Welcome to Singapore: don't look down

By: mrspartlycloudy

Not long after we moved to Singapore a friend came to visit. Together we worked out a list of places she wanted to see and then we caught a bus to town, ready to hop onto the tourist trail.

‘There’s just one thing,’ she warned me as we trundled down Holland Road towards Orchard and beyond, ‘I really hate heights.’

Freeze-frame, stop the bus, rewind: this tiny phrase put a whole different spin on the day ahead, as I admitted I didn’t like them much, either. Poor us: we were about to discover that avoiding high-up places in Singapore is a bit like trying to thread a large chocolate éclair through a needle.

In this shiny city, where land is at a premium and space is precious, everything is quite literally built up. If you’re going to pay us a visit, the business of going high will be a fact. Here, then, is my very own vertiginous list, of the

Top Ten Places to Avoid in Singapore if You Hate Heights:

1 MBS Skypark This is the bit at the top of the famous ‘surfboard’ building. It costs $20 each to get up there just so you can cling to the sides. Of course, paid entry means there’s no danger of you accidentally meandering up to the edge because there's a big sign at the bottom telling you what happens if you go up. Simply don't buy a ticket, is my advice. If you have been dragged up there by a well-meaning host, hug the bar in the middle (Ku De Ta) and order a jug of sangria. After a glass or two you won’t notice that, yes, that really is Indonesia just over there.

2 The Overpass Bridge That Links The MBS Hotel to Gardens by the Bay With the Surfboard being so very high, it was always going to be surrounded by Other High Stuff, wasn’t it? This one is a must-do if you want to combine your vertigo with the searing noise of rush-hour traffic just beneath your feet. If you make it to the other side you’ll have a nice calm escalator dropping you back to ground level. Along the way there are plenty of bushes to cling to and if you can bring yourself to look you’ll get a glorious glance upwards to the top of the MBS hotel, or a panoramic view of the Gardens By The Bay. To avoid the experience, simply stagger backwards to the MBS building and ask the concierge to show you the underpass via MRT. It takes an extra half-hour but avoids any risk of heart attack.

3 The Down-Escalator Leading from MBS Overpass to MBS Shoppes Who designed this? Come on, who was it, own up. Stand outside and just take a look at the entrance to the place and then tell me – do, please – that the person who designed this wasn’t having a laugh. You’re on a roof, for starters, and the entrance to this ‘facility’ is a small glass cabin, like a doorway to Narnia or Willy Wonka's Great Glass Elevator, only down not up, and once you open that door there is just an escalator going chug, chug, chug to the ground, and once you’re on it you realize that, apart from the rubber sides to hold onto, there is nothing – NOTHING – to your left or right apart from space, and the place you were standing on just now was the roof of the space into which you are descending. It’s the longest escalator I’ve ever been on, the most vertiginous and the most nuts. There must be less stressful ways to Shoppe.

4 Treetop Canopy Walk, MacRitchie Reservoir Let’s get back to nature for a while, and leave the Shoppes behind. Actually, one can avoid this experience quite easily. You’ll be on a hike with a pack of friends. When you get to the bit where the sign points ‘Left: Treetop Canopy Walk’ or ‘Right: The Other Way’ – simply take the right-hand path. I’ve not mistakenly gone left yet, but those who’ve found themselves taking the wobbly route can confirm that ‘it’s OK, the sides come up to just under your boobs and the floor isn’t THAT see-through.’ The views and wildlife, they say, are unbeatable. They're not selling it to me, I’m afraid.

5 LeVeL 33 Are you sensing a theme here? That’s right – no one stays in the jungle for long. Half an hour after your shower-and-change you’ll be back in town, g-forcing up some godforsaken tower to the 967th floor (33rd floor, in this case) only to spend the entire time clenched on a chair with your back towards the sheet-glass window so as to avoid looking out on the tankers and tiny treetops far below. Now: it could be the heights thing but every time I take a trip to the Ladies in this place, the floor seems slightly slopey; more likely it's the amusing effects of several pints of the wonderful amber nectar brewed on-site. On one visit to this bar there were window-cleaners on the outside of the building, dangling about like little acrobats. I nearly gave them a tip.

6 Skyway, Supertree Grove They’re not trees, you know. Just thought I’d make sure you were in on this. For no ‘real' tree would you ever pay $8 to get in a lift, go up two floors, pop out on a little platform, walk like a crab with your eyes shut for ten minutes until the end (ohGodthereitis, theend theend theend) only to get another lift straight down again, several pounds lighter in sweat. In between both doorways is a few hundred yards of yellow walkway, veering in and out in a wide curve, with a thin metal see-through mesh upon which you must walk. Are they nuts? Why don’t they make the floorway solid for things like this, WHY? If they did, people like us might actually be able to get across without having to be talked and cajoled through the ordeal by our eight-year-old children. Sort out your floors, Supertree, and I might come back.

