How Singapore Became My Favourite City

Once upon a time there was a Sumatran Prince who saw a lion on an island and named this island Lion City. This Lion City was then developed into a fishing village and Singapura (Sanskrit for Lion City) was born. The area has changed quite a bit since then and it turns out there’s no other evidence that lions have ever roamed the area but Ammun and I spent 4 days here, roaming one of the three remaining city-states in the world, Singapore.

Our journey here wasn’t so easy. We spent 30 minutes looking for the bus station and after an uber driver, 3 strangers and a taxi driver couldn’t get us to the right place, we eventually found another taxi driver that took us there with 4 minutes to spare. The bus was lovely with a snack and drink provided and TV’s with movies on and 4 hours later we left Malaysia and crossed the bridge to Singapore. An hour later we and another couple from our bus made it through the long, slow queue for passport control and customs. After spending a long time searching for our bus, we learned that the bus company only waits 20 minutes before leaving. We were outraged. Luckily, another bus let us jump on for free and this was a first class bus with massage chairs! We gave the guy a tip as a thank you for saving our butts and then began the 10 minute walk to our hostel. It was already 3 hours after we had told the hostel we would arrive so when our eyes got drawn to an Italian restaurant and wine bar on Arab Street we couldn’t help but think that we were good for a little bit longer. Prosecco has never tasted so good. Our first glass in nearly 4 months and it was beautiful, even if we weren’t, after an afternoon of stressful travelling!

A glass of prosecco clearly wasn’t enough to fully cure our stress: comfort food was needed. We walked down the road to a hawker market where we had to describe to the man in depth what we wanted; chicken nuggets, chips, baked beans and coleslaw. All of these things are served as sides so he was confused by our meal choice but it was amazing.

Although we were both in a really bad mood from the really inconsiderate people in our room, we were very excited for the day we had planned ahead. We first went to Merlion Park. The Merlion is the mascot/icon for Singapore as it has the lion’s head to symbolise the origins of Singapura and a fish’s tail to symbolise the history of Singapore as a fishing village. From the park you can see the CBD and Marina Bay Sands Hotel and it is so impressive how tall everything is! Buildings can’t be taller than 280m and in the CBD you can find the world’s highest rooftop bar at 280m! The Merlion itself wasn’t so impressive. I was so sure that I’d seen a massive one before but this one is only 8.6m.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in possibly my new favourite place ever: Gardens by the Bay. It is a nature park spanning 250 acres and is part of a government initiative to improve quality of life by enhancing greenery and flora in the city to make it a “City in a Garden”. First we enjoyed the Supertree Grove and it was amazing.

Next we went to the Flower Dome where they had a temporary exhibition combining the works of Vincent Van Gogh and Dutch Tulips appropriately called Tulipmania. I particularly liked the baobab trees from Madagascar – it reminded me how much I would love to see them in real life. The only hinderance was whenever I was ready to take a picture of a flower I quite often had to wait for Asian tourists to stop taking 1000 fake pictures of them pretending to smell the flowers probably just for Instagram likes.

Next we went to the Cloud Forest which features the world’s tallest indoor waterfall at 35 metres high. We were pretty tired so we went through fairly quickly but it was so impressive.

7.30pm was approaching so we walked back to the centre of the gardens to see the lights show. All of the 22m high tree trunks light up and the three biggest also have sparkly lights on top as well. The music was a collection of classical music including some songs from ballets so I really wanted to get up and dance. It really wasn’t the time and place though and I was awful at ballet when I did lessons! Ammun and I sat in silence for the whole duration because we didn’t want to miss a second as it was so amazing. It’s one of those things that I don’t think I could ever do justice through words on a screen.

An hour later we had made our way to a viewpoint we passed earlier and watched it all again. We couldn’t really hear the music but we could see all of the trees from a better angle and could fully appreciate the patterns they made.

We completed our day by Marina Bay by visiting Marina Bay Sands Hotel for a drink. There are two bars but we chose Spago which is on level 57 of the second tower. We were lucky to get a seat and each enjoyed a glass of delicious prosecco. There was also a pool up there with views of Singapore but this is only available to hotel guests and we absolutely can’t afford even one night at this hotel!
About 10pm we walked past the queue of people waiting to get in and to the MRT train to Chinatown for dinner and a beer. We shared an assortment of Chinese food and slowly ate ourselves into a food coma and bailed on the idea of a night out in Chinatown.
The next day we went to Sentosa Island. Singapore actually has 63 islands but nearly all are uninhabited or used as military bases. Sentosa Island is mostly filled with resorts and tourist attractions (and a small business district). It’s not so much of a place that you can just walk around and see things as we discovered but we did stumble upon Malaysia Street which is an indoor food court where each stall does one or two dishes.

