We visited Singapore as part of our 2 month South East Asia trip in December 2015 and it was one of my favourite destinations. It might be because after almost 2 months in South East Asia arriving in Singapore was like a little piece of western society we had been missing. Singapore has four main languages, English, Tamil, Malay and Mandarin however everyone we spoke with spoke English as a first language which was lovely after travelling in South East Asia where not everyone does speak English.
We decided to take a bus from Georgetown to Singapore which went via Kuala Lumpur this took about 10 hours in total and after all that Conor nearly didn’t get let in! When we arrived at the border we had to disembark the bus with our luggage to go through border security, where our bags got checked. I strolled right through security thinking Conor was right behind me, I exited the building and then turned around to see he was still with one of the border security officers and was having to unpack his suitcase. I tried to get back inside to see what was happening but I wasn’t allow, next thing I saw Conor was getting taken into a small room, we tried to mimic to each other what was happening. After about 20 minutes he returned and said that the security officer said he had a metre long knife in his bag, obviously he didn’t. The border security officers made him unpack his whole suitcase and eventually found the ‘metre’ long knife which we actually a pen knife. Not the best start to our trip!
We found it hard to find accommodation in Singapore to begin with as it was a lot more expensive than the likes of Thailand and Vietnam but we opted for a hostel in the middle of Chinatown. We originally just booked 2 nights in Singapore, at the Royal hostel then extended as we loved it so much! We booked the hostel through Hostelworld and paid $30 SGD for both of us in a 18 bed dorm, this equities to about £17 or $28 AUD. We arrived late into Singapore and got dumped in the middle of nowhere by the coach, so Conor and I, as well as a Japanese and Malaysian guy started together and got a taxi to the nearest MRT station, which is the metro or underground. We weren’t entirely sure how the metro system worked but if you’ve ever used the London Underground then it’s pretty similar. They have travel cards available which gives you 6 rides on the transport in 30 days or there is also a Singapore Tourism Pass available.
The Royal Hostel in Singapore is located in Chinatown on a great food street called Smith Street, this is a busy pedestrian street with a variety of Asia cafes lining the street. On our first morning we headed out onto the street and decided to get some breakfast at a cafe and we weren’t disappointed.
From here we took the MRT down to Marina Bay where the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel is and the amazing bay which is surrounded by high rise offices and hotels. We walked along the bay front taking in the view and then entered the The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands which is a large shopping mall which was filled with Christmas decorations. It was the first time we’d seen Christmas decorations as there weren’t any in Thailand or Malaysia but Singapore is so multicultural it has many different cultural’s and religions, so it made us feel a little more at home.
We walked through the mall, window shopping and then found the ice rink at the end of the mall with families and children and of course Santa Clause. We then headed into the food court which had every cuisine imaginable, but Conor went for a pork bun and I got some macrons, very different ha ha!
After finding our way out of the shopping mall we headed towards the Marina Bay Sands hotel, Conor wanted to take a peek at the Casino and then we found the entrance to the observation deck, SkyPark @ Marina Bay Sands. The entrance to the observation deck is through the hotel tower 3, it’s a little bit of a walk from the shopping mall but it’s signposted well. The tickets were $23 SGD each which is £13 or $22 AUD, the SkyPark is 57 levels above and overlooks the bay on one side and the Gardens by the Bay on the other side. The views are incredible and gives you a good perspective of the city and further out to the port and sea. From the SkyPark you can see the famous Marina Bay Sands infinity pool which is unfortunately only open to hotel guests.
We headed back down to the bay front and went to the National Gallery Singapore, we didn’t realised but the gallery had just opened only days before we arrived on 24th November 2015. As part of the opening events they had free entry for everyone between 24th November and 6th December so we lined up for our free ticket and entered the National Gallery, something we wouldn’t have paid for otherwise! There was also lots of events happening outside the gallery, with science experiments, art classes and music which was fantastic. We took our time looking around the gallery and ended up on the rooftop, the gallery has a bar on the rooftop called Smoke and Mirrors. The rooftop has fantastic views over the city and out towards the bay front and Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
After we left the National Gallery Singapore we headed out to the tents and took part in some of the free activities which were happening. We then headed to a little market which was on the front and had a look around there. It was getting to dusk by this point which gave us a brilliant photo opportunities around the bay.
From the SkyPark we could see down onto the bay front and saw there was an event or festival happening below so decided to go back and check out what was going on there. It looked like we picked a good time to arrive in Singapore as we arrived for the SG50 Finale – SG Heart Map Festival @ Float. The SG50 was a nationwide celebration of Singapore’s 50th birthday and was a reflection on how far the country has come. It was an amazing festival and event and there was loads going on on the bayfront for families and tourists like us. There was freebies, activities, entertainment and food stalls. We had a great evening enjoying the festival @ float and watching the outdoor movie on the worlds largest floating stadium and stage. Singapore seemed to be really family orientated and there was loads of activities for everyone to get involved in.
