When my friend asked me to join his family for a vacation to Singapore, 4 months back, I agreed immediately. Our planning started immediately. We booked air tickets, planned for the accommodation. Domestic flight from Mangalore to Bangalore at that time was pretty expensive. So we dropped the idea for going via air and thought of depending on bus to reach Bangalore. Since we were looking for an airline which would take us to Singapore in a single flight we chose Tiger Air. The flight was a night journey reaching Singapore in the morning. Advantage of this was we saved one night’s stay in accommodation.
For our stay in Singapore we chose a hostel. We wanted to feel young again and wanted the carefree as well cheaper mode of accommodation. We also wanted to live inside the heritage part of Singapore rather than the typical “Little India” accommodation most travel agencies recommend. So we chose 5footway.inn hostel accommodation at Boat Quay is situated along Singapore River. Boat Quay, a historic port of Singapore, is a designated conservation area and has been restored and rehabilitated into a thriving entertainment and leisure hub.
For photography I chose a very simple gear. Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 which is a bridge camera with slightly large sensor than the rest of such camera. Nest Pioneer NT-235AK Tripod for easy portability just 30cm when folded and weighing a mere 1.1kg with its ball head all inside Lowepro Passport Sling bag. This allowed me to travel light while managing to capture all these photos you see here.
Since we were planning for traveling on our own in Singapore, we did not book anything else. Fortnight before departure we noticed the domestic flight tickets plummeted by half and it was advantageous to take Mangalore – Bangalore flight rather than struggling through Ghat roads on a bus. So on 11th November 2015 we left Mangalore via Spice jet flight to Bangalore.
We reached Bangalore from Mangalore on 11th late evening. 1:40 AM we left Kempegowda International Airport at Bangalore. The flight reached Changi Airport in Singapore at 8:40 Singapore time (Singapore time is +8 GMT). The total flight period was 4 hours 15 minutes. Once we finished customs formality at terminal 2, we set out to get our MRT pass inside airport terminal.
The EZ-Link card is a contact-less smart card based on the Sony FeliCa smart card technology and used for the payment of public transportation fares in Singapore, with limited use in the small payments retail sector. The card is commonly used in Singapore as a smartcard for paying transportation fees in the city-state’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), Light Rail Transit (LRT) and public bus services. Since we were planning to use both these services we got a 12SGD card at the airport. That card includes 7SGD of amount and 5SGD card cost. We can top it up at any MRT station kiosks. We also purchased 2 SIM cards for our mobile phone at 30SGD each. The purchase was hassle free and did not involve any of the roundabout way how we in India get our SIM card 😛 Just show your passport and buy the sim card. It was valid for 7 days with 30 mins of International calls and 101GB of 3G data.
Singapore has WiFi hotspots at most tourist attractions, so you can travel and use your mobile device without even having SIM card. But don’t make the mistake of converting Indian SIM card for international roaming 😀 You will be bankrupt by the time you return 🙂
Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) was our main mode of transport supplemented by efficient bus service. So we headed to MRT station at Changi airport and it was very easy to travel though the puzzle of changing three MRT trains and reaching Clarke Quay MRT station. We reached our hostel at around 11AM. After storing the luggage at their locker, we freshened ourselves and set out towards Chinatown as their check in time was 3PM.
Singapore’s Chinatown is an ethnic neighbourhood featuring distinctly Chinese cultural elements and a historically concentrated ethnic Chinese population. Chinatown is located within the larger district of Outram. The name Chinatown is given by the British and continues to be used by Singaporeans today, although the area retains the Chinese name Niu Che Shui. Since we all lacked sleep we decided just to visit Buddha’s tooth Relic temple.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum is a Buddhist temple and museum complex located in the Chinatown district of Singapore. The temple is based on the Tang dynasty architectural style and built to house the tooth relic of the historical Buddha. It is claimed that the relic of Buddha from which it gains its name was found in 1980 in a collapsed stupa in Myanmar.
