Singapore, a fine (excuse the pun) country home to four languages; English, Malay, Tamal and Chinese. After the previous counties we have travelled to though we had to keep in mind that there are rules here, such as no jay walking, which we had become very normal to us by now, or more ridiculous laws such as prohibiting the sale of chewing gum and taking Durians, a rich smelling fruit, into the MRTs. We clarified that actually eating chewing gum is not illegal but bringing in more than a couple of packets of chewing gum through the airport is against the law and you may be faced with a big fine if you are caught with several packs or a box of them when your bag is scanned at the airport.
Having had positive experiences with couch surfing by this point we decided to continue. Being the expensive place Singapore is we were able to save a few pennies this way and we believe the best way to experience and learn about a country is with a local. This proved to be very true with our host Ricky! Not only did he welcome us into his lovely apartment which was very central, he also went out of his way to be our tour guide for an entire day, taking us places we would have not gone to otherwise and teaching us about the country, such as the history and about the modern architecture.
Our flight arrived in the late afternoon so by the time we had dinner in China Town we arrived at Ricky’s house by the evening. We had a relaxing night in so we could start sight seeing nice and early at 9:30am.
Ricky showed us around the City Art Gallery, giving us an insight of Singapore’s history and how it improved so quickly within around fifty years. This year (2015) is it’s 50th anniversary of independence and because of this you find certain services are free.
Singapore has many Hawker centres, offering cheap authentic food, especially Chinese and Indian cuisine. Lunch was at Maxwells Food Centre near China Town and I tried the Chicken Rice, a national dish, which is basically just boiled or roasted chicken with rice, nothing special but was still nice.
The central city is small enough that walking it is feasible. Having enough time, we walked from China Town to Sky Flyer, passing by the business centre which was relatively quiet being a weekend, drooling over super cars parked outside the 6* Fullerton Hotel and walking alongside the bay front taking in the city’s skyscraper back drop. The Formula 1 track and team garages with each of the racers names printed above the garage doors were located just behind the Sky Flyer and being a great fan of F1 this was probably one of Max’s highlights, being able to walk along the track and sit on the floor on the pit. Ricky showed us roughly the race route passing near the Fullerton hotel, via Esponade bridge and passing by the Sky Flyer, making these spots great vantage points.
The Helix bridge, a pedestrianised bridge designed to resemble a DNA structure which lights up beautifully at night was connected to the bay front by Marina Bay Sands. Marina Bay Sands shopping mall, home to designer brands, was an exquisite mall with a whirl pool and an artificial river with hireable boats paddling through. Their casino was free to enter for foreigners holding a passport and free soft drinks, orange juice and hot drinks were available for all visitors, gambling or not. We made sure we visited at least once a day to relax, drink and watch the casino win. It was busy every time we visited, with the majority of customers being Asians and Indians.
Having a quick look inside Marina Bay Sands hotel we decided to leave that and Gardens by the Bay for the following day. We ended the day with Ricky strolling down Orchard Street, the main shopping hub in the city where you can find a very modern library and Ion Sky. Before heading up to Ion Sky, a free venue on the 46th floor we tried an ice-cream sandwich which was surprisingly nice! Ion Sky had panoramic views of the city, with Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Sky Flyer and the national stadium in the horizon.
After Ricky pointed out to us the main points he left us and we continued to explore Little India and the Sultans Mosque. Unfortunately for us the mosque was under renovation so we were unable to view it. On our way back to have dinner at Tekka Market to try authentic Indian cuisine we stopped to visit Masjid Abdul Gafoor which was beautifully lit.
That lunch time we returned to Maxwell Food Centre and headed to Marina Bay Sands Hotel to attempt to see the view from the top. Finding out we had to pay $20 each to be allowed on the observation deck on the highest floor gave us more incentive to find a way to sneak up and after a couple of attempts managed to via the main guests elevators. We enjoyed the view of the entire harbour front from the sky bar.
That night we dined on a street leading to the Sultans Mosque in a quaint brick road lined with palms and met my friend Sarah-Ann from Gibraltar for a drink. She and another friend, Bindi, were visiting Surinda, a university friend, for the week and we luckily coincided for a couple of days. I was quite excited about meeting up since I hadn’t seen her in 6 months and it was sooo nice to see a familiar face! We ended the night joining her and her friends for a drink sat outside a bar.
We met up with Sarah-Ann and Bindi the next morning and headed to the Henderson Waves bridge connecting Telok Blangah Hill Park and Mount Faber Park, extending 274m in length, twisting and curving like a wave, hence its name. It was an enjoyable and slightly tiring walk due to a slight hill but ended up by Victoria Harbour opposite Sentosa Island.
We crossed the bridge by foot. Sentosa was unexpectedly very quiet, with very few tourists walking around. There was a hawkers food court here also which made it easy for us to decide where to have lunch. The island was very artificial and felt like a fantasy world with numerous entertainment parks to suit all ages, however, Palawan beach, which is man made, comprising of sand from Indonesia was lovely. It reminded us of Gibraltar with its dark blue choppy waters and its many tankers but an artificial beach just didn’t do it for us. Not staying for long we hopped on the free shuttle back to the entrance and crossed over to the mainland on tram which was free thanks to the 50th anniversary.
Back at Gardens by the Bay we parted with Sarah-Ann and Bindi and visited Cloud Forest and Flower Dome.
Cloud Forest was home to a wide collection of plant life from tropical highlands. Housing a large indoor waterfall, rising up 35m, on the tall mountain. The conservatory was kept at a cool-moist atmosphere. Stairs or an elevator got you to the mountaintop where there were two walkways which allowed you to have an aerial view of the mountainside.
Flower Dome, unlike Cloud Forest, had a cool-dry climate, housing a wife variety if desert plants. It was Tulipmania at the time and there were thousands of different beautifully coloured tulips on display. I enjoyed it more than I had anticipated.
Our visit ended lying underneath the lit up Garden Rhapsody trees. Every day at 7:45 and 8:45 the gardens display a musical and light performance for 15 minutes, free of charge, syncing the lights with the music.
Additionally, there is also a light and water performance taking place in front of Marina Sands Bay Mall. Of course we had a Casino drinks put stop on the way whilst we watched more people give their money away. Coincidently we bumped into our friends once more and enjoyed the show with them. We covered a lot on our last day and ended it with a Indian dinner from the food court in Marina Sands Bay Mall and a drink with the girls before we said our goodbyes. It was sad saying goodbye to Sarah-Ann knowing I wouldn’t see her again until I returned home but it had been great spending time with her.
Having booked a flight departing in the afternoon gave us time to have a lie in and make our way on the metro to the airport.
Tips for travellers:
It is cheaper booking dorms on agoda online instead of in person.
We began our route at China Town, passing a Hindu temple. We entered a Chinese temple located next to the Hindu temple and watched members read out scripts aloud in harmony. The inside, consisting of walls of small buddhas was different to others we had visited. Apparently you can choose your buddha using your zodiac sign.
The following day we moved into dorms at City Backpackers located right next to Clarke Quay which was very convenient. That morning was the long awaited boxing match of the year, Mayweather Vs Pacquiao, and we watched it along with an entire street of people at Murphy’s Irish pub. I wasn’t particularly fussed about it unlike Max but once the match started there was so much hipe I ended up joining in. To many peoples disappointment Mayweather won the match and continued his professional unbeaten legacy.