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Singapore (Bugis & City Hall) November 15, 2011

Posted by Dru in East Asia, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Singapore (Bugis & City Hall)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-JI

Bugis Station and City Hall Station is the focal point of the area north of Marina Bay.  There are a few other stations in the area but these are the traditional old stations.  They are somewhat more historical than the other regions of Singapore with a wide range of things to see and do.  This ranges from shopping to visiting religious locations to visiting tourist spots.  It is a place that is full of life and a place that can give people a headache if they hate crowds.  For anyone who loves the big city, this is a great place to be.

Bugis Station is where I had my base when I visited Singapore.  I stayed in a hotel that was between Bugis Station and Little India.  Unfortunately I didn’t have the time or energy to go to Little India.  The area near Bugis Station is very much a shopping destination.  There are several shopping malls and lots of teens and young adults in the area.  I found it to be a hard place to get around due to the sheer number of people walking around.  It is very akin to visiting Shibuya or Shinjuku which made it a place that I enjoyed.  The shopping malls were predominantly for younger people and the middle class.  Many of them are connected to each other.  The malls themselves had a mix of western and eastern shops.  I noticed a lot of American and British brands, probably heavily influenced by Singapore’s past colonial days.  There were also a lot of Japanese style shops, but nowhere near as many as Taipei.  If you head outside of the shopping malls, you can find a few night market style streets where you can pick up all of your tacky souvenirs from Merlion key chains to postcards.  You can venture a little farther and find a bunch of hawkers/food courts where you can get a lot of delicious food.  I found that staying inside the shopping mall food courts to be more relaxing and much cooler as well.  Hawker areas tend to be for locals whereas food courts are where tourists tend to go.  If you head towards City Hall Station and Promenade Station, you will find even more shopping malls but they tend to skew more towards the higher end shoppers, but not extreme luxury.

While shopping is a big thing in the area, it isn’t the only thing to do.  There are many religious sights to see and visit while in the area.  Heading north of Bugis Station will take you to Arab St.  It is an old historical area where you can see the Middle East community.  The focal point of the entire area is the Masjid Sultan Mosque.  It is a grand mosque at one end of the Arab St. area.  It can be difficult to see from the surrounding streets due to the tall buildings in the area but once you are on Arab St. itself it is pretty easy to find.  It is a beautiful mosque with a grand golden orb on top.  The streets around the mosque sell a variety of fabrics and rugs typical of a stereotypical Middle Eastern/Arabic town.  There are also dozens of posh restaurants and cafes in the area selling ethnic food as well.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to eat in these places but they looked delicious and welcoming.

Raffles Place or Raffles Hotel is one of the most historical places and biggest icons of the area.  The Raffles Hotel is one of the oldest and most luxurious hotels in Singapore.  It has retained its original colonial style.  The walls are painted a beautiful white and the courtyards are impeccably clean.  The palm trees inside the various courtyards bring the feel of a tropical paradise, without the beach.  The entire hotel is magnificent but unfortunately I will probably never have enough money to spend even one night there.  Next to the hotel is the parliament building.  It is an old historical building as well but as far as I could tell, off limits to tourists.  It is an official building that is very picturesque.  While the area around City Hall Station is more historical with the Raffles Hotel; Promenade and Esplanade Stations show the modern side of the area.  Just a short walk from the Raffles Hotel, there are new modern hotels as well as the Esplanade Theatres.  The Esplanade Theatres are two buildings that are part of one theatre complex.  They are iconic and shown in most, if not all travel brochures on Singapore.  They are two dome-like structures that look like a pair of durian or a pair of dragonfly eyes.  From afar, it is a very interesting structure, but up close it loses its flare.  If you have the energy, you can also head out to the Singapore Flyer.  It is a large Ferris wheel that takes roughly 30 minutes to make one trip.  It was designed by a Japanese architect and designed to be a labyrinth.  It is designed to bring you in and keep you in.  It is a typical tourist trap.  Thankfully the Flyer itself has great views of the surrounding area.

Overall, you can spend several days just exploring every street in and around this area.  It is nice to be in the area and there are many hotels making it a very convenient place to be.  You can do pretty much everything on foot provided you can survive the heat.  After living in Tokyo for 6 years now, I find the heat to be bearable.  It isn’t comfortable and you have to seek air conditioning after an hour or so, but it is manageable.

