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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

Lion city…

Day 82/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise. Singapore.

We knew we were getting close to Singapore when we saw ships and ships as far as the eye could see.

Singapore is the second busiest port in the world receiving over 130,000 vessels annually and ranks second busiest, after Shanghai, so no wonder there were so many ships either going to, or coming from Singapore!

We still had quite some time before our noon docking so rather than do nothing, I went to the gym. I knew we would have a busy afternoon of walking, but it was still nice to get a workout in before our busy upcoming ports of call.

The skyline of Singapore is visible through the wet windows on the ship. Since the gym is on the starboard of the ship, I was able to watch us come into Singapore from the opposite side. Our balcony is on the port side.

We docked around noon and the all clear for the ship was pretty quick, at around 12:30pm. We had decided to have lunch before we left the ship, so we met up with Lyle and Linda in the World Cafe who had tried to get off the ship, but the line up was too long. With close to 900 people all eager to get on land, the exit on Deck 2 of the ship was backed up almost to the Star Theatre!

We had our lunch and then met Margaret on Deck 1 in the Living Room to proceed up to Deck 2, where she had just left Gene holding a place in line for us all. The line up to exit was still quite long, despite waiting an hour to exit the ship. We proceeded slowly down the cruise terminal gangway, and into the cruise terminal, only to be met with another very long snaked line to get through immigration. General Manager Ronald, was working the crowd and helping where he could to get people to move up in the line, but it was up to the Singapore Immigration authority to keep the line moving. It took us about 25 minutes to get through immigration, and then we had to proceed through the security screening area, where we went through metal detectors and our belongings were also scanned through the X-ray machines. There were a lot of warnings about what not to bring into Singapore.

Our first stop after we got through Immigration and security was to buy our 3 day Tourist Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) passes. We knew that we would be on our own in Singapore and to get around, the best option was to get transit passes. The 3 day pass per person was $30 SGD but when we return the passes on the day we leave Singapore, we will get $10SGD back. So for two people to get around Singapore for 3 days would cost us only $40SGD.

The sign for the Singapore Tourist MRT pass was between the ship and Singapore Immigration. A great place to ‘hook’ in the tourists who didn’t want to be on excursions offered by the Neptune, like us.

The MRT office in Harbourfront Station. Perfectly set up for tourists coming off cruise ships to get their MRT passes.

We had booked a VIATOR tour and we were to meet at Telok Ayer exit ‘A’ on the MRT at 3pm. We had to take the purple line from Harbourfront where the Neptune was docked, to the Chinatown station and transfer to the blue line and go one stop south to Telok Ayer. The metro in Singapore works exactly the same as the metro in Paris. If you know what station is at the end of the line, that is the direction to go if your stop is along that line. Transfer stations are all clearly marked with one, two or three different colours where all the MRT lines come together.

Singapore MRT map.

We easily managed to find our way through the Harbourfront MRT station and got on the beautifully air conditioned, modern train to Chinatown. We managed the transfer to the blue line quite handily and then got off at Telok Ayer exit A, at 2:50pm. Perfect. We were hot sitting in the sun waiting for our guide to show up from Viator, but we had a bench to sit on, so we were fine. We waited and waited and waited, and no guide showed up! I finally turned on my data and called Viator to ask where our tour guide was, only to be told, that the person at Viator could not get ahold of the guide, so they would issue a full refund. Wonderful, but now what do we do? I looked at the tour that we were supposed to be on to find the highlights of the tour, and we all decided that we would try and do the tour ourselves, without the guide.

Since we had already figured out the MRT system, and we had our transit passes, we jumped back on the MRT and went to the Chinatown station. Now that I had my data turned on, we could easily use the trip planner from the Singapore MRT, which was super easy to use as long as you knew what station you needed to get to, the trip planner showed us where the transfer points were. Anyway, off we went to Chinatown!

Singapore’s name comes from the Malay language and which breaks the name down into Singa (LION) and Pura (CITY), or in other words Singapore is the Lion City. The Chinese have over a 700 year history of living in Singapore. Chinese migration to Singapore has been happening since the 19th century, after the founding of Singapore as a free port by Stamford Raffles in 1819. The demand for a skilled workforce and labour in Singapore was the driving force for attracting Chinese migrants to Singapore during that period of time. Today, newer Chinese migrants includes migrant workers working in various industries of the Singapore economy, with a mix of blue-collar workers and white-collar workers,as well as students.

When we got of at the Chinatown exit on the MRT, we were not sure which way to go, but the transit system is so good, it always has the inset of the local map, blown up so it is really easy to figure out which exit to take out of the MRT station, which are all clearly labelled ’A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, etc. We found the exit we needed and started walking and immediately we were struck by the very interesting architecture we saw in front of us.