We reached the temple by passing through maze of streets filled with sellers and tourists. You can see the glimpses of some of my capture in and around the temple here. We wanted to have lunch at Maxwell food court opposite the temple after visiting the temple. But the hunger from missing the breakfast took over us and we settled to try Chinatown Silk House Hawker center, behind temple. After sumptuous Hainanese Chicken Rice, Char Kuay Teow and Hokkien Prawn Mee, we went to visit the Buddha temple.
Hundred Dragons Hall is the main Temple Hall. It has a double volume space of 27-feet height, to accommodate the 15-feet Buddha Maitreya statue. All the interior fittings are designed according to Tang Dynasty Buddhist temple décor and fittings.We saw many devotees offering fresh Dendrobium Buddha Tooth orchids, perfumed candles and agarwood incense, whilst whispering their prayers and wishes. Buddha Maitreya is in the middle of the venerated Maitreya Trinity, with the Bodhisattva Dharma Garden Grove on the left and the Bodhisattva Great Wondrous Appearance on the right.
An example of Acala is seen at the Universal Wisdom Hall. Acala is a principal protector of Buddhism as the destroyer of delusion and passion. His immovability refers to that aspect of mind (Buddha Nature) which is forever unmoved, perfectly stable and unchanging. Despite his fearsome appearance, his role is to aid all beings by showing them the true essence of the teachings of the Buddha, leading them into perfect mental discipline.
Avalokitesvara is a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. He is one of the most popular, most complex and most widely revered bodhisattva in mainstream Mahayana Buddhism. He appeared early in the texts and imagery of Mahayana Buddhism in India. The belief in Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara entered China and spread rapidly after the 3rd century.
Samantabadra is one of the 12 Heavenly Generals protect and serve the Yakushi Nyorai (the Medicine Buddha). The twelve are Hindu Yakshas who were later incorporated into Buddhism as protective warriors. In Japanese sculpture and art, they are almost always grouped in a protective circle around the Yakushi Nyorai — they are rarely shown independently. Many say they represent the twelve vows of Yakushi; others say the 12 were present when the Historical Buddha introduced the “Healing Sutra;” yet others that they offer protection during the 12 daylight hours, or that they represent the 12 months and 12 cosmic directions, or the 12 animals of the 12-year Chinese zodiac.
The central panel behind Avalokiteshvara is a rendition of the Heart Sutra in Sanskrit using Siddha script characters. The text is spelt out in dark purple characters comprising of twenty-five vertical columns with a preface and colophon. The Sanskrit language is significant in Buddhism because it is one of the earliest languages in which Buddha’s teachings were first transcribed into its written form.
Yellow Dzambhala, is one of the five Gods of Wealth who takes care of fortunes. He is also chief of the yaksas and is parallel to Pancika, Kubera and Vaisravana. Dzambhala is the kulesa or emanation of Buddha Ratnasambhava. He is able to help beings by getting rid of poverty, and leading them to abundance of wealth.
By the time we finished the temple visit, it was 3 PM and we returned to our hostel to check in. Then it was time for much needed sleep.
Our Hostel 5footway.inn, Project Boat Quay is located in one of these shop houses and positioned between conserved colonial government buildings and Central Business District skyscrapers. It also provided us a picturesque view of Singapore River and elegant colonial architecture contrasting with modern skyscrapers and landmarks in the background. The rooms consisted of bunk beds available as individual rooms or dormitory format. We chose individual rooms for both our families. Online booking was easy with 10% advance payment.
Located in the heart of downtown Singapore, Project Boat Quay is one of 5footway.inn’s latest hostel. It’s only 5-minute walk away to Raffles MRT station or 8-minute walk to Clarke Quay MRT station. Project Boat Quay is more than just a hostel. It is also an art gallery. The team has collaborated with award-winning Singaporean photographer, Edwin Koo to install Gallery 76 into the common spaces of the hostel.
