After a leisurely morning on the ship we headed off to Chinatown to catch the Hop On Hop Off Bus and take the 1 hour Original Tour or Brown Route. We bought our tickets at the tourist information center in HarbourFront place, which is located right after you exit from the customs area of the Immigration Hall. Buying one route for the Hop on Hop Off Bus is $16 USD and would take about an hour to complete the loop. Our legs were not up to walking much today, it was still quite hot and humid. We decided to stay on the Ho-Ho bus, ride around the 10 mile circuit and listen to some commentary along the way.
- Note: We have been on many Ho-ho buses around the world, and they are usually pretty good, but sometimes their on-time performance is poor and occasionally they are so crowded you may have to wait for several busses until you find one with an empty seat. When this happens, the value of the Hop On Hop Off feature plummets as you are afraid to get off for fear of not finding an open seat on subsequent busses and being stranded for a while. We found that the busses in Singapore were on time and were never more than half full. You could comfortably take advantage of hopping off and then being able to hop back on at a predictable time.
Once again we proceeded underground to the MRT and caught the Northeast line to Chinatown, which is only two stops away from HarbourFront.
Leaving the Chinatown MRT stop we were immediately immersed in the center of Chinatown with all the colors, energy and enthusiasm on full display.
- Note: For those not familiar with big city subways please review the local map that is usually present nearby once you are off the train. Most large stations will have several exits to the street which are sometimes separated by ¼ mile or more, so it is important to take the correct exit based on where you want to go once on the surface. The local map will show the various station exits and where they will open onto the streets above. Don’t just follow the crowd to the nearest exit or you may find yourself needlessly backtracking or on the wrong side of a busy street.
The narrow Chinatown streets were lined on either side with shops selling clothes, electronics, souvenir items, food, massages or pretty much anything you may want to buy. Although many items are marked with prices they are still negotiable. We were is a hurry to catch our bus scheduled to leave on the half hour. We didn’t spend much time shopping now, but would take a more leisurely stroll thru this area after our Ho-Ho ride.
Our bus arrived only a few minutes late and we went up to the upper deck and sat in the back under the shade. The first floor of the bus was air-conditioned, but as long as we were under the shade it was fairly comfortable on the upper deck.
As you entered the bus, there was a tray filled with airline style ear pieces in plastic bags available at no additional charge. Next to each seat is a place to plug them in, select your language and adjust the volume. In addition to providing commentary on the various buildings and sights along the way, they provided some interesting insight into Singapore life in general. For example we learned that the number of cars on Singapore is limited and you have to buy a permit, called a Certificate of Entitlement (COE), which are available at an auction held twice a month. The COE is good for 10 years and may cost around $50,000 SGD based on the size of the car’s engine and other factors. After ten years, you have to buy another certificate but there is a strong incentive to sell cars at this point and start over. Singapore is the second largest exporter of used cars, right behind Japan. If you are interested in learning more, the process is pretty complex, google “Singapore Certificate of Entitlement” for more information.
One of the interesting sculptures along the way was called “Momentum” by David Gerstein. This sculpture is meant to show the upward cycle of progress, symbolizing the energy and momentum of the financial district and Singapore in general.
Orchard Road is probably the most well-known shopping street in Singapore and we enjoyed window shopping from the comfort of the Ho-Ho bus. We did notice one of our favorite stores from when we lived in Japan – Tokyu Hands (yes that is how they spell it) which is a department store that sells household items, craft items and stationery unique to Japan. We were able to precisely mark the location of the store with our MAPS.ME app so we could come back later on the subway.
We continued along the waterfront toward Suntec City Mall and the Singapore Flyer. The Singapore Flyer is one of those huge observation wheels, aka Ferris wheel, that was the tallest in the world until 2014 when the “High Roller” opened in Las Vegas which is 9 feet taller. The top 5 wheels are in Las Vegas, Singapore, China, London and Orlando. Each one was the tallest at the time it was built. I am sure that someone will be building one higher than the Vegas wheel soon. My guess: Dubai.
