We first visited Singapore in 2000, and have returned a number of times since, spending 3 months there in 2012, but until 2018 we have only every visited for work however we did visit again in 2017, as our son who is in the navy was stationed there. Working rather than holidaying you look at a destination differently, so here’s our take on Singapore.
Singapore is a truly modern metropolis, the city state is unlike anywhere else in Southeast Asia. Founded as a trading post for the British Empire, its rapid development as one of the busiest ports in the world as well as being a global financial hub. Its western style are a counterpoint to the more “raw” Asian cities of Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Nowhere showcases the city’s modern heart better than Marina Bay, where the spectacular vertical gardens of Super tree Grove nestle alongside the Marina Bay Sands resort, home to one of the world’s top hotels and best rooftop bars.
Singapore is one of the safest places to visit anywhere in the world, with nearly zero crime, this may have something to do with their strict laws, as they still practice corporal punishment and for the most serious of crimes “Drugs” being the most common they still have the death penalty which tourists are not exempt from. It is also one of the cleanest, smoking is only allowed in designated areas, no snacks etc. are allowed on public transport, chewing gum is illegal, and on the spot fines for dropping litter, but in no way does it feel like a police state, in fact you very rarely see a policeman, it is just a law abiding country, with friendly, honest residents.
From the moment you enter Changi airport Singapore seems surreal, it is the 7th largest airport in the world and it is currently rated the World’s Best Airport for the seventh consecutive year since 2013. How many airports have a pool, a Jacuzzi, and a poolside bar which travellers are invited to relax and enjoy while waiting for their next flight. Passport control is seamless, your bag is already on the carousel when you arrive at baggage claim, and the taxi captain is opening the taxi door when you arrive at the rank.
Singaporeans don’t demand the best they just expect it. So we have never had a bad meal in any restaurant, never had a bad hotel room, never had bad service, but this comes at a cost one thing Singapore is not is ‘Cheap” it reigns as the world’s most expensive city for the fifth year in a row, based on a report by The Economist.
As we can’t name all the restaurant we have dined in, the bars we have drunk in, so we will just give an overview of the highlights and the places we think you should visit. Sentosa is an island resort off Singapore’s southern coast, connected to the city by road, cable car, pedestrian boardwalk and monorail. As well as top end hotels, numerous bars and restaurants it main attractions are: S.E.A. Aquarium, one of the largest on the planet, this attraction is home to more than 100,000 marine animals, allowing for up-close encounters with fascinating creatures from the deep. I-Fly, which is the world’s largest wind tunnel for indoor skydiving. The 18-foot-tall acrylic ‘glass walls’—allow you to enjoy panoramic views of the South China Sea and the state-of-the-art technology will lend you wings in an experience that simulates free falls from heights of 12,000 to 3,000 feet. For more high-octane activities is the Mega-Zip which is Southeast Asia’s steepest zip wire. Those courageous “or mad” enough to hop on this adrenaline-pumping ride will get to experience a whole new perspective of Sentosa’s lush jungles and white beaches from 450 metres in the air. Other activities include a high ropes course, rock climbing wall and a 15-metre free fall simulator.
Of course the star attraction is Universal Studios which is set in 20 hectares, and boasts a total of 24 attractions, of which 18 are original or specially adapted for the park. The park consists of seven themed zones surrounding a lagoon. Madagascar, Far Far Away, the Lost World, Ancient Egypt, Sci-fi City, New York City and Hollywood. Each zone is based mostly on movies and/or television, there are over 30 restaurants and food carts, and 20 retail stores located around the park.
We have never visited but for nature and animal lovers there is the Night Safari, Singapore Zoo, the River Safari and Jurong Bird Park, the only complaints I have heard is the Night Safari can get extremely over crowed.
The Singapore Grand Prix forms part of the FIA Formula One World Championship. The event takes place on the Marina Bay Street Circuit and was the inaugural night race and first street circuit in Asia designed for Formula One races. Also has concerts with various international artists during Grand Prix week, my advice unless you are actually there for the grand prix stay away, traffic is a nightmare and hotel prices quadruple.
Dining and Nightlife, One thing Singapore isn’t short of is dining options, bars and nightclubs. If you follow the locals you will find the happy hour bars. There is usually a deal to be done between 5pm and 10pm if you know the right places. With Singapore being the 6th most expensive country on the planet for beer, the walk can turn out to be well worth it.
Clarke Quay is a favourite amongst locals as well as tourists, it is gifted with one of the best locations in the city. With row upon row of swanky bars and restaurants which line the colourful boulevards offering great alfresco dining, while clubs like Attica and Zirca appease the more late night crowd.
The iconic, 3-pronged Marina Bay Sands is a real focal point of Singapore, and it’s visible from miles around. Not only does it look the part, Highlights of Marina Bay Sands include the uber-cool CE LA VI bar on the 57th floor or the 24-hour casino.
Roof top bars Altitude is the highest of the bunch, and as the night progresses it offers more of a club-vibe than that of its main rival, the more laid-back and luxurious KU DÉ TA at Marina Bay Sands. Others that are worth a mention are Level33 (highest craft brewery in the world), and Kinki to name a few worth visiting. Then you have to sip on a Singapore Sling at the renowned Raffles hotel which is a quintessential experience.
Dining highlights, the famous Chili Crab at Boat Quay, Breakfast at the Marriott Hotel Café, Sunday brunch at the Fullerton Hotel with free flowing champagne, Chinatown for authentic Cantonese, Little India for the best curry, the Brazilian Steak House for the best steak, the list is endless.
As for shopping Orchard Road is 2km of pure retail therapy, with over 30 shopping malls, and I would guess every designer worth their salt has at least one outlet, and in some cases more, I counted 12 official Rolex stockists alone.
So our overall assessment of Singapore, well if you are staying in a 4 star hotel or a serviced apartment on the company dime and dining out on the company Amex card, then Singapore is a wonderful vibrant city, but saying that after 3 months we were ready to leave, all that dining, drinking and partying wears you down.
If you are using it as a hub for a few days then it is a great stop over destination, if you are looking for authentic Asia or you are on a budget it isn’t the place for you.