The way we choose to travel seems to have changed a bit these days. We still love to travel and see no reason why the addition of our very own small person to the family earlier this year should stop us, but since we moved to Abu Dhabi we began furiously accumulating Etihad Guest points and now I’ll admit that we do sometimes choose our destinations based on where our points will get us (and/or get us upgrades!). So, with a holiday window identified over Eid week, we were super excited to find Etihad Guest seats available for Singapore and that was it – City break: Singapore, decision made!
We’ve visited Singapore once before back in 2006, but only for a brief 7 hour stopover. One of the things that Singapore does really well (apart from the airport itself) is the transit tours – anyone with at least five hours to spare has the option to leave the airport and explore, either on your own or with one of the free tour options offered… so of course we made straight for the Long Bar at Raffles for a, ahem, few cheeky mid-flight Singapore Slings 🙂
This time though, we were ready to explore.
Unfortunately for us, pretty much no sooner had we landed than all of us came down with horrible colds which did limit us a bit – we certainly weren’t quite as adventurous as we’d usually be I’m afraid, but for what it’s worth, here’s my thoughts on the island also known as the red dot…
8 hours flight time and four hours ahead from Abu Dhabi.
It’s hot and humid. For everyone here in Abu Dhabi moaning about late summer humidity here of 66%, no, just NO. Humidity in Singapore doesn’t fall below 64% and the average is 80%. Humidity was at 96% during our visit in September which can only be described as ‘challenging’.
EAT & DRINK
Food is something of a national obsession in the country, and there’s plenty of food everywhere you turn…
A trip to Singapore is not complete without visiting and eating in at least one Hawker Centre where you can experience low price but some excellent Asian food… We visited several, but Lau Pa Sat, a beautiful wrought iron building with (its iron columns were shipped from Glasgow!) was probably my favourite.
Just behind Lau Pa Sat every evening, you’ll also find Satay Street… A public road that is closed off every evening to make way for the Satay stalls and tables and chairs that soon fill the bustling street.
It also wouldn’t be right not to mention the Raffles Hotel, yes, a bit touristy perhaps but it’s still an icon of a city in days gone by.
The Long Bar is the place everyone heads for a Singapore Sling, though there are also plenty of other bars to choose from in the hotel.
Everyone’s favourite eating spot also seems to be the award-winning Din Tai Fung for dumplings… we did pop in and I’ve got to admit it was pretty good. Even better news for us UAE dwellers is that they just opened a branch in Dubai at the Mall of the Emirates so we don;t have to go all the way to Singapore anymore to get our fix!
Is it me or does every high street the world over look much the same these days? So many of the brands are the same as you’ll find at home so unless there’s something you really, really hanker after I’d give Orchard Road a miss…
The one exception on the strip I would recommend is to visit Tomi Foot reflexology in Lucky Plaza – your feet and mind will thank you for it. This one’s a recommendation I found in the Lonely Planet, and if it’s good enough for Sting then who am I to argue?! 🙂
Chinatown is a great place for a meander and a nose around the markets, not to mention the beautiful traditional architecture and some fabulous food too.
We also really enjoyed our visits to the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari, though we felt the Night Safari was the better of the two and if you’re pushed for time you don’t really need to do both as there’s quite a bit of crossover on the animals, but I will say that one of the highlights of the Singapore Zoo for me was the Fragile Forest bio-dome which recreates the rainforest ecosystem, complete with sloths, flying foxes and my personal favourite, the Lemur 🙂
If you’re visiting with older kids, you’ll probably want to take a trip over to Sentosa Island for some of the theme parks as Universal Studios, SEA Aquarium and a Zipline adventure park are all housed there. We took the cable car over from Mount Faber which is a fun way to get there, but if it’s strictly traditional Singapore you’re looking for, then you’ll want to steer well clear of here with perhaps the exception of the historically interesting Fort Siloso.
The visibility wasn’t very good during our stay in September, but a trip on the big wheel, the Singapore Flyer is still worth doing for the views if you have the chance, although by far my favourite place to explore was the eco-friendly Gardens by The Bay just across the water from the Flyer.
The gardens are extensive and very beautiful and with loads of different exhibitions and gardens specific for different types of flora and fauna it’s a great place for nature lovers to explore. For me though, the most striking part of the park is the ‘Supertrees’. These huge tree like structures throughout the park encourage vine plants to grow up and around the structure, with flowers also littering the Supertrees making them not only impressive but also very attractive. The structures are home to many different types of orchids that found their way naturally when their seeds have been blown there by the wind, now isn’t that lovely..?
There’s a raised sky walk through the Supertrees too which gives great views across the city but might not be for the fainthearted… it’s quite high at 181 metres and whilst very safe, it’s very narrow in parts and does sway as people move along it!
Another iconic building, the Marina Bay Sands is really nothing more than a vast hotel and a structure to be admired (or loathed, by some), but since it’s one of the highest points around, we decided it’d be good to go for a drink at the top and check out the views.
Whilst we really enjoyed our time in the city, being sick did slow us down a bit and because of that, I was left with a feeling that we didn’t really get under the skin of the city. Singapore is a modern, exciting city that people sometimes quickly write off as an urban jungle with no soul. We did follow the pretty standard tourist trail on this trip but I do believe there is a hidden city within the heart of Singapore that is just waiting to be discovered by those with the inclination. On that subject, check out this post I stumbled across by Sea Salt Secrets here: ‘Colour Amidst Asia’s Concrete Jungle’.