A heaving metropolis with a thriving economy, Singapore epitomises combining business with pleasure. A far cry from the rushed, anti-social formalities of London, Singapore supplements its success and austerity with smiles and politeness, and we were immediately enthralled.
We thought 5 days would be enough in the relatively small Republic, however left with a bigger list of things to do than we came with. Innovative, unlikely hotels are in abundance, but classic culture is still there for those who care to find it. What dreams are made of for foodies, Singapore has a world class restaurant for every cuisine catering to all wallets, not to mention an amazing bar scene (weeks later I’m still reading about quirky ‘secret’ bars, serving cocktails in pear-cups with vanilla pod straws!). Endless sources of entertainment including light shows, casinos, museums, gardens and infinity pools, and that’s just in Marina Bay…
We landed in the internationally acclaimed Changi airport, bypassing the countless shops, multi-storey slide and airport cinema. Upon reaching the tube, we were immediately struck by the almost clinical organisation of the Singapore transport system; everyone knows where to queue, to let people off the tube first (amazing!) and have mastered the delicate minefield of knowing when to offer your seat and to whom. It put London to shame! We were only more impressed arriving at Footprints Hostel; the streets of Little India were clean and well looked after, a simple demonstration of the respect locals and tourists alike have developed for the city. We had an excellent curry and headed to bed early, excited to see what else Singapore had in store for us.
Even our initial great impression couldn’t compare to the following day. Thoroughly spoilt, Alex’s mum Anita (who will be making a special guest appearance in the blog shortly!) treated us to a night at the exquisite Marina Bay Sands for Alex’s birthday/Christmas present. 2,561 opulent rooms stretching across three towers, linked together on the 55-57th floor by an open-top ‘Skypark’, hosting the infamous Infinty Pool and giving Marina Bay Sands its trademark silhouette, allegedly based on a deck of cards. We skulked into the lobby somewhat shamefacedly with our giant backpacks and elephant travel trousers, which are sadly looking a bit worse for wear these days. Despite our ragged appearance we were greeted warmly, luggage taken off our hands for us and directed to a room on the 34th floor.
It was gorgeous!!! Taking a leaf out of Alex’s book I’ll let the photos do the talking, alongside our lovely towel elephant, of course. We were absolutely blown away and had to force ourselves out to explore and leave behind the 42″ flat screen TV, king-size bed, and, best of all – a bath!
We wandered around the immense shopping centre, trying not to get ourselves completely lost. A bit overwhelmed by options, this time Alex catered to my nerdy side and we ate in the DC Comics restaurant (fear not anyone who thought we would become snobbish around such luxury!). With so much to see, and the day quickly getting ahead of us we popped to the room for a costume change and headed up to the pool on the 57th floor.
Marina Bay Sands proudly hosts the worlds largest rooftop infinity pool, open to guests and members of the public alike. It was a bit of a challenge negotiating around the masses of girls taking selfies, and the ambitious few people attempting lengths. Eventually we made it to the edge of the pool; rewarded with a great view of Singapore and all its sprawling glory, we quickly became just another selfie statistic.
Treating ourselves to a glass of Brut (thanks Anita – sorry Anita!) we lounged poolside, idly discussing how exactly we could make this a regular fixture in our lives; murder plots, bank robbery and insurance fraud all viable options. As the sun began to descend we made tracks down via our shower to the waterfront, to watch the nightly light show.
The light show, Wonder Full, uses water, fire, light and lasers to project images across the bay, telling the story of life, love and growing older. I’d never seen anything quite like it; the poignant melodies of the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra (and Louis Armstrong) were the perfect compliment to the beautiful images in front of us. A magical way to spend the evening.
Reluctantly leaving our plush hotel room the following morning, we dropped our bags in the lobby and headed over to the ArtScience Museum, just outside the main building. Upon our arrival at Marina Bay Sands, we signed up for a pair of loyalty cards, receiving points for the hotel stay, other expenditures within the complex, and crucially providing discounts on various brands, beauty treatments, restaurants and activities. The cards granted us 241 entry into the museum across all exhibits at no cost and minimal effort to obtain, so definitely sign up if you’re planning a trip there.
