Singapore is a stark contrast to the rough charm of the surrounding countries. It is sleek and polished and so unlike any other place we visited on our trip around South East Asia.
As soon as you land at the airport you know you’re not in Kansas anymore (or to be more specific Thailand) we were used to the chaos and noise of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam instead we got organised queues, a ridiculously impressive bus transfer to our hotel and a highway that was better maintained than any road I’ve ever driven down before.
It being our last stop we did splash the cash a little and book ourselves a hotel room as opposed to our usual dorm digs, the luxury and novelty of the hotel set the scene for the rest of our time spent in the city. Everywhere we went, everything we visited ran strangely smoothly and was impossibly clean, you can see why gum is illegal in Singapore.
We spent our first day at Singapore zoo. If you like zoos this is probably the best one you will ever visit. It is comprised of three separate parks so to really experience it you need to buy a ticket for not just the zoo but the night safari and the river safari as well. We were a little poor having spent most of our money on cheap beer and elephants, so couldn’t experience all three which I thoroughly regret. But it makes for a great day out, despite my sister having a minor panic attack when the free roaming monkeys got a little too close and myself having a minor panic attack in the reptile house, if you like snakes you’ll love that particular enclosure, me not too much!
The evening we spent wandering up and down Orchard Road to look at all the Christmas lights that we were lucky enough to catch there. As their main shopping street it sure puts Oxford Street to shame, clean (I know I keep repeating that word but seriously it’s a clean city), modern, with every big name store, including much to my delight the Australian Cotton On, and with a surprising lack of traffic or people, although that could have just been because we were there later at night, either way I can never appreciate Oxford Street the same way again!
On day two we went in search of a little tradition and culture and found ourselves sitting down at Ya Kun Kaya Toast to sample a traditional Singaporean breakfast. Breakfast consists of a coffee, toast covered in butter and coconut jam with a runny egg on the side. The trick is to add pepper and soy sauce to the egg, give it a good mix and dip your toast complete with coconut jam into the egg. I did not enjoy it. To be fair I’m not a huge fan of eggs or of sweet stuff for breakfast, so perhaps that was my undoing. The cup of coffee though was great.
You absolutely cannot go to Singapore without visiting the Gardens by the Bay. Here they bring nature into the heart of the city. The gardens are made up of lots of smaller gardens showcasing plants from across the world. The garden includes two huge greenhouses displaying different environments for you to gawk at to your hearts content. We chose to visit the Cloud Forest which replicates a tropical mountain climate, you get a lift up to the top of the greenhouse and spiral your way down past beautiful plants and a towering waterfall all backdropped by a view of the bay.
At the heart of the gardens are the famous Supertrees. A fantastic sight that greets you as soon as you enter the gardens. A great example of combining the city with nature, the eleven supertrees are all environmentally sustainable and powered by solar panels. At the centre of the Supertree Grove is the giant supertree at the top of which sits a rooptop bar which offers insane panoramic views of the city. You have to pay $20 to get up to the top which includes a drink and then the cocktails are priced at about $20 each but it being our last evening we figured we might as well use up any cash that we had left and it was worth it. From up there we could see Singapore spread out all around us and as we sipped our drinks and marvelled at the surroundings I had never felt so glam or so lucky!
A few Singapore slings later and as the sun set and it began to get dark we made our way back down the tree to see the magic of the gardens at night. Every evening the trees light up accompanied by music to create a 15 minute light show spectacular. Being there around Christmas time we got the extra special Christmas version, complete with all the best Christmas hits! And so we ended our trip lying on the ground slightly fuzzed on cocktails watching the Supertrees light up in time to Christmas music, and as cheesy as it sounds it was awesome.
Singapore is a country that has spent a huge deal of money and time into redeveloping itself as a future thinking financial and technological hub. It is new and shiny and impressive. Visiting here you’ll need to make sure you bring plenty of money, because boy is it expensive, but there are attractions to keep you occupied for days and you’ll spend your entire time there walking around repeatedly saying wow.
I have to admit though I kind of missed the dirt. Scruffiness adds a certain charm to places and it brings with it street vendors, markets, awesome food, stray dogs and cats and crazy antics around every corner. And it is these noisy, slightly rough around the edges places that I have the most treasured memories from. Singapore is amazing, no argument, but only for a few days, after a while the cleanliness and neatness becomes too much, it turns out I like a little chaos, the chaos is what make travelling fun.