7 Supertree Indochine This is the matching restaurant up at the top of the highest ‘tree’ (they’re not real trees, you know – just checking again). I like it up here, actually, I’ve had two meals in between the metal branches. Food: top marks. Ambience: wonderful. One thing I can’t do, though, is have the meal on the outside ledge of the restaurant, an option they keep trying to offer me. I won’t do it for the very sensible – and perhaps old-fashioned – reason that I like to eat my meals sitting inside restaurants or on ground-level patios, and not clinging several feet up to the outside of the restaurant with ant-like figures scuttling about far, far below my chair, horribly visible every time I drop my stupid napkin. Get around this one by insisting on an inside table, or at least a solid floor.

8 Altitude You think the Surfboard’s high up? Really? In fact it's a small Lego model compared with this mega-tower. The oddest thing about this place is having to choose from the cocktail list while you’re queuing up to get in at ground level. How do I know what I want, I asked the girl behind the red cordon. Actually I think they do it so that vertiginous people like me can have their minds taken off the ear-piercing lift rush as you ascend at the speed of sound to your drink in the sky, to be reunited with said drink at the astral bar in a surreal but efficient way. I can’t remember which floor this place is on – seventysomething – but once you’re out you’re expected to drift around the open rooftop like some kind of ethereal figure with the light evening breeze fluttering your batwing kaftan and the low lights twinkling off your glass cocktail stick. Top tip: when hobbling up the central steps to the very upper level, finish off your drink first, remove your heels and then cling to the metal rails as if your life depends on it, no matter who’s looking. Your life probably does depend on it.

9 Skyline Luge & Skyride Sentosa This is a ski lift without snow, over a city, and that is why I’ve not done it yet and will never do it. I’m not that stupid. Other people who HAVE done it are not stupid either, I must add. It’s just that I really do know that I can’t do it, so to give it a go would be stupid, because I’ve heard the stories, you see. Like last month, when two friends took a child each on one chair. Halfway up one of the kids starts wobbling the bench and says, with an impish glint: ‘It’s very high up, isn’t it?’ At that point, his mum told me later over a very big glass of wine, there was nothing all around them but air. It was, she said, a very wobbly chair and a very long way down. They got to the top alive but it was the last time for both women, and for the next five rounds the boys went alone, the premise being that if they wanted to wobble the chair and discuss altitude, they were old enough (and stupid enough) to do it on their own. That’s really all I know about it. That, and the fact that I’d be stupid to do it.

10 Pedestrian bridges Get used to it, you’ll be pegging up and down these like a little mountain goat after a few weeks – that is, unless you want to sweat your T-shirt off instead by trudging eight miles up the highway to cross all ten lanes of traffic at road level. Bridges like this are here for a reason – several reasons: roads in Singapore are long, wide and impassable, and the best way to get to the other side is over the top. Take little steps, clutch the side rail and do NOT look down. Once you’re used to it you can let go somewhere in the middle and feel the rush of adrenalin at straddling what is essentially a small motorway. Hang on to your hats, though, it’s mighty windy up there. My [least] favourite? The one at Pasir Panjang MRT with the view of the docks. Go on, open your eyes, you can do it.

Footnote: When I first moved here I had a height phobia. I probably still do, it’s just that I’ve had to get over it. I still don’t love heights, but my knees are learning not to knock together on the bottom rung of a stepladder, and escalators have become my friends. So thanks Singapore – thanks a lot.

About the author

Expat Blog Listingmrspartlycloudy is a British expat living in Singapore. Blog description: A two-year Singapore sling with a dash of school and work thrown in. This is me keeping my brain alive while my husband works and my son learns. I also write from home and try to see as much of this energetic island as I can
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Contest Comments » There are 20 comments

Kay wrote 10 years ago:

Mrs pc has an entertaining style and a wonderfully descriptive turn of phrase. Having left singapore, her posts take me straight back there.

Charlotte Rose wrote 10 years ago:

A refreshing and amusing approach to writing kept me gripped to the end. I will definitely take on board some the sightseeing tips and look out for more blogs from this author.

Maria Sepulveda wrote 10 years ago:

Loved this... Because I love heights and haven't been to half the places mentioned above. Will print it out and start my tour of Singapore in the skie.

Sal wrote 10 years ago:

Almost as tricky as visitors who don't like seafood, fish, any meat resembling an animal! Where would you take them to eat Mrs PC?

Chloe Pantazi wrote 10 years ago:

mrspartlycloudy writes with such verve, wit and candour that her blog is always a pleasure to read, and does a great job of parsing the ups and downs of expat life.

Bridget wrote 10 years ago:

Brilliant well written post, enabling the reader to envisage the heights. I agree with the escalator down from MBS!! Yet to experience the tree top canopy walk but looking forward to it! Agree Singapore has made me get over my fear of heights.

