Tag - Singapore

The Esplanade in Singapore

Esplanade in Singapore, Credit flicker

Esplanade in Singapore, Credit flicker

The Esplanade in Singapore is a durian-shaped Singaporean opera house, but also a terrific tourist venue.

The Esplanade is a far cry from the slums and fields that used to comprise the land it now stands on, but it is nonetheless a wonderful tourist venue. It is Singapore’s Opera House, a center for the arts and art, while at the same time enjoying the backdrop of the city-state’s bay.

The Esplanade as a Center of Arts

For the Singaporean, or cultured tourist, the Esplanade will be first and foremost a destination for elevated entertainment. Here are performed regularly recitals and renditions of the symphonic classics. regularly advertised in the local newspaper. Prices vary, but, naturally, one shouldn’t expect anything too budget. Philharmonic orchestras from all over the world have frequented his recent but already studded scene. A band can occasionally be heard playing in the main foyer on the ground floor.

Moreover, it plays host to various artistic exhibitions that are held throughout the year, from painting competitions, to dramatic performances. All sorts of plays and performances come here, from Shakespeare theater companies, to Chinese thespian troups performing plays set in Chinese mythology.

The Esplanade Library

Perhaps a cultural center is never complete without a library, and the Esplanade in this complies well. The Esplanade library, on the top floor of the building, contains the largest single collection in Singapore, open to the public, of dramatic materials. The literature is heavily emphatic on theater, its history, and literary criticism, while there are simply thousands of musical scores and CDs, covering the whole history and spectrum of music. There is also a cafe, and a nice view of the city.

The Esplanade as a Tourist Attraction

Few places in Singapore, however, ever totally escape from the lure of commerce, and the Esplanade, perhaps slightly sadly, is no different. It is an unusual sight to find a line of shops on the ground level leading into the building, and perhaps slightly disconcerting to find an arcade style line of restaurants on the same level, at the very end. It would suit better the quieter regions of a shopping mall than a cultural center, some might think. Nonetheless the outlets here are not numerous enough to attract shopaholics, and cater to those willing to spend out of their comfort zones. The Esplanade would make a nice weekend venue for dinner for a family.

The Esplanade’s main selling points, however, can be perceived from without. The building’s unusual design may strike some as a distorted, southeast Asian conception of modernism, but really it is supposed to imitate the puncturing and stern shape and surface of that local delight, the durian.

More than its design, the Esplanade is also very fortunately placed, as it commands some unchallenged vistas of the city and its small, albeit piquant, bay. The rooftop is a place not known to too many, hidden as it is by a staircase entrance on the top level, A truly magnificent view awaits anybody who gets there, and it is complemented by small lawns and garden-like plots that provide for a quiet afternoon picnic.

Access to the Esplanade

The Esplanade is centrally located, and close to Singapore’s city center. One could get there by public transport – bus, or MRT, which has Esplanade station only walking distance away. It is also accessible by underpass, if one drops at City Hall station. The Esplanade is also within walking distance of Boat Quay and Clarke Quay along the Singapore River.

The Night Safari of Singapore

Night Safari, Credit-Inaresort

Night Safari, Credit-Inaresort

The Night Safari of Singapore is a night-opening zoo which provides an exotic novel way of viewing and experiencing animals and nature.

The Night Safari is the night-time zoo of Singapore, housing over a thousand animals drawn from various geographical regions of the world. Operating concurrently with the Singapore Zoo, but opening only in the evening and throughout the night, it provides a unique and rare experience of interaction with nature, and certainly a fun and exciting form of animal sight-seeing. It is one of few zoos throughout the world of its kind, and brings people and animals together at just the hours that most animals are to be found awake.

Tram ride tour around the Safari

Located just next to the Singapore Zoo in Mandai, on the banks of the Seletar Reservoir in Singapore, the Night Safari comprises a whole compound to itself. Animals come from all over the world, and all sorts of climates and environments. Perhaps the main attraction one will find upon entering the Night Safari is the tram ride, which drives visitors around the zoo.

