Day I: Arrival in Singapore

Twenty-three hours airborne.

After an exhaustingly long day of travelling, our plane, United Flight No. 1, touched down in Singapore early Sunday morning, a full day and a half after we departed Philadelphia on Friday afternoon.

After we arrived at our hotel, the Four Seasons Singapore, we ate a quick breakfast and promptly went to sleep. We ended up sleeping far longer than we’d anticipated and awoke just in time for the day’s scheduled activity, a brief tour of the city of Singapore.

Singapore is a densely populated city-state that gained independence from Great Britain in the early 1960s. Since that time, it has established itself as a major player in the finance, shipping, and petroleum industries, helped by low corporate taxes and an extremely livable urban environment. Singapore boasts the world’s second busiest port and the world’s most critically acclaimed airport, and is widely regarded as the most expensive city on Earth. The official language of Singapore is Malay, but English is by far the most widely spoken and used language within the tiny nations borders.

Most of the city’s residents live in high-rise buildings. The astronomical cost of rent in the city is partially alleviated by government housing subsidies. Here, a collection of residential buildings:

The city’s wealthy residents live in privately owned condominium buildings, where prices can range into the tens of millions of American dollars. Even more expensive are the city’s few low-rise homes with land, which can exceed $100 million in price. Here, a complex of ultra-luxury condos.

The Merlion is the unofficial symbol of Singapore, representing the fusion between the old and the new. The most famous Merlion statue is located on Marina Bay, but there are a total of five such statues to be found throughout the city.

More shots of the cityscape, almost entirely comprised of new, high-tech structures.

Viewed from the city’s second-highest point:

The city’s central business district, which is almost entirely made up of international and local banks. It is often referred to as the “Wall Street of Southeast Asia."

The Marina Bay Sands hotel is Singapore’s most famous building. It is the most expensive casino ever built and features a full shopping mall with brands such as Tiffany and Louis Vuitton, movie theatres, a convention centre, and three hotel towers supporting the Skypark, which houses a restaurant, bar, swimming pool, and overlook. Also on the property is the flower-shaped ArtScience Museum.

At the sprawling Gardens by the Bay, engineers have constructed a grove of so-called “supertrees.” These are sustainable, self-sufficient “green” structures which generate their own electricity, collect rainwater, and absorb carbon dioxide. Some include walkways and viewing platforms, and the tallest even has a restaraunt!

Lastly, this 1,000-foot-long dam, the Singapore Barrage, separates Marina Bay from the Pacific Ocean. On the left side of the bridge is the freshwater bay, dotted with tourist boats and lined with skyscrapers. On the right is Singapore Harbor, filled with huge container ships and oil tankers docking at the city’s busy port. 

Singapore is a sleek, efficient city, a testament to the incredible pace of modern innovation and a living, breathing exhibition of the capabilities of engineering and technology. In just fifty-three years, the tiny nation has gone from barren British colony to a commercial and financial powerhouse.

Tomorrow, we take a more cultural look at Singapore, visiting the city’s smaller neighborhoods before boarding our ship, which will take us to Georgetown and Langkawi, in Malaysia, as well as Phuket, Thailand.

- Hayden M. Strong

Fun Fact: Singapore’s passport is the most widely accepted in the world, granting entry to 182 nations without a visa.

© Knstrong 2013