It seems appropriate that the largest fountain in the world would be found in Singapore, and that it should be called the "Fountain of Wealth". Why, you ask? Simple. Singapore is as rich as you hear. It's tiny size, huge industries, and success as the commercial gateway to Asia means that Singaporeans are living very comfortably, and not afraid to show it off. This is most apparent in Singapore's main shopping districts, which I collectively refer here as the "Raffles District": the stretch from Orchard Drive in the West to Chijmes to Raffles Plaza to the coastline. This massive shopping district and convention center is about as classy and enjoyable as any you'll see in the world. And Singapore's mild weather makes this a year-round attraction.
The Fountain of Wealth is the main feature of the Suntec City Mall and Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Center, located near the coast to the norteast of the mouth of Singapore River. It is surrounded by a massive international food court with nearly every conceivable cuisine covered from Japanese to French to Chinese to German to Indonesian to American. The Suntec City Mall is several stories high and loaded with exhibitions, additional restaurants, and all the great stores and brand names from Europe and Asia. Suntec is one of several similar malls that are brightly and elaborately decorated -- vivid colors, lots of fountains and skylights, and plenty of flowers. Even if one doesn't like shopping, just gawking at the interiors of these places is worth the visit. Be sure to hit the Marina Square Shopping Mall, connected to Suntec via covered overpass.
Moving further to the west along Raffles Boulevard, past the War Memorial Park, the next place to encounter is Raffles City. Raffles City is one of the original big shopping complexes, and as seen in this photo, has a massive foyer decorated with live coconut trees and massive fountain. Across the street is the Raffles Hotel and Arcade, a beautiful open air arcade with an outdoor café and restaurant.
The next block over is Chijmes (pronounced 'chimes'), a walled arcade complex with lots of specialty shopping -- local artwork, more restaurants, and the occasional street show. Chijmes caters more to the budget than places like Suntec, but don't let that deter you, it has a wonderful character and is often packed during summer days. This picture shows the chapel in the western side of Chijmes, which is still active, reminiscent of Chijmes' origin as a monastery.
It's a little bit of a walk from Chijmes to Orchard Park, but it's a pleasant walk. There are signs on the road marking walking routes to 15 famous buildings in the district, mostly historical sites. One of them is the Singapore Art Museum on Bras Basah Road, another the Singapore History Museum at the corner of Orchard and YMCA Roads. If you come across one of these signs and have a couple hours to spare (and the weather is pleasant), follow the walking routes, you will enjoy them.
The final photograph is taken from Istana Park, at the very eastern end of Orchard Drive. Istana is a nice wooded park, a forested oasis in the middle of a steel and glass desert, if you will.
Orchard Drive is about a mile long strip, designed to handle massive amounts of pedestrians and traffic (because it does!). The street is lined with massive shopping complexes and multiplex theaters. The list of must-see places is long, too long to list here. Chances are -- if you want it, you will find it here. Clothes, jewelry, electronics are all available. As of course, there's plenty of food. I had the distinct pleasure of trying out a Japanese sushi restaurant where the food was served on conveyor belts that ran among all the tables. Each plate had a single serving of some sushi item, and cost S$1.90 (US$1.25). When it came time to pay, all the waiters had to do was count the number of plates you removed from the conveyor belt!
I devoted about a day-and-a-half to cover this part of Singapore, and I enjoyed every moment. It is a clean area, loaded with things to see. Thankfully, I'm not much of a shopper, so I didn't bust my credit card. But if you travel to Orchard Drive or the Raffles District, be sure your plastic is handy... temptation is ever present at the Fountain of Wealth!
Trip taken 12-14 January 2002 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin