Living on the other side of the world to your family can be hard, but luckily we were able to meet up for two weeks to travel and explore Singapore, Jakarta, Bali and the Gilli Islands together.
This post will detail my favorite spots in Singapore, where to eat, the history of the island and how it stood up to my expectations.
As soon as I landed in Singapore I was hit with luxury and a city that excels in paving the way for an ultra-modern city. The airport was clean and efficient and I was soon on the MRT into the center of the city.
Top Tip!! - I will quickly mention the tourist travel pass that can be purchased for unlimited travel daily. In my case, for three days it was $20 SD with an additional $10 SD as a deposit. I found that paying for tickets per journey was far cheaper with it only costing $5 SD to get to the airport from the city. Everything is so close that you're unlikely to use up the whole price of the ticket in your time here and I found that I didn't get my use out of it at all. If you are planning to stay within the city, ticket travel won't set you back more than $1-2 SD a trip so you may save a lot of money!
My family had booked for us to stay at the Marina Bay Sands hotel by the bay for two nights. It is an impressive structure of three tall buildings with the piece de resistance at the top. A boat shaped structure which stretches over all three buildings, with it's bow perched 60 ft over from the last building. On top there is multiple bars and an infinity pool, which is only for guest use. The pool is what I think suckered Dad in for the two nights.
After dropping my bags, the first place I explored in Singapore was China Town. One of the oldest parts of the city, the area had a multitude of different places of worship as well as a tourist strip with restaurants and stalls selling souvenirs. I met up with my friend Iona who I had traveled Australia with for the past six months and we visited the Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple, the oldest of its kind in Singapore. It was covered in beautiful artwork and wooden sculptures. We then met up with Iona's friend, Sherv, who was a native of Singapore and who offered to show me around a few places. He took us to the Hidden Tooth Relic Buddhist Temple where he showed us how to properly light and pray with incents and as well as taking us around the temples many floors. It was a beautiful temple with a stunning rooftop , perfect for a bit of tranquility in a busy city.
Our next stop was Little India, a small area of the city where 9% of the cities population come together in joint heritage. We spent little time here, however it was vibrant and covered in stalls and shops selling spices, cloth and gold jewelry. We spent much longer on Arab St. This is a Malayan part of the town and had many bars and young street shops. Street Art was also prominent here and me and Iona found some good places to pose! There is also had beautiful Mosque here, Masjid Sultan. This is free entry and although I didn't go inside with Iona and Sherv, I did with my Mum and Dad later on in our trip. The mosque has lots of information on the faith and was my first ever visit to a Mosque. I also got some fabulous trousers from the Arab St. area, it's a great place for some shopping!
After saying goodbye to Iona and Sherv, I headed back to the hotel where I met my parents. We got settled into the room and headed straight away up to the infinity pool to take in the view of Singapore. It was lovely to be reunited and to share stories of the last few months. That evening we headed to Lau Pa Sat Food Court for dinner. Although cautious about my peanut allergy to the server, I still managed to have a reaction to my Indian curry which was sad as it was super tasty! My first night is therefore tainted a little in that I waddled around for the rest of the evening attempting to not throw up. It passed though and after watching my parents have their first cocktails of the holiday, I was just glad to get some sleep!
The next day we decided to take a historical tour of Singapore, with the emphasis on Changi Prison. I'll talk more on this in a post dedicated to my family history since both of my Great Grandfathers on my Mothers side were in Singapore when it fell to the Japanese on 15th February 1942. It was important to see the island through this historical lens.
We were later dropped off from this tour besides Raffles, the original hotel in the city. This is also close to the Parliament Building, and the Coleman Bridge. Alongside here is a row of original settlement houses that have been restored and kept as bars, pubs and restaurants. We had dinner here with a view of Marina Bay Sands Hotel and although it was a little pricey, we all enjoyed a meal here. We later headed over to the front of the Marina Bay Complex where we watched the nightly light and fountain show, Spectra. This is amazing and is a must see if you are in Singapore. The show runs at 8pm and 9pm every night with an extra show at 10pm on a Friday and Saturday.
The next day we had a night flight to Jakarta so spent the day at Gardens by the Bay. We first took a tour around the grounds and were pointed out all the highlights of the park. We chose to explore only one of the large domes and chose the Cloud Mountain which simulated a living rain forest with the largest man made waterfall inside. It was honestly awesome and had a large range of plants, including lots of Orchids which Mum loved! It discussed lots about climate change and the delicate nature of these eco systems and ways in which we can reduce our carbon footprint.
I'd recommend a visit to the Garden by the Bay. It is free to enter however some attractions do require a ticket. We headed up to the rooftop bar in the center of the man made super trees and were given some impressive views as well as a drink.
On our next visit to Singapore two weeks later we stayed in the Fairmont, a hotel overlooking the bay and in the center of the colonial buildings. After a leisurely morning we decided to join a hop on hop off bus to explore the city a little more. We used the Hippo service which is one of the more popular ones in Singapore. Our first route took us around the cultural areas, the ones I had previously explored with Iona and Sherv. Our next route took us to the Botanical Gardens which we spent a couple of hours at. We saw the tree at Swan Lake which is on the $5 SD note and the iconic band stand. The gardens were close to the city but felt like they were a life time away from the bustle and noise of the city.
That evening we visited our old friends at the Singapore Yacht Show and I witnessed both my Mum and Dad get very drunk. After spending time in the cultural centers that day where you can see the traditional hustle and quest for work and a living, it was a big contrast at the Yacht show. I was introduced to people who owned super yachts and although it was fun to be living the high lifestyle it was strange to think we had been in Bali with people who had very little a week before. It was great to see our friends again however and a fitting setting as they were the ones who taught us all how to sail.
Our final day in Singapore, as my parents nursed their hangovers, we took to some spots we wanted to see again. On this day I took Mum and Dad to Arab St. and China Town and we also went to Fort Canning Hill, where we explored some more of Singapore's war history. This was also used as a main lookout point back in the early colonial days of Singapore and had rich history dating back to the 14th Century when the old Royal Family resided on the hill.
Singapore is an interesting place as it bridges the traditional Asian cultures and the ultra-modern lifestyle of the Western World. Never before had I seen so many people all on their phones, everything processed via technology and everything clean. This is a city a few years ahead of the rest of the world in terms of technology and city savviness and it was lovely to be within that for a short while. Singapore is an exhausting city however, constantly bombarding you with either the smells and sights of the cultural centers or blinding you with the lights of the future. It was more than I expected and was definitely an experience I would have again.
I would recommend visiting Singapore on your way to Asia and the East. A few days here can help settle you into Asian culture if you have yet to visit this beautiful part of the world yet can give you a taste of everything South-East Asia has to offer. Don't spent too long here though, this continent beckons and Singapore only scratches the surface.