Singapore- hot, humid, full of gardens and make-believe.

View from above - Singapore Flyer

Singapore’s CBD is a little like Vegas. Tall buildings, manicured everything and a little bit unreal. My hostel was in a great location and easily allowed me to explore without a map. Whenever I felt like I might not know my way all of the buildings reminded me of where I was.

There was no sleeping in, in this hostel,  so I was up every morning ready to greet the day. I took a great walk along the river my first morning. Boat Quay was nearby and was a great contrast to all of the rest of the buildings in the CBD. They were the old style colonial two story buildings. Most of them were bars or restaurants and many had a nice outdoor seating areas next to the river. I got swept up in the business people walkers commute and pulled over a few times to take it all in. It was already sweltering and I couldn’t believe how little it looked like everyone else was sweating. If you follow Boat Quay towards the big buildings, you eventually wrap around and hit a bridge. The bridge leads to the Asian Civilizations Museum. It doesn’t open until ten and costs $8SGD. Before you cross the bridge there is a famous sculpture of boys jumping into the river. It commemorates a time when the river was the center of Singapore life.  There are several nice parks from there to the esplanade. Once you hit the esplanade you will clearly see  the Singapore Flyer, a London Eye style slow Ferris wheel.  They proudly claim that it is taller than the London Eye.  I wandered over at the early hour and took one of the first rides. Not cheap by any means but it satisfied my urge to see the city from above. This urge exists just about every time I enter a new city. In the country it exists too but is harder to satisfy without climbing a mountain.

Just across the helix bridge, it really does look like a helix, is the famous Marina Bay Sands Resort.  It is part hotel, part mall, part 57th floor infinity pool, and so expensive. Rooms start around $400SGD a night depending on the month. I heard that sometimes you can get a deal for $150 but I find that hard to believe.  It is great to go in and see it and the mall. The complex is impressive. Out the back of the property you will find the Gardens by the Bay, a perfect free adventure, (they do exist in Singapore). They are huge. You could spend the day there if it wasn’t so humid and hot. Most people eventually escape the heat into one of the two bio-domes that also exist in the park. One is a cloud forest and the other is a flower garden. I was glad I did the cloud forest first because it was cooler than the flower garden. That way it was  a slow re-entry into the humidity.

Singapore Flyer

Helix Bridge
Marina Bay Sands Resort 

Singapore is a place where money can be spent and fast. However, there are a few great free things, the aforementioned Gardens by the Bay, the Singapore Botanical Gardens, Little India, Chinatown and all manner of walking and observing. There are of course others, but these are the ones that come to mind. For those looking to spend, there are malls galore. Really, practically every building has a secret mall in it. In the basement, a cheap food court called a hawker market usually exists, hidden out of sight. These are usually much cheaper and more traditional places to eat. The malls themselves come in every variety. The kind that only celebrities can shop at to the kind that sell things for under $1 and everything in between. A few times I went into a building and was greeted with an unsuspected mall.

Gardens by the Bay

I met a girl from England in my hostel and we decided to venture out the Marina Bay Sands at night. She had heard about the light show in the Gardens by the Bay and thought it would be a great viewing point. She was right.  I had been to the observatory earlier in the day and was not keen on paying again, so we found another way. We went to the bell desk, said we wanted to go to the bar on the roof and were given a pass. This was  a great way to bypass the observatory deck charge. There are two bars on the 57th floor, Bar 57 and one with a really hard name. Both have wonderful views at night. The CBD at night is a stunning cityscape.  You pay about the same as the observatory deck in drinks, but it is a nice bonus to get a drink instead of just the observatory deck. If you are good at being sneaky you can also do this without ever going into the bar. Before the actual check in to the bar/club there is a little spot to the left where you can overlook the Gardens by the Bay, you can easily check it out and go back downstairs without too much fuss.  The infinity pool is just for guests, but you can see it quite well from both bars. This was the only time I went “out” in Singapore, it was just too expensive. And no, I did not have a Singapore sling. The view was more memorable to me than a Singapore sling ever would have been.

Gardens by the Bay by night 

Marina Bay Sands Infinity Pool 

CBD by Night 

Things I loved

Singapore Botanical Gardens – There were so many interesting things happening there when I visited. Exercise classes, tai chi, housewives walking babies, nannies walking babies, tons of joggers, a few people napping, and interesting tours being overheard. I spent the extra $5SGD for the orchid garden and I thought it was worth it. Otherwise the place is totally free and huge.

Gardens by the Bay – Again, free, except for the bio-domes. They also have a light show at 745 and 845pm every night complete with accompanying music. A guided golf cart audio tour is available for those feeling the heat.

Singapore Flyer – Expensive but worth the view for me.

Chinatown – Small by most standards but worth the look. Good for food and cheap stuff.

Little India – Really it’s like a little India, or at least what I know about India. Check it out. Lots of deals and goods like Chinatown.

River walking – Walk along the river in the CBD. It’s just pleasant.

Things I was indifferent about

Orchard Road – I don’t like to shop that much. It has every store I have ever heard of.

Casinos – Marina Bay Sands has one and so do a number of the other malls.

River cruise – It was just not that exciting, especially since I had already walked the whole route. If I didn’t get it for free, I would have been annoyed. 

Things I didn't do

Get a Singapore Sling. 

Go to Raffles Hotel. 

Spend a fortune. 

Eat myself silly (jet lag stomach).

Go to Universal Studios island.