A short trip to Singapore
30.11.2007 - 04.12.2007 26 °C
Prestigious red dot design awards had been announced and two of my close friends and colleagues, Avnish and Sandip had made us proud. The award ceremony was in Singapore and we were all excited as we three decided to go to Singapore to receive the awards. Unfortunately Avnish didn’t have a passport and even trying his best he couldn’t manage to get one on time. So with the huge responsibility of receiving the award on his behalf along with a back pack I headed to Singapore. Sandip and his wife Suhasini were also there with me till Singapore and later I decided to leave the lovely couple alone to enjoy their trip without any "kabab mai haddi" (a phrase in hindi/urdu meaning unwanted person, translation Bone in Lamb Kebab).
I had heard a lot about Singapore as how it is a modern marvel of town planning and administration. A super organized and super clean country with some weird phobia of “chewing Gums” :D. And as we landed we found almost all stories were true. Singapore indeed is a modern marvel of Urban Life. A city state which thrives on its citizen’s hard work and respect for their country. Singapore is small in size yet here one can see many cultures amalgamated together. There is a reflection of India (the name itself), China, Europe and USA all merged together to create a beautiful beacon of human spirit which is working tirelessly toward progress.
My couple friend were careful enough to have a prior reservation in some hotel, I on the other hand had no clue about a place to stay. In the monorail from Airport to city I met an Indian Student who was studying in Singapore for last couple of years. He had a good idea of the place and after sensing my unwillingness to spend a fortune on hotels he suggested me to look for backpacker’s hostel in a Place known as Little India.
Little India should be renamed as Little South India (just kidding). There are many migrant workers from Tamilnadu here and one can see Tamil culture all over the place. Little India has lot of Chennai feel with some interesting southern style Hindu Temples and south Indian food joints.
After some wandering I managed to find a bed in Empire Residences which is very close to famous Mustafa mall. The bed in dormitory cost me some 20$, expensive for a dorm but I guess nothing is cheap in Singapore.
After some rest I started walking around. I love walking as I feel it’s the best way to explore an unknown place. You get to see many thing that otherwise people might miss, meet locals and taste some really interesting street food. However I didn’t like street food much in Singapore or maybe I was not eating at the right places. Unlike Thailand where street food is almost always good, I can’t claim the same for Singapore.
China town is another ethnic hub, next to Little India (Singaporeans definitely know the geography well ). With colorful walls, red lanterns and souvenir shops this place is no less than a colorful fairy land and photographers delight. Huge Chinese structures drew my attention. A fine piece of Buddhist temple architecture, the Buddha tooth relic temple was there just in front of me. It is a very well kept temple and museum and one needs time to explore and admire all the fine details of art that have been put in this place.
In the market outside there was a Turkish Ice-cream seller and he was drawing a lot of attention with the way he was selling his cool delight. It was more of a well rehearsed yet impromptu act, involving customers and his business and transforming it into an act which was been enjoyed by all. I became an innocent prey, an actor unaware of his role while buying a scoop for myself. The ice cream was the most colorful one that I ever had with a very remarkable taste.
Disapointment Discovery and Award
Today was the day that had bought me in Singapore. In the evening we were to receive awards in all glamour and dazzles of red dot. . Since the ceremony was scheduled in the evening, I had a full day to roam around and explore the city.
Commuting in Singapore is very easy with a robust MRT and Bus network. With mostly English speaking population, getting around is not at all difficult. In a local tourist map there was a balloon ride mentioned and the thought of having a bird’s eye view of city was very exciting. So I located the spot but heavy wind blew off my dream to reach the sky and the balloon was out of operation for the day.
Disappointment makes me hungry, a strange connection between my heart and the stomach always comes to play in situations like this. Maybe having good food gives us a sense of achievement countering the loss. However happiness also triggers the same desire, celebrate by eating good. May be all this is the sole reason of my resilient waist line, but we will discuss philosophical gastronomy some time else.
