We spend most of our time mid week relaxing, exercising, and pottering around the local area, rather than rampaging around Singapore trying to tick everything off our sightseeing checklist.
However on one particularly productive day we made our way to the ArtScience Museum, which turned out to be one of the best museums we’d been to on this trip. Singapore does museums very well and the ArtScience Museum sets a high standard. It’s located within the Marina Bay Sands area and boasts some pretty spectacular architecture. The building is iconic, resembling a lotus flower and also referred to as ‘the welcoming hand of Singapore’. The design concept is that each ‘finger’ indicates various gallery spaces, sporting skylights at the tips and creating a lot of light inside as a result.
We paid to view two of the three exhibitions showing at the time; ‘Future World’ and ‘HUMAN+’. Both were captivating and we easily spent an hour and half nosing round each exhibition, but could have stayed longer. The ‘Future World’ exhibit immersed us into a world of high-tech interactive experiences, created in collaboration with a Japanese art collective. This world of art, science and magic was created via a collection of cutting edge digital installations. We enjoyed colouring our own masterpieces to be displayed in the gallery and the final light installation piece was particularly mesmerizing.
The ‘HUMAN+ The Future of Our Species’ exhibit asked ‘what would it feel like to be human 100 years from now?’ It questioned where the boundaries of cyborgs, superhumans, clones and genetic modifications should lie. Many of the ideas were scarily plausible indications of what’s to come, with some of them a cause for optimism and others deeply unsettling.
Naomi’s Dad and Silvia only moved to Singapore in February this year so they were keen to enjoy many of the sights with us at the weekends. It’s a real bonus when you have personal tour guides to show you around a new city.
As soon as Friday night rolls round, River Valley Road is in weekend mode; the glad rags are thrown on and we’re sniffing out the cocktail menus. It was our third weekend in Singapore when we met up with Mark after work at the National Gallery to see the Yayoi Kasuma exhibition: ‘Life is the Heart of a Rainbow’. Japanese born Yayoi is one of the world’s most influential artists, selling her striking pieces for as much as $5.1 million. She’s known for her iconic dots, nets, pumpkins and infinity rooms. This particular exhibit explored her work over 7 decades with 4 galleries for us to enjoy. Not only was her artwork incredible, Yayoi was also a very interesting person to learn about as she grew up during WWII and experienced hallucinations, eventually checking herself into a psychiatric institution where she resides today. It explained much of the artwork presented as we briefly occupied ourselves into the mind of Yayoi that evening.
After browsing Yayoi’s magnificent work and agreeing that we all love her, it was time for a cocktail at Smoke and Mirrors, conveniently situated on the roof of the National Gallery. With panoramic views of the Padang and Marina Bay, it was possibly one of our favourite bars in Singapore so far. The cocktail menu was also very impressive with some obscure and unusual flavours making for a unique selection to choose from.
Mark and Silvia continued to spoil us with tickets to see Cirque du Soleil the following night. We arrived at the big top to see ‘KOOZA’, ‘combining acrobatic performance and the art of clowning, while exploring fear, identity, recognition and power. The innocent’s journey brings him in contact with comic characters from an electrifying world of surprises, thrills, audacity and total involvement.’ To be honest we didn’t really know what was going on in KOOZA as far as the storyline was concerned. All we knew for sure was that Cirque du Soleil was MINDBLOWING. We often throw away adjectives like ‘jaw dropping’, ‘unbelievable’, ‘incredible’ and so on. KOOZA was literally all of these things and more. As we sat in the audience and watched one superhuman do a backflip strapped to a one legged stilt and land it perfectly, our jaws were on the floor. We had to look at each other every now and then to double check what we’d seen had actually happened and to mouth a few expletives. The show was unbelievably good and we were buzzing on the adrenalin hours after it had ended.
To calm us down we had no choice but to explore another roof top bar and chill out with some drinks. We headed to LeVeL33 Craft Brewery just round the corner in the Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower. The copper brew house kettles take centre stage as all of the beer is made up on the 33rd floor. Whilst Mark and Silvia had cocktails, we shared a beer paddle to sample as many varieties as we could.
To top off an already fantastic weekend, the four of us made our way to China Town on Sunday afternoon. China Town is less of an enclave than it once was, however the area does retain an important cultural and historical significance. We were about to find out all about this as we arrived for a tour at the Chinatown Heritage Centre. The Chinatown Heritage Centre allows its visitors to trace the footsteps of Singapore’s early pioneers and discover the stories of the people who made Chinatown their home. Jez was our wonderful tour guide for the duration of the 90-minute whiz round the huge building. Located within three beautifully restored shop houses on Pagoda Street, the Chinatown Heritage Centre is the only place in Singapore that has recreated the original interiors of its shop house tenants from the 1950s. The 8 by 8 living quarters were simply furnished with each object telling its own story, providing an insight into the struggles, sacrifices and dreams of its humble inhabitants. Some were driven to Singapore by floods, famine, unrest and the hope of earning a living and seeking a better life.
We feel like we’re getting to know Singapore’s history and culture much better as we find our way round the surprisingly compact and navigable city. We feel the critics are unjustified in their claims against Singapore’s ‘squeaky clean’ and cultureless disposition. We’ve found there to be culture in abundance; areas like Little India, Chinatown, and the Arab Quarter are steeped in fascinating history. The more time we spend in Singapore, the more attached we’re becoming to this temporary home.