HOW  I  REDISCOVERED  SINGAPORE

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 22, 2008 (STAR) By Ramil Gandola - Revisiting a travel destination carries a rather heavy burden. Oneís expectations are raised by the first visit, so the second trip must at least live up to the first, or else fail to justify a second look. However, this dilemma never bothered me when I returned to Singapore with my fellow Sun Life Financial Philippines (SLFP) managers last June 11 to 14.

Iíd visited the city at the turn of the millennium, back in 2001. After only seven years, new sights were in place to excite and thrill me. Thatís aside from the shopping, of course.

360 degrees of Singapore

Magnificent may not be a word that second-time visitors commonly use, but itís the most fitting description for Singaporeís latest attraction: the Singapore Flyer. For those who will be making a trip soon, this is not just the best way to see the cityscape ó itís your only option.

Weíd been treated to a panoramic view of the countryís seaside charm, from the Marina Bay to the Singapore River. I tried to greet the iconic Merlion, the lion head with a fish body, but I guess the king of the Singapore jungle was asleep. So I kicked back, tinkled a bit with the flight simulation gadgets, and took in the aerial beauty of Raffles Place, Empress Place and the Padang.

Aside from the breathtaking 165-meter-high, 360-degree spectacle, visitors can enjoy both signature local dishes as well as cuisines that range from Asian inspirations to European delicacies. Of course, you can also shop. I mean, where in Singapore canít you go shopping?

A historical quay

This is what I love about traveling and discovering new things: one moment youíre way up in the sky and suddenly youíre as grounded as a plane touching the runway. After the Singapore Flyer, my fellow Sun Lifers and I decided to explore the hottest nightspot in town. After a quick train ride, Clarke Quay welcomed us with open arms.

Lying on the banks of the Singapore River, Clarke Quay used to be a center of commerce during the late 19th century. Several centuries have passed, yet still the placeís historic presence can be felt. Entertainment spots coexist harmoniously with shophouses and five-foot-way merchants.

Although I was not able to explore the whole expanse of Clarke Quay, we chanced upon a very imaginative and distinctive theme bar named Clinic. It was like sitting in a hospital, with chairs cleverly patterned after wheelchairs, drinks served through dextrose apparatuses, and waitresses dressed as nurses. And to think that this place started out as a bustling fishing village where the foundations of modern Singapore were created.

Going way down in the Luge

Remember the saying that when youíre really down thereís nowhere else to go but up? In Singapore, itís the other way around: once you go up, youíll have to come down. And what better way than to take the Sentosa Luge to drive downhill?

The Sentosa Luge was a nice addition to the usual Sentosa day tour itinerary. Itís a gravity ride thatís described as ďpart go-cart and part toboggan.Ē There were no machines involved; just the pure force of the earthís gravitational pull that offered a three- to five-minute ride from the hilltop. I had fun steering my ride, from a leisurely pace to an exciting dose of adrenaline rush.

We went up the Luge terminal by riding a cable car. I was surprised to discover that we would be riding an open cable car, with our legs hanging in the air. Overlooking the whole of Sentosa, it was one of my best experiences in Singapore.

So, is it sweeter the second time? Yes, indeed. From the wonderful accommodations in the Shangri-La Hotel to the chance to get to know my colleagues in a very relaxed atmosphere, Singapore was sweeter the second time around. I especially loved the moments when we gathered together at one table and just laughed and shared stories.

So, whether youíre visiting Singapore for the first or the 10th time, I leave you with two pieces of advice: never leave home without a few good friends and never leave Singapore without partaking of its ever-changing culture.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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