt. The team on the door did not ask me to cover up anything, unlike some of the other visitors – both men and women. Inside there were information boards that provided information about Islam. They highlighted the key beliefs and the foundations of Islam.
I watched some of the muslim men as they prayed. Lost in their own prayers. I stood and reflected on the beauty and tranquillity of the mosque compared to the pain and suffering that has been perpetrated in the name of Islam in recent years.
As you can see from the image above, the Masjid Sultan mosque is not elaborately decorated. This is in stark contrast to many of the christian religious buildings I have entered. Or the temples I’d seen in other parts of Singapore highlighted above. The focus of the mosque is simply on the worship and word of their one true god.
We left the mosque and wandered down toward Baghdad Street. We ambled along a pedestrian street. On both sides of the street there were cafes and restaurants offering Turkish and Arabic menus which looked very inviting. Having enjoyed an ice cold soft drink, we made our way to Kampong Glam the former Sultans palace. The former palace and its grounds have now been adapted into a heritage centre. Because we were hot and very tired, we did not pay to enter the old palace but it is very much on the list for our next visit.
To find out a little more about Kampong Glam click here.
I hope you enjoyed this weeks blog highlighting some of the best places to see in Singapore. Next time I will share details of the attractions we visited and some hints and tips for visiting. Bye for now – Alicia.
Travel and Landscape Photography – Alicia Dunlop; Alicia Dunlop Photography.