A Bird’s Eye View of Singapore

Singapore, Singapore

November 22, 2011

Singapore was one of the world’s smallest countries in area, but it was one of the most spacious. Moreover, as Southeast Asia’s poster city for economic progress and urban modernism, the city looked not much older than a year or so, especially at the Marina Bay area. On a city tour with my elderly mother, I was curious how she would regard this post-modern city.

Marina Bay from the Singapore Flyer

My sister, itching to go shopping for the day, deposited my mother and me at Suntec Singapore, where we would embark on the Singapore Duck Tour, a land-and-sea city tour on a remodeled Vietnam War military craft. Repainted and refitted like an amusement park ride, the amphibious vehicle took us through the surreal sights of Singapore’s ultra-modern Marina Bay area.

Mom Lining Up for Duck Tickets @ Suntec Singapore
Singapore Ducky
Post-Modern Singapore: The Concourse Building

The tour would take about an hour without bladder breaks, which called for a restroom stop before climbing onto the Duck. Fellow tourists filed in fast, relegating Mom and I to the back row. The first structure that made us do a double take was the Concourse Building, designed like an uneven stack of cards, as odd as any modernist architecture.

The fun really began when the Duck made a splash on Marina Bay. After the bumpy watery touchdown, it was smooth sailing from then on. Having the back row to ourselves, Mom and I slid from one end to the other to gawk at the views on both sides. We had tuned out our Indian tour guide by then, equally distracted by the sights and her incomprehensible accent.

Rowers on Marina Bay
Sci-Fi Singapore: Double Helix Bridge viewing deck and ArtScience Museum

The newly-built Gardens by the Bay, still closed to the public then, was the opening salvo. Its undulating glass leaf design was momentarily eclipsed by a group of young rowers waving at us as they zipped past.

Singapore’s modern architecture was so forward-thinking, it thrust us right into a seemingly futuristic world. Passing under the Double Helix Bridge, we were greeted by the upturned-hand design of the ArtScience Museum. The designers commendably took inspiration from the lotus flower, the Buddhist symbol of purity and perfection, as a nod to the city’s cultural heritage. Given Singapore’s sanitized urban environment, the symbolism was not lost on me.

Under the SkyPark of Marina Bay Sands
Mom and Marina Bay Sands
ArtScience Museum and Marina Bay Sands

The three-tower integrated resort-casino monstrosity complex called Marina Bay Sands soon revealed itself. This feng shui‘d architectural feat was topped by a curved plane that conjured up a marooned surfboard, which all looked awkwardly put together.

Despite the advent of these visually arresting buildings, the iconic landmark of Singapore remained to be the Merlion. The water-spewing statue stood on Merlion Park, where the Duck would make a U-turn. The mythical half-fish, half-lion creature embodied the city state’s humble beginnings as a fishing village and its stature as an economic powerhouse today.

The Merlion of Singapura
Sailing Past the Floating Stadium
Mom: From Ducky to Double Decker
Things are Looking Up in Singapore!

Back at Suntec, Mom and I boarded a double-decker bus to take us to the highlight of the city tour. She marched up the steep winding staircase to the upper deck. Such surefootedness would come in handy for our next stop, the doyen of all Ferris wheels: the 165-meter tall Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest observation wheel.

Again, our first stop was the restroom. The wheel capsules were not outfitted with toilets, and busting our bladders during the 45-minute flyer ride was not part of the plan.

The Singapore Flyer: The World’s Largest Observation Wheel
Come, Fly with Mom!
Interactive Introduction to the Singapore Flyer

Boarding the wheel caught us by surprise. Given Mom’s age, no one had informed us that the wheel did not stop. Passengers had seconds to hop inside the glass capsule when it leveled with the embarkation platform. No big deal really, unless you have 78-year-old ankles. Still, this derring-do did not faze Mom who hopscotched her way into the capsule with a little arm support from the attendants.

Singapore Flyer’s Glass Capsule
Benjamin Sheares Bridge and Tanjong Rhu Apartments
High-Flying Mom @ Singapore Flyer
No Fear of Heights: Mom @ Singapore Flyer
Snowflake over Singapore @ Singapore Flyer

Once in, we could barely detect any movement. We shared the capsule with about 15 other passengers who all abandoned the center benches and flocked to the sides for an unobstructed panorama of the cityscape. It turned out the most scenic time to get on the wheel was at 6:30pm when the ride straddled twilight – the ascent starting with daylight, the descent ending at dusk.

From about a hundred meters up, we looked down on a bustling city tempered by calming green belts. In Singapore, the coldness of steel and concrete was balanced by the vivid greens of wooded parks and open spaces. Despite its size, the city state did not look as dense as, say, Hong Kong.