As I stared walking aimlessly I stumbled upon a very Arabic looking mosque, which had a very impressive presence with its golden domes. A mosque is a symbol of faith and almighty for many, however it‘s also a sure shot sign of good food around. I came to know that I have reached the famous Sultan mosque. I quickly located an inexpensive looking joint across the street and asked the waiter to surprise me (I humbly asked to bring their best) and I got a Biryani (a rich Indo-Arabic rice preparation) with some egg curry. The eggs were very small and definitely weren’t from a hen so I decided not to ask. The food was awesome and soothed my disappointed soul.
Red Dot Museum the venue for the Award function is located in the Red Dot Traffic building. Previously the headquarters of the Singapore Traffic Police this grandiose colonial style building has quite a presence. I was very excited to visit a design museum as there are very few of this kind (none in India).
I reached slightly late and the function had already begun. It was a proud moment when Sandip walked the ramp to receive the award. I received the award on behalf of Avnish. After this there was a party organized by Bombay Sapphire in their lounge where we sipped exotic Gin surrounded by the young design talent from all over the world.
From here we decided to visit the very popular Orchard Road, a main shopping hub known for its swanky malls and lively streets. As our trip was towards the end of the year, the whole stretch of Orchard road was dazzling with Christmas decorations. We had lots of fun waking on the street watching live performances on the road and lusting over expensive super cars.
Sentosa : the fun land
As planned earlier I met Sandip and Suhasini at the Toy museum. Suhasini is a toy designer (a rare breed in India) and her excitement about a place filled with toys from all over the world was natural. However the place turned out to be much smaller than what we imagined. From here we had a plan to go to Sentosa Island and that trip made our day.
Sentosa should be the no 1 in your “to do“list in Singapore if you have kids with you or you yourself are a kid in a grown up body. Sentosa is a complete day trip with various fun activities like butterfly and insect garden, Underwater Aquarium for nature lovers and beaches for relaxation. (the aquarium experince led to under sea submarine ride in Jeju island next year)
For thrill lovers Luge skyline is a very good option where they take you to a high point by an open ropeway and then makes you slide down on a steep track along with dolphin show and many other things.
But the best item is definitely the light and sound show involving 3D laser projections on a water screen with live performers. The show was magical and the memories still gives me goose bumps.
It was a very happy coincidence that there was a huge design festival by the name of “open minds” going on. As a designer we always long for such events in India and it was a great opportunity to witness the work of design talents all over the world. It was not very surprising that the scene here too was dominated by Korean designers just like we saw in Red Dot awards. In the exhibition there was an interesting section tagged as “UseLess Idea” showcasing highly useful ideas to Use less; promoting sustainability, recycling and reuse.
This trip was folding itself into many dimensions from shear fun to enrichment and cutting edge design exposure. To make the day more enriched with design, art and creativity I decided to visit the Esplanade, a marvel of modern Architecture. This porcupine like building seems alive with its thousand of automatic window panels. Esplanade is major hub for art and culture, hosting theaters, art galleries and restaurants. I ate at a Japanese Sushi Bar and food was very delicious.
Shopping and falling off
On the last day of the trip I decided to do some shopping, mainly some cheap imitation watches. Buggies Village is a great shopping hub for people who love street shopping, bargaining and counterfeited stuff. Buzzing with activities this place is a must for any hardcore shopper. From here I went to another adventure, to try my hands on surfing, something I have never considered before. SKI360 was the name of the place offering the facility over a huge artificial lake. The sky was pulled by a system of overhead cable and pulleys. It was very thrilling experience as to balance on ski is a very tough task and I was falling off repeatedly. At the end I realized it was a very expensive way to fall on water.
I am more of a nature lover and love going to mountains or beaches and never thought that I will enjoy this highly urban trip of mine. Singapore is truly a mini world in its self. A nation made out of many with a fine harmony between nostalgic to latest. It gave me an experience of a life time. Thank you Singapore.