Doreen Ng wrote 10 years ago:

I did enjoy reading this. Moving back to Singapore after living in Sydney for the past ten years, I do find Singapore to be a new playground to be explored and experienced.

Pam Mcowen wrote 10 years ago:

I suspect that friend could have been me, if not then I was one of them! I stopped off in Singapore en route from Oz to England and stayed a couple of nights with Family Partly-Cloudy. Mrs P-C and I decided on an excursion to the Gardens by the Bay. We left the bus and could see our destination across the other side of a wide and manically busy road, which meant there was no chance to dash across between cars to get over there. We went into a shopping mall to look for the underpass to which a helpful local had directed us, up escalators, down escalators, asking for more and more directions and everyone wanting to send us to an overpass bridge. Glass walls, see through floors, sorry completely out of the question, my knees had seized rigid and my heart was beating loud enough to be heard outside my body. On reflection I can't even remember now we got into the Gardens but we did eventually and a very fine choice of tourist venue we had made, however there was more... Looking through the guide we decided to visit the Cloud garden, how dumb, didn't the name give us a clue? We paid our entrance fee, walked through the gate and ooo'd and aaa'd at the visions of horticultural beauty and delight in front of us. We followed the 'grey brick road' passed beautiful flowers and bushes but suddenly realised we were going upwards and upwards round a building a bit like the wrong way on a helter skelter and the exit was at the top, the view over the parapet was wonderful, well I assume it would have been if I had been able to open my eyes. Knees, heart, panic, all kicked in again, I knew I couldn't do it! We had no option but to retrace our steps , phew, the feeling of total relief when we got back down to the entrance, however that was not quite the happy ending yet as the entrance door was locked from the other side and no one could hear us knocking, we were totally trapped. No not really, well not forever, when the door opened to admit the next visitors, whoosh we were through, the ticket ladies looked at us completely bewildered, for me it didn't matter who looked however at me, I was free! I have booked my bed for one night at Chez P-C next spring, but will suggest we stick to the safety of the hawker's market down the road.

Mullers wrote 10 years ago:

mrspartlycloudy brings Singapore closer to me - and perhaps, even, me closer to Singapore, too - every time she writes about this intriguing, challenging, beautiful country...

Jason Morgan wrote 10 years ago:

This could have been just another 10 things to do in Singapore, but this spin if you're afraid of heights is a fantastic idea and probably something you wouldn't necessarily think of when first traveling there. Brilliant idea, great writing and clearly informative. Thanks MrsPartlyCloudy!

Sarah Lade wrote 10 years ago:

Mrspartlycloudy explores Singapore with an expat eye with a real sense of humour that we can relate to whilst we are on our journey on this island. She shares this chapter of her life with us,including life as a mother and a wife, she provides us with laughter, smiles as well as tears. When her blog pops up you cannot 'wait for later' but read it there and then. What is she up to now!!! She put the rest of us to shame. Once I was lost under Orchard road whilst reading her blog!! Carry on!!!!!!

Martin wrote 10 years ago:

Saw this blog in the nick of time. We leave for Singapore later today and will try to pick up parachutes on the way to the airport.

JL wrote 10 years ago:

We love Mrs Partlycloudy and her Singapore stories. Always look forward to a new blog post. Keep writing!

Shelley wrote 10 years ago:

Always PartlySunny after reading your blogs and delighted to share the 'tipping window cleaners' experience with you at Level 33. Love from London

Sadie Morgan wrote 10 years ago:

Vivid, engaging and fun, much like the author. I'm looking forward to the '10 next places not to visit if....' the mind boggles at the possibilities of Mrs Pc list of dislikes. Can't wait for the next episode.

Sam Pattman wrote 10 years ago:

Morwenna,what a joy to read your posts.you paint a picture,compose a symphony where others would see only trivia.I am so glad that you can create a memory box for the rest of those in this part of the world and yet applicable to anywhere. You have a real talent for engaging the reader.keep up the posts!waiting for tomorrow...

Elaine Young wrote 10 years ago:

Being a Brit who has lived in Singapore for just over 10 years now, Mrs PC takes me back to those early years. Her entries always raises a smile or two with one recognition or nodding agreement at the frustrations to be felt.

Claus Pearce wrote 10 years ago:

We're hoping to move to Singapore in 2014 and are avid followers of MrsPC's blog entries. This latest entry was another treat to read. Keep rolling them out MrsPC!

Richard Pearce wrote 10 years ago:

I'm a regular reader - well, not that regular, just turning to it every so often for a treat. And it is a treat. I just know Singapore well enough to recognise what she is saying, but the feelings are universal, and beautifully expressed.

Lynny wrote 10 years ago:

Level 33 is one of my favorite places to go in Singapore, because the view is so stunning. Thanks for sharing a great post.

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