My Travel Diaries: Merlions, Museums and More

“This place possess an excellent harbour..
Singapore is everything we could desire”

-Sir Stamford Raffles , 1819 ( On 6th February, 1819, he made Singapore a trade post of the British as a strategic move to “secure to the british flag the maritime superiority of the Eastern Seas”)

Breakfast was again complimentary and we had it in the hotel’s congested cafe. After breakfast we began our  City tour. After a brief intro to the history of Singapore, we headed to our first stop, The Baby and Mama Merlion at Merlion Park.

The Merlion is a symbol of the city and is supposed to bring good luck to the city. Singapore is named after the Lion and its an island city hence they decided to have a suitable mascot and the Merlion was born. Incidentally in mid August , the Youth Olympic games were to be held there and the city was covered with promotions about the Games which had their two Mascots, Merly and Lyo. You can see they are derived from the Merlion. So now back to the Merlion Park. Well Here’s where the Mama Merlion has been relocated ever since the auspicious shifting of it from its previous location a few hundred metres away. Story goes that after a bridge connecting the banks of the River the eyes of the Merlion were blocked from a view of the ocean this coincided with the economic decline in the growth of the city. Superstitious as these guys are they decided to shift it at an auspicious time. Thats how eventually the Mama Merlion ended up at its present location.

So after all the picturesque pictures i could manage with the Merlion in almost every possible position we headed out to the next location. The Chinese temple was located in Chinatown. The Chinese Love the colours Gold and Red and hence most of their decorations are of that colour. So the Temple looked beautiful! We had a brief introduction to the Chinese Religion before we entered. Did you know that the Doors to the Temple have painted generals of a particular Chinese Emperor who found that he didn’t get any nightmares about an impending assassination if his two top generals stood outside his room while he slept inside. However realising that they could not perform their duty if all they did was stay guard outside his room He decided to Paint their likeness on the doors which worked just as good and that was that. The Chinese temple is an official one, One of the few outside Mainland China. Also this morning we had a stop at a brief stop at a duty free shop where most shopped quite a bit. I bought a Dragon bookmark , Couple of Tshirts and quite a bunch of chocolates.

One of the interesting things i learnt at the temple was about the Goddess of the Sea, Mazu. She could control sea conditions and is attributed to have saved lot of lives. She was born around 950 AD in China and is supposed to have died in 987 at the age of 28 atop a mountain on Meizhou  Island and rode the clouds into heaven. Reminds you of a mutant, an X-men, Storm maybe?

Next stop was the Singapore Gems & Metals Co. Limited. Here raw ores are polished into Gems and treated to create masterpieces which are as super expensive as they are beautiful! The work is intricate and delicately made. After that trip we ogled some cars at the showrooms outside 😛

Our last stop before Lunch was the National Orchid Garden. This is a part of the Singapore Botanic Gardens which includes The Botany Centre, Swan Lake, Ginger Garden, Rainforest and some more gardens all fitting into 63 hectares ( 155.7 acres). I clicked a lot of macro photos of most plants. I wished i could have spent more time at the Orchid Gardens because the rain played spoilsport midway and we all got a bit wet. Disappointed i clicked a few more pictures as i negotiated my way under my jacket towards the Exit.

Lunch was at a place called Hotel City Hub. Then we proceeded to Sentosa Island. Now this is one of the smaller islands near Singapore which has been developed as a tourist destination somewhat in the manner of how Genting is developed in Malaysia. There is a Resorts World Singapore over here with a Casino too. There are two casinos and both are extravagantly designed and built. One has a restaurant designed to look like a suspended ship on top of a building which curves its way up and the other is The RW Singapore. The RW Singapore boasts of a number of attractions, 6 world-class hotels, Universal Studios Theme park and lots more! But our destination was not RW. What we were here to see first was the Underwater World. This is the World Famous Underwater park and Dolphin Lagoon. Most of us has heard about the Tunnel Travelator wherein you are surrounded by Fishes all around and all you need is to stand in a location as the travelator ferries you through the entire length. We entered the Island on one of the Islands Buses, other vehicles are not allowed inside. Our stop was called Imbiah lookout near the Siloso Beach. We entered Underwater World and had some time to spend before the Dolphin show started at 3:30pm. We had a look at the Ray pool where you could touch and feed the Rays. I was not brave enough to touch their leathery backs. We moved fast through the aquarium sections showcasing shark development, the crabs, the octopuses, the cuttle fish, Living Reef, the jelly fish and a little something known as The Sea Angel; that was a truly amazing creature. I hurried through the Tunnel which housed Sharks, Rays and was built like a reef colony. The Aquarium is split into three levels and there is a Vertical tube housing fish around which a staircase is built connecting the bottom Tunnel Level to the upper Level One.

