Space-cadet elephants, Cat-in-the-hat chrissy trees & Gotham City -it's all very funky! Day 1 Singapore
by Kerry Tolson @kerrytolson.com
We've just arrived in Singapore, one of our favourite cities in the world to celebrate one of my favourite times of the year - New Years Eve.
Ask anyone who knows me, they'll tell you I'm one of the biggest bah-hum-bug christmas grinches going, but when it comes to welcoming in a new year, I'll be first in line to blow a kiss to sexy old-man-time and coochy-coo little baby-new-year. Every year we try to do something different: party on a tropical reef island (Hamilton), lead a congo-line (Norfolk Island), blow the twirly-paper whistle on the summit of Australia’s highest mountain, or hide-away in the dense forest of Boonoo Boonoo - as we did on the eve of the millennium... yes I certainly did believe all that bunk about the millennium bug! but I'll have you know we were well supplied up and didn't need to buy toothpaste , or wine, for at least two years.
This year however we were going to do it in style - in a flash FIVE star hotel - which was somewhere above this shopping mall... we just had to find how to get out of the Mall.
We retrace our steps back to the MRT entrance, which was next to the shopping mall - we had caught the train from the airport - seriously not a smart move at morning peak hour, but I wasn't going to lash out fifteen dollars for a cab fare when the train was only four. Of course the fact that we would have been at the hotel door, complete with fancy-hat, gold-coat, white-gloved door man waiting to open said taxi door, within fifteen minutes of leaving the airport (instead of the twenty-five minute train ride plus thirty minutes lost in a shopping mall) hadn't even come into the equation.
Back at the top of the MRT escalators we take a right turn, out into the bright sunlight and slightly muggy air - at this time of year, Singapore is a cool 28degs with only an 80percent humidity, so the sweat just sits in dainty beads across the forehead, instead of dribbling in pearl-like ribbons - and stagger around the side of an impressive looking hotel that soars into the sky, it's no ours, and onto another soaring hotel that's not as tall, but just as impressive, Ours. Just across the street our neighbour is the is the iconic Raffles, gleaming brilliantly white in the sunlight. This is top-notch 5Star neighbourhood.
All excited we trundle into the swish lobby - big white frosted baubles on gold swirly rods suspend from an enormous ceiling and hang over a huge gold bauble encrusted christmas tree that reaches almost to the ceiling. It's very busy, lots of suits sitting in lounges, chaps looking like they're about to go golfing and women in upscale cas strolling about... along with a scattering of children playing hide and seek behind the lounges and around the newspaper rustling suits.
At the gleaming lobby desk I hand over our passports and say excitedly 'We've booked an executive suite', I can barely contain myself, 'With a view of the New Year’s Eve fireworks' I add. The reception attendant smiles and waves to someone at another counter. They come over and asks us to come with them, 'We won't check you in here ma'm,' she whispers with a smile, 'We'll go upstairs.' Oh! do we smell? I wonder. I know we've just come off a plane after 7hours but I had done the airport shower (the wet-one wipe with a flick of roll-on) before getting on the train. I give myself the quick sniff test, and follow her and Mal to the lifts. We go up - fast! - to the 23rd floor - and as I step out of the lift I feel my stomach do the gravity drop and feel a slight sway.
We're taken to the Executive Club Lounge and given a seat at a table, offered coffee and told to go help ourselves to the breakfast that is lavishly layed out and displayed with elborately decorated gingerbread houses and stunning orchids, while they complete our checking in. Oh yes, this all smells very luxe.
Soon our attendant is back and tells us our room is ready. Really! this early?
I ask her about the view. 'Is it that?' I say, excitedly pointing to the spectacular skyline of Marina Bay, with the 'surfboard' building (Marina Sands) towering over the spikey 'durian' domes of the Esplanade Theatres and the 'shattered egg shell' of the Art Science building. She tells us we have a very nice city view. I ask if I will be able to see the fireworks from our room. 'No' is our answer. We are devastated and no amount of cajoling, pleading or argument can get us the room we thought we had booked. Pouting definitely doesn’t work either.
