I have been to Singapore a few times in my life and I’m sure I will be back. It is continually evolving and always interesting.
On my first trip there in 1988 with my parents, we stayed in a room with no air conditioning, and I have never made that mistake when visiting Singapore again! I discovered the Merlion statues and the tasty tropical fruit and soups that you could get in Chinatown. I didn’t know that you could get fresh water chestnuts in a bag with their own juice until then.
When I returned in 1994 on a school trip, I went to Sentosa Island – an artificial island with palm trees planted in a line two metres apart. It already seemed that Singapore was becoming commercial, fast developing, and that the authentic Chinatown was being cleaned up.
In 2012, I revisited Raffles Hotel with my husband, but didn’t pay the inflated price it now cost for a Singapore sling. We went to the top of the new Marina Bay Sands which had just opened in 2010 – the one shaped like a cruise ship. We could see Gardens by the Bay which was still under construction and all the way to Indonesia. A little tip – if you go to the cocktail bar next to the famous infinity pool, you don’t have to pay the price that it costs for the Observation Deck and you still get a good view of Singapore Harbour.
I went on two trips to Singapore in 2013, mainly because one of my friends now lives there with her partner and children. It was a not so daunting flight and felt like a safe place to visit on my first trip alone with a baby. We were also able to leave the little ones with my friend’s helper and go out for a French dinner in Little India.
The smog from Indonesia was affecting the air quality in Singapore then, so we could only go for indoor activities for a couple of days. I was awed by the huge shopping centers that had emerged – just window shopping was entertaining enough to fill a whole day.
My second trip to Singapore in 2013 was a short stopover on the way back from Europe with my husband and daughter, but we still managed to squeeze in some shopping and a meal at Din Tai Fung with friends.
To me, Singapore is Asian, but not really Asia. It has an Asian flavour, but it is modern in many areas that it seems western. It would be a great place to start for someone who has never been to Asia before as you get the warm weather without the crazy disorganized city.
My guide to the best of Singapore
Best for parks:
- The amazing Gardens by the Bay which has indoor gardens – there is even a full size waterfall.
- Singapore Botanic Gardens with its National Orchid Garden that has fountains galore plus a cool house which is a welcome reprieve from the humidity.
- The Tiger Balm Gardens, now called Har Par Villa, with its strange but interesting sculptures that are in need of a little renovation.
Best for kids and kids at heart:
- Singapore Zoo night safari to take a unique tram ride and see animals by night including the bizarre fishing cats.
- The Toy Museum for an interesting way to spend a few hours and get nostalgic about Strawberry Shortcake, Noddy and Astro Boy.
- Sentosa Island – catch a cable car to the island that has something for everyone: theme parks, restaurants, shops, and nature.
Best for shopping:
- All my favourite labels line Orchard Rd. so you can get your hands on all the H & M, Zara, Mango, New Look and Marks and Spencers goodies that you can carry home here.
- ION Orchard- if you only have time to go inside one shopping centre this would be my pick as it has a good variety of affordable shops.
- The shops at Marina Bay Sands for the gorgeous window displays by Valentino and Louis Vuitton. They also have an indoor canal with gondola rides and an awesome funnel that drops water into the canal at regular intervals.
Best for food:
- Chinatown for an authentic cheap hawker center.
- The East Coast Seafood Center for traditional Chilli Crab.
- Chijmes, which used to be a convent and is now a restaurant-lined courtyard lined with such delights as Spanish tapas.
A tip for vegetarians – there is an all vegetarian restaurant under the Buddhist temple in Chinatown.
* This post is brought to you by guest blogger Roshan Lewis.