Exploring Singapore for the First Time
After many years of flying through Singapore and never getting a chance to stop to explore it, we thought it was time to see what Singapore was all about. So we decided to stopover for three days on our way back from Sri Lanka.
I had heard mixed reviews about Singapore from friends. Some love it and some not so much. Of course everybody is different, so it was our chance to form our own opinion of this country.
After a very short overnight plane ride from Colombo and a quick twenty minute cab ride from the airport, we arrived at our hotel the Mandarin Oriental. We were way too early for check in but were lucky enough to be able to use their gorgeous pool on the fifth floor which has amazing views over the Marina and the city centre. The weather was fabulous and five minutes in and I was already in love with this city. It only got better after that!
First things first, we decided to explore the tourists area so we started with the four kilometre walk around the Marina promenade. With a bright blue sky and a gorgeous sun we definitely started feeling the humidity that everyone is talking about! Yes Singapore does get hot; but you are never too far away from an air-conditioned area.
The walk around the promenade was lovely. There were lots of picture opportunities of the Singapore skyline, the marina and the impressive Marina Bay Sands complex. Of course a quick stop at Merlion Park to see the famous Merlion is obligatory. It’s a very popular place and always full of tourists whether it’s night or day.
The Marina Bay Sands is an attraction in itself. This huge complex, shaped like a spaceship docked on a tripod, hosts a hotel (with two and a half thousand rooms), a casino, a huge shopping mall (with a canal inside just like in Venice!), a museum, a convention centre, theatres, an observation deck, a food court, lots of restaurants, a sky park; and most importantly a huge infinity pool with some amazing views over Singapore.
Unfortunately only guests of the hotel can access the pool and of course the rooms are not cheap! But anyone can access the observatory deck on the 57th floor where you get the same view for S$23. It might not be as exiting as taking a dip as you check out the skyline but if on a budget it’s a lot more affordable!
Behind the Marina Bay Sands you will find the Garden by the Bay. Built on reclaimed land it houses a new type of botanic garden with super-trees, conservatories (housing over two hundred thousand plants from eight hundred species), a sky walk and various themed gardens. At night you can watch the Garden Rhapsody, a really well executed sound and light show that is very popular, especially with families. There are two shows, one at 7.45pm and one at 8.45pm. Make a stop at the Satay by the Bay hawker centre after the show for a dinner Singaporean style!
My favourite thing to do in Singapore was walking around Little India. It has so many colourful shop fronts, spice shops, lovely temples; and colourful markets. The smell of the spices will get you so hungry. Thankfully there are no shortage of restaurants in the area.
Not far from Little India is Haji Lane or Arab Street. It’s also worth the detour to see the colourful shop fronts and the fabrics for sale (if you need a cashmere scarf this is the place to go!), lots of cafes; and the beautiful Sultan Mosque.
Chinatown is another buzzing area to explore. Once again there are many temples to explore. The one not to miss is the Buddha Tooth Relic temple whose interior is majestic with gold and colours everywhere. A ceremony was taking place when I visited so it was even more interesting.
Chinatown is also good for all your cheap souvenirs with hundreds of souvenir shops. If you want a cheap meal there are many food courts and restaurants there too. These are all much more affordable than the ones around the Marina.
If you are into shopping and lots of it then a visit to Orchard Road is a must. Most famous brands are found there, all walking distance from each other. You could easily spend a whole day there if you have time and the money to spare! While in the area you should make a detour to Emerald Hill Road, where you will find some old and stylish terrace houses.
Off of the tourist beat Joo Chiat/Katong is a great area to explore. The neighbourhood is filled with well preserved Peranalan shophouses and colonial bungalows. It’s a fantastic area for photography. It is also bustling with cafes and cheap eateries. Try the Pho at Long Phuong, a gorgeous little Vietnamese restaurant. It’s delicious!
Of course a visit to Singapore is not complete without a quick pitstop at the Raffles Hotel for an original Singapore Sling at the Long Bar. What can I say about this? Well yes, it is super touristy and ridiculously expensive, but the cocktails are delicious and it had to be crossed off the bucket list!
So did we enjoy our time in Singapore. ABSOLUTELY! Three days was definitely not enough and I am already looking forward to my next visit!