The heat and humidity of Singapore hit me in the face like one of those hot wet towels they hand you when you get on the plane. But once you’ve acclimatised it is an awesome place for a couple of days stopover when you happen to be travelling from one side of the world to the other.
And that is just what Andrew and I did on our recent European Adventure. (More on that later)
Apologies for my sailing fans – no sailing in this post – but summer is nearly here in NZ now so I promise lots more yachting blogs in the next few months!
We’d decided to not stopover on the way over to Europe, choosing instead to hang around in transit for five hours. Singapore Airport is pretty cool but there is only so much duty free window shopping and looking at butterfly gardens you can do before it all starts to look the same. Sadly we didn’t arrive at the right time for one of their free transit city tours either. By the time we got to Europe after about 30 hours of travelling, I was getting super fidgety on the plane… so thank goodness we’d booked a stopover on the way back!
The best way to get in to town from the airport is by taxi. Its about a 20 minute drive, and the taxis are all metered and costs just SGD$20 – $35 one way. Great value, quick, convenient and air conditioned! You can also catch the MRT train, and there are buses and shuttles etc. More info here.
Our fabulous travel agent Michelle had booked us in to the Park Regis Hotel. It is in a great location, close to the restaurants lining the river at Boat Quay and Clark Quay, just down the road from China Town, and across the road from a MRT station which will quickly transport you to anywhere you want to go in Singapore. At $180 a night it was also pretty good value.
We were greeted at the door by a super friendly concierge who offered to look after our luggage until our room was ready. We’d arrived about 8am and as we’d had very little sleep on the plane we ventured out in search of a cup of coffee to wake ourselves up after the 13 hour flight from Paris.
There are heaps of fabulous restaurants along the river at Boat Quay and Clark Quay, but we soon found out that 8am on a Saturday morning is not the time that any of them choose to open. We wandered along the waterfront. I was slowly melting in the heat, gasping for coffee, or a cold drink, anything liquid…
But everywhere was shut. Clark Quay & Boat Quay restaurants don’t seem to ‘do’ breakfast…?
So we stumbled back to the hotel. Our room wasn’t going to be ready for a few more hours, but we were welcome to use the pool & gym facilities. We laid down on a couple of sun loungers next to the lovely cool pool and promptly both fell fast asleep for a few hours…
Hopefully we didn’t disturb the other pool users too much with our snoring. We woke up about 11am, ordered a beer and some chicken satay and then promptly fell fast asleep again!
We finally woke up mid afternoon feeling much more refreshed. Our (lovely cool air conditioned…) room was ready, so after a quick shower and change we headed out to explore.
There was a taxi driver outside the hotel so we asked him to take us to Orchard Road for some shopping. He explained that the traffic was terrible on Orchard Rd and we’d be much better off catching the MRT across the road. So we headed over to the Clark Quay Station, which was super clean and the ticket machines were really easy to use. About SGD$1.50 ish each per leg. Train stations also have toilets in them – but for some reason the toilet paper is at the entrance before you go in to the ladies/gents. Which caught me out… I figured that out on my way back out the door!
Apparently the equivalent of Uber in Singapore is called ‘Grab’ we didn’t use it but our friends said it worked really well. There are also electric scooters and bikes available for hire all over the place too.
The last time I was in Singapore was about 12 years ago, and I seem to remember it being a fabulous shopping experience, however this time I found Orchard Road a bit strange… Perhaps we didn’t go to the right places, but there are a mixture of different small ‘malls’ which might have one or two multi-national type brands in there and then a whole lot of different food shops and random stuff. It just didn’t flow very well. All the European brand shops were full of winter gear – which was a bit odd seeing it was about 30+ºC outside, and we’d just spent the last three weeks looking at those exact same shops in Europe. There were so many lovely local boutiques in Bali when we went there in July and that was what I was hoping for. Perhaps we were looking in the wrong place. Anyway after wandering aimlessly around for a bit we decided to jump on the train headed out to Marina Bay.
