“Amazing” – on this trip we have noticed that both of us use this word far too often and realise that it has become for us a lazy way of describing something. However for Singapore we really do feel it applies. What a wonderful surprising city it is, with so much to see and do and in our three days staying in the city centre we managed to get round most, but by no means all of the star sights.Singapore city centre beautifully blends the old with the brand spanking new with an East meets West style. We loved the sights of old Chinese shop houses and colonial buildings sitting alongside shiny skyscrapers. With hotels and parks in the south of the city set around water it gives this area a relaxed and holiday atmosphere lacking in other cities we have visited despite the many tourists.
We started this trip exploring the crazy overpopulated city of Manila and we were glad to move on, it is now the end of our trip and we are so happy we saved the best till last. In both cities our hotels were in Chinatown but our experience couldn’t have been more different. Chinatown in Singapore was a joy to explore and was a blaze of colour and life and busy with preparations for Chinese New Year. The temples were all being decorated and many of the Hawker Stalls were closing for the holiday.
Our first day was spent exploring the southern part of the city, starting with a walk along the river to the Clarke and Robinson Quay areas and then making a quick detour into The Fullerton Hotel. This historic building has a superb vantage point with one side facing the riverfront and the other overlooking Marina Bay. We weren’t expecting so many green spaces and parks and the very wide pavements made it easy it to navigate our way around on foot. Incidentally the transport system (MRT and bus) is superb but we chose to explore by walking so we could see and feel the city at a slower pace.
A walk around Marina Bay gives spectacular views from every side with its backdrop being the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel with three towers and rooftop infinity pool. For S$23 each (just over £13) we took the lift to the bar on 67th floor and were able to redeem our tickets against the price of a cocktail where we sat and enjoyed the wonderful views.
A highlight was a trip to the huge (101 hectare) Gardens By the Bay, a futuristic botanical garden with two dome conservatories that reminded us of the Eden Project. We spent a happy time here wandering past 2 lakes through the 10 different themed ‘gardens’ and the 18 very distinctive super trees, all for free. The conservatories had an entrance free and as it was so hot anyway we decided to pass on paying to go inside into yet more damp humidity.
Each evening at 7.45pm in Gardens by the Bay there is a free 15 minute sound and light show at the ‘super tree’ garden which was a unique and very moving experience and so much better than a firework display. Then if you hot foot it across two roads you can get to the second nightly sound, water and light performance at 8pm on Marina Bay which involved fountains and laser beams.
On our second day we visited Fort Canning Park, another lovely green space but we didn’t find out until we got there that there is no longer a fort. However the hill and surrounding area have an interesting history as it is where in 1942 from their underground bunkers, the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese.
We also ventured to the Orchard Road shopping area which is a consumerist mecca with so many high end Malls we lost count. Besides this we saw several temples, parks and a wonderful interactive museum, Singapore City Gallery.
Each evening we sought out different local food stalls and had fun tasting new dishes and trying in vain to find reasonably priced beer. It seems this does not exist in Singapore!
Throughout our sightseeing we sent Lizzie photo clues from all around the city trying to bamboozle her as she had asked us to tell her where we were going. As a local she only managed to get 50%, but in fairness some pictures we sent were rather obscure! (a couple of examples below)
On Friday 24th January we caught the MRT to Hillview, in the NE of the city and started two fabulous days staying with our friends Lizzie and Miles and their children Osian and Emmy. Here we were so spoilt by their generous hospitality and enjoyed time sitting by the pool in their condominium complex, eating fabulous food, drinking their beer (free – yea!) and wine, catching up and laughing a lot!
On Saturday they took us 4 stops back down the MRT for a 5 km walk around The Singapore Botanical Gardens, another gorgeous green space and where we had a rare sighting of a family of eight Otters fishing and cavorting, spotting other animals, then bouncing on netting trampolines and admiring sculptures.
On the Sunday Annie, Lizzie and Osian went for a walk /run through the Nature Reserve near their home and this was followed by a visit to the very smart ‘British Club’ for a swim and lunch and to see the Lion Dance laid on to celebrate Chinese New Year.
We were also spoilt by Osian showing us his skills on the saxophone and Emmy similarly on her cornet. They are both very gifted, but with Miles being a music teacher and accomplished Jazz musician it’s perhaps no surprise.
We had a wonderful time with Miles and Lizzie and it was with heavy hearts that we caught our 14 hour night flight back to the UK on Monday 27th January to bring to an end our latest and truly memorable trip through the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.