Chennai, Aug 25 (IANS) With seat-belt buckled and waiting for the Scoot Airlines flight to take off, I involuntarily started to hum “Darling, Darling I love You” and “Joyful Singapore, Colourful Malaysia”.
Given that these are hit Tamil numbers shot in Singapore, you might have guessed that it was to the tiny city-state that I was headed.
After landing safely at the famed Changi Airport, we — some fellow journalists and I — reached the Ibis Styles budget hotel, a part of the French hospitality group Accor Hotels.
The room was functional, but for a budget Indian tourist who is expected to come to the room only to sleep, it was fine at a tariff of Singapore $138.
For the more well-heeled seeking to savour different grades of luxury, the Accor group offers Mercure, Sofitel and Sofitel Sentosa Resort and Spa at the Sentosa island where one can enjoy serene surroundings, beautiful peacocks and good food by the seaside.
After breakfast at the Chat and Chow restaurant at Ibis Styles, we headed for Little India where many Tamilian-owned shops are located, selling jewellery, textiles and a host of other merchandise.
While walking around the area, I came across a portable table that had a couple of laptops and a board stating “Old and New Tamil Songs Recorded Here”. A casual chat with the owner, T. Saravanan, revealed him to be a post-graduate in computer science who landed in Singapore around five years back.
“My college education was at Pudukottai in Tamil Nadu. I decided to look overseas for better opportunities. I am happy with the business,” Saravanan told IANS.
After burning a few calories by briskly walking around Little India, we decided to head to the nearby Tekka Centre where a multitude of outlets offer a wide variety of local food — mutton biryani, satay, Hainanese chicken rice, nyonya laksa, and much else.
I opted for nyonya laksa — a spicy, soupy seafood noodle — that tasted great. The Hainanese chicken Rice shared by a group member also tasted good.
With the common sparrow nearly extinct in Chennai, it was nice to see many of them at the Tekka Centre.
From there it was onward to the Arab Quarter in Rochor where shops owned by Muslims vend clothes, carpets, curios, and all kinds of decorative items.
While wandering around, we came across the “selfie street” — or Haji Lane on which several fashion boutiques, pubs and cafes are located. With the outer walls of the shops featuring attractive graffiti, clicking a selfie was de rigueur, whether one actually shopped or not.
One of the city’s many tourist attractions is the Singapore Flyer — a giant wheel — which gives you a bird’s eye view of the cityscape from inside a glass capsule. One boards the capsule while on the move as the wheel moves at a snail’s pace.
The Flyer allows you to enjoy views of the Marina Bay, Gardens by the Bay, the harbour and sky-scrappers on different sides. I was asked by friends not to remind them about the English movie “Final Destination”.
From the Flyer it is a short walk to Gardens by the Bay, a beautiful nature park set up on 101 hectares of reclaimed land. A long, slow walk in the neatly laid-out park is a must not only to burn a few calories but to enjoy the quiet surroundings.
News in the evening that Indonesian police had arrested six persons who were allegedly planning an attack on Gardens by the Bay added some thrill to the day’s experience.
Walking around the streets of China Town one came across the Mariamman Temple — the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore — which is built just like the temples back home in Tamil Nadu. There is also the over 100-year-old Krishnan Temple near the Mercure Hotel on Singapore’s Middle Road.
Dinner was at China Town Eat Street where one can get local delicacies from the roadside vendors as well as restaurants. There are also fine-dining options such as the Artichoke on Middle Road where one can savour a slow-roasted lamb shoulder or smoked chicken.
For shopaholics, there is the Bugis Market to buy clothes, souvenirs, bags, toys and several other items.
Though the itinerary this time did not include visits to the Jurong Bird Park, Universal Studios or the Night Safari, with low-cost airlines like Scoot now flying into Singapore from Chennai, one can always plan a second trip.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan was recently in Singapore at the invitation of Accor Hotels and Scoot Airlines, supported by the Singapore Tourism Board. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)