Thursday, June 21, 2018

Singapore Travel Guide & Must-See Attractions

After touring Shanghai, my second stop before heading to Phuket, Bangkok and Hong Kong was an exotic destination I’d been dreaming about since I became addicted to watching travel documentaries.

Singapore is a city of wonder and intrigue – where nature and technology co-exist harmoniously and a melting pot of Asian cultures form a beautiful community. The air is warm, the food is flavorful and various religious groups practice side-by-side without conflict.

The Amazing Airport
After a quick stop-over in Malaysia, I touched-down at the best airport in the world, voted #1 for six consecutive years. Usually I think of the airport process as the worst part of my trip. All the waiting, long lines and checkpoints can be exhausting but Shanghai’s Changi Airport is a sight to behold!

Getting through immigration took just a few minutes and the courteous officers were waiting with delicious bowls of candy (yes, you read that right). I was happy to be treated like a human being again after being pushed around Shanghai like a hockey puck and the amenities are amazing!

If you find yourself stranded at Changi due to cancellations or delays, consider yourself lucky. You will have access to a free movie theater, rooftop pool, a variety of enchanting gardens, 24 hour spa, a 1960’s themed food court, relaxing lounges (voted the best airport in the world for sleeping), koi pond, free city tour, and more! In addition to the incredible activities, it is the cleanest airport I’ve ever seen, (the floors literally shine and sparkle).

Photo credit:

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I arrived in Singapore late at night and it was still incredibly hot. It is the most humid city I've ever visited – the kind of heat that dampens your clothes and makes you sweat instantly. The Canadian in me started wishing for spontaneous snow squalls but like a champ I soldiered on and tried not to dry up like a prune from dehydration.

We stayed at Hotel Nuve Urbane on St. George Ave (located at the Lavender metro stop – green line). Admittedly my husband and I did not spend very much time searching for hotels like we usually do and many of the rooms online were barely larger than a matchbox which seems to be quite standard.

Nuve offers cozy boutique-style rooms that look larger on Expedia but we made it work for 3 nights. If you travel like me with enough makeup, clothes and toiletries to supply a small village, then you might have issues cramming your suitcases into the bedroom.

The hotel’s location is pretty good - close enough to public transit, within walking distance to a few restaurants and the most important thing – it was clean and comfortable with great service. The lobby offered free fruit juice and snacks plus the complimentary mini bar was a nice touch. There is also a rooftop patio and pool area which is a quiet place to relax and unwind after a long day of walking around in the heat.

After a good night’s sleep we awoke somewhat refreshed and ready to start the day. The first order of business was finding brunch and the building across the street had a food court, money exchange booth and a wonderful Indian restaurant called Kopi Roti. This place is unassuming but the food is tasty and cheap. We ordered soft buttery chapati with curry, spicy noodles, veggie fried rice and Milo on ice - all for just over $20.00.

After a wonderful meal we walked over to the Blue Mosque and then on to Arab Street a few blocks away. This area is also known as the “Muslim Quarter” and it is a great place to buy souvenirs. You will also find an abundance of indie boutiques, bars and great restaurants serving an eclectic mix of cuisine including: local dishes, Thai, Malayan, Chinese, Indian, America, Italian, Arabic and more.

Arab Street

I suggest stopping at the gorgeous Masjid Sultan Mosque, browse the narrow streets and check out the brightly colored fabric, Persian rugs, aromatic teas and awesome street art.

I had lunch on Arab Street the very next day after scoping-out some of the most popular eateries. Zam Zam Restaurant on North Bridge Road (close to the mosque) is popular for their Chicken Murtabak or Mutabbaq which is also commonly found in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, India, Indonesia, Brunei and Thailand. The dish is basically a large, pan fried bread (similar to a flaky chapati or roti) stuffed with your choice of meat or veggie filling (