The Singapore MRT (Metro Rapid Transit)

One of the worlds truly great subway systems is the Singapore MRT and it is a solid innovator. Many of their systems are recognized and implemented worldwide. If you are lucky enough to get to Singapore for a visit you must use the MRT to get around the city. From the time you arrive at the airport you can take advantage of this remarkable transportation system.

The Marina Towers and the Omni at night.

First thing you need to know is one of the official languages of Singapore is English and virtually all signage here is in English. So not understanding the language is not an excuse. Second, the MRT is spotless as is all of Singapore. Saying a place is so clean you can eat off the floor is a common expression but it might actually be true in the MRT.

MRT Station

The Singapore Tourist Pass is a special ez-link card that offers tourists unlimited travel on Singapore’s basic bus services, MRT and LRT trains for the duration of the days purchased. You can now take in the sights and sounds of Singapore in the comfort of the island’s extensive MRT system and public bus network. If you are going to be in Singapore for a day or three you need a Singapore Tourist Pass. You can purchase the Singapore Tourist Pass at “Changi Recommends” counters at all Changi Airport terminals, SMRT Passenger Service Counters, and TransitLink Ticket Offices at Changi Airport or HarbourFront and all 7-Eleven stores. Be sure and have your passport.

TOURIST 1-DAY PASS $10   2-DAY PASS $16   3-DAY PASS $20

The pass also requires a $10 rental deposit that is refunded when you turn in the card.

Gardens By The Bay

If you don’t have a chance to get your ez-Link card the system offers an all-day ticket from the vending outlets in the stations. They are easy to understand and accept major credit cards. Since we were in Singapore three different times in some cases we found it cheaper to purchase one-way or roundtrip fares to specific destinations but in any case the fare on the MRT is a truly great deal.

With the MRT, even if you haven’t planned where you are going it isn’t hard to figure out. The popular destinations are clearly named on the route map like Botanic Garden, Chinatown, Little India, Marina Bay, Bayfront, Promenade, HarbourFront and Downtown.

Chinatown

A final thought about the MRT and Singapore in general; the people are great. They are always trying to be helpful and friendly. While riding on the MRT young people kept insisting we take their seats (and I didn’t think I looked THAT old). Even the train kept telling us to “mind the gap and have a happy happy”…

 

 

 

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Singapore

Most people, when they talk about Singapore, speak in superlatives but, the simple truth is, mere words just aren’t enough. We flew to Singapore on United 1 from San Francisco a seventeen plus hour flight

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Gardens by the Bay

and had booked a room at the Grand Mercure Singapore Roxy in the heart of the historic Katong District.

The hotel is halfway between the airport and the Marina Bay District and offered a free airport shuttle. The facility is

China Town

modern, the rooms are comfortable and the staff is friendly and helpful. A great buffet breakfast is offered and, depending on the category of stay, may be included in the rate. The location is near shopping malls (Parkway Parade Shopping Center is across the street) and restaurants and just a few blocks from East Coast Park.

After walking to the park, you are amazed by the view out to sea. It looks as if half the ships in the world are either anchored just off shore or are cruising by. Looking at a map you will notice that the South China Sea is blocked to the east by the Southeast Asia peninsula. The first opportunity that eastbound shipping has sailing from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam and all the other nations of the area is past Singapore and thru the Straights of Malacca (also sp. Melaka). That’s a lot of cargo bound for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and India all moving right past Singapore. That may also help explain why this city-state has become so rich and important.

The stories about the strict laws and their enforcement are mostly true. It seems that even chewing gum in Singapore is against the law because the government thinks it messes up the streets. When you arrive in country, your immigration form explains that selling drugs is punishable by death. While civil libertarians may be shocked, the obvious result is one of the most modern, safe and clean cities we have ever visited.

English is an official language taught in all schools along with Malay, Mandarin and Tamil but almost all signage is in English making it easy to get around and find things. The city boasts a world class rapid transit system, the MRT that is easy to access, purchase tickets for and understand. The system offers an all-day ticket but we found it cheaper to purchase roundtrip fares to specific destinations. The cleanliness is also striking. No graffiti anywhere and you could probably eat off the floors.

Singapore boasts dozens of world famous restaurants and clubs, a Universal Studios theme park, one of the world’s great zoos, a water park, aquarium and two botanical gardens, the newest and most spectacular being Gardens by the Bay. Almost everything can be reached via the MRT or an inexpensive taxi ride. The city also boasts a Chinatown and a Little India which offer inexpensive shopping and eating options.

Singapore is home to a number of Hindu Temples  because of the Indian labor brought in by the British when they established a trading post in the early nineteenth century. The oldest, Sri Mariamman Temple dates back to 1827. The Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple is located on Ceylon Road, a few blocks from the Grand Mercure Roxy. It was built by the Sri Lankan Tamils for the Hindu God Ganesha.

While not a destination for bargain hunters because of the high cost of living, the city is home to a number of malls and department stores along with high-end specialty shops. Singapore shows off with a modern skyline and one of the newer additions is the triple towers of the Marina Bay Sands. This complex features a hotel, a casino and 170 plus premium brand stores capped by a connecting roof garden floating at the top. It is home to a number of restaurants operated by the likes of Wolfgang Puck, David Myers and Gordon Ramsay.

The popular symbol of Singapore is the Merlion, a lion with the body of a fish. While there are supposedly a number of local legends about the history of the Merlion the truth is it was created for the tourist board in the sixties as a marketing tool. The official symbol of Singapore is a red graphic of a lion’s head.

Photos top to bottom: Singapore skyline at night, Gardens By The Bay, Chinatown, ships at anchor, MRT map and train, Botanical Gardens, Figure at Hindu Temple, Skyline featuring Marina Bay Towers


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