My Big Trip, Part Two, started off with a 14 hour slog from Dublin via Dubai. I flew Emirates and have to say, although I died inside a little bit walking past business class, it was relatively comfy in economy and who doesn’t love the impossibly chic Emirates air hostesses? Singapore was my first stop in Asia, and as my friend Laura is living there, for almost a week I was fortunate enough to be her guest! A mere stone’s throw from Orchard Road, her place is right smack in central Singapore.
Navigating your way around the metropolis, it’s easy to feel like you’ve suddenly been transported into the pages of a science fiction novel.The cityscape – especially after dark when all the skyscrapers glow and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel is beaming out neon flashes for the nightly light show – makes you feel you could be on the set of Bladerunner or Star Wars.
Über clean, safe, modern and accessible, Singapore is an easy place to get around. The underground trains (MRT) and buses are cheap and easy to get the hang of. (FYI it takes about 1 hour from the airport to the centre of the city.)
Laura’s been living in this Asian mega-city for almost two years now and I can see why she loves it here. Everything you need is basically at your fingertips with malls, bars, restaurants everywhere, and the food is AHMAZING. There are a number of ‘hawker’ centres which are basically like huge food courts where you can pick up whatever food you like from different vendors ‘hawking’ cuisine from India, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and some authentic ‘Singaporean’ dishes – which is basically a mish-mash of lots of different Asian food. It’s pretty cheap too, so a great way for the budget backpacker to get a good meal. Singapore in general isn’t cheap, but if you:
- Eat in hawker centres
- Take the MRT and bus instead of taxis
- Drink in bars during Happy Hour (times vary but it’s usually early evening) where you get can get one for one deals
- Don’t get sucked in by the designer shops on Orchard Street (Prada, Miu Miu, Gucci, Louis Vuitton) OR if you’re me, don’t get sucked in by Forever 21, New Look, H&M, Topshop (much more my budget)
…you should be fine.
What to check out in Singapore
- Gardens by the Bay: a free outdoor space created for the people of Singapore and tourists alike to enjoy. Check out the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome – the domes charge entry but they’re worth it. If you were choosing between the two I’d probably go with the Cloud Forest. The giant Super Trees are visually stunning and the SkyWalk is about $5, giving you an excellent view across the bay, taking in the space-ship looking pillars of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the Singapore Eye – like the London Eye except in Singapore, innit?
- EAT: Okay I know I mentioned food already, but it warrants more word count! Due to very close proximity, I ate numerous times at Food Republic in the mall Somerset@313 near Laura’s place. The top and bottom floors (as with most malls here) are amazing cornucopias of food much like the hawker centres except with a roof and wi-fi.
It was here that I tried the traditional Singaporean breakfast of Kaya toast. It’s basically two pieces of toast with coconut jam and butter, served alongside 2 (very) soft boiled eggs that are given to you in the shell with a small bowl smattered with some soy sauce and pepper. You crack the eggs into the soy and pepper, give it a bit of a mix and then dip your sweet jammy buttery toast into the gloopy eggy mix. DELICIOUS! Take a sip of your ‘Kopi C’ (sweet coffee with condensed milk), and boom! It really all comes together in a glorious taste sensation.
- Asian Civilisation Museum: I went here late in the afternoon and really wished I’d not gone to the Chinese Heritage Centre in Chinatown earlier (not worth it, and IMO a rip off at $10 entry) just so I could have spent more time here. It is a first class museum with three floors and eleven galleries displaying the history of cultures and civilisations from right across the continent of Asia. I spent a mere hour and 15 minutes here (as the museum shut at 7pm) and got lost in the maze of art work, sculptures and textiles as well as the history of the development of South Asia across the centuries. It’s $8 well spent if you pay a visit here.
- The light show at Marina Bay Sands Hotel: Every evening a 15 minute light show takes place at 8pm and 9.30pm at Marina Bay. It’s free so everyone can enjoy it, which I love, and it’s a really spectacular event – lights beaming down from the top of the spaceship-esque Sands Hotel project onto fountains of water timed with beautiful classical and traditional music, flames are thrown and bubbles float out in the finale along to the tune of Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful World’. Laura said it always made her cry, and dammit the bubbles got me big time! The imagery coupled with the music and being surrounded by people ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ to it all, it really is wonderful.
- Singapore Botanic Gardens On my final day in Singapore I took a trip out to the famous Botanic Gardens. One of the top rated activities on TripAdvisor, it’s a wonderful garden that is free to enter and you could spend the entire day there lolling about and walking the expanse of this huge green space. There are lakes, flowers, trees and many different gardens and spaces to enjoy. The Orchid Garden is definitely not to be missed, at $5 entry it’s a magnificent display of beautiful orchids and the sheer variety of colours and type of orchid is incredible.