The Marina Bay Sands Hotel is nearby and is the world’s most expensive standalone casino property. The structure is quite impressive with what looks like a floating beach oasis, called the Sands Skypark, perched on top of the three 55 story hotel towers. There is an infinity edge pool in the Skypark that appears as if you will swim over the edge if you get too close. One tip from one of our tablemates was to go to one of the rooftop restaurants for lunch where you can enjoy the view for the price of lunch as opposed to paying an admission to simply go to the observation deck. We didn’t have time to investigate this beautiful property but will have it high on our list of things to see the next time we are in Singapore.
After a passing Merlion Park, we headed back toward Chinatown and got off the bus where we got on an hour earlier.
No longer rushed for time, we strolled through the Chinatown shops and picked up a few souvenirs and post cards.
We wanted to head back to Orchard Road and visit Tokyu Hands so it was back on the purple line for two stops and then a transfer to the red line for one stop to the Somerset Station. The Somerset station sits underneath a massive shopping center and once we were off the train we were able to navigate thru the tunnels, hallways and escalators to find ourselves at the entrance to Tokyu Hands. We picked up some small temple bells, a small graph paper notebook and a notebook that contains white board writing surfaces instead of paper. Not sure what I will do with it, but it looked interesting.
Back in the subway we were now in the teeth of rush hour and the trains were almost at capacity. While we were in Dhoby Ghaut station the next train to HarbourFront arrived and was completely jammed when the doors opened and no one got off. A few people wedged on and I was ready to drive onboard like I was on a quarterback sneak, but decided to wait for the next train. The next train was almost empty and we were able to find empty seats. Go figure.
Once back in HarbourFront Station we stopped by the ticket office to get our $10 deposits back from our Singapore Tourist passes and then we headed over to the Singapore cable car that ran between Faber Peak and Sensota Island. The fare was $26 SGD to take the cable car for one loop starting at HarbourFront, then to Faber Peak, back to HarbourFront and then continuing over to Sensota Island and finally looping back to HarbourFront. Along the way we got some nice views of Singapore, Sensota Island and were able to “fly” over the Amsterdam and Oceana’s Insignia as if we were in our own little drone. It was pretty neat. There was an option to eat dinner while circling around between Faber Peak and Sensota, and there were two men in the car right behind us actually doing that. I think the idea of eating dinner in the cable car was better than actually doing it. It was bumpy in many spots, not air-conditioned and not really a suitable spot for dining. I don’t know if you had to finish your meal within a certain number of laps or if you could stay on as long as you could stand it. We didn’t investigate any further.
It was now 7pm and we had one hour to wander thru the HarbourFront shopping centre and spend our last $33 SGD. We slowly walked up and down every hallway and storefront, finding nothing particularly interesting. We decided to convert our cash to snacks that were unavailable on the ship: Snickers Bars and Orangina soft drinks. We bought the last 5 Oranginas on the shelf and added a few plastic bottles of Diet Coke with screw tops which are more convenient on the ship than a can since you can replace the cap and carry it around easier.
Outside the ship where they checked your cruise card, they were also collecting your passports. It was now 7:30 and we had ½ hour to get cleaned up and down to dinner. Lecturer Kate Ross, who had already eaten, joined our table briefly for some chit chat to catch up on our tales of our Angkor Wat adventure. They had more fresh fish on the menu and it continues to be excellent, but not quite as good as the Sea Bass from yesterday which will be hard to top.
We headed down to the Queens lounge a little early tonight and continued our conversation. Our entire table usually goes to the shows together and we have a great time. Virtuoso Pianist Filip Wojciechowski was the featured entertainer tonight and he was fabulous. He played some classical numbers from Bach, Chopin and Mozart and then was joined by the HAL bass player and drummer for some outstanding jazz arrangements. Another great night in the Queens Lounge.
As a sidebar, while waiting for the show to start, Gene was reading a long list of names of people (42 passengers) who had not yet turned in their passports. We thought it strange that speakers in the Queens lounge were not broadcasting the names so if you weren’t paying attention you could have been sitting there blissfully unware that people were looking for you. They had it all wrapped up by 10pm as Gene was on the stage to introduce Pianist Filip.This entry was posted in Uncategorized