As darkness had fallen halfway through the ride, city lights sparkled like jewels strewn around the man-made Marina Bay. The dark space in a ring of electric brilliance was the city’s most precious resource – a freshwater reservoir.

Singapore at Dusk: Marina Bay Sands, ArtScience Museum, and Double Helix Bridge from the Singapore Flyer
Gardens by the Bay from Singapore Flyer
Mom Has Flown: Exit Tube @ Singapore Flyer

Views from the Duck and the bird’s eye view from the Singapore Flyer gave us a sneak peek at the most progressive Southeast Asian city that had redefined urban development. Unlike my city choked by unbridled development, Singapore was a city that breathed. As for Mom, she had other ideas about Singapore:

Forget about the tour of Singapore’s urban spaces, avant-garde architecture, and efficient infrastructure; our restroom stops had already made a strong positive impression on Mom. Ever the practical one!

High-Flying Mom and the Transcendental Tourist: Singapore Flyer Souvenir Photo


25 thoughts on “A Bird’s Eye View of Singapore

  1. This is so close to India. You gave us a wonderful tour of the place with beautiful pictures.I salute your mamma’s spirit for travel. A true blue mother of the transcendental tourist.

    Joy always,

    1. So close there’s even a place called Little India in SG. Didn’t get to visit though, boo hoo. Oh, and who else would I take after? 🙂

      So see you in Nepal, Mrs Sus? That’s even closer to India!

  2. Lovely place to live! I’ve been to Singapore but I have not been to these places. Singapore is very clean but once you step in Little India, then it’s entirely different as if you are in India. A short distance is Malaysia Johur Bahru. Weather is unpredictable. You see nice weather then a sudden rain as if Nature will just water those trees. I would love to visit this place especially the Marina Bay Sands where you can swim on top. AJ, great shots with your mom. Ooops, you got your mom face too! (:.

    1. The Marina Bay area is a recent development. It’s the centerpiece of SG’s efficient urban and landscape planning. One thing we missed was Little India. We thought the Duck tour had that in the itinerary. But since we chose the flyer ride to go with it, it skipped Little India.

      Well, thank God the fruit doesn’t fall from the tree. 🙂

    1. Changi gives a pretty accurate foretaste of what SG is like: modern, efficient, organized, and clean. 🙂

      Your site looks new, but it’s a nice hub for some blog love. Thanks for the invite, Haris! I’ll share posts from each country represented in my blog. How’s that?

  3. Singapore is still one which will be tick off my bucketlist in Southeast Asia. I just love you had a great time with your mum and she seemed to be as fascinated as you of the grandness of SG. I am sure, if andyan na ako, il be gawking at places u had been to.

    1. SG made country bumpkins out of us. 😀 So many oddly shaped buildings and public art. I had thought it was urban bland; it’s actually quite avant garde. More than Tokyo even.

  4. thanks for the tip on what time is the best when riding the Flyer. I love Singapore because of how clean and modern it is. Though sometimes the humid air doesn’t fancy me as much. hehe

    1. Yeah, clean and modern (and I must add, efficient) is really a change of pace for us Manileños. They say SG’s antiseptic environment is soulless and cold. I say, give me soulless then rather than a dirty, chaotic city with character. 😀

  5. Hi Aniano,
    Greetings from Singapore DUCKtours! If you had enjoyed yourself during when you were onboard our DUCK tour, we would greatly appreciate if you could drop us a review on our TripAdvisor page (http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Attraction_Review-g294265-d455288-Reviews-DUCKtours-Singapore.html).

    Thank you and we look forward to seeing you and your mum (together with your sister perhaps) again on our tours!

    DUCK and HiPPO team

    1. Hi Olivia! I was with my elderly mom so we didn’t venture out of the Orchard and Marina Bay areas. We even completely ignored Sentosa! I’m not a good resource person on SG. I love art though, so if you’re the artsy type, don’t miss the museums and the street art. Nothing like what we have in Manila.

    1. Hi Katrina! Tell your mom the flyer capsule floor area is wide enough. She can sit on the bench in the middle and still see the sights.

  6. Really awesome article. I am writing about 5 options to get a bird view of singapore. Definitely will share that..

  7. I didn’t really got the chance to ride the Singapore Flyer thinking that you can actually see the things you see there in the Sky PArk or the balcony of a hotel in the area; but then, I suppose I need to try it. Really need to try it. Thanks for convincing me! :))

    1. Right Yenny, you can prolly get the same view from Sky Park. My friend stayed at the 70-storey Swissotel and his photos looked the same as mine from the Flyer. But then, the Flyer is an experience in itself.

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