Well the Marina Bay mall is definitely more along the lines of a shopping mall, but with all the very high end brands like Chanel and Versace not doing much in the way of sailing gear… I mean do people really spend $600 on a jacket that isn’t Gore-Tex?! There are lots of different places to eat in the mall as well, but who wants to eat a meal in a mall? I’d much prefer to be somewhere with a bit of a view and some atmosphere.
If you do plan to do some shopping, and you spend more than SGD$100 in a participating shop then you can claim your tax back at the airport.
Speaking of Gore-tex, when it rains in Singapore it absolutely HOSES down. Torrential rain and thunder storms are a way of life here at the intertropical convergence zone. Bring an umbrella! We squelched around in our wet shoes for the rest of the day. The temperature seems to stay around 31ºC every day.
Marina Bay Sands Hotel
This is an enormous hotel, consisting of three huge pillars with an incredible infinity pool on the top. After living through the Christchurch earthquakes and the 20,000 aftershocks that followed, I am not a big fan of very tall buildings, or massive hotels for that matter. However we were keen to head up to the top for a drink and to see the view.
To get to the top without staying in the hotel you can buy a SGD$20 per person ticket in the hotel lobby for the C’est La Vie bar. Then catch the elevator up 57 floors to a very cool bar with an incredible view out over the city. The $20 ticket can then be redeemed on drinks. We ordered two Singapore Slings, which set us back about SGD$57 total. Drinks are expensive in Singapore! But the view was worth paying for.
If you arrive just before sunset then you get to see both the day time and then night time views, and at about 8pm every night there is also a light show. Fabulous!
With the high prices at Marina Bay, we decided to jump back on the MRT and head back to Boat Quay for dinner on the waterfront. There are heaps of great restaurants and bars in colourful restaurants overlooking the river. We chose a lovely seafood place and ate there before heading back for a very long sleep.
The next morning we decided to eat breakfast at the hotel, and after checking out we left our bags with them and headed back out to explore.
We headed to the incredible Gardens By the Bay. You can wander around the lovely themed botanical gardens for free, and then pay to enter the ‘domes’. You can book online in advance to avoid queuing for tickets. The heavens opened as we arrived and despite our jacket and umbrella we both got pretty soaked.
One dome is the cloud dome, it is air conditioned and inside is a ‘mountain’ covered in foliage, interesting trees, and even a waterfall. The other dome is the flower dome full of flowers and cactus and all sorts of unusual plants from around the world.
Entry to the domes is SGD$28 per person. It is well worth doing and it is open all day and in to the evening as well.
Then there are also these incredible huge ‘trees’. You can do a sky walk between some of them, but it was closed due to the thunderstorms and it looked quite short for the SGD$9 price tag. Best to not book that one in advance in case the weather means it’s closed. These trees are also all lit up at night.
We could have stayed for a lot longer but we had a lunch date!
One of the coolest things about posting your holiday pics on Facebook is finding out that some of your other friends are also in town! We jumped back on the MRT headed for Chinatown to meet our friends Alan & Angela who we hadn’t seen in ages. We picked one of the many great Chinese restaurants nearby and had a wonderful time catching up over a cool beer and some great food.
Chinatown had some market-type shops and we were able to pick up a couple of bits & bobs for the kids. Angela said that there was also good shopping at Bugis market and fabulous fabrics and other interesting things at the Arab quarter.
We intended on heading there that afternoon for a quick look around before our flight, or perhaps a cruise down the river on one of the many river boats, but once we reached the hotel the heavens opened once again in another torrential downpour and huge thunderstorm, so we opted to stay dry, have a quick shower in the hotel’s pool/gym area and watch the storm pass.
We’d managed to cram a reasonable amount in to our quick 36 hour visit, we felt refreshed and ready to face the 10 hour flight home. Singapore is a safe, clean, interesting place to visit. We will definitely be back soon!
Check out the rest of our Europe Trip here – blog posts to come soon:
- Europe travel tips
We recommend you book your next trip with Michelle Moore from NZ Travel Brokers.