Check-in done, belly stuffed and wiffy underarms taken care of; feeling refreshed and bouncing, we head out of the cool air-con of our hotel into the midday swelt of monsoonal Singapore and wander down Beach Road (where's there's not a
And this sums up a building that spins me out each time I come to 'Sing'. Every time I stare up at the Parkview Square building I almost expect to see Batman busting out his shiny latex and and an undie-wearing Robin 'ko-powing' next to him, among the golden 'Gotham' guards grasping their enormous light-balls at the top of its 'empire', or even spideyman ziplining across the bronze granite façade to the 'Atlas' twins who appear to be holding up a large soupbowl and not the world on their shoulders.
frowns is not really Mal's thing...and as it was, as always, our goingtoes becomes next-time....) In hindsight, later we realise we should have popped in and gone even further than the courtyard, because this building is also famous for it's 'wine fairies' who float up a twelve metre high wine rack of the Divine Bar, which sits in this incredible building. Definitely a Next Time!
First stop when we reach Kampong Glam is the one and only Haji Lane. I adore this place - it's on my dropping into list every time I visit Sinapore, I cannot get enough of its colour, vitality and efferescence that oozes from every part of it. Haji Lane is tiny - only 200metres long (and Singapore's narrowest street) - yet it packs an incredible punch of life.
And the place is pumping when we arrive close to 2pm in the afternoon, the bars are open, food is still flowing and music and laughter emanate throughout. It's absolutely crowed with tourists clicking madly at everything; the murals, the shopfronts, the doorways and the lights, even the food people are eating... and I don't mean the diners themselves photographing their lunch, but passer-by's are stopping and snapping away at it. Everything is up for image-capturing; it's an instagramers, snapchatters, tumblrers, flickrer's, pinteresters orgasmic delight here. Haji Lane is a glorious canvas at every turn.
Before Haji Lane become the original 'hipster' shopping enclave of Singapore (this moniker now belongs to little known -to us tourists that is- Tiong Bahru), the lane's life began as shops and residences for Arabic, Indonesian and Malayan traders and was used by pilgrims as a place to stay before they began (or finished) their Hajj to Mecca - hence the name, Haji.
Which is where we were heading for next. As with the murals of Haji Lane, I also cannot get enough of visiting the beautiful Mosque that sits in the centre of Kampong Glam. Built in 1824 (and reconstructed in 1932), it is graced either side by two impressive tulip-imprinted, 8metre arches, gifted to Singapore by the Oman Government in 2012. The mosque itself is a relatively 'simple' mosque (when compared to those magnificent structures in Turkey) but up close - and even from a distance - it is absolutely striking. Although I'd seen it many times before, I still find 'new' parts to it, like the glass bottle bottoms that deck the base of the domes, donated by the poorest of the Muslim community during its reconstruction, ensuring all had a contribution to the building.
Kampong Glam is indeed glamorous, although this is not where the name for the area comes from, in fact, Kampong means village and Glam is from the Gelam Tree that grew abundantly in the area... however, I like to consider it very cosmopolitan and as we wander down from the mosque into the heart of the Arab Quarter, we're 'transported' to Turkey with its stunning mosaics, luxury silk carpets, glittering multi-coloured ottoman lights and tantalising smells of divine food - a perfect late lunch indulgence of a meze plate.
"Congratulations! Today is your day. You're off to Great Places! You're off and away!" (from 'Oh the places You'll Go' ) Later I read the tree is inspired not by naughty cats-in-hats but by the 20th century surrealist art movement particularly Dali's melting clocks.
As the afternoon fades into the eve, Singapore becomes even more beautiful and vibrant as garlands of twinkling lights flicker on and transports us to a tropical fairy land - fountains flooded in lights shoot and cascade in every colour of the rainbow, swathes of lights hang above roadway and rain out in endless strands across shopping malls, hotels and other public buildings. And although Christmas has already come and gone a few days earlier, and preparations for New Years Eve, happening in two days time, are in full swing, already swathes of red and gold lights for Chinese New Year (due to start celebrations in fifteen days time) are being added to the festive hue.
Down on the Esplanade the forerun leading up to New Years Eve is happening, every now and then a light show flickers on to one of the buildings.
We watch in awe as the Fullerton Hotel morphs into an enormous screen and a 3D amination - The New Dawn - is projected onto the beautiful colonial facade and its shimmering white turns to iridescent colour.
In-between the preparations for NYE, the regular light and laser show - Wonder Full - takes place and Marina Bay becomes a beautiful vivid showpiece that holds us spellbound. Again, I've lost count of the number of times I've watched this light spectacular, but I never tire of it.
Hello! I'm Kerry
. . . a plan-nothing, have no idea where I'm going travelholic.
A daughter of the gypsies and the wife of a workaholic, I'm forever wondering 'What's over there?' and devising ways to squeeze through the barbed-wire fence of small-business ownership responsibilities and every-day life tangles to discover it.
and this is my book.
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