Singapore was never in my original plans for travelling this year. At first I was considering flying direct to Australia, ‘are you nuts?’ I hear you say – Yes, yes I am. Thankfully someone slipped Singapore into a conversation with me and suggested I do a stopover there. They planted the seed for me and from then on, I did some research and realised I’d be stupid not to go, because firstly I would indeed be nuts to endure 23 hours of flying in one day but more so because I could have an opportunity to see another country and Singapore would be the most different of all places I’d been so far.
It would be my first real glimpse of Asia. Again, before it was mentioned to me I probably would never have considered it. Just think how many places are out there that I haven’t yet considered and could love just as much as I loved Singapore. I really did. From the moment I climbed into the back of my taxi, with my driver chatting to me non-stop until we reached my hotel reception, he was basically my personal tour guide. All I did was ask about the weather and conversation flowed! Always a winner.
Anyway! My terribly lovely taxi driver explained so much to me about Singapore, from their government housing to their clean streets, the beautifully unique ‘rain trees’ that line the roadsides and their amazing underground system (MRT). He pointed out all of the sights as we drove past them: the Singapore Flyer, the F1 track, Marina Bay Sands, the entrance to Little India and probably lots more I wasn’t quick enough to absorb through his fast, excitable chit chat. That, and I was a little dazed after getting off an almost 13 hour flight with little to zero sleep. Having said that, his excitement and his obvious pride in his country made me feel genuinely keen to get out and explore it myself. After a quick check-in to my hotel, Yotel (Mini review: great! – I’ll leave a link at the bottom of this post), tired and hungry, I took the elevator from my 18th floor to the lobby where within 5 minutes of exiting, I found myself on Orchard Road. When choosing somewhere to stay, this road was pretty much all I knew about Singapore. It is their shopping heaven and with shopping usually comes lots of restaurants, transport links and a very busy street full of lots of things to see and do.
I wasn’t wrong, at first sight Orchard Road with it’s 7 lanes of traffic, skyscrapers, shopping mall upon shopping mall, an abundance of giant designer boutiques, modern buildings dazzling with large screens and colourful lights reminded me of New York, just a lot cleaner. The mall closest to me and probably most iconic was ION Orchard, where I quickly discovered I couldn’t enter from my side of the road without going in an underpass. This was fine until I left ION that night at a different exit and continued walking the street to ‘find a crossing’. No such thing existed, unless I walked for miles more! My tour guide-taxi driver didn’t inform me of the mass of underpasses did he?! (Joking, love him). Moral is: there are lots of underpasses and overpasses throughout central Singapore – they do get a little confusing, even when you think you’ve got them sussed you’ll end up at a complete different place to the one you hoped for. Or maybe that was just me.
Maze of underpasses conquered, I slept like a baby on my first night in Yotel and woke up raring to see the city. My first full day was spent initially hunting down a place to purchase tickets for a hop-on-hop-off bus (Tip: you can purchase tickets from bus drivers, at Suntec City or from Singapore Visitor Centre and the buses stop at normal public bus stops, you can also get some discount by showing a Singapore Airlines boarding pass). I then proceeded to ride a couple of routes around the city to do some lazy sightseeing and to keep me from pacing the streets in the hot and humid Singapore air. I only hopped off at Suntec City and again at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which were stunning and I got lost finding my way out but if I hadn’t got lost I wouldn’t have stumbled upon the Swan Lake, which was one of the highlights for me.
On my second and final day, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I boarded the hop-on-hop-off bus again to the lavish 5-star hotel, Marina Bay Sands. The plan was to see Gardens By The Bay, which if you’re a user of Instagram you will most probably be aware of! Instagrammers love taking shots of the magical-looking trees and the glass domes with giant waterfalls and amazing displays of nature that together create ‘Gardens By The Bay’ – the Bay referring to Marina Bay.
