My time in Singapore was to be brief. In fact, my companions and I had the challenge of seeing as much as possible in 60 hours. Now, who doesn't love a good challenge?
First up; people will tell you Singapore is clean and you may have trouble fathoming that – particularly as clean is certainly not the first word to come to mind when one thinks ‘Southeast Asian City’. Well, Singapore crushed that cliché. I don’t know if they have tiny elves running around at night or stealth SWAT teams armed with brooms, but the city is immaculate. You could eat lunch off the MRT carriage floor and it would be cleaner than some Perth kebab establishments.
Not only was the MRT clean and air-conditioned – it was fantastically easy and cheap to use; particularly to and from the airport. If public transport is not your cup of tea, taxis are fantastically priced; especially split between multiple travellers. As Singapore does everything in style, it also isn’t unusual to be taxied around in a Mercedes or Chrysler. Private air-conditioned, leather luxury? Yes, please.
Given the tropical temperatures, most of Singapore doesn’t get going until around 11am. This means if you are an early riser – get out and do a half-day tour. Our choice? The zoo.
Singapore Zoo has open enclosures, which means the animals aren’t hidden behind glass - they are right there in front of you. You can get a photo with the orangutans or hold a python. Be surprised by the sheer size of the white tiger or the polar bear at feeding time. It is an extremely enjoyable experience for all, right there in the middle of the Singaporean jungle. My recommendation? Do the zoo with the brekky included; you get to eat with the orangutans and miss the crowds that typically arrive around 11am.
I am a firm believer in retail therapy; it soothes me. Singapore has some first-class retail therapy on offer. For the couture-minded and those with greater disposable income than me, Orchard Road and ION Orchard boast the biggest names in fashion from around the world. Prada, Dolce & Gabbana or Valentino anyone? You love high fashion? You’ll love Singapore.
For those whose wardrobes aspire to house the greats but whose bank accounts firmly do not, there are plenty of kinder-priced alternatives such as Topshop, Mango or H&M, to name a few.
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For the culturally conscious, Bugis Village indoor market is where it’s at. If you love getting lost in rabbit warrens of quirky clothing, cheap souvenirs and street food, this is your place. Juice lovers – this is your heaven. One Singapore dollar will get you a cup of refreshing deliciousness in every fruit flavour imaginable. True to Singapore style, even in the markets the stall owners are ridiculously polite. You will not be hassled by ‘best price’, ‘morning price’ or followed. You see something you like? Buy it. Nobody is going to run after you if you don’t.
If you are less retail enthused, I have a hidden oasis for you. Literally two steps across the street from the Bugis Village is Fu Lu Shou. Aside from it owning the rhyming world, it is weary-body heaven. Did someone say one-hour foot massage for 20 Singapore bucks? They did? Thank god. Feet not your thing? A one-hour body massage is $SG35 to $SG40. You simply cannot go wrong. Just to add further value to what is already a crazy good deal, they’ll throw in some Singaporean soap operas to watch to pass the time. These alone, my friends, are priceless.
After a day of shopping, one generally gets quite an appetite. Keeping in theme with the rhyming – say hello to Satay by the Bay at Gardens by the Bay. You will want to check out this hotbed of local cuisine. You’ll have to be savvy at table scouting – it’s very popular with tourists and locals alike – but the deliciousness on offer is worth any diving you may have to do to procure a spot. We had a selection of 80 satay sticks in three different kinds of meat and washed it down enthusiastically with a local beer. It is safe to say nothing was left over.
The perk of Satay by the Bay is that you can walk to Gardens by the Bay - home to the most special horticulture I have ever seen. In the evening it is a kaleidoscope of colour – huge towers in Supertree Grove are adorned with hue-changing lights and a variety of plant life. Each evening, the towers have a unique light show that can only be described as magical.
You are also able to stroll among the tops of the towers on the OCBC Skyway, which offers absolutely beautiful views of Singapore and Sentosa Island. Here you can also enter the biodomes – home to a massive array of plant species and the different climates that can be found on Earth.
What I came to love about Singapore was how it caters to everyone. No place was this more true than at Sentosa Island and Universal Studios Singapore. Did someone say Best. Day. Ever? It was my first time at a theme park and what a standard it set.
We are talking taking on Deceptacons and falling off buildings with Bumblebee in Transformers The Ride; hurtling 360 degrees around a rollercoaster; being set on fire in The Mummy’s Tomb in Revenge of the Mummy, getting drenched in the rapids at Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure; waltzing through Shrek’s Far Far Away and hanging with those pesky penguins from Madagascar. The detail is astounding and the good times just keep coming.
If you do want to visit Universal Studios and believe me, you do – purchase a Universal Express or Universal Express Unlimited pass with your Day Pass that allows you to skip the queues. Nobody wants to wait in line for over an hour for five minutes of amazing if it can be helped. Your experience will be one million times better if you pay the extra $AU70 per person. Trust me on this one.
Sentosa is also home to Marina Bay Sands, the Casino, S.E.A. Aquarium and Resorts World Sentosa. Getting there by taxi is an easy feat or for a more spectacular journey, take the 30-minute cable car ride across to the island.
My time in ‘Singaz’ was limited – there was so much to see and do. We had an absolute blast from start to finish. So if you are looking for a quick international getaway with the family or you need a stopover to break up those marathon long-haul flights, Singapore is your stop. Take my 60-hour challenge – you won’t regret it.
Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to Singapore.