The ArtScience museum has had some amazing exhibitions in the 6 years it’s been open; Da Vinci, dinosaurs and Harry Potter to name a few. Were Alex playing the role of humble narrator for this post he would wax lyrical about their current space exhibit ‘NASA -A Human Adventure’. Chronicling the advances made by both the USSR and NASA during the space race and in the years of cooperation since, among the exhibits were various scale models including 1:1 models of a NASA Space Shuttle nose cone, various habitable modules and lunar rovers, and space-flown equipment including an original NASA spacesuit and control units. Of course, we couldn’t leave without sampling the human centrifuge, which simulates the G-Force an astronaut experiences during launch, orbit and reentry. Happy to report we both just about kept lunch down!
Foolishly, I actually did ask Alex to write a short sentence about the exhibit… I returned to the paragraph above…
Having wrestled the keyboard back from Alex, you’re once again stuck with me, and I was much more fascinated by the Future World section. We spent an inordinate amount of time bouncing giant yoga balls off each other to make noises, and choreographing light displays via an app in a room full of tiny hanging bulbs. I’m sure it’s targeted at a younger generation than ourselves, but it was great fun colouring in animals, scanning them into a computer and watching them come to life on the floor, and every exhibit had a novel way of combining the fields of Art and Science to create something incredible.
An honourable mention should also go to the M C Esher exhibit, with his mind bending geometrics and pictured impossibilities, but the Future World exhibit was what really captured our imagination, and stayed with us after leaving the museum.
The ever generous Marina Bay had one more gift in store for us, in the form of the Gardens by the Bay. Spanning 250 acres of reclaimed land across 3 gardens, and hosting 2 conservatories with innovative designs focused on minimising their carbon footprint, which are highly successful with energy savings of 30%. We spent our afternoon having a picnic overlooking the Chinese Garden, strolling alongside the Dragonfly Lake and gazing up at the 50m tall Supertrees.
We could have spent the entire 5 days in this tiny little corner of Singapore, and still not seen all there was to see, but onwards we went, this time to the loft@Lavender, a stones throw away from Little India. That evening we visited Singapore Night Zoo, which was everything we hoped it would be. However the Night Zoo, along with its counterparts really merit a blog in their own right, so we will be revisiting them later.
As mentioned, Singapore is much much more than just Marina Bay, and is so multi-cultural and dynamic, it caters to everyone. We were dazzled by Hong Kong-style neon lights in Jurong Point Shopping Centre, and enjoyed excellent burgers at Carl’s Jr.
We got wind of the Rojak Weekend Festival at the Asian Civilisations Museum, and joined locals playing makeshift fairground games and eating iceballs. Enjoying a drink by the riverfront at Clarke Quay, we were charmed by the rows of pastel balconies, and the characterful and unique bars and restaurants huddled below.
We were spoilt for choice for food at Maxwell hawker centre. I was gutted to have missed the Pokémon Run (something that might actually make me exercise!) that morning, but Alex appeased me by finding a Pokemon Café, which we didn’t find time to get to, but it was enough to know it was there!
On the subject of things we didn’t quite get to, we have a laundry list for next time already. We were gruesomely intrigued by Haw Par Villa, with its vivid depictions of the Ten Courts of Hell, but unfortunately we arrived too late to have a look around. Across the bay Fort Siloso is the only remaining gun battery from WWII, containing a wealth of history within, close by is Universal Studios, and finding the best place for a Singapore Sling!
Singapore truly encompasses the best of Eastern and Western culture combined, and retains a refreshing friendliness and accessibility. Where we found Kuala Lumpur’s multi-cultural crush made it seem confused in it’s identity and disordered, Singapore comes across self-assured and natural, confident in its place as one of the most spectacular countries in the world.