With its Chinese Renaissance architecture, Chinatown was definitely not like the more modern architecture we could see in other parts of Singapore.

We turned the corner into Chinatown and I saw some very cool graffiti on a side street that I had to go and take some photos of. The colours and details in the graffiti were amazing.

This graffiti was amazing in Chinatown in Singapore. There has to be a story behind it!

The lane that the murals were located on was called Mohamed Ali Lane.

The artist Yip Yew Chong is a Singaporean artist and he painted these murals from his personal memories of Singapore’s past. He grew up across the street from Mohamed Ali lane in Sago Lane. The mural above is called ‘The Paper Mask & Puppet Seller’ and was inspired by a real person who sold masks on this very street. The man on the right is an Indian Man who was a shop owner who sold Yew Chong sweets and Knick-knacks and taught Yip Yew his first Tamil words when he was a kid.

Look at the detail in the faces and the baskets. These people really look like they are watching something.

Mask seller mural.

I wish we had known there were more of these murals in Chinatown, or I would have wandered around looking for them. That is where a guide would have been handy!

Waiting to cross the street. More examples of Chinese Renaissance architecture in Chinatown.

We saw a very colourful temple which had an amazing looking entrance across the street from where the graffiti had been, so we quickly crossed the not so busy street and took some photos of the SRI MARIAMMAN TEMPLE, which is a Hindu temple.

Gene, taking a peek in the temple. The colours and detailed work on the outside of the temple were amazing.

The Sri MARIAMMAN Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore and was built in 1827. The temple was constructed by immigrants from the Nagapatnam and Cuddalore districts of South India. Goddess MARIAMMAN is known for her power in curing epidemic illnesses and diseases. The elaborate sculptures on the temple were added in the 1960’s.

The elaborate carvings continued on the side of the temple too!

Goddess Mariamann.

We did not go inside the temple, because it was time instead for a refreshment break because It was very hot and humid outside, so we needed to sit and relax for a bit and take a load off our feet.

No guys…we are not going to ‘Rough Guys’ coffee for our break…

Nor are we going to the sidewalk cafe with Jim Beam on tap!


We went inside to ‘Chocoelf’ where each couple shared a gelato. I also picked up some dark chocolate for my collection, which I stashed deep inside Richard’s big knapsack so it would not melt.

Chinatown was a cacophony of vibrant colours and shops.

All manner of trinkets and trash!


Copies of Penanakan tiles

Penanakan tiles adorn some of the most historical buildings in modern SIngapore. Many of the shophouses belonged to the Peranakan community and the ornately designed tiles adorn the buildings. Peranakans were typically early Chinese immigrants who married indigenous women from the Malay archipelago.

Example of the Peranakan buildings in Singapore. These tiles found there way to Singapore it the early 1900’s from Britain. The tiles found favor with the Peranakans who used them to show them on their buildings as a sign of their wealth.

A good shot of the old and the new of Singapore. Downtown Chinatown.

Chinatown! At the end of the street was the MRT and another entrance to the Chinatown station.

After wandering around Chinatown and picking up a few souvenirs for some girlfriends back home, it was time to jump back on the MRT and head to Little India on the purple line of the MRT.

Little India was a lot different than Chinatown. There were not as many nice architectural buildings to see, but we did find an interesting building with a smelly ’hawker centre’ on the ground floor, where we parked Gene and Richard so we could go upstairs and shop. Hawker markets in Singapore are basically large food courts with stalls around the perimeter selling everything from full meals to snacks and drinks. The government of Singapore monitors the hawker centres so they are places that people from all walks of life can enjoy affordable food in a clean and hygienic environment, as opposed to food trucks or sidewalk vendors, who are not monitored for cleanliness and hygeine.

Grungy looking shops as soon as we exited the Little India MRT station.

Interesting murals on the stairwells of the Little India market.

Beautiful Indian outfits in the market in Little India, Singapore.

Richard was enjoying a cold Tiger beer which is a Singaporean brand first launched in 1932. The beer is a joint venture between Heineken and a Singaporean multinational food and beverage company called Fraser and Neave.

Gene had a Kickapoo Joy Juice which is a citrus flavoured soft drink brand owned by the Monarch Beverage Company. The name was first introduced in Li’l Abner, a comic strip that ran from 1934 to 1977. Li’l Abner’s drink was alcoholic, but this drink was not.

Notice the sign above Gene’s shoulder on the wall. ‘Moment of Anger, Lifetime of Regret’. Singapore has quite a few signs like this one.

We really were not sure what ‘Outrage of Modesty’ was, but we sure behaved ourself on the MRT so as to avoid 2 years in jail, a fine or caning. Yikes! We also made sure we did not drink water or eat anything on the MRT as those are both fineable too!

After spending quite a bit of time browsing and buying a few things in Little India, we decided we would get back on the MRT and work our way towards downtown Singapore.

This MRT station had a huge escalator as I was able to turn around, take the photo and still be ready to jump off when we got to the top.

We decided we had to do the iconic thing to do in Singapore, which was to head to the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel, downtown Singapore and have the signature cocktail, a Singapore Sling.

The Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel, Singapore.

The wait to get into the Long Bar must have taken us at least 40 minutes. If the place were not so iconic, I do not think we would have waited. The historic Long Bar is the home of the original Singapore Sling. The Singapore Sling, widely regarded as the national drink of Singapore, was first created in 1915 by Raffles bartender Ngiam Tong Boon. Primarily a gin-based cocktail, the Singapore Sling also contains pineapple juice, lime juice, curaçao, grenadine, cherry liquer and Benedictine. Bartender Ngiam deliberately chose to give the cockatiel this rosy colour. Following the turn of the century in colonial Singapore, Raffles was the gathering place for the community and the Long Bar was the watering hole. It was common to see men nursing glasses of gin or whisky, but unfortunately for the ladies etiquette dictated that they could not consume alcohol in public. So for the sake of modesty, teas and fruit juices were their beverages of choice. Ngiam saw that if he wanted to serve the ladies he needed a cocktail that looked like plain fruit juice, but was actually made with gin and other liqueurs. The pink beverage appealed to ladies and it led people to think it was a socially acceptable drink for women.

The Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel, Singapore.

The ‘MK1 Sling Shaker’ commissioned by the Raffles hotel to churn out 1000’s of slings daily The sling shaker has 2 mixing handles; one for the bar tender and one for the guest who is looking for an Instagram moment, and makes 6 cocktails at the same time.

The $37 SKD cocktail and the free bag of peanuts in the shell on every table. The peanut shells are all over the wooden floor and we had to be careful where we were walking, not to slip on the peanut shells.

Enjoying our peanuts and slings!

Its been awhile. I can’t remember the last time I had any cocktail with gin in it, but the sling was very good. The peanuts were small, but we were hungry so we ate them.

After having one sling each we asked the server where her and her work colleagues went for dinner after work. It was now 8pm and we still had not had dinner. Arriving into port at noon, gave us a late start to our already busy day.

The server mentioned that the staff all like to go to CHIJMES which was located kitty corner across the street from the Raffles Hotel, so after paying our bill, we walked down the flight of stairs and crossed the street to CHIJMES.

CHIJMES is a historic building complex in the heart of City Hall, which began life as a Catholic Convent also known as Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJMES). It is now one of the top food and beverage, entertainment and lifestyle destinations located in the heart of Singapore’s Civic and Cultural District with many alfresco restaurants.

A collection of outdoor restaurants in CHIJMES.

Setting up for St. Patricks’ Day on March 17th at CHIJMES.

This was our view from the al fresco Mexican restaurant we had dinner at in CHIJMES. (Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Middle Education School). The actual gothic style chapel is currently a function hall and a wedding venue.

After a late dinner at CHIJMES it was time to walk back to the Metro and find out way back to Harbourfront to clear immigration, to get back onto the ship.

Function hall of CHIJMES which I believe would be beautiful inside for a reception

A perfect archway at CHIJMES for a photo op!

Tired after a long day of walking around Singapore. On the MRT back to Harbourfront station.

Once we arrived back at Harbourfront station, we still had to walk through the shopping mall area of the cruise terminal, up the escalator, to security and immigration, only to find that a bus load or two of nighttime Viking excursions had all arrived at the same time as us. The line up took about 25 minutes to get through with everyone having to go individually through the immigration process. Singapore is the only port that has done this strict passport review to enter and return to the ship on the entire journey of our World Cruise.

We had a great first day in Singapore despite the guided tour not panning out. Knowing what to see and do is always a good thing when visiting a new port and since we knew what we were supposed to be seeing on the guided tour, we figured it out on our own. There are things like the Chinatown graffiti murals which I would have liked to have seen, but we made the best of a bad situation and Viator has refunded me the cost of the tour.

I am going to try and write the next two days blogs on Singapore as we drive into K.L. and back tomorrow. We will see how that goes.

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1 Comment

Allan Yoshimura
Allan Yoshimura
Mar 18, 2023

Nice job of making the most of the day after a no show by the guide. I've never been disappointed by Tours by Locals. You might want to give them a try. Much better than my Viator experiences. I wasn't enthralled by the Singapore Sling at the Long Bar, but had to try it too.

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