After the 13 hour night flight, we landed in Singapore, not exactly refreshed, but certainly ready to explore. We had 2 nights in the itinary for Singapore, and after some recommendations from friends who had been, we were conscious that this might not be enough, so we set our sights on the top attractions local to our hotel. The immediate impression of Singapore was how clean, friendly and efficient it was. The taxi driver was more like a tour guide, imparting advice on the various activities that were on during our stay and pointing out landmarks as we drove by.
After checking into the Oasia Downtown hotel we set about heading to the Gardens by the Bay, via a Thai Festival open air market called ‘Artbox’. Significantly this meant we found our first beer!
The market was packed full of people all having a great time, with plenty of food and drink being consumed, but still no rubbish on the floor and everyone, no matter how drunk was polite and aware of others, and we both felt ‘safe’. This may sound strange, so I’ll try and explain. Anyone that’s been into Reading (or most other UK towns/cities) on a Saturday night will know that more often than not, at some point in the night you’ll have to step over or around someone’s half-eaten kebab/broken glass/regurgitated drink/kebab, and also a sense that things might ‘kick-off’ and that it’s probably not a great idea to walk home alone, but here, there was none of that.
After listening to a couple of bands perform renditions of Ed Sheerhan and Prince songs, we headed onto the Marina Bay complex which is huge. The hotel has what looks like an airship spanning the three pillars and has featured on some tv documentaries in the UK recently but judging from the chaos in the foyer with people trying to check in, we were glad not to be staying there. After negotiating the hordes of people, we got onto the sky bridge which leads into the Gardens by the Bay. Laura had read that this was impressive by night and she wasn’t wrong.
By this point we were beginning to get hungry and tired, so we aimed for some street food vendors and for about 34 Singapore dollars we had satay pork and chicken, pork belly and garlic prawns and rice. It was delicious and just what our tired bodies needed. We wearily headed back to the hotel via a bar (for a night cap) and crashed out.
The next day we walked via the financial district, which was incredible, imagine Canary Wharf, but 10 times nicer, infinitely cleaner and friendlier but it was a really warm day and very humid (90% humidity and about 30 degrees but according to the weather report felt like 38 degrees) and also via a Starbucks – those of you who know us well, will appreciate how happy this made us! We visited the Gardens once again but this time by day and went around the flower dome (which was closed the night before) and had intended to do the Cloud Forest dome but that was closed for maintenance. The flower dome was impressive, but we both had really wanted to see the Cloud Forest so we decided there and then that we’d come back the next day.
We walked back to the hotel via Chinatown and it’s temples, which at this time was about lunchtime and is clearly the place to go if you work nearby. The food smelled amazing but at this point we had a date with a sun bed for a couple of hours and we also didn’t want to ruin our appetites – Michelin Star Tapas was not too far away.
After a quick freshen up, we headed out into the night, still about 30 degrees and very humid so we hopped on the nearest underground train which incidentally is the cleanest , most efficient and safe (are you sensing a theme yet?) mass transit system I have ever had the fortune to go on. Heading for the Raffles Hotel to sample the famous Singapore Sling which was courtesy of Rich and Anne (thank you again!), and eat some monkey nuts, shells being deposited on the floor reminiscent of the awesome Camel Dive Bar in Sharm-el-Sheikh. The Hotel is impressive in a quiet unimposing way. You can clearly see the heritage in the design and it’s well worth a visit.
Once we’d had a few drinks we wobbled off in the direction of the dinner reservation at Esquina. We had booked this restaurant months before as it’s supposed to be one of the best in Singapore and DAMN, the food was awesome. I know it sounds crazy to fly to Singapore and then eat Tapas washed down with Rioja, but this was no ordinary Tapas, this was Michelin Star Tapas (thanks David and Sarah).
Quite simply, it was amazing – if you’re ever in Singapore, go here and you will not be disappointed.
The final day, was a visit to the Cloud Forest and then back to pack and transfer to the airport.
And that was it, a fleeting visit but one that has secured a place for Singapore on our small list of places to go back to – it was that good.
Next stop. New Zealand – how I’m going to sleep on the plane I do not know – I’m feeling like a kid on Christmas Eve, I’m that excited.