Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Singapore I - Presentation is everything

Rather than spend all my time shopping, this time I decided I would go 50 - 50 on shopping and sight seeing.

On Orchard Road, the apple green abaya adorned with like-coloured sequins caught my eye. A creative idea for those who choose modesty with colour in mind in place of the black abaya of Saudi.
After the ritual visit to C K Tangs and Paragon, I set on the tourist trail.

First stop, the Singapore River cruise, which leaves from Clark Quay. Named after Sir Andrew Clarke, Singapore's second Governor and Governor of the Straits Settlements from 1873 to 1875, it positioned Singapore as the main port for the Malay states of Perak, Selangor and Sungei Ujong.

My last visit to CQ was about 20 years ago when the first redevelopment program of transforming the old shop houses into a cluster of quaint restaurants and pubs took place.If you get the timing right, you are in for a great photo shoot from sunset to twilight.

Having strength in numbers, a large group of Mandarin-speaking tourists led by an aggressive tour leader bull-dozed ahead of us.

Who says English is the most important language in the world? But as luck would have it, the English tour being less popular had a boatload of only 6 passengers. And so in peace and quiet we slipped into the setting sun!Now overly developed with restaurants and pubs on either side of the banks, CQ is the watering hole for expats and Singaporean yuppies. Indo Chin exudes ethnic charm but others remind of plastic fast food outlets.

The scenic trip traverses under at least 3 bridges.

The Fullerton Hotel has a colourful history, with beginings as Fort Fullerton in 1820, strategically positioned to protect the colony from intruders. In 1867 it was converted to the General Post Office Building.

By 1919 the real estate value had risen and an extravagant project or rebuilding, costing $4 million, was undertaken by the then Governor, Sir Hugh Clifford. A British architect from England with aspirations of practicing his skills in classical Greek architecture, (after having gone to town with the Mogul style in Kuala Lumpur perhaps!) tore down the Aberdeen granite turrets and up went the Doric columns.

In 1997, Sino Land of Hong Kong, a sister company of Far East Organisation of Singapore, acquired the Fullerton Building and spent close to S$300 million converting Fullerton Building into a hotel and commercial complex.

Formula One's first night race was held in Singapore on 28 September 2008, estimated to draw 80,000 spectators, but actually packed in 100,000, which exceeded other F1 events. The F1 Grand Stand and track is set around the Bay.

The Singapore Flyer, I hear, is the in-place to have family day parties and exotic theme outings from massage (in the capsule) to fashion shoots.

As we approached the mouth of the Singapore River, the Esplanade-Theatres on the Bay came into view. Initially described as "two copulating aardvarks" as the original drawing comprised two unadorned glass cases covering the theatres.
Eventually when the two-architect team split, the domes were transformed by adding a cladding of aluminum sunshades in the final design, resulting in the "Durian", as this building is now affectionately called.
As the boat enters the Bay, the active construction site of Marina Bay Sands is seen in the horizon. Singapore's first casino promises to be the most expensive casino in the world with Las Vegas Sands committing an investment of S$3.85 billion in the project, not including the fixed S$1.2 billion cost of the 6,000,000 square feet (560,000 m2) site itself.

The projected date of completion is end 2009, however recent rumours foretell money woes to the tune of S$2 billion resulting in project delays. On the return trip, a bejewelled skyline and reflection on the Bay carves and elegant picture. Not forgetting the signature Merlion . . . And another charming bridge. The Asian Civilisations Museum stands across from the Fullerton Hotel. Well lit at night, it definitely attracted me enough to plan a visit the next day. A fearsome bungee jump contraption guarantees the jump of your life back in Clark Quay.

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