Leaving a very wet Manchester behind, after a dark, traffic-jam filled journey in November, seemed like a great way to get back travelling and out on the road again. We were heading for Summer in New Zealand, but first up for us, was a stylish Singapore stopover!
Our flight with the well respected, award-winning Singapore Airlines was as good as any long-haul flight could be. Occupied by the whole final series of Game of Thrones, a couple of Hollywood films and a pause for food, wiled away the hours – all 13 of them!
Landing in Changi Airport, itself an iconic masterpiece of Airport design, meant we had the day ahead to start exploring. There was just one problem, we had to stay awake first!
Thankfully, or should I say, unusually, our luggage was first to appear on the carousel. With almost no queues at immigration, we soon found ourselves in a taxi, en-route to our city centre hotel for a few days sightseeing and relaxation.
Singapore Airlines Our airline choice and ideal for A stylish Singapore Stopover.
Even more perfect, was the really welcome news at the hotel reception desk, at the Colonial looking Intercontinental Hotel – our room was ready!
You know you have a good hotel, when the reception staff show you personally to your room….very swish! Such a relief to be able to take that hot shower and a soak in a bath tub (yes both!), more importantly make a proper, good old cup of British Tea.
More indulgence followed, with a dip in the roof-top pool, the freshness of the water being the perfect solution to keeping our eyes open! Breathing in the humid air from the very hot atmosphere of this Tropical metropolis, soon brought a realisation that this was one very intense heat.
Despite a cool swim, no sooner had we relaxed on the padded sun lounger and we were dripping wet from the sweat pouring from our skin!
It’s funny how you either crave ultra healthy food or the complete opposite after a long flight. Is it the jet lag or just that airplane cuisine that sends our digestive systems into turmoil?
Whichever the case, we had to have a healthy option when a sudden craving for anything involving fruit and veg took over. Heading out into the humidity, from the safety of our hotel air conditioning was a brave move.
Wow! This place gets humid! Finding solace in the local air-conditioned shopping Mall brought instant relief. Just as our hunger pangs had been met, by a good plate of nutritious food, our restless nature took over.
Stupidly ignoring our hotel doorman’s advice of needing an umbrella and a taxi. Our walkabout of the nearby Little India district, a few blocks from our hotel, soon became a bit of a washout.
Despite the warning of imminent rain, our British sprit of carrying on regardless, turned out to be a rather damp squid! Choosing to stretch our legs got us nowhere fast, as these rains were like nothing we’d seen before!
Good grief, yes we are used to rain back in Blighty, but this was another level. All we could do was shelter under the canopy of a shop front and watch as the roads became rivers and Little India, although now in sight, may as well have been a million miles away.
An hour later and we were both fed up of waiting for the rains to stop. Beginning to feel as if we could sleep right there under the cover of the shop was becoming a tempting option. No need for a comfy bed, we were well and truly jet-lagged.
There was no other way forward, other than to just go for it – head out into the wet stuff and retreat back to our cosy room. It was only 5pm, but for us, it was time for the land of nod!
Fresh-faced and ready for action the next morning, a fabulous breakfast and sunny skies greeted us.
First up, was a peak around the iconic, world-famous Raffles Hotel. This immaculate colonial institution didn’t disappoint, a multi million dollar refurbishment truly evident.
Feeling as though we’d been transported back in time, we found ourselves walking the stairway to the historic “Long Bar”, tempting us back into a bygone age. This fascinating saloon could tell a few tales – if only walls could talk!
Here, peanut shells are traditionally scattered on the wooden floors, opened by the punters, sipping cocktails under the gracious, cooling fans. At 10am, it was a bit early for us to sample the Singapore Sling, invented here to look like a fruit juice, whilst in fact, disguising the alcohol that the ladies were drinking…..clever!
Meandering along the tidy pavements, alongside some incredibly impressive colonial architecture , we couldn’t help but admire the way in which this island nation has evolved. Now a global centre of commerce amid vast investment and development.
The British feel though is evident round every corner. From the road signs to information boards, parks to shops and the bonus of English signs and display boards. There was no struggling with the language here for us.
Back to the sightseeing, our route took us towards the Quay’s where waterside restaurants attempted to draw us in with their tasty offerings. Many with fresh seafood awaiting their culinary fate, in glass tanks lining the walkways.
By now, our clothes were clinging to our damp skin, my fringe firmly stuck to my forehead and legs feeling the affects front he intense humidity.
Despite the unglamorous look of a couple of Brits, as we struggled to maintain an air of freshness about our wet appearance, we carried on.
Soon we found ourselves in China Town. A colourful, vibrant mix surrounded our senses. Temples brought a haze of incense-filled smoke to new levels of intensity, spilling out into the streets, our noses unsure whether to enjoy this thick mass of cloud-like substance or simply avoid inhalation at all costs!
Street markets selling any tacky souvenir imaginable, alongside food stalls with even more weird and wonderful concoctions, filled the empty spaces between the rows of shops.
Enough was enough, by now we were suffering too much from the heat, the hotel pool suddenly felt a lot more tempting than a couple of spring rolls and a dish of Singapore noodles!
I don’t know why, but we always tend to want to walk everywhere on our travels. Great for the exercise but not good when the air is so humid. Somehow though, it’s the best way to get to know a place, to really step into the locals shoes and the other big advantage – yes, it’s free! One downside, of course, it’s exhausting.
Deciding to retreat back to our hotel restaurant for an early meal was a wise move. Dining to the sounds of the hotel pianist, was so much more civilised than our usual evening meals in camper-land…could we get used to this?
Since the monsoon rains had disappeared, our curiosity had us return to the stunning cultural scenes of Little India. This joyful suburb of colourful coffee shops, quaint eateries and abundance of individual retailers, brought the senses alive.
The most impressive sight greeted us from afar, the golden domes of the Mosque glistened in the morning sunshine. A centrepiece amongst the other brightly coloured buildings.
This Sunday morning had us mingle amongst the locals, dressed in beautiful colourful fabrics. In an area full to the brim with shops, displaying the most glorious cloths, it was no surprise that there were so many exotic creations passing us by.
We seem to drink more tea and coffee than the average British traveller, so after a few hours outdoors, we decided to make our way back to the luxury abode of the hotel room for a quick cuppa. A break in the days sightseeing and chance to quench our thirst.
One of the most recognised sights in modern day Singapore, the Marina Bay complex is vast and we had set about exploring it on foot.
Situated alongside the waterfront, the architectural masterpiece of the Marina Bay Sands hotel is the star attraction. Our route took us besides glamorous restaurants, passing wooden boats as they took visitors across the water.
It seemed to take us forever, but eventually we arrived at our first port of call, Gardens on the Bay, located behind the Marina complex.
We weren’t really sure what this was all about, other than a light show twice nightly and a few massive greenhouse structures. We paid the entrance fee which allowed us entry into 2 of the greenhouses as well as the gardens. It all sort of resembled something more familiar to a Disney theme park.
Our hopes were high, but the whole Gardens on the Bay thing, was a bit of a disappointment. There were very nice displaces of flora and fauna, plenty of fast food outlets and a hawker food court. This is where we decided to eat, doing it like the locals and grabbing a dish of street food.
The lighting show was a bit boring, possibly due to the Christmas theme going on at the time. Whatever the reason, we didn’t feel it was worth paying the entrance fee, when there are so many free things to do in Singapore.
As the lights dimmed, we walked across the footbridge that links the Gardens on the Bay to the Marina Bay Sands hotel. There’s also a shopping Mall here, but we didn’t have time for that. Instead, we were taking the lift to the 57th floor for cocktails on the roof top bar.
A $20 entry fee gave an allowance for the drinks and entry to the bar, surely this had to be worth paying for? As the lift doors opened, there in front of us as we turned the corner was the most fabulous city view.
Passing us by in bathrobes, were guests of the hotel, making their way to the infinity pool located alongside the public bar. Despite it being 10pm, there was no stopping the flurry of white robes with guests soaking in the night time splendour.
For us, one front line table overlooking the city became free, so with cocktails in hand, we took a pew in one of the guest seats in town and settled in.
It must be a sign of getting old when you find the music annoying, conversation impossible and hearing loss evident, as the thud of speaker’s echo around the room. None the less, we sat it out, enjoying the bright lights of Singapore, trying not to look down – Crikey this place is high up!
As our last full day approached, the jet lag was subsiding, giving us a new lease of life. Time for us to hit Orchard Road, Singapore’s equivalent to Oxford Street. Shopping isn’t quite our thing, but we wanted to take a look at what it was all about anyway.
Luckily, it was worth it, just for the amazing little street lying off the main road, named Emerald Hill. A colonial, character delight of terraced homes in an array of brightly painted colours. The huge shopping district was home to every kind of store imaginable, we, however, just walked on by…how good were we?
Our afternoon was supposed to be spent wondering around the Botanic Gardens. The weather, though, had other ideas! Just as we stepped through the gates and opened our picnic box, the heavens opened. The monsoon rains had returned with a vengeance, complete with thunder, lightening and no other option than to hail a cab and retreat back to the hotel.
With a morning to spare before having to pack our bags and leave for the airport, we decided to continue where we’d left off. Back to the Botanic gardens with clear skies above.
A completely beautiful experience it was to be. All for free, with a magical mix of themed gardens and peaceful seating areas, giving us time to reflect upon a fabulous few days in this far flung corner of the globe.
As Turtles swam in the ponds, a rather amazing Monitor Lizard crossed the path beside us. Before we knew it, a few more had appeared from the waterside. They looked as though they ruled the gardens and certainly kept us entertained in the process.
Heading swiftly back to the hotel after a morning in the Gardens, we spent the next couple of hours packing! Why doesn’t everything go back in the bags second time round?
Singapore didn’t disappoint, this is a classy colonial city and it proved just delightful. It was a perfect few days, breaking up the long flight to New Zealand, with just another 10 hours flying time left to go!
This island nation may be hot and humid but it didn’t get us hot under the collar, and it’s certainly going down in our books as one cool stopover! Yes, Singapore is sensational!
Thanks for reading A Stylish Singapore Stopover!
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