Backing Singapore

Overview

Population: 5,610,000

Currency: Singapore Dollar (SGD)

10 S$ = £5.78 £1 = 1.73 S$

Time Zone: GMT +8 (7 hours ahead of UK summer time)

28th Oct – 2nd Nov

Our Singapore stay was a family reunion for me. We would be staying in a 3 bed Airbnb rental with my dad, younger brother (David) and sister-in-law (Alicia). We were also going to be meeting my older brother (Christopher) who is doing part of his PhD in Singapore. Our stay started with a trip to the supermarket with David and Alicia. Wild! After 7 weeks (and counting, technically) of travelling through Asia we were suddenly presented with a nation of English speaking, baked bean sellers and it was about time for some home comforts.

That evening we met up with my brother and his friend Ruth. He had planned a nice thrifty evening of cocktails on the 57th floor of Marina Bay Sands, Singapore’s iconic 5 star hotel.

Having previously enjoyed some nice rooftop views it was a first time on a rooftop cocktail bar. It was all very nice until the bill came… But considering the amount we had paid before to get to the top of big buildings, it probably wasn’t too much more.

After drinks it was off to experience our first Singaporean hawker centre in the nearby shopping centre. Hawker centres are Kate very wisely got herself a bowl of fish soup whilst my brother went and got various dishes of fish, meat and veg with varying degrees of spice. It was great for me mind, although when a Rojak (an Indonesian fruit/vegetable salad) was brought along I wasn’t a fan.

The next day David and Alicia went off early and my Dad, Kate and I went off to Chinatown for some lunch and a spot of shopping. We experienced some very authentic shouty customer service with our lunch before having a gander around some of the stalls. We met up with my brother and Ruth and went into one of Chinatown’s malls to a travel agency called Skyline that sells discounted tickets for Singapore’s main attractions. Our aim for the evening was for everyone to meet up on Sentosa, Singapore’s island of attractions, and ride the Tiger Tower, but we had a fair bit of time to kill first so we wondered around to the marina. My Dad had bought a tourist travel card with discounts for an inflated price because he wasn’t aware there were cheaper ones. One of the discounts was a free Singapore Sling at a marina bar called “;D Happy Factory”. Although he did get his free one, kindly buying the rest of us one each made it a little bit more pricey.

After our cocktails we wandered around the skyscraper riddled Singapore downtown area.

Although we were within spitting distance of one of Singapore’s biggest monuments, the Merlion, we were not allowed to make the small detour by our tour guide, Christopher. Instead we caught a bus and a monorail to get us to the centre of Sentosa. Although it wasn’t the original, they did have a much bigger Merlion!

We met up with David and Alicia and got ourselves on the Tiger Tower, a revolving lift ride with views across Singapore. Due to its revolving and the poor light at this stage it was difficult to get non blurred photos but I tried!

One monorail and metro ride later we had arrived at our dinner destination, a small restaurant in the heart of Little India. We had arrived during Diwali so the region was understandably buzzing! After our dinner of a variety of curries we wandered the streets to see some epic light displays.

We ended up at a giant discount store called Mustafa that sells an incredible range of seemingly everything. Despite it being 10pm it was still rammed full of punters and slightly difficult to negotiate, but quite the experience.

After treating us to a cocktail, our next treat from my Dad was a fancy brunch in the rather fancy Fullerton Hotel.

Our brunch was in the Chinese dim sum restaurant. We sat down in our private booth and perused the menu. Shortly afterwards a waitress came through and started ticking off dishes she thought we should get. I was a bit shocked@ I thought she had some cheek to be ordering for us. It was then that I realised it was one all inclusive price and she was actually being very helpful. About 40 different plates later including birds nest soup, crab cakes, taro paste, milk buns, jellyfish, century egg, pork knuckle, duck wings and some green tea custard buns we were pretty full.

After brunch we walked around the bay to finally see the real Merlion.

From one Singapore symbol to another, we walked from the bay to Raffles Hotel, the spot where the Singapore Sling was dreamed up over 100 years ago.

At an eye-watering $32 we made sure we took advantage of the free peanuts on offer. As a nod to their colonial past they encourage you to throw your shells on the floor, which was a bit odd.

After all the fanciful eating and drinking we spent the rest of that afternoon chilling at the pool in our apartment block.

We ate in the flat that evening and enjoyed our baked beans and mashed potato as if we’d never left the UK.

The next day we all split up once more but whilst the other three went to the zoo, Kate and I went to the botanic gardens. Our first stop within this huge garden complex was the visitor centre to gather some info. And lunch of course.

With route planned we set off through the rainforest section where, after trying and failing to see them in the actual rainforest in Borneo, we happened upon a hornbill in the world’s second most densely populated country.

