Friday, February 20, 2009

Uniquely Singapore

View from the Flyer
The Flyer
The Science Center - Great illusion area

The Merlion - the mascot of Singapore
The Sentosa beach
Fort at Sentosa

Night Safari... Fire show
Incredible fire show before the tram ride through the zoo
Native dances
Walking tour of Chinatown - Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Shop houses
herbal medicine shop
Valentine's Day at the Conrad's Club Lounge
The Fountain of Wealth - now we will be rich!
Dinner with Nella and Richard

Palate Sensation Cooking Class
Tastes just right!
Look what we prepared!

Singapore is a picture perfect country and it is due to the first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who turned a malarial island into a modern financial center making it a model for all of Asia. Singapore is the country that bans chewing gum and enforces its littering laws.

There is much to do. One day we took the cable car to Sentosa Island. During World War II it was a strategic area that saw heavy fighting. Today Fort Siloso is a museum that depicts the Japanese conquest and loss of Singapore. After the war the island was developed as a recreation area and named Sentosa, which means "peace." It is an improvement over the former name, which meant "death from behind." There is a long sandy beach, golf courses, amusement rides, nature trails, a variety of other attractions, and in 2010 Resort World, featuring Universal Studios is scheduled to open. My favorite attraction is the Images of Singapore where the story of Singapore is creatively displayed. It is a walk through the very heart of Singapore explaining their cultural diversity, unity of values, and perseverance.

The Original Singapore Walks is a wonderful way to learn about the ethnic heritage of Singapore. The "Red Clogs Down the Five-foot Way" tour of Chinatown took us pass beautifully restored shop houses. At one shop we learned about traditional medicine while sipping flower tea. At Thien Hock Kheng Temple, the oldest Chinese Temple in Singapore, the guide explained the various aspects of ancestor worship and the meaning of the temple’s ornamentation. Dragons offer protection. Every design has a special meaning. Each step was another step toward a better understanding of the culture and influence of the Chinese in Singapore.

The city’s star attraction is Night Safari, a nocturnal zoo tour. John and I arrived in time to see the impressive performance by the Thumbuakar Tribe from Borneo. The tribal dances and blowpipe demonstrations are great but the fire eating displays were unbelievable. There are trails to walk and a very quiet tram to ride. We hopped on board for the 45-minute ride with a live commentary and saw Asian Rhinos, jackals, hyenas, cats, elephants, and many other creatures. On the way out we watched another Uniquely Singapore experience – Fish Reflexology. People dangled their feet in a warm pool of water while tiny fish nibbled at the dead skin– a novel and ticklish exfoliation treatment.

The newest addition to the Singapore experience is the Singapore Flyer, currently the world's largest observation wheel. Rotating up to 541 feet from the ground each of the 28 capsules holds 28 people. Before we rode the flyer we walked around the Yakult Rainforest Gardens, put our hand in the water and made a wish. When we were at the top we also made a wish bringing together the elements of land, water, and air.

There is no better way to experience a culture than by taking a cooking lesson. John and I learn to cook Malay food at Palate Sensations. Chef Alfie and his wife, Lulu, taught us how to make Singapore chili crab. My favorite was vegetables cooked in coconut gravy. Chef Alfie explains, "This vegetable dish is always served for breakfast the first day after Ramadan, our month of fasting."

The hotels in Singapore are world class, espcially the Conrad and InterContinental. There are still many things we didn’t get to do… we will just have to visit again.