After satisfying our stomachs I finally found the huge Merlion that I thought I had seen before. You can walk up but we decided not to. Actually, knowing Singapore there’s probably an escalator in there because Singapore loves an escalator.

After getting the typical tourist snaps here we walked to find the Imbiah Nature Walk because we had seen on (offline maps – a travel essential!) that there are waterfalls there. We loved walking through the jungle but we weren’t sure if the sound of bugs was real of just an audio tape. Once we found the plastic waterfall to be out of order we knew everything other than the trees in this jungle was probably fake. We enjoyed our walk anyway.

To complete our day on Sentosa Island we got the free shuttle bus to the most southern point of continental Asia. There wasn’t much going on but you could walk up to some viewpoints and see all the navy ships across the horizon which you don’t normally see at a beach.

For dinner we went to Little India and ate at Bamboo Leaf Apolo which was really yummy. I ate my curry with a roti instead of rice which I’ve been doing quite often on this trip (probably because I’m travelling with an Indian) and I definitely want to learn how to make them so we can eat them at home!
As darkness came, we headed to Singapore Zoo for a night safari which we had been really excited about for ages! The queue for the tram was pretty long but so worth it one we were on our way. It took about 40 minutes to go around the whole park and we saw lots of nocturnal animals such as otters, wild dogs, elephants and giraffes. It was really cool to see these animals without any bars or windows between us. Sometimes there was a small moat so the animal couldn’t get to the tram and sometimes they could come up really close!

A rubbish picture of a giraffe
A rubbish picture of a lion

Afterwards we walked around the path which took us the rest of the evening. My favourite animals were the cats that were hunting fish in a stream and the fox bats that are native to Singapore and the biggest species of bat. Normally you wouldn’t see things like this in a daytime zoo but I loved watching them eating fruit and up close in the walk through enclosure. I think I preferred the night zoo to a daytime zoo. It was so, so quiet and even if we did walk past another group, everyone spoke with hushed voices and didn’t try hard to get the best picture because all pictures were awful. We were there from about 9pm til midnight when it closed and we were slowly escorted out by 5 security guards.

A rubbish picture of two leopards
A half decent picture of a bat
The most rubbish picture of them all: us with our many security guard friends

The next day we returned to Arab Street to do some shopping. All the shops were filled with beautiful fabrics to make clothes and Ammun walked away very happy after buying the sandals she saw when we were walking on the first day.
As if we hadn’t seen enough nature for one city, we spent the afternoon in the Botanic Gardens. We slowly winded through seeing all types of gardens until we got to the middle to see the Orchid Garden. Singapore is famous for its orchids and hybrid orchids (combining two types) so there were some really pretty ones on display. This park is about 4km across so we got a little bit stuck in the middle and took way longer getting back than we planned.

About 5:30 we arrived at Makansutra Glutton Bay where we had been invited to go for dinner by my mum’s cousin Tim and his family. I have only met Tim a couple of times that I remember and his wife, Laura, once before and it was my first time meeting Laura’s mum Maureen and their one year old daughter, Harriet. Tim ordered a variety of food for us all to share and everyone was so chatty and easy to get along with that my little nerves about meeting up with a family member that I hardly knew went away very quickly!

After dinner it was Harriet’s bedtime so we said goodbye to the girls and Tim took us to the Raffles Hotel for a drink. The Raffles Hotel is named after Stamford Raffles who is the British explorer who sewed the seeds for modern day Singapore and it’s also the birthplace of the Singapore Sling in 1915. We walked in to see everyone drinking the same colourful cocktail and peanut shells all over the floor. We ordered a Singapore sling for Ammun and I and Tim had a beer and we sat eating from the bag of peanuts on the table, throwing all the shells on the floor too. Tim told us all about life in Singapore and how easily he can travel to other parts of Asia for the weekend and I think it’s confirmed what we’ve been thinking for the last three days: Ammun and I want to live in Singapore.

After we said goodbye to Tim, he dropped us in the taxi at Clarke Quay which is where most of the bars and clubs are. We stayed for a glass of wine and then headed back to the hostel. Via Burger King. Obviously.

The next morning was pretty chilled. We woke up late and then spent the morning planning our final few weeks in Indonesia over breakfast. We got a taxi to the airport and made sure we had plenty of time because there was one thing I really wanted to do: Slide @ T3. We got the sky train from terminal 1 to terminal 3 after checking our bags in and then went to the shop to spend S$10 (about £5) so that I could get a token for the ride. The slide is 12m tall and goes down 4 storeys. I felt a bit silly queueing behind 10 year olds for 5.6 seconds of fun but it was worth it. I have now gone down one of the top 10 best slides in the world according to an article I read a few years ago.

After that mental rush of adrenaline, it was time to board our flight to Bali where we are spending the last 16 days of our trip. I can’t believe this is our last flight now…

Annalise x