One huge flyer, 2 feet, 3 small wheels and 4 F1 tyres
Singapore is my destination of choice. It offers everything for which any civilised traveller could hope: vibrant and delicious food (eating is a universal hobby here), friendly locals and a rich and diverse heritage. Singapore has a wealth of contemporary design and fashion outlets, alongside history and traditional culture, still very much alive on the peninsular.
This is the land of the short break, so how does one make the best of just a few days on that first visit (for there will doubtless be many happy returns)? What would constitute an overview? How to see lots without the kids complaining?
The Singapore Flyer
The quintessential ‘overview’ must surely be that afforded by the Singapore Flyer. This is the wheel that dominates the Singapore horizon, higher than the London version and in fact the world’s largest observation wheel. This month (April 2012) the Flyer will celebrate its 4th year.
Singapore Flyer stands 165m from the ground at its highest point and gives stunning views of Marina Bay, the city of Singapore and even across to Malaysia and Indonesia. The cargo ships offshore will remind you that despite its exotic charm Singapore has one of the world’s busiest ports in terms of total shipping tonnage and it’s the world’s busiest container port.
Strategically located at the new developments of Marina Bay, the Flyer has 28 air-conditioned capsules from which your view will slowly change – historical and cultural buildings and neighbourhoods like Chinatown, Little India, the financial district and now Marina Bay Sands. That’s the beautiful and impressive 3-towered structure with a boat-like platform straddling those skyscrapers. High-flyers on this wheel can indulge in a flute of Moët & Chandon Champagne, a glass of Singapore Flyer Signature Cocktail or a version of the Singapore Sling. Those who are celebrating and who want an exclusive experience while enjoying those views can take advantage of the world’s first full-butler Sky Dining on board the Singapore Flyer.
The Singapore Flyer extravaganza doesn’t end with your landing. Back at ground level there is a lush tropical rainforest as the centre-piece of a three-storey shopping mall. There is a waterfront dining promenade and a street-food option for those who want a retro eating adventure. It’s called The Singapore Food Trail and presents a selection of old-fashioned food carts (you will remember them from the Singapore of the 1960s if you’re of a certain age, like me) which will give you the chance to try so much that is typically local and delicious. Try Nasi Lamak from one of the carts – rice, chicken, spicy sauce, dried anchovies and a fried egg.
Singapore Flyer opening hours:
Daily flights: 8:30am – 10:30pm – last admission: 10:15pm
Ticket sales: 8:00am – 10:00pm
Visit the Singapore Flyer here
Singapore F1 – the Ultimate Drive
Singapore Flyer is the only observation wheel to be part of a Formula One Grand Prix race circuit. It is a rotating grandstand at the F1 night race in Singapore.
The Singapore Grand Prix is a celebrated motor race, currently in the calendar of the FIA Formula One World Championship. It is held at the foot of the Singapore Flyer in the Marina Bay area of Singapore. The event was resurrected in 2008 and was the championship’s first night race; it was won by Renault F1 team with Spaniard Fernando Alonso driving.
It would be a horrible tease to show you the circuit from your vantage point of the Flyer and then not invite you to take a closer look – a very close look. The ‘Ultimate Drive’ is a 15-minute or half-hour experience that will take you around most of the track used by those famous F1 racers.
‘Ultimate Tour’ is an extended option that will allow you to get your eye in on the F1 circuit before taking to the local freeway for around an hour of performance driving. This extended route will give you plenty of opportunity to discover the power of a Lamborghini or a Ferrari. If you are a couple then you can have one car apiece and swap your Supercars halfway through the tour and experience the pleasure of each of these celebrated vehicles.
The Endearing Trishaw Uncle
There are still a few of us around – that dying breed of folk who don’t drive. I can appreciate a Supercar for its superb lines and gleaming paint finish even though I couldn’t turn a wheel myself. I won’t be driving when I visit Trishaw Uncle, either.
There are truly quite a lot of Uncles and that might encourage the untutored to come to the conclusion that everyone in Singapore must be related! The term Uncle or Aunty is used by younger people to show respect. In this case the Uncles are the trishaw riders on the streets of Singapore.
