Singapore is the classic stopover for travellers heading from Asia to the Antipodes, so of course you have to try and see its best bits. Most of us who stop there, don’t choose to stick around for too long, as it’s a pretty expensive city to stay in, but it’s a must-see nonetheless.
We arrived at the airport feeling pretty refreshed after a nice short flight (which made a change) and then made our way to our hotel on the skytrain. Very similar to Bangkok, very clean and inviting way to get around the city – just make sure you don’t go for the Tourist Pass to get around – it’s much pricier than just doing it pay-as-you-go style. Of course, staff will try to encourage you to buy that option – don’t! I’m sure you know that by now, things marked ‘tourist’ are bound to rip you off. So beware.
But like Bangkok, this is a bustling, modern, exciting city. There is loads to do and lots of nice places to visit but boy is this city HOT! We arrived end of May to stay for 2 nights and the heat was insanely intense – so be prepared to get your sweat on.
As it was so muggy and we only had limited time in this metropolitan city, we decided to find a few nice parks to chill out in first. We started by heading up to Fort Canning Park, which is very tranquil and chock full of history. The only drawback to it is that it’s located on top of a hill, so if you’ve found the weather muggy, climbing up a hill to reach it, may be the last thing you want to do.
But there are some really great sights inside the park, loads of great sculptures, a very cool bunker from the war days, called the ‘Battle Box’, a fragrant spice garden and some great traditional wall carvings. The park also offers really nice views of the city, so it really is worth the trek.
Singapore is a very modern city, there’s plenty of shops and bars and stuff to see, but in my opinion you can see all that anywhere – the parks and unique spots are the places to hit!
So the next place on our agenda was the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Some people may turn their noses up to green and flowery-stuff but you can’t beat surrounding yourself with nature, I think. There are botanical gardens everywhere it seems nowadays, but this one is pretty special because there is the most incredible orchid garden to visit inside.
I was amazed at the variety of these delicate plants, it was pretty eye-opening (I wanted to say bud-opening then but that would be too much 😉 – you can tell I’ve been hanging out with lots of pun-enthusiasts lately haha). But really, I liked to imagine the orchids were all alien plants of some kind, because that’s pretty much what they looked like. Monstrous yet beautiful. I felt like Alice wandering in the flowerbeds.
I do like going into places like this because there is definitely something quite magical about them, like seeing ponds full of giant Lilypads, giant monitor lizards roaming around, luminous green geckos posing in trees and families of terrapins lying around…it’s just so far from the norm that sometimes you do just have to pinch yourself.
I’d been working in London for a year and a half prior to this trip and had become used to the concrete jungle of Barbican, then all of a sudden you find yourself in a tropical paradise…it’s pretty astounding really.
The botanical gardens are a great place to visit if you’re in a group, as there was all cute little spots along the Orchid trial where you could have your photo taken surrounded by the plants. There were groups of people all getting together to take dumb photos and capturing those classic and colourful family pictures. Shame I didn’t get to take any like that but oh well there’s always next time I love that kind of silliness.
One thing I will say about the park, is it really can be quite an overbearing place to visit when it’s extremely humid. The day we went, was particularly stifling, so it was harder to enjoy all the wonders without imagining there was a fridge nearby to stick your head into. But you will be happy to hear there is a ‘cool house’ for some of the cooler-region plants, which you can pop into and cool down in. To be honest leaving that lovely cool bubble, was one of the hardest things I had to do, on the entire trip haha. It was so nice, I did wonder if I should just set up camp in there and never leave.
So it can be quite a high priority on your agenda in Singapore, to be somewhere that is cool at all times. And finding those chilled eating spots becomes pretty high on that list. Unfortunately, however, Singapore was kinda pricier than we had expected, so we had to fall back on trusty McDonalds a few times – the irony of that was, we went all the way out to Chinatown to get some nice cheap food and ended up in Maccy D’s of all places! Haha! Sometimes you just can’t get away from it.
I’ll give you an early health warning right now, when you start to reach the more expensive countries on your travels, McDonalds suddenly looks mightily inviting. So this won’t be the first time I’ll tell you that we ended up stuffing our faces with hamburgers and fries. I’m sure in Singapore, there are hidden pockets where the locals go to get cheap street food, but we didn’t find them. Damnit!
Another great place to stay cool (as we learnt in Thailand) was in the mall. I like going to malls to see how retail culture varies across countries but I don’t like to spend too much time in them to be honest. As you will know by now, I like to find unique parts of an area, so the high-street is usually a no-go for me, but the occasional nosey-around doesn’t hurt. But don’t allow your time away be dominated by visits to shops you could visit at home – that’s pointless, find out the independent hidden gems.
So yes we did go to a mall, with the intention of finding a cinema and well…it was just bonkers. I’m used to busy, modern malls like the Bullring in Birmingham but this was place was ginormous. It was tech-crazy and very Japanese-influenced which was great but at the same time I found it a little off-putting – it was 9pm and heaving with people! We didn’t end up seeing a movie in the end, as we’d seen them all in Thailand (oopsy!), but just wandering around was pretty fun.
It seems travelling had changed me and my retail ways. I used to be Emma the shopaholic, the mall-addict, now I prefer the markets where I can haggle and most of all, get a bargain! So the next day we made for Little India. Especially after spending so much time in India, I felt so much more comfortable in this market, surrounded by delicious food, tacky shoes and piles of religious flower garlands. We both needed new shoes that we could wear in chilly New Zealand but that were a bit smart too – because there’s nothing as un-cool as rocking the walking boots look 24/7. Oh no! So ballet pumps it was for me! And they only cost £5 – not bad at all! So remember that shoe tip gals, ballet pumps go with everything after all, but don’t buy them until you need them, then you’ll still have the room for everything else and not just all your shoes. 😉
And what better way of relaxing after a hard day shopping, sight-seeing and sweating than by stopping for a nice pint in an English pub. I tell ya, as cliched as it is, you cannot beat the feeling of going in a traditional British pub when you’re away from home. Yes, it was expensive but it was totally worth it. We had 2 nice chilled pints and a bowl of potato wedges to share (which we covered in salt, vinegar and ketchup) – it was like we’d never tasted it before, it was so good. That’s what I love about being away from the familiar for a while….absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. Mmmmm.
The pub was lovely and right on the Quayside, so I really recommend going there to watch the sunset over the city. It’s glorious. Everyone from the big city firms come to these waterfront pubs to socialise after a hard day work, so it really offers Brits that Canary Wharf/Newcastle’s Quayside feel. Which for me was very heartwarming. It really is good to reconnect with what you love about home when you’re away. 🙂 It makes you all warm and fuzzy inside.
On that note I’ll leave you. Tell me about your Singapore tales, what did you think of it? How many Slings did you knock back? Go on , tell me….
Love and Union Jacks, Em xoxo