I usually like to have my vacation itineraries planned out to a pretty high level of detail before I ever get on a plane. Not because I need to control every. single. minute. Because I operate under the assumption that I’ll only have the opportunity to visit once, so I want to make the most out of every day of every trip and not end up with avoidable regrets.
There were way too many variables in play for my Singapore trip though, so even though I’d done a fair bit of online research, I didn’t have a set schedule for each day and was kind of flying by the seat of my pants. Dad and I were in a great mood after our lunch at the Takashimaya Food Village, and while trying to find it I’d seen the Orchard Road SMRT train station whose proximity to our hotel had been another big factor in booking it. A quick look at the MRT map and I decided that I was up for the challenge of navigating the public transportation system on the first day of our trip. Off we went to take the Singaporean version of BART to Gardens by the Bay.
Full disclosure: I am not a public transportation girl. I am a Californian who spent 13 years living in Los Angeles. I love my car. I love the freedom it gives me. I do, however, love cities that have great public transportation systems when I’m traveling. I find that having to figure out how to navigate a new public transportation system helps me figure out a new area and engage with it in a way I never do if I’m renting a car or taking taxis. Since it’s not something I do very often though, the first time trying to get somewhere using a train or bus usually means I’m doing a lot of looking at maps and asking kindly looking strangers to point me in the right direction. Singapore was no exception.
This time, my looking befuddled paid off in a wonderful way. When Papa and I had finished the first leg and were at the transfer station trying to figure out the correct train for the second leg, an older gentleman overheard me and told us where to go to catch the right train. He was headed to the same final stop himself so when we all got of the train, he told us not to follow the posted signs pointing people to Gardens by the Bay. Instead we went upstairs into the high-end shopping center (let’s just say that it has canals and gondolas like the the Venetian in Las Vegas) and he showed us these very tall escalators leading upward. They led to an outdoor walkway, he told us. Beautiful views of the city — a longer walk, but much better than the “official” route from the MRT station. He would have gone up there with us, but he’s afraid of heights — they make him dizzy.
Our new friend and guide was an 85-year-young Singaporean (probably of Chinese descent?) who was long retired. “I get bored so I just go walking every day. Today I’m going to the casino [that is in the mall],” he told us. And, it seems, he also helps out confused tourists visiting his beloved city-state. He watched to make sure we were safely up the escalator and, after a last wave to us, I saw him walk toward some lost-looking European or Australian tourists to offer a helping hand. We didn’t even get his name, but my dad and I loved chatting with our impromptu guide.
Even better, he couldn’t have been more right about the beautiful views and great introduction to Singapore that this out-of-the-way walkway provided. We got a great look at everything from the Singapore Flyer to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel to the original Merlion. And it took us right by the exterior parts of the HVAC system for the mall and hotel. Since that’s what my dad did for a living in a high-rise building, he always gets excited and interested in seeing what other systems are like and has insights to share.
And now that I’ve rambled on for a whole lotta paragraphs, let’s get to the pictures!
Currently listening to: “Better Than I” by SWV
Currently reading: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini