Country-hopping Part 2: a whistle-stop tour of Singapore

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With the first few days of our holiday completed having successfully reached Thailand, battled jet lag and begun to adjust to the stifling humidity, we were ready to get on another plane for the next stop on what some intolerable social media ‘influencers’ might describe as our ‘journey’.

There was very little I knew about Singapore before we arrived following our short flight with Jetstar Airways, but my sum knowledge consisted of the following points:

  • It’s one of the smallest countries in the world
  • It’s one of the most expensive places to drink
  • It’s impeccably clean with an insanely low crime rate

One of the greatest things about it though was that I would finally be getting the chance to visit one of my favourite people on their home turf.

I’ve waxed lyrical about Anna in the past; the first PR manager I ever had and undoubtedly the first person to really shape my approach to work. An avid traveller who’s now lived in Singapore for six years and whose wedding we attended in June, Anna and her husband Myles would be our helpful guides around the city showing us some of the lesser known sights and I couldn’t be more chuffed about it.


The first impression of the place was given to us by the hotel, the Royal Plaza on Scotts Road; five stars alone from us for the complimentary mini bar (soft drinks only, of course) and the dongle giving us mobile WiFi while we travelled about. A big plus when you want to bore on about your trip on social media whilst you’re enjoying yourself.

hotel lobby

Once we were settled it was time to meet Anna and Myles – accompanied by their current couch-surfing companion Albin, from Sweden – at the Marina Bay Sands. I don’t think I’ve seen a more impressive building in my life than the Marina Bay Sands; a world-famous hotel which boasts the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool.

Before we could enjoy the sights, we needed drinks. Apparently, it’s legal to walk the streets of Singapore with an open container of alcohol up until 10:30pm, so we stocked up on beer and headed to the bay for a light and laser show.

I liked the place already.

spectra light show (1)
Spectra – a light show by the bay

After that it was time for another light show, this time at the Gardens by the Bay. As you’d expect for a city, there isn’t a whole host of greenery around. In 2012 though, Gardens by the Bay was born; a nature park made up of 250 acres of gardens that would play a key role in further enhancing the quality of life for Singaporeans using greenery, flora and a futuristic vibe.

As I lay in the park with Alex, Anna, Myles and Albin, watching the lights, it was all pretty surreal; but fucking incredible.

I’m not too sure where we were led to next as by this point, I’d nailed two full cans of beer on an empty stomach. All I do know is that we headed to a local, budget-friendly food court, where a stack of 50 satay sticks would soon be in front of us (along with more beers) and I was more confident than ever that this would be high on our list as one of the best nights of our trip.

Gardens by the Bay
Night time at Gardens by the Bay

Day 2 began with a hangover. Expected.

As we’d only experienced it half-cut and we’d been advised by Anna that this was something to be seen during the daytime, we decided to venture back to the Gardens by the Bay to see what we’d missed in our beer fuelled haze.

There were a few options to choose from by way of gardens, so we opted for the Cloud Forest, which sounded suitably ethereal. The forest itself has been designed to emulate the conditions of tropical highlands, featuring plant life that typically thrives at 2,000-metres above sea level, and a 30-metre indoor waterfall; the world’s tallest in fact (turns out Singapore is the place for record-breaking).

cloud forest

orchids

I spent far too long than is acceptable taking pictures of/smelling orchids and, while beautiful, the only thing that can undoubtedly ruin any experience like this is other people. Does anyone else ever look at people taking shit holiday pictures and wonder what they’re going to do with them when they get home? Needless to say, there are no pictures of me stood in front of a man-made indoor waterfall or rubbing up against foliage.

That afternoon we’d arranged to meet Anna, Myles and Albin at Resorts World Sentosa, home to some of Singapore’s top attractions including Universal Studios, which is where we were heading.  I’d visited the park countless times in Orlando, so I was keen to see what its Asian cousin would have in store.

Sadly, we weren’t at the park on the right day for Halloween Horror Nights, although we did get a daytime tour of one of the events haunted houses – Curse of the Naga – giving us a glimpse into the hard graft and detail that goes into constructing just one small part of the world’s premier Halloween event. Taking inspiration from the legendary half-human half-serpent deity of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, the Naga house was developed in collaboration with Thai horror filmmakers, Parkpoom Wongpoom and Paween Purijitpanya. It leads you through a nightmarish journey during which you’ll be offered a shot of snake blood from a Bangkok stall owner, before journeying through a jungle, and arriving in the belly of Naga itself.

Sadly, no photos were allowed, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

An afternoon of rollercoasters, cloying humidity and horror was followed by an evening drink down Haji Lane, a ‘hip’ indie neighbourhood, which ultimately gave us the gift of more beer. This time at Funq, a hidden gem with an ‘Instagrammable’ store front and steins.

haji lane


Anna had undoubtedly saved the most weird and wonderful sight in Singapore for our last day, in the form of Haw Par Villa.

A few facts about this outdoor art gallery:

  • It was formerly known as Tiger Balm Garden and was built in 1937 by Aw Boon Haw; philanthropist and founder/creator of Tiger Balm
  • The park acts as a showcase of Chinese folklore with the Ten Courts of Hell offering an insane peak into what awaits in the afterlife for ‘sinners’
  • It houses 1,000 sculptures and dioramas which I challenge anyone to make sense of without explanation

It was all a little baffling and undoubtedly, for anyone who has a belief in heaven and hell, a bit terrifying. Alex took great care in taking pictures of each of hell’s ten courts which I’m hoping hasn’t given him any ideas for home renovation…

haw par villa
The strange sights of Haw Par Villa

After Anna left us, we spent our final afternoon in the city browsing the shops back on Haji Lane and paying a visit to yet another freaky exhibition, Disturbing Narratives, on display at the Atlas Bar. The bar itself is a spectacle of its own; an Art Deco masterpiece referred to by locals as the ‘Batman Building’ and housing what is proclaimed to be the world’s largest collection of gins. It was also built by a man looking to hide his cash from his ex-wife during a messy divorce – proof of just how creative a person can get when money is the main motivation.

atlas bar
Gotham city in the heart of Singapore…

By the time our last evening rolled around and we were in Anna and Myles’s home in Little India drinking G&Ts, I couldn’t quite believe our few days in Singapore had to come to an end so quickly or that we’d managed to pack in so much. A curry in Little India rounded off our visit perfectly and before I knew it, I was saying goodbye to Anna once again.

Dubai would mark the final leg of our trip. With our few remaining clean outfits, we set off on our final seven and a half our flight and bid goodbye to Asia. For now…

anna and I

xAx

1 comments on “Country-hopping Part 2: a whistle-stop tour of Singapore”

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