Singapore wasn’t at the top of our list of places to visit, but when we discovered how cheap the flights were from Singapore back to London we couldn’t not book them (around £200 each direct to London Gatwick). We ended up booking two days there at the end of our travels. With the hop on hop off bus in Kuala Lumpur having been a good way to explore we decided that we’d do the same in Singapore. A visa wasn’t required for a visit under 30 days. We’d read that airport taxis were cheaper than most other ways of getting to the city at night so we trusted this and didn’t book anything in advance. It cost £28 and took half an hour. They were metered taxi’s so just follow signs for taxis at the airport.
Hotels were expensive and we did a lot of research before booking one of the best value hotels in Singapore that we could find that had OK reviews. Another successful booking.com booking. We stayed at Fragrance Hotel Selegie in Little India, half an hours walk from the city centre. We had a ‘superior double room’. It cost £50 per night without breakfast. This was significantly cheaper than 95% of the other hotels we’d looked at. We’d read reviews and were prepared for a very small room. It was indeed very small but it was big enough to be comfortable and was clean and modern with a decent shower, air conditioning, free wifi and a little rooftop pool. We were happy for our Singapore budget trip.
Arriving late we headed to the 7-11 shop right next door for a bottle of beer and headed to bed. We could use our phones in Singapore for free! This was incredibly useful for navigating the city with google maps. We soon discovered the city has an intricate network of HUGE shopping malls full to bursting with designer gear. While the city has a diverse multi cultural population we felt like it lacked a bit of ‘local’ culture. It felt very American. A lot of effort has gone in to making it a clean, green city. With even the skyscrapers having gardens and greenery worked into the architecture of the buildings which was impressive. We got a little confused by all the different unique laws of the country, so do read up on them before visiting, an example of this is that you can’t chew gum!
We got up early and headed out to find the Suntec centre where we could buy our bus tickets. We’d found a deal using the booking.com app that got us a 48 hour hop on hop off ‘Duck tours’ ticket for $28 each. We also got tickets for going up on the OCBC sky way that included admission to both the greenhouses at Gardens by the Bay costing us $20 each. We saved over $20 using the booking.com app, so it was well worth it. Singapore was ever so hot, and very very humid so it was a long hot walk. We marvelled at how clean and friendly the city felt. We discovered how many shopping malls there are and that many of them connect up to each other underground. This meant that some of the walk we could do using underground air conditioned shopping centres, it was surreal. We found breakfast (including some delicious gluten free biscuits for me) and headed off for our Hop on Hop off bus tour Singapore!
Our ticket covered all hop on hop off bus routes which was useful and proved to be a good way to see the city. The bus took us through China town, over the river, up through Little India and right past the very impressive Marina Bay Sands hotel and Gardens by the Bay. Every time the bus stopped in traffic the heat got unbearable. We ended up retreating to the back of the top deck where there was a canopy. Water was cheap in the local supermarkets and we kept well hydrated.
We had a walk around the free bits of Gardens by the Bay (they are extensive) and walked through Marina Bay Sands hotel (You can walk all the way through and look down into the hotel). It was very grand! We decided to use the tickets we’d bought the following day so we headed back to the hotel for a siesta and then went to the local Hawker centre to get a cheap dinner. Hawker centres are famous large ‘food halls’ in Singapore with numerous stalls providing all different types of foods from all over the world at cheap prices.
We discovered early on that Singapore is as expensive or as cheap as you make it. Dinner at the Hawker Centre in Little India cost us around $5 each and was a delicious big curry and gluten free smoothies for desert. It was great. The centre was full of people bustling about the many many food stalls and there was one big dining area in the middle where everyone sat together eating. With full happy tummies and burning mouths (spicy curry!) We headed back to the hotel ready to sleep.
We got up early finishing the biscuits we’d bought the day before for breakfast. We used our bus tickets to explore some more of the city having found a bus stop within 5 minutes of the hotel (right outside the local Hawker centre). We explored the whole of Gardens by the Bay, this took a good couple of hours. Once we’d done a full circuit of the gardens we went up on the OCBC Skyway. This is a walk-way 128 meters long, 22 meters above ground within ‘Supertree Grove’. You are given 15 minutes to spend up there. This was long enough to take some photographs of the fabulous views over the gardens, and Marina Bay Sands. Supertree Grove comprises of 18 ‘supertree’ structures standing at between 25 and 50 meters tall, covered in thousands of different species of flowers! We then headed to the greenhouses having a naughty ice cream on our way.
The greenhouses were amazing; the cloud forest greenhouse was impressive with its 35 meter tall, man-made mountain complete with cascading waterfall. WOAH! And the beautiful flower dome greenhouse (the largest greenhouse in the world!) full of plants from the Mediterranean and sub-tropic regions with different sections for different seasons. Both the greenhouses also offered some relief from the heat of the day as they were air conditioned to a pleasant temperature.
The day flew by, we had a walk in the city centre and google maps lead us to ‘Kitchen by Food Rebel’ a health conscious cafe that had good reviews for gluten free food. The food was OK but for the price (around $45 for both of us) the hawker centre had been far better. After lunch we headed back to the hotel to spend some time at the rooftop pool. It is small but if you time it right and its quiet its plenty big enough. We had fun messing about in the water, cooling off from the burning heat of the day.
Next door to the hotel there is a thai restaurant with fair prices (around $8 each), we headed there for a tasty green curry before heading out. Having read about how the Singapore metro (MRT) is one of the cleanest and safest in the world we were curious to see it and decided to use it to head back to the gardens that night. It was very straight forward to navigate and only cost a coupe of dollars.
We made it to Supertree Grove for the first of two nightly light shows. The Marina Bay Trees light up and the lights danced around to music. We lay on the floor watching with hundreds of other people. It was great. It felt like time stopped. We then found the perfect spot in the gardens (the meadow) to get pictures of Marina Bay Sands Hotel by night. We finished off the evening by heading to see ‘Spectra’ another impressive light show the other side of the hotel with a lovely city backdrop right next to the Artscience Museum- another building worth seeing.
We crossed the beautiful helix bridge next to the museum. The architects that designed it were inspired by the structure of DNA. That is exactly what it looks like with different coloured LED lights in different positions accentuating the curves of the stainless steel structure. The four different coloured lights representing the different molecules that make up DNA. The viewing platforms at regular intervals along the bridge provide fantastic photo taking opportunities. Having crossed the bridge we decided to enjoy the city a little longer and walk the hour back to the hotel.
Singapore was an interesting city that is definitely worth seeing both by day and by night. It would be nice to visit with an abundance of money to spend at all the designer shops; Dior, Gucci etc, followed by a Michelin star meal at one of the cities world famous restaurants…. But it was also a nice place to eat cheap meals, explore by day and by night and enjoy on a relatively tight budget. The only thing we didn’t do that we perhaps regret is not going into the casino at Marina Bay, but we weren’t really dressed for it 😉 Next time…