Hopping off the bus at the hotel, I followed signs for the Gardens and didn’t know what to expect on the journey there, which actually involves an elevator, a long bridge, an even longer walk until you eventually reach both domes and then even further for Supertree Grove. Tickets are purchased for the two domes together ($28) and the Supertrees/OCBC Skyway ($8). Honestly, unless you’re terrified of heights you HAVE to do both! It was the best 36 dollars I ever did spend. I’m usually okay with heights but even I felt a bit wobbly walking the narrow orange bridge of the Skyway between the futuristic trees. Probably didn’t help that I was terrified the whole way round of dropping my phone. I would’ve regretted not going up though, the views and the experience were amazing. Equally as amazing are the two domes, my favourite being the Cloud Forest which is where you’ll find that giant waterfall in the photo above.
After the trek back to Marina Bay Sands, I was keen to see the view from the observation deck, ‘Sands Skypark’. On route I discovered signs for the ‘Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands’, the luxurious shopping mall connected to the hotel, complete with more designer boutiques, incredibly expensive restaurants and a canal on the ground floor with Chinese wooden boats carrying people through! Standard procedure really in most shopping malls.
I thought it rude not to check out the mall while it was so close (I also discovered that through the doors at the other end lies the marina with great views of the city). Once I’d strolled along through the marbled mall gazing through windows at designer handbags and diamond jewellery, feeling poorer than ever, I got back on track and headed in the direction of Sands Skypark. Back at the hotel, I walked through all three towers to reach the end I needed (another tip: if you want to go to the Skypark, enter the hotel at Tower 3, not Tower 1 like idiot over here). An adult ticket to ascend to the 56th floor is $23. At the top you will have a cheesy photograph taken (definitely more embarrassing as a solo traveller) and then step out onto a wooden deck to admire the views of stunning Singapore.
Up until this point, I’d spent about 4 hours walking around stopping very briefly for a… chicken hot dog (is this a thing?) at the Gardens. I was beginning to feel tired and the heat – especially walking through those open gardens was insanely intense. But it was still only the middle of the day and I had a bus pass to use so I decided to check out Little India. Aside from being very colourful and popular, what I saw of Little India didn’t appeal to me as much as I’d hoped. Was it that I’d quickly become so accustomed to the wide and clean streets of central Singapore that I didn’t particularly enjoy being packed into busy roads and even busier laneways to see the markets? I wasn’t completely sure but after a cramped shuffle through the jam-packed, sweaty market and taking some photos down the main street to try and capture the Diwali decorations, I was finally hot and tired enough to head back to my hotel.
Overall, I fell for Singapore pretty quickly. I immediately loved stepping onto Orchard Road that first night and smelling the vapours that flowed through the air from the fresh, air-conditioned hotels to the perfumed designer stores to steamy food halls and market stalls. I loved the ease and cleanliness of the city and how I never really felt the need to clutch my bag when walking the streets. I also loved how green a place it was, and how it aims to be even greener in the future, often referred to as ‘City in a Garden’. The beauty of the Botanic Gardens was incomparable to any gardens I’ve seen before and the sheer scale, creativity and grand architecture of both Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay left me in awe.
The only problem with my trip to Singapore was that it was merely a stopover and all along I knew I’d be having to quickly cram in what I wanted to see the most before catching my flight to Melbourne. Chatting to the guys next to me on the plane to Singapore and hearing other’s conversations around me, it was apparent that a stopover was all they had in my mind too, most people may only be staying for one night or a few hours. After my first day, I soon realised that Singapore was a destination worthy of so much more than being just a stopover. I didn’t get a chance to witness the light show at Gardens by the Bay at night. I didn’t see Singapore’s mascot, the Merlion spouting water into the river. I didn’t see Clarke Quay or spend any time whatsoever by the river! I didn’t visit any museums or go inside Raffles Hotel. I didn’t visit Kampong Glam, the Sultan Mosque or Haji Lane. I didn’t even eat much Singaporean food!
Sooo guess where I’ll be booking a flight back to! (Although after the expense of Australia, it could be another 20 years down the line).
Oh yeah, and if you’re looking for an amazing hotel just off Orchard Road, check out Yotel.