Singapore is a fusion of untamed jungle and slick skyscrapers, a melting pot of cultures, traditions and cuisines. We only spent a few days in Singapore – slap bang in the middle of our trip to Hong Kong – but the little time we had there was enough to cement Singapore’s place on my mental list of favourite places.
Passports stamped and EZ-Link passes (that’s top-up-able metro passes for the uninitiated) purchased, we traded the air-conditioned bliss of the airport for the sweltering, sauna-like streets of Singapore. We’d been keeping tabs on the weather forecast for a good few days – actually, make that weeks – before our trip, and it looked pretty dire for our entire stay: one sunny day followed by heavy downpours and thunderstorms for the remaining three.
With that in mind, we ditched our things at our hotel and decided to hit up Sands SkyPark at Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay while the sun was shining. En route to City Hall MRT we passed the famous Raffles Hotel, which was undergoing extensive renovations; a pop-up Long Bar was located just round the corner on Seah Street, but we gave it a miss.
We took the MRT to Bayfront; from here, it’s just a short stroll to Marina Bay Sands and an ear-popping whoosh up in the lift to the fifty-seventh floor. Anchored in the Singapore Strait were dozens upon dozens of container ships in hues of blue, red and grey.
Gardens by the Bay sprawled out beneath us, a mass of greens: lime, forest and emerald. We caught our first glimpse of the iconic Supertree Grove, the OCBC Skyway a yellow ribbon connecting two of the largest Supertrees.
Standing to the west of Marina Bay Sands was Singapore’s CBD, a small wall of modest high-rises. Various cultural venues, including the durian-shaped Theatres on the Bay and the flower-shaped ArtScience Museum, occupied prime spots around the bay.
On the other side of the Benjamin Sheares Bridge – the longest bridge in Singapore – sat the Singapore Flyer, a deluxe, butler-serviced version of the London Eye. Beyond it, low-rise, white-washed buildings burst out of the ground, hemmed in by Changi Airport.
Our next stop was Gardens by the Bay . . . or rather, Satay by the Bay for a refuel, as it was now late afternoon and we were running on empty. We browsed the various stalls, weighed up the options and settled on a sharing platter of satay and a helping of spicy chicken wings (with a generously-sized lemon iced tea to wash it all down). I was pleasantly surprised by how reasonable the food and drink was at Satay by the Bay; SGD$0.70 turned out to be the going rate for a stick of satay across the city.
Stuffed with satay, we set off to explore Gardens by the Bay, taking paths at random, making our way slowly towards the Supertree Grove. We joined the queue for the OCBC Skyway just as the sun was sinking into the horizon, and passed the waiting time chatting to another visitor.
Singapore’s skyline came alive as dusk enveloped the city, its skyscrapers twinkling in the distance. The OCBC Skyway may not reach the dizzying heights of Sands SkyPark, but what it lacks in height it more than makes up for in atmosphere: the Supertrees glowed in hues of mauve, indigo and fuchsia, illuminating the delicate flora which clung to their futuristic frames.
The OCBC Skyway turned out to be the highlight of our time at Gardens by the Bay, as our time at the top neatly coincided with ‘Garden Rhapsody’, the nightly light and sound show which transforms the Supertree Grove into a dazzling musical spectacle. ‘Garden Rhapsody’ was enchanting from start to finish, a mesmerising blend of technicolour trees and uplifting tunes (including scores from classics such as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Cinderella and Pirates of the Caribbean).
When we first ascended, staff gently ushered visitors along, enforcing visitors’ fifteen minute time limit on the aerial walkway; when the show began, they turned a blind eye to those of us outstaying our fifteen minute slot at the top.
After the show, we made our way over to Marina Bay, passing by the ArtScience Museum, Helix Bridge and Theatres on the Bay, where we caught the tail end of a free performance. Spotting a small queue of people clustered around an ice cream cart, we decided to join the queue and indulge in an ice cream sandwich (the first of many on this short but sweet trip).
We rounded the day off with a trip to Boon Tat Street (often referred to simply as Satay Street), a street food lover’s seventh heaven in the heart of the CBD. Skewers of meat and seafood sizzled on grills, the smoke clouding the street, and stallholders’ enthusiastic greetings and fellow diners’ lively chatter formed the soundtrack to this bustling street food venue. Plonking ourselves down at one of only a few empty tables, we ordered a few plates of satay to share and picked up juices from a nearby vendor. It was past midnight when we reached our hotel, and after a busy afternoon sightseeing we slept like logs.
- Singapore’s public transport network is efficient and cheap; there’s simply no need for taxis here. Buy an EZ-Link pass at the airport (SGD$12, including $7 credit, as of March 2018) and simply tap in and out of trains and buses. We added a further $10 to our cards during our stay and still had a few dollars left on them when we left.
- We stayed at Hotel Kai (14 Purvis Street), and while I’d give it top marks for location, it wasn’t quite there on the cleanliness front. (I’m far from the pickiest hotel guest, but clean towels should be a given, in my book.)
- ‘Garden Rhapsody’ takes place nightly at 19:45 and 20:45. If you’re planning to head up the OCBC Skywalk (SGD$8), time your trip to coincide with the show. Otherwise, enjoy the show for free from ground level.