Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Not just a marina - Marina bay, Singapore

Marina bay, famous for its F1 night circuit and as the home of the iconic Merlion, really needs a whole day to explore fully. Although the bay itself is just 4 km (circumference) there are numerous things to see, and at different times throughout the day the experience will be very different.

F1 grand prix circuit city view

How to get there: We started out at the Esplanade MRT station but Bayfront and Raffles Place MRT stations are also located elsewhere around the bay.

View from Merlion park

The most popular place, and a good place to start is the Merlion park, home to the water spewing iconic Singapore Merlion and its cub, which were moved here in 2002. I recall my visit to it in it's previous home, just up river, at the mouth, which existed before Marina Bay was expanded onto reclaimed land. Sadly, there is now nothing more than an empty disused covered walkway with a view blocked by a bridge, and hence the reason for the rehousing of the icons. I recommend heading to the park itself early in the morning when you will find it quiet and less crowded with tourists.

A walk anticlockwise from the Merlion park will take you past an open plaza and art deco style pier that is good place to rest, relax and/or get a bite to eat. Known as Clifford Square and pier, this area often hosts events such as art fairs.

Solar energy panels

Cooling mist

Another area used for events such as new year, can be found further round the bay, it's the bit that sticks out next to the shelters with fans which are powered by the solar panels. These are just one example of the ongoing sustainable energy projects that form part of the ongoing development. The other is the tubed structure a little further South, which monitors temperatures and cools with a mist spray, as well as contributing to the sound and light experience at night.

For those that enjoy shopping, the Marina Bay Sands shopping centre with its designer stores, will fulfill your spending habit as well as keep you cool from the heat outside.

Marina bay model
Relocation of the Merlion

For an educational experience, look out for the Marina Bay City Gallery, which can be found in the South West corner of the bay. The latest plans for development are well exhibited here. They have some very interesting photos showing super imposed images of current views over photos dating back through the 70's, 80's and 90's. These are hidden outside the toilets rather than within the main exhibition so make sure you track them down, as the captions give some interesting info such as confirming that the Merlion has moved. Sidenote: the Merlion originally cost US$165,000, but a rather expensive US$7.5million to relocate it just 120metres due to the redevelopment of the marina!

Trails around Singapore

Another reason to visit the exhibition is the large selection of leaflets available for trails around the different areas of Singapore, which I did not see available anywhere else around the city. For example the 'heritage' one covers off most of the key historical sights particularly in the colonial area. If you are interested in 'architecture' this one gives some info and history of some of the other buildings around the bay and close by.

Theatres on the Bay is a concert complex located at the Esplanade on Marina Bay. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, you can enjoy free outdoor concerts right on the harbour. The theatre offers a regular programme of events and is also a good spot to sit and watch the bi-nightly light shows.

The light show, known as ‘Wonder Full’, features water fountains, lights, images and fire. It lasts for 13 minutes and is done to a the sound of classical music. Time: Every night at 8pm and 9.30pm, plus - at 11pm on Friday and Saturday.

Light show during F1
Helix bridge view

Views all around the bay at night time are beautiful, but my favourite spot has to be close too the Helix bridge, lit up with coloured lights, which looks out across at the well photographed Marina Bay Sands towers.

Behind the towers is the recently opened Gardens by the bay which I have detailed further in my post: Some of Singapore's parks and gardens here.

Other things to do around Marina Bay:
-Makansutra hawker centre at Gluttons Bay. It's not quite a tradition hawker centre as the stalls are all branded and more expensive, but it gets busy and the food is good.
-Esplanade shopping centre. As well as shopping there's a great view from the terrace on the roof which is quiet, peaceful, and with a bar. We found this was almost deserted during the F1 as few people know it's there!
-ArtScience museum. Interestingly shaped building as well as the home of a number of permanent and temporary galleries.
-Youth Olympic park. Something a bit different with drawings and sculptures giving interpretations of Olympic values.

Have I missed something, definitely! There is just so much to see and do in Marina Bay, it's impossible to cover it all.

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