Things to Do: Boat Ride

For those who watched enough PBS to know that “bum” means “butt” in British English, it is unclear why the small cargo boats that used to work the Singapore River are called “bum boats” but they are, and you can now sit your bum down in them and enjoy a very pleasant ride. The boats include not stupid recorded commentary about the historic and cultural things you'll see, and provide a very cooling break from walking around Singapore's Colonial area. Plus, thirsty Moms and Dads, we found if you ask nicely the boat driver will drop you off on the opposite side of the river from whence you board, right in front of about a million eating and drinking places on Clarke or Boat Quays.

There are several boat companies all offering about the same thing encamped along the Singapore River not far from Parliament, the Ministry of Culture and Raffles Landing Site. Tours last different times, but after doing it a couple of times over our visits to Singapore, 30-45 minutes is about right. You see stuff, nobody gets too sick or grumpy and the price is OK. In 2004 we paid S$12 for adults, S$6 for kids. There are also longer dinner and High Tea cruises available.

Before I forget, film and batteries for sale at the boat boarding places are absurdly expensive and the film boxes look old enough to have been placed there by the original Mr. Kodak himself. If you need things, buy them up the street at Funan Center instead.

On the boat ride you'll see the redeveloped Clarke and Boat Quays, full of bars and restaurants. You'll also see some nice hotels you wish you could afford to stay at, the why-is-it here Singapore Hooter's and then pop out into the harbor to see the Merlion.

The Merlion is the symbol of Singapore, a mythical animal that is half lion and half fish, or perhaps half lion and half mermaid or, as one of our kids said, half Simba and half Ariel, proving we should burn the TV when we get home. Anyway, you should see it, vomiting water out of its mouth exactly like real lions and mermaids do, and the boat driver actually stopped and waited in front of the thing. We sat there for awhile and it was only after someone got up and took a picture (yeah, it was me) did we start up again.

The boats have no toilets aboard, and they don't sell water or snacks. The drivers speak limited English in some cases. The floor has a little water on it but otherwise the boats are clean. You have to go down one set of steps and climb aboard, so a stroller is manageable. If the heat is bugging you, sit up front for the breeze. As long as the boat was moving we did not feel enough motion to conjure up any seasickness but in case, a good half of the seats are window seats. It was a fun ride and worth the time and money.

Oh yes, if you tell your kids like we did about the fact that “bum” can mean “butt,” they will repeat that all freaking afternoon to what really seemed like out-of-proportionate amounts of laughter. Maybe it was the heat.

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