The layout feels like a maze but there are proper signages to guide us. At the 3rd floor of this restored shophouse is The Terrace, a common area where there is a cosy TV lounge, alfresco dining area, pantry with refrigerator, water dispenser and microwave oven. There is even a hot beverage dispenser machine which you can make a cup of Cappuccino, milo or teh tarik (hot tea) and enjoy a decent conversation 24×7. Free flow toast and cereal are available for breakfast is provided. The whitewashed room is small but comfortable. Besides the bed, there are lockers and a mirror. There are no TV or attached bathroom. For guys, the shared bathroom is located at level 3, and Ladies is located at level 2. Shower gel and shampoo are provided in the shared bathroom. Hostel culture is communal living, so one cannot expect hotel standard and service when one is only paying a fraction of price. Overall, it is good for a roof over your head in a superb location. Visit their website for more information and booking.
Later that evening after a good rest we took a walk around our room. Here are photos of the Singapore river and surrounding areas. The mouth of the Singapore River saw the beginnings of an ancient fishing village, Temasek, later renamed Singapura (in Malay means “Lion City”) by Sang Nila Utama, and in modern times founded by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1819. The Orang Laut (“Sea-Gypsies”) were the earliest known inhabitants in the area around the river mouth. In 1818 Temenggong Abdul Rahman arrived from Rhio with his followers and set up a village by the left bank of the river mouth. On that same bank one year later in 1819, he signed the historic treaty with Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.
The Singapore River spans 3.2 km from the sea to it’s upper reaches in Kim Seng Road. The Boat Quay banks in 1823 were first to have offices, warehouses, godowns and jetties; then subsequent developments continued up-river, along the banks of Clarke Quay, Robertson Quay, and later even further upstream, near the upper reaches and the source of the Singapore River. The first quay was built in 1823 on today’s Boat Quay, where major companies first set-up in Singapore, including the first European trading house founded by Alexander Laurie Johnston in 1820. Trade growth in the 1860s, gradually extended upstream, and by the late 1890s, there were godowns, ricemills, sawmills, Chinese-owned boat-yards, and an assortment of other trades and home industries. In the 1930s, the areas nearer the upper reaches of the river were heavily industrialised, with godowns and shophouses everywhere.
The river divided Singapore into the ‘commercial’ and ‘government’ sectors, and before the construction of bridges, the two sides were linked by dhonies (English spelling of Tamil word Thonee), row-boat operated by Indians. Propelled by oars, these small wooden boats were also outboard-motor driven and carried goods or passengers, or hawked snacks and sundry items. The much larger bumboats or lighters ferried goods for import and re-export. The “River Clean-up Campaign”, which began in September 1983, saw the last of a few hundred lighters and small boats on their final journey out of the river. Today, converted bumboats operate as river-taxis which carry sightseeing passengers, with pickup and disembarkation points along Boat Quay and Clake Quay.
After the “Clean-up Rivers Campaign” in the 1980s, the stone-walled banks were repaired, some new buildings including hotels have sprung up, and the old-time riverine and quayside businesses have given way to exciting recreational activities such as al fresco dining, “live music” entertainment and more. The river is now venue to many public events, and activities staged here.
The Singapore River is a story about change, of how a river contributed to the success of Singapore. In modern times, this legendary river will still be remembered for its old charm and its great importance in the history of Singapore. Nine bridges cross the river, namely Esplanade Bridge, Anderson Bridge, Cavenagh Bridge, Elgin Bridge, Coleman Bridge, Read Bridge, Ord Bridge, Clemenceau Bridge, and Kim Seng Bridge.
As the next day we wanted to visit Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari, we had an early dinner and went back to catch up the remaining sleep. Those details will be in the part 2 of this blog next week.
You can check all the other parts Singapore travel blog here
- Glimpses of Singapore Part 2
- Glimpses of Singapore Part 3
- Glimpses of Singapore Part 4
- Glimpses of Singapore Part 5
- Glimpses of Singapore Part 6