It’s a quaint mode of transport that was a necessity before the era of the combustion engine. Originally the vehicle would have been a 2-wheel affair and pulled by a wiry gentleman. Eventually a bike was tacked on the side and the contraption was driven by that same surprisingly powerful style of men, mostly labourers who formed the historic work pool of Singapore. Trishaw Uncle is a term of respect for the riders, and it’s the name of the company that employs them.
Trishaw Uncle is introducing a new fleet of 100 battery-assisted trishaws. It’s tough work and some of the Uncles left youth behind a while back, but they are just the sort of characters to enhance your ride, with faces that one would want to sketch. A bit of electric assistance must be welcome.
Take one of the Trishaw excursions on offer. There is even a taped commentary which is piped to your bench – a relief to the nervous who will want Uncle to keep his concentration on the road. One does initially feel a little exposed, and particularly if you are used to having the metalwork of a 4 x 4 between you and other transport, but there honestly is no need to worry. These chaps spend their days negotiating the traffic and other drivers are aware of these knights of the road. After a few minutes you will relax into your seat and enjoy the sights at close quarters.
That’s the beauty of this expedition – no glass between you and the action. It’s all at eye level and passing slowly enough for you to snap some pictures and take note of shops to return to or restaurants to visit. It’s all conducted at a very civilised pace. You will smell flower garlands, munch some Subcontinental snacks as you drive though Little India; you might spot a Buddhist family burning paper money and even a paper iPhone to honour departed family members. This is Singapore in all its colourful diversity, and you are in the middle of this moving tapestry.
Trishaw Uncle offer a couple of tours so visit them here
Starting point: Albert Mall Trishaw Park
Ending point: Albert Mall Trishaw Park
Highlights: Bugis and Little India
Duration: Approximately 30 minutes (subject to traffic conditions)
Starting point: Albert Mall Trishaw Park
Ending point: Singapore River Cruise, Liang Court Jetty
Highlights: Bugis, Little India and Singapore River
Duration: Approximately 45 minutes (subject to traffic conditions)
The Albert Mall Trishaw Park is Trishaw Uncle’s home base where they wait and from where they operate their trishaws. It’s located at Queen Street between the Fu Lu Shou Complex and Albert Centre Market and Food Centre.
Trishaw Uncle opens daily from 11am to 10pm
So you are visiting Singapore for a few days and you have, it seems, spent much of your time sitting. The landscape has moved before your eyes with little energy used by the viewer. You need an outing that will make you feel healthy and noble and which will show you another face of Singapore: Henderson Waves. It’s not a water park with indoor surfing and slides, although this structure does indeed have waves.
Henderson Waves was commissioned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore following an international competition. The commission was awarded to IJP Corporation and RSP Architects, Planners and Engineers in 2004, with concept and scheme design engineering by Adams Kara Taylor Consulting Civil and Structural Engineers. They have been worthy of the task and brave in their vision. It’s organic, contemporary and appropriate for its use and the environment. Henderson Waves constitutes the highest point of The Southern Ridges, which is a 9km trail connecting parks along the hills of Singapore.
At 36 metres above Henderson Road, Henderson Waves is an unforgettable landmark. It is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore and was built to connect the two hills of Mount Faber and Telok Blangah Hill. It has a unique ‘wave’ form constructed of seven curved steel beams that create a unique walkway.
Slats of yellow balau wood form the surface of the walkway. This wood comes from Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. It is a tropical hardwood very much like teak, and often used for garden furniture. It isn’t yellow in colour but a soft natural grey. The timbers undulate and wrap over to create shade for sun-kissed walkers.
This footbridge is 284 metres long and was built at a cost of S$25.5 million and it’s the largest project of its kind in Southeast Asia. Its curves mimic the undulations of the landscape and offer not only a casual arena for gentle exercise but also a platform from which to admire the city, and a tranquil (mostly) refuge from the activity of modern life. Stroll through tree tops and listen to the birds.
Travel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018