Many people criticise Singapore for not being a true representation of Asia, having such a strong western influence, but I don’t think it’s trying to be. It’s an extremely successful and varied hub for world commerce with lots of Asian flavours thrown in. For a backpacker it’s an easy, adjustable starting point for a trip around Asia.
The main tourist areas of Singapore are split into precincts, making it really easy to navigate the city. You have; Arab street, Chinatown, Little India, Marina Bay and Orchard Road.
We stayed in Little India on one visit and The Arab district on the next, but the public transport is so good you really can stay anywhere – so take your pick!
Make sure you get a tourist day pass if you are going to be travelling to multiple places on the SMRT (metro). These can be annoying, as you can only buy them (and return them to get your deposit back) to a small number of stations, but they are definitely worth the hassle. It’s worth noting that one of those stations is the airport, so you can collect and return your ticket on your way in/out of the country.
Singapore Botanical Gardens
For nature lovers this is a great place to spend a few hours, enjoying some of the 60 acres of gardens and nature reserves. Bring a picnic and enjoy being surrounded by natural beauty in Singapore’s oldest garden, established in 1859. It is also home to the Orchid Garden (which you have to pay to enter) which hosts the World’s largest orchid display.
If you’ve never been stalked by fish and fancy giving it a try… walk along the edge of the pond and they’ll follow you hoping for a feed! We also got approached by a Komodo Dragon whilst having a snack. Quite an outing!
See Singapore From Above
There are so many places to see fantastic views over the city. We opted to go to Altitude, the World’s highest alfresco bar. You have to pay a cover charge to get in but this includes a free cocktail (or two if you are lucky, like us). We arrived in plenty of time before sunset, not just to get a space but to see the city in the light and then watch it gradually transform into darkness.
We hadn’t seen the main city centre yet and kept our heads down on the way from the metro stop to the bar, as we wanted it to be a surprise. Stepping out onto the viewing platform with 360 degree views we were taken aback by the range of landmarks across the city.
The sunset wasn’t all that great but watching the city suddenly come alive in the dark was magical.
Wonder Full – Light and Water Spectacular
Another magical experience was the water and light show in the marina – Wonder Full [sic]. It’s an immersive, unique experience unlike most other light shows. For 13 minutes, it features original songs, advanced light shows, holograms projected onto water vapour and even lasers firing down from the famous Sky Park which looms overhead, sitting atop the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
Forget the Dubai fountain show and head to Singapore!
Gardens By the Bay
When the show finishes, why not take the short walk over to the Gardens by the Bay, a sort-of nature reserve with large neon trees everywhere you look – think Avatar crossed with The Eden Project.
There are plenty of paid attractions, but you can also just walk around and enjoy the atmosphere for free. There are also a couple of reasonably priced restaurants on site. We’d recommend going to the attractions in the day time and popping back at night to see the lights.
There are a lot of China Towns all over the world, but because of Singapore’s cosmopolitan population and rich Asian influence, this has to be one of the best! Sample some of the authentic street food and browse the obscure gifts sold by the street vendors.
Explore Marina Bay on Foot!
The city centre (Marina Bay) is best explored on foot, as the metro stations are quite far apart and there is good pedestrian access. While you’re there, here a couple of things we would consider a must see / do:
- Take a selfie with the famous Singapore Merlion fountain
- Pop by Raffles Hotel, and sip a Singapore Sling where it was first created
- Walk beneath the impressive Sky Park, on top of Marina Bay Sands Hotel
Singapore is a clean, modern, safe and diverse city and should be enjoyed for more than just a layover experience. It has something for everyone from nature lovers to designer label junkies.
We were privileged that we could stop over twice on our trip and would happily visit again…maybe when we can afford to stay in one of the many fancy hotels in the marina! I am so desperate to test of the infinity pool on top of Marina Bay Sands Hotel (the highest and largest in the World)!