Singapore traffic is heavily congested during commute hours. To discourage drivers from driving into congested areas, Singapore government deployed an automatic variable toll system. Cars in Singapore are equipped with standardized wireless toll collectors. Depending on the hour of day, money is deducted from the account linked to the transponder in a car at different rates as the car travels through heavily congested areas.
Glittering and colorfully-lit holiday ornaments adorn this opulent mile-long Orchard Road. This road is the Singapore version of Fifth Avenue in New York, Avenue Montaigne and Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris, and Oxford Street and Bond Street in London. It attracts not only shopaholics but also architecture buffs. Gleaming malls featuring the most sophisticated and leading edge structures are lining this street. Not only do the boutiques refresh their window displays more than a dozen times a year with the latest trend from all over the world, but the building themselves get face-lifts or rebuilds every few years!
This constant change ensures that this place here is, arguably, the epicenter of retail therapy in Asia Pacific! This is a shopaholics’ heaven. Once they check in, they will never want to check out. And if shopping is not your passion, a vast number of cinemas, restaurants, cafes, and bars will keep you entertained.
Brash Basah Road
Orchard Road turns into Brash Basah Road. We are entering the Civic District where the past and the present converge harmoniously. Colonial buildings hosting government offices are surrounded by sleek glass and steel skyscrapers housing luxury hotels. This duality is highlighted by the two contrasting structures standing almost side by side - the white stone with red roof colonial Parliament building and the UFO-shaped glass structure on the top of the Supreme Court office.
Victoria Street crosses Brash Basah Road. Chijmes on Victoria Street is a unique complex that should not be missed. It is both a national monument and a complex of restaurants, pubs, and shops. This large neo-Gothic architecture structure was the Convent of Holy Infant Jesus; a girls school for 131 years. On weekend nights, live Jazz and dance music can be heard from the street...@driving-vacation.com
Today, we walk onto Esplanade Drive. We are entering the Marina Bay area. The Esplanade complex highlights this area with its hard-to-miss architecture. The spiky metallic twin domes resemble twin durian fruit when seen from afar. These twin domes house a state of the art concert hall, theaters, rehearsal studios, and an art exhibition hall. The Singapore Symphony Orchestra plays regularly, often with world renowned guests. The spiky roof is made of variously angled aluminum shades. This technique maximizes the use of natural light and shields the glass roof from the heat of the sun. Not only this creates a visually artful and futuristic appearance but also a purposeful engineering achievement in energy efficiency.
The Esplanade waterfront is another favorite destination. During the weekdays, professionals from the adjacent financial district descend here to do lunch at the trendy bars and restaurants. Tourists do their requisite pose in front of Merlion, the lion-fish Singaporean icon. At night, the view of the lit Merlion in front of the backdrop of the city skyline and its sparkling reflection on the calm sea water provides the perfect ambience for having a formal dinner with business associates or a romantic dinner with the significant one.
Temporary barriers were constructed along the five kilometers of city streets to make up the F-1 circuit. Over 1500 light projectors were used to turn night into day on the track, providing clear views for the drivers and over 100,000 spectators. The route went across the man-made harbor and then went back into the city entertainment district. Like Monte Carlo, the Singapore circuit had many 90 degree turns and a few long stretches with top speed of 300 km/h. The F-1 drivers had to slow down to about 100 km/h at the Fullerton corner and then they accelerated out towards top speed again...@driving-vacation.com
Today, we are in the Central Business District (CBD). This packed urban jungle is filled with the world’s most powerful financial houses and banks. Looking up through my car’s panoramic tilting roof, I can see the reflections of the buildings. Inside this shadowy urban concrete jungle, we lose our sense of direction immediately. Singapore roads are not in grid. There is no convention to the road naming or the road construction. Roads meander and cross other meandering roads. To top that, most narrow streets in CBD are one way.
After many turns, the concrete urban jungle thins out. The view of Singapore River emerges in front of us. We arrive at an area called Boat Quay. This place is known for its riverfront outdoor restaurants, bars, and traditional restored shophouses with colorful shutter windows. On weekday evenings, people descend from the CBD skyscrapers and they follow aromatic smells of world cuisines at Boat Quay.