It is a very unique and, for the light-hearted, at times terrifying experience. Typically the visit to a zoo consists of walking along a path, to observe animals safely bound by an enclosure, and held quite clearly captive. At the Night Safari, however, while this is certainly still the case, the visitor is brought into contact with the animals in a novel and direct way. It is truly a ‘safari’ of a kind, as one might expect on the plains of the Serengeti.

In the relative safety of the tram (albeit with the sides of the cars lacking doors), with guide on board , one tours the animals of the Himalayan mountains, the African savannahs, and the Asian tropics. The lion and elephant are to be seen, while there are also obscurer and more exotic specimens, such as the babirusa, a horned pig, and the famed tapir. More dangerous and fearsome animals, like the carnivorous hyenas and lions, are naturally kept at a distance, although more placid, but no less exotic animals, like the axis deer, come so close as almost to touch the tram. It is hard to imagine a more vivid experience with wildlife. Evidence of the animals’ safekeeping behind protective barriers is well camouflaged, although certainly there – just for those who might be wary of too close a contact with nature.

Nightly Animal Show

Another highlight of the Night Safari is the ‘Creatures of the Night’ show, which is a chance to showcase the animals of the zoo through jovial and gung how trainers. It is an occasion, truly, for visitors to engage with animals in a theatrical format.

One wonders whether the script is written differently for the shows, which run thrice nightly, at 7.30, 8.30, and 9.30, because the hosts and trainers do a great job of making it seem all rather natural and impromptu. The otters and serval come out unleashed, while the binturong clambers along the rope hanging across the amphitheater. A
particularly blood-curdling moment, and a fine instance of reality theater, happens (at least it did for this visit) when an alarm is heard, and the show host informs the audience that an incident has occurred. Whether it is all an act, or was a perfectly fortuitous mishap, one will never know. It ends with the trainers discovering a massive python under a bench in the audience. If it was a real accident, the hosts at least did a very fine job of making sure it really wasn’t.

Volunteers play a part, naturally, feeding civets, and handling live pythons, but a key message the show seeks to send across to the visitor through such contrived intimacy with nature is a significant one – protect it, through loving it.

Walk with Animals at Night

When one is done with the tram and night creatures show, a stroll through the trails of the zoo is highly recommended. It allows the visitor an unparalleled level of intimacy and exposure to the animals, and, best of all, in the dead of night, when not only are animals typically most active, but when tourist numbers aren’t quite as high.

The Night Safari is an experience like none other, because only those interested and willing to try something slightly unusual would visit the zoo in the twilight hours. Even then, only some would stay on after 10 or 11, just hours before the closing of the zoo for the day. That is the best time to embark on the night ambulatory tour of the Night Safari – truly a safari of one’s own.
The walking paths are flanked on both sides by animal enclosures, but, again, depending on the ‘danger factor’ of the animal it is relatively open. The Indian mousedeer, for instance, wanders right under the wooden mangrove walkway, while only meters separate one from the fishing cat – not just any feral stray feline itself. By far the most exciting encounter may be found with such carnivore kings as the lions or hyenas. In the writer’s particular experience the latter stared hard, and almost greedily, only some ten meters or so away at the most. When one is almost alone and wandering through the trails of the Night Safari, with only but a few other visitors, it is easy to find a certain communion, however unnerving, with animals and nature.

The Night Safari: Well Worth a Night Out in Singapore

Altogether it would probably take a good few hours just to wander around the grounds of this nocturnal zoo, and really get a feel for the whole thing. It may mean two trips – one taking the tram and watching the show, and another dedicated just to the trails, because there are just that many animals and things to see that the five hour opening period of the Safari probably wouldn’t; suffice for everything.

As much as one may be skeptical of the occasionally overly commercialized appendages, and the feeling that this unique intimacy with animals is but a clever marketing ploy, it is certainly a genuine and authentic one. For those who may never visit African savannahs or trek in mountainous wilderness, it is the next best thing. It is highly recommended for any nature-lover, conservationist, or any tourist just looking for a good night out in a city that never seems to sleep.

Visitors are highly encouraged not to use flash photography for the sake of the animals, and it is probably best to enter with a brave heart, and in silence. Entrance fees are at S$32 for adult, and S$21 for children. Discounts apply for foreigners.