Soon it was 3pm and we trooped to catch seats at the Dolphin Lagoon. I decided to get them close to the pool because i would get better shots. The Show was a short one and i missed the football trick while trying to check if another section had been filmed. Unfortunately both didn’t end up being filmed. So at around 4:15pm we were out of Underwater World. Interested people could opt for the 4D ride. Basically you get a 4D experience with the given adventure programmed to make you feel as if you are a part of the movie. It cost $18 per person and we were the only youngsters who didn’t. Hey, we got to indulge ourselves with Walls Chocobars which you don’t get here in India. They costed $5 each! I also got a chance to explore sections of Imbiah Lookout which were not part of our itinerary.

Our Next stop was the Images of Singapore museum where we had a guided tour of the history of Singapore. It was lengthy and had statues depicting the ways of life followed from the beginning. It also showed the ways of life of the 4 main ethnic diversities of Singapore; namely Malay, Chinese, Indians and British. I wasted quite a lot of my camera battery clicking pictures of this unique museum tour. By the time we came out it was around 6. We then proceeded to the Merlion tower. The Papa Merlion is the biggest of them all and you can climb all the way to the top with the help of a elevator. Tourists pose for photographs at its mouth and on its crown.  The View from the top is breathtaking. Its offers us a 360˚ view of the Island. We were also given a brief video presentation about the Singapore-Merlion connection and a token. On coming down from the Merlion we were guided to a set of Merlion statues where you could insert your token from the top and you would receive a number from its mouth. There were 3 numbers ( 1,2,3) each of which entitled you to a souvenir. 1 gave you the most common Hand Fan, 2 a postcard/mouse Pad and 3 gave you the rarest of the three which incidentally i don’t quite recall…think it was a mousepad too.

By the time we came out , it was about 6:45pm. We had been booked to attend the Lazer Show, “Songs of the Sea”. However it was scheduled for 7:40pm. We headed out to the beach location of the show. By the time we reached there around 7pm, there was already a crowd of tourists who had taken the best seats; the centre ones. This is one of the most famous attractions here and the shows are booked tight all year round. There are only 2 shows a day and one show can seat around 1000 people easy. So we had to wait in the best possible seats available till the show started. It was a long wait. The kids in the next column of seats were all busy playing with their PSP’s, DSi’s or Cellphones. And these were all school kids. Sentosa island is a tourist destination and right now the neighbouring countries had vacations. The schools organised tours to visit all the famous places. We saw many such school groups during our trip.

As the show time neared i was worried about how long would my camera batteries last. The flash photographs during the “Images of Singapore” had depleted them. I didn’t want to miss this event. So i rationed the camera. I Clicked a few shots as and when needed. Even after the show began i was stingy with my shots and the darkness posed a very difficult challenge to get good pictures. I still managed to get a few good ones.  The Show was enjoyable with its singing, lazer play, fogs and fireworks. The story was a classic one. I really liked the fire display. As i watched the show i wondered why we here in Mangalore cant develop a similar lazer show on our beaches. Here in Singapore they had organised one on an artificially created beach. We simply don’t make use of our resources to develop tourism!

By the time we were out of Sentosa it was almost 8:30 and we had yet to journey back to our hotel. A short dinner followed at a restaurant in Little India owned by the Chennai based Woodlands group and we headed to our lovely beds for some well needed rest. Tomorrow would be our last day in Singapore and also abroad!

Next Up:  Birds and adieu to Singapore!