150 metres. That’s the length of the infinity edge swimming pool on the 57th floor – the world’s largest rooftop swimming pool. Wrapped around the swimming pool is a skypark, with 360 degree views of the surrounding city. You can step off the deck into any one of four restaurants, and a lounge. All to be found on the 57th floor of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The 57th floor is balanced on three tapering structures just like a playing card balanced on other cards.
Welcome to the largest hotel in Singapore and one of the most iconic structures on the planet. And we are only just getting started on our tour of this tourist destination built from a port settlement.
The written history of Singapore dates back to the third century, and the Kingdom of Singapura rose to importance during the 14th century when it became an important port and later a major port city. The city passed through Japanese rule during World War II and reverted to British control after. It experienced increased levels of self government ending in a merger with Malaysia in 1963 but was expelled and became an independent republic in 1965.
Facing severe unemployment and a housing crisis, Singapore embarked on a modernisation programme beginning in the late 1960s through the 1970s that focused on establishing a manufacturing industry, developing large public housing estates and investing heavily in public education. By the 1990s, the country had become one of the world’s most prosperous nations, with a highly developed free market economy, strong international trading links, and the highest per capita gross domestic product in Asia outside Japan.
The prosperity of Singapore led to the development of a very robust tourist industry which is in turn a major contributor to the country’s economy with over fifteen million international visitors in 2015. That is very significant for a nation with a population of just over five and a half million people.
What is responsible for the large number of visitors? Apart from some truly amazing attractions, Singapore has a very low crime rate, remains environmentally friendly and maintains strong natural and heritage conservation programs. English is the most dominant of the four languages and helps communication with the locals made up of Chinese, Malay and Indians. And there’s very good transportation which helps visitors to get to the many street food locations dotted around the city while making their way around the different tourist attractions.
So what’s there to see in Singapore? Let’s go back to the 57th floor. When you look out from the poolside, you have what is termed as the city view with the financial district laid out right in front of you on the other side of the Marina Bay. Just next to the financial district is the world famous Orchard Road district, which is dominated by multi-storey shopping centres and hotels, and can be considered the centre of tourism in Singapore.
Still poolside, if you look at the ground level from the 57th floor, you will see the rest of what comprises the Marina Bay Sands resort complex. This resort includes a 2,561-room hotel, a 120,000-square-metre convention-exhibition centre, the 74,000 square-metre The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands mall, the ArtScience Museum, two large theatres, “celebrity chef” restaurants, two floating Crystal Pavilions housing Louis Vuitton and Pangaea Club, a skating rink, and the world’s largest atrium casino with 500 tables and 1,600 slot machines.
On the right side of the poolside view can be spotted the Singapore Flyer, which is much like the London Eye. The back view from the 57th floor reveals what is probably the most iconic of Singapore’s garden developments, Gardens by the Bay. Gardens by the Bay is a nature park spanning 101 hectares of reclaimed land in central Singapore, adjacent to the Marina Reservoir.
The Gardens by the Bay include two cooled conservatories – the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest, that are an energy efficient showcase of sustainable building technologies and provide an all-weather edutainment space within the Gardens. Both are very large (around 1 hectare) and the Flower Dome is the world’s largest column-less glasshouse. Rainwater is collected from the surface and circulated in the cooling system which is connected to tree like structures known as Supertrees. The Supertrees are used both to vent hot air and to cool circulated water, have connecting walkways and provide a night light show as only some of their features.
Looking to the right side of the rear view on the 57th floor, Sentosa Island can be seen in the distance. Sentosa Island includes Resorts World Sentosa with the following attractions: Universal Studios Singapore; Adventure Cove Waterpark; S.E.A. Aquarium; The Maritime Experiential Museum; Dolphin Island; and Festive Walk. Hotels within the resort include: Crockfords Tower; Equarius Hotel; Festive Hotel; Hard Rock Hotel; Hotel Michael; Beach Villas and Genting Hotel Jurong.
Out of view of the 57th floor are many other significant tourist attractions including the Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari, which allows people to explore Asian, African and American habitats at night without any visible barriers between guests and the wild animals. The Singapore Zoo has embraced the ‘open zoo’ concept whereby animals are kept in enclosures, separated from visitors by hidden dry or wet moats, instead of caging the animals, while the River Safari, features 10 different ecosystems around the world, including the River Nile, Yangtze River, Mississippi, Amazon as well as the Tundra and has 300 species of animals, including numerous endangered species.
The Singapore Botanic Gardens is a 156-year-old tropical garden located at the fringe of Singapore’s main shopping belt. It is one of three gardens, and the only tropical garden, to be honored as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Botanic Gardens has been ranked Asia’s top park attraction since 2013, by TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards. It was declared the inaugural Garden of the Year, International Garden Tourism Awards in 2012, and received Michelin’s three-star rating in 2008.
There’s also the Jurong Bird Park, another zoological garden centred on birds, which is dedicated towards exposing the public to as much species and varieties of birds from around the world as possible, including a flock of one thousand flamingos.
We have certainly not exhausted the list of places to see and things to do in Singapore but we cannot leave our tour without a mention of street food. Two modest food stalls in Singapore made history recently by becoming the first street vendors to be recognised by the prestigious Michelin Guide. Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle and Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle were among 29 dining venues to feature in the new Singapore guide.
With its 100-plus open-air “hawker” centres and 6,000 stalls selling traditional food, Singapore is the first south-east Asian country in the world, and the fourth in Asia, to be rated by the Michelin Guide.
If you do decide to visit this city with its rich history, tourist attractions and great street food, make sure you stop by the 57th floor and see a good third of Singapore from one location.
Written by Babatunde Olaoluwa Jeje and published in This Day Style