Marina Bay Singapore is the glitzy, showy, wow factor that Singapore wants to convey to the world.
This area is where Singapore started and, with a bit - well, actually a stretch - of imagination, one can picture Chinese junks and Indonesian padewakangs cruising into the settlement, docking along the Singapore River and unloading barrels, casks and bales.
Today, the area is the canvas for the appealing skyline of the CBD on one side, the imposing, if somewhat awkward, silhouette of the Marina Bay Sands complex on the other - flanked by the lotus-shaped ArtScience Museum -, and the durian-like double bulbs of the Esplanade as well as the distinctively colonial Fullerton Hotel on the third.
The area is being further developed towards the sea, with a 200 hectare garden and park area - Gardens by the Bay - slated for opening in 2012 onwards.
A good way to way to spend some time here is simply taking a walk around Marina Bay Singapore in either direction and enjoying the views.
A good place to start is at the MRT station at the Esplanade.This is Marina Bay Singapore's main venue of theaters and hosts a variety of plays and concerts. The complex has - what else - a smallish mall, restaurants and bars integrated within.
Check out the rooftop terrace for a nice view of the bay and the Merlion just across the water. There is also a nice open-air amphitheater just outside on the waterfront where you can catch free concerts or events - sometimes really good ones.
The building is interesting in that the original glass bulb domes let in so much heat that reflecting panels were installed to keep temperatures manageable inside. The domes now look like the much-hated, much-loved Durian fruit from afar and give the whole complex its character.
The parking lot below is a great place to leave the car, and not too expensive either.
Leave the Esplanade, keep the water on your right, move along the bayfront and the somewhat run down (strange, in Singapore?) floating platform towards the
Marina Bay Singapore - Helix Bridge.
This pedestrian bridge was opened along with the the Marina Bay Sands complex in 2010 and takes you across the water to the mall and ArtScience Museum.
The bridge's construction symbolizes a double helix and is lit up in various colors at night. Lights have been set into the walkway with the letters C,G,A and T to symbolize the DNA bases cytosine, guanine, adenine and thymine.
Although architecturally interesting, the nicest part of the bridge is actually the viewing platforms with great views of the Marina Bay Singapore, the skyline across the water and the lotus-shaped ArtScience museum.
Come at dusk and maybe even during a visible moon and you can't help but be impressed by the lights and beauty.
At this point, instead of crossing the bridge, simply go straight another 200 meters (about 220 yards) to take a ride on the
This 165 meter (540 ft) high cabin-wheel offers a gentle view of Marina Bay Singapore, the many, many ships at berth and the surrounding islands of Malaysia and Indonesia.
Next to a simple ride - they call it a flight - you can also book a cabin for parties or dinner.
The building below has a small shopping area. There is a small garden and ponds at basement level and if you really want to fly, you can go to the second level and book a flight simulator at the
Flight Experience,This highly realistic flight simulator lets you pilot a Boeing 737 most anywhere in the world and gives you a good feel for the many tasks and jobs of a commercial pilot while taking off and landing. Good fun!
Now that you have flown the flyer and piloted a commercial jet, come back to earth and saunter back to the Helix bridge, cross over and reach the ArtScience Museum, which was designed to look like an open hand or lotus bloom.
It is very distinctive and certainly an eye-catcher along the waterfront.
The museum, which is a bit pricey, houses traveling exhibitions ranging from Dali and Van Gogh to sunken treasures from Chinese junks and artifacts from the Titanic (2012).
Check their site for current exhibitions or just sit outside next to the lotus pool and have a look at the
Marina Bay Sands complex.
This huge complex houses a casino, musical theater, a very high-end mall and promenade.
It is very distinctive due to its three towers that are spanned by a ship-like platform.
Check out the viewing platform and the already famous infinity pool that makes you feel like you'll fall into the bay if you swim too far out.
The pool is only for hotel guests, but the viewing platform is open to the public and is even free sometimes.
The musical theater hosts your usual array of popular musicals such as Lion King or Wicked (2012), while the mall boasts high-end boutiques and starred restaurants.
The Marina Bay Sands casino caters to the regional rich and offers your typical range of gaming and other services for the discerning high-roller.
Although impressive, I always feel like the whole place is just a tad soulless, but maybe that's just me.
Try 'ice-skating' in the rink in the basement level while watching diners in the surrounding food court watch you waddle and fall: the surface of the rink is made of hard plastic covered in a special chemical solution. Skating here requires relearning your technique to more of a striding motion rather than pushing against ice as in a normal rink.
Good fun, but you will sweat your pores out within ten minutes.
Continue walking along the MBS complex, keeping the waterline on your right and reach the promontory, the outskirts of the CBD and the waterfront walk with bars, restaurants and the Fullerton Bay Hotel(not be confused with the Fullerton Hotel).
You can cross the busy street via an underground passage to have a look at the
This grand old dame of colonial-style architecture used to be the Post Office and is now a luxury hotel.
Interestingly, the inside is not quite as grand as the architecture outside suggest, but still nice enough.
Try out the Fullerton Chocolate Buffet on Fridays and Saturdays and die a death by chocolate. You have to try it to believe it and at about SGD 50 - why not?
Don't expect to be thinner afterwards, though.
Leave the Fullerton, cross the Singapore River on an old colonial footbridge, take a right again onto the colonial-style car bridge and cross over to Merlion Park to see the Merlion.
This distinctive mascot of Singapore stands tall and proud, spewing water into Marina Bay Singapore, stoically enduring hundreds of tourists taking pictures at any given time. Behind the big one is a small one - at 2 meters (almost 7 feet) still big enough. Have a meal or coffee along the promenade here and then cross the modern car bridge back to the Esplanade.
Marina Bay Singapore - try the whole route at night - between laser shows, skyscraper lights and reflections in the waters of Marina Bay, what more can you wish for?
Back to more Singapore attractions....