Singapore (Bugis & City Hall) is part of a series of posts on Singapore.  Please continue with the links below to read more about Singapore:

2009 Formula 1 Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix October 13, 2009

Posted by Dru in Sports.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2009 Formula 1 Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-hI

On October 4th, 2009, Japan hosted it’s annual round of the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix.  For those of you who have been reading this blog, last year, I also attended the Japanese Grand Prix.  This year was a little different.  After two years at Fuji Speedway in Shizuoka, the Japanese Grand Prix moved back to its traditional home of Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture.  Mie is located south west of Tokyo.  The closest major city is Nagoya, but you can still access Kyoto and Osaka from Suzuka.  By and far, the easiest and most common way to reach the circuit itself is to leave from Nagoya.

The biggest difference between Fuji Speedway and Suzuka Circuit is the owner.  Fuji is ultimately owned by Toyota, while Suzuka is owned by Honda.  The two car giants of Japan competed for the rights to hold the Japanese Grand Prix for the last three years.  From this year, the plan was to alternate between Fuji and Suzuka.  Next year’s race was supposed to be held in Fuji.  Unfortunately, due to the downturn in the economy last year, Fuji decided to not hold the race in 2010, so Suzuka stepped up and will hold the race in Japan for the next few years.  Many of the drivers were very happy about this, but what about the fans and the Japanese people themselves?  While a lot of people don’t really care, race enthusiasts were always happy to hear that Suzuka won the race.  It is one of the very few figure 8 circuits in the world, and the only one on the F1 calendar.  It is steeped in history that, while not as old as Fuji, is more prestigious.

Accessing and retuning home from Suzuka Circuit is very easy.  From Nagoya, it’s a simple reserved express train from Nagoya Station to Suzuka Circuit Inou Station.  You can also purchase reserved tickets to get back to Nagoya.  While this may be a little expensive compared to the regular trains, it guarantees that you’ll have a seat, and when you return to Nagoya, that may be very important.  When you do reach the station, it’s very easy to find your way to the circuit.  Just follow the groups of people and you’ll be fine.  While it may be different in future years, be sure to pick up a map and ask the staff for some information to make sure you know your options.  If you want to play it safe, just return to the same station.  The second option is to take the Kintetsu trains to Shiroko Station.  It’s about 5 kilometres away from the circuit, or an hour walk.  There is a shuttle bus, but it can take up to an hour to wait for it.  Many people enjoy a nice walk in the countryside to get to this station.  To reach it, you must also walk past the Inou.  The main advantage of walking to Shiroko is that trains come more often than at the Inou station.  When leaving Nagoya, don’t worry too much about buying tickets.  You can easily buy them at the main entrance as there will probably be a table set up for selling return tickets.  Just be sure to know which tickets you need before leaving.

When entering Suzuka circuit itself, it’s evident that Honda’s circuit company knows what it’s doing.  It has held the F1 event and other major world sporting events for years.  The F1 event itself is very similar to the one in 2008, but there are noticeable differences.  The first is that the party is slightly bigger, yet more compact.  In Fuji, everything was spread out a lot more.  Suzuka’s main entertainment area was behind the main grandstand, and there wasn’t a lot going on outside of that area.  Of course, you can always buy the basic souvenirs around the course, but there were fewer opportunities to do so.  However, buying food was ten times better in Suzuka.  The options were slightly limited, and it wasn’t the cheapest food in the world, but it was good and reasonable for a world sporting event.  The major plus is the number of activities that are available for children.  There is a large ferris wheel, and other various amusement rides that are centred for children.  Suzuka, being Honda’s signature track, has a better amusement area compared to Motegi.  There are various boat rides, and roller coasters.  There was a go-kart track, but this was closed to add more space for exhibitions.  Overall, I’d prefer Suzuka over Fuji, and most Japanese people would tend to agree.  Fuji’s major advantage was being close to Tokyo.

Looking at the race, it was your typical F1 race.  I had the chance to enjoy the event during qualifying for the first time.  It was a nice event, and qualifying made walking around the main areas easier.  It was extremely busy on race day, so if you can enjoy the Saturday qualifying, be sure to do your shopping then; don’t wait until race day or things will be sold out.  Qualifying was riddled with accidents, and the race itself wasn’t that exciting.  In typical F1 fashion, there were several passes on the first few laps, but after that, it was a war of attrition.  Everyone kept circling the circuit and any passing was done in the pits.  By the end of the day, Sebastian Vettel won the race with home team Toyota’s Jarno Trulli in second.  Bringing up the last spot on the podium was McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Suzuka Circuit Links:

(English – Note that this site has only information on the facilities) http://www.mobilityland.co.jp/english/
(Japanese – Note that this site has information on events) http://www.suzukacircuit.jp/
(Wiki) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzuka_Circuit
(Official F1 Website) http://www.formula1.com/

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