Foodies find Singapore to be a culinary goldmine. The ensemble of homegrown delights and traditional dishes of Chinese, Indian, and Malay origin, can easily be found throughout the city. Some favorite dishes include chicken rice, laksa (lemon grass vermicelli soup), char kway teow (stir-fried rice flat noodle), yong tau fu (stuffed tofu), roti prata (pancake bread) , satay (sliced barbequed meat on skewer), and nasi lemak (coconut rice with accompaniments). They are not only delicious but also very inexpensive. On the opposite spectrum, restaurants offering haute cuisines from nearly every corner of the world complete the Singaporean menus. From unpretentious hole-in-the-wall places to grand palaces with bird’s-eye panoramic views, restaurant designs are just as diverse as the menus...@driving-vacation.com
Think relaxation is overrated? Are you always burning the candle at both ends? Then Clark Quay is for you. After dinner at Boat Quay, well-heeled party goers stroll towards Clarke Quay. Night live here will keep anyone charged till dawn. Latin, Jazz, and Disco bars give head-spinning options. So, most people choose to go bar hopping here.
This epicenter of nightlife has many themed bars and clubs. Clinic Bar features a hospital ambience complete with hospital wheel chairs, white linen room dividers, and operating room lights. The drinks are served from the dripping intravenous (IV) tube that is attached to a blood bag on a pole. The famous London based Ministry of Sound dance club is located here as well. On weekends, it is common to see Audi R8’s, Lamborghini’s, and Bentley’s parked here since this is where the to-be-seen crowds gather.New Bridge Road
From Clarke Quay, New Bridge Road leads to Chinatown. Scenes of traditional old Singapore are preserved here. Old colonial small houses dominate the architecture of Chinatown center while large multi story malls occupy the edges.
What’s interesting about this Chinatown, distinguishing itself from other Chinatowns in the world, is the fact that it not only has Buddhist and Confucian places of worship, but also Mosques and Hindu temples. The 1823 Thian Hock Keng temple on Telok Ayer Street is the oldest Chinese template in the country. Gilded and lacquer decorated beams and panels, painted doors, and granite dragon sculptures adorn this south Chinese temple architecture. A few block away from the temple, on South Bridge Road, is the colorful and highly intricate high tower of 1843 Sri Mariamman Hindu temple. If you look closely on its intricate carvings, you will find 72 deities.
At sundown, Smith Street is closed and hawker stalls spring to life. Tables and chairs are setup in the middle of the road. Food vendors are greeting passerby with menus and chanting their specials. This is the best place to find local flavors in a historic ambience...@driving-vacation.com
Traffic is getting busy as the day is advancing. We enter Sentosa Island in our navigation system and start driving towards the southern tip of the main island. We also choose the route that includes some highway driving.While other city planners discuss and design how many parks to build in their cities, Singapore’s city planners design and build working and living spaces in the Garden. This is how Singapore got its Garden city status. The highways around the city are lined on both sides with trees with far reaching branches that create continues canopy. The natural canopy protects the people on the road from the scorching heat during the hottest and humid days.
When we arrive at Sentosa Island we are surprised by the massive development effort just as we enter the gateway. Large container and cement trucks are traveling in a formation. We stray off of the navigation map because the road is detoured due to the massive Universal Studio construction After passing the construction site, the serenity of Sentosa Island finally greets us. The lush vegetation makes us feel we are in a tropical forest. With all the windows down and the roof open, we hear hundreds of birds chirping. This 2 by 0.6-mile island offers a variety of activities. Families enjoy the Underwater World’s acrylic tunnel where colorful marine lives swim within touching distance. On weekend nights, young adults party at the bars and dance clubs along the beaches. Couples looking for a quiet and romantic time check into five-star hotels and spas on this island.
We park our car and sit at a café with a view of the ocean. Here, we soak in the relaxing ambience with fresh coconut juice...@driving-vacation.com