We proceeded from there around to the orchid garden. There are hundreds of different types of orchid and I must admit I was not as impressed at this as others seemed to be. However the celebrity orchid garden was something I could get on board with! Multiple world leaders and important world figures had been invited to the gardens and orchids had been bred to commemorate this. We found William & Kate’s orchid right next to Princess Diana’s.

Diana’s on the left, Kate and Wills’ on the right

The botanical gardens are easily big enough to spend a whole day in, especially if you’re super into flowers. We had planned to head onwards to the Gardens By The Bay so we missed some large chunks however our other highlights were the carnivorous plants and a monitor lizard strolling through the park.

The Gardens By The Bay were not free. However because we had tourist metro passes this entitled us to a free gift on purchasing a ticket to see the two big glass domed garden worlds. It was a pen. The walk up to the gardens is a spectacle in itself, with the Marina Bay Sands hotel in the background and the iconic supertrees along the path.

The gardens themselves are a lot more like a theme park than the botanical gardens, however they still possess a multitude of plants and the architecture and sculptures within are rather impressive. The first dome we went in was “Cloud Forest”, with a 7 storey climbable centrepiece.

The view from the top was great, not only for the plants and people below but the taller buildings of Singapore and supertrees through the glass. The steel mesh walkways were a tad hairy at times (not my legs).

The second dome “Flower Dome” was a little less impressive. The idea is plants from around the world and although it felt like a lot people had put a hell of a lot of time and effort into constructing this masterpiece and gathering all the exotic plants, it felt a little like a very fancy garden centre. But probably the fanciest garden centre in the world. And I do like garden centres.

On the way out of the gardens we caught the sun setting over the supertrees. We walked along through the Marina Bay Sands Shopping Mall to get to Level 33, the world’s highest urban microbrewery, to meet back up with the rest of the family clan for a world’s highest microbrewed beer and more views across the bay.

For dinner we headed across to satay street for a selection of peanutty meats and fish before heading back to our flat.

Our penultimate day in Singapore my Dad, Kate and I went back to Sentosa for a couple of things. Our first port of call was Trick Eye. After the fun we had in Busan my Dad was intrigued and very kindly paid for us to go in once more so he could experience the many illusions one can through oneself into the midst of.

After this it was onwards to the very south of the island, past the so-called southernmost point of Continental Asia (which is neither part of Continental Asia, nor the most Southern point of Singpore) to the last public beach on the island, Tanjong Beach. There is a small island a short swim from the beach from which you can see all the ships crossing the Melacca Strait. Not the prettiest of sights, but from the beach, the island hides this very well!

After our time in Sentosa we went to find the multicoloured Clarke Quay

I had been here once before as a fresh faced 17 year old, on my way to Australia on a charity holiday. We had been haggling in Chinatown before being taken (by our responsible adult) to Hooters to get some quality underage alcohol. This time we skipped Hooters and instead opted for a Vietnamese cocktail bar for some drinks and snacks.

After all the fun Sentosa had given us that day, for our last day we were going to go for the major Sentosa attraction, Universal Studios. So we went back to Skyline to get everyone tickets for the next day.

The next day came and we were off to ride the magical rides of Universal Studios Singapore.

Having been to the parks in Florida, it was nothing close to the epic scale of those parks, but they crammed in a fair few attractions in the space they had. We managed to go on The Mummy (an indoor roller-coaster with a few added surprises), Jurassic Park Rapids (pretty self explanatory), Crate Madagascar (a gentle boat ride through the story of the film), Transformers 3D (a 3D simulator ride based on the film) and my personal favourites, the duelling Human vs Cylon, two roller-coasters intertwined within one another based on Battlestar Galactica. The storyline was pants, but the rides, especially the suspended multi-looping Cylon was fantastic.

After all the fun at the fair we had to gather our belongings to say farewell to Chris and head off to the Airport. We had a farewell meal of overly spicy Indonesian food in our flat’s attached shopping mall (despite over half the menu being unavailable) before our taxi arrived to whisk us on our journey away from Asia.

The flat

The five of us rented a “3 bedroom” property in the north of the island, in an area called Bukit Panjang, at the end of the Downtown line (only 3 minutes from the station). The reason for the inverted commas is that although my Dad’s bedroom was nice and David and Alica’s ensuite was stunning, our “bedroom” was a shelf with some shutters above the kitchen. It had just enough storage space for our two bags and the mattress was rather comfy so it turned out ok. The rest of our room was the large open plan lounge-kitchen-diner which lead out onto our private balcony. The facilities included a tennis court, gym, sauna and a huge outdoor swimming pool. The fact that it was perched on top of a shopping mall with a well stocked supermarket really helped too. Despite our first impressions we actually had a really comfortable stay.

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