Our first stop was the world famous Raffles Hotel and the Long Bar for a Singapore Sling. The Raffles Hotel is located in the Downtown Core, which is the centre of Singapore, close by there are a lot of other hotel chains and world famous designer stores as well as Raffles City, a shopping centre. The Raffles Hotel is a beautiful building with high end stores, restaurants and of course the Long Bar. We headed up the stairs to the Long Bar and were greeted by a member of staff. We took a seat at the bar and got handed a menu, however we already knew what we were ordering, a Singapore Sling of course! The bar was filled with tons of other like minded tourists enjoying Singapore Slings in the world famous bar. The floor was filled with peanut shells, as it’s custom to do in the Long Bar, crack a peanut shell and throw it on the floor. We were surprised to see the gin in the Singapore Sling had been especially made by Sipsmith of London, a distillery we had the pleasure of visiting.
After an expensive Singapore Sling at the Long Bar for 30 SGD each which is £16 and $29 AUD we headed back down to the bay front which we had visited the day before to visit the Gardens by the Bay. The Gardens by the Bay is located just behind the Maria Bay Sands Hotel right on the Marina Bay which leads out into the Singapore Strait. Gardens by the bay is a 101 hectare garden filled with over 1 million plants with an conservatory Flower Dome and conservatory Cloud Forest which house’s the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, which is 35 metres tall. We arrived at the Gardens by the Bay and jumped onto one of the buggy’s and was driven through the Supertree Grove. When looking at pictures of the Gardens by the Bay you will probably notice the huge Supertree Grove which stand 50 metres tall and are an icon for the gardens, they are beautifully lit up at night. We visited in early December so the Flower Dome was decorated with Christmas decorations and Santa’s grotto, this conservatory was very different from the Cloud Forest as it had flowers and plants from all different regions in the world. The Flower Dome is the world’s largest glass greenhouse and I’m not surprised it’s huge!
The Cloud Forest has a different feeling all together, it is made to feel like there are mountains high above you, this conservatory has a magnificent walkway above the gardens overlooking the plants, vegetation and the waterfall. The Gardens by the Bay also have a OCBC Skyway which is 22 metres tall overlooking the the gardens and the Marina Bay, as well as a children’s garden and water play area and much more. Gardens by the Bay is a must do when visiting Singapore, with activities for all the family, it cost 28 SGD each for us to visit both conservatories which is £15 or $27 AUD.
After visiting the Gardens we walked along the bay front back into The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands and started looking for somewhere to eat dinner. There are lots of restaurants on the bay front with amazing views. We fancied something Western and found Bread Street by Gordon Ramsey. This is a really nice restaurant on the bay front which also has seating downstairs right by the kitchen which is where we sat. I opted for fish and chips and salmon for Conor, it was a lovely taste of home after eating Asian food for nearly 2 months in South East Asia.
We woke up early again and took the MRT to HarbourFront, the metro station is located underneath a huge shopping complex and this is also where you can jump onto the Mount Faber and Sentosa Island cable car. We had a look around the HarbourFront, all the shops had Christmas decorations, the centre also has tons of restaurants, cafes, a cinema and entertainment area. After we had a look around we headed to the cable car, which departs from HarbourFront. We bought tickets for the Sentosa line which takes you up to Mount Faber then back down to Sentosa Island and also gives you entry to Sentosa Island and another cable car which goes above the island, this ticket was 33 SGD, £18.50 or $32 AUD. First the cable car took us to Faber Peak, Mount Faber, Singapore’s 2nd highest hill which gives you great views over Sentosa Island, the city and out over the Singapore Strait. From Mount Faber we took the cable car back down past the HarbourFront to Sentosa Island which is a famous resort island, home to Universal Studios Singapore, S.E.A Aquarium, Adventure Cove Waterpark, Sentosa Nature discovery and more. Above the island we could see the animals in the Nature discovery. With our ticket we could jump onto the Singapore Cable Car which is located on the island and takes you above the islands resorts, attractions as well as boasting amazing views back over to Mount Faber and to the harbour.
Being our last night we decided to find a nice restaurant to eat at, we didn’t want to go too far so looked on TripAdvisor for somewhere close to Chinatown where we were staying. We found Lolla, an amazing restaurant with a Mediterranean and tapas style menu serving seasonal produce we enjoyed an incredible dinner with perfectly paired wines. The staff were so friendly, we sat at the bar and had great recommendations from them, it was the best way to end our time in Singapore.
Overall Singapore was one of our favourite countries, it was Asian yet Western, it had an amazing atmosphere and was family orientated with so much going on and so much to do and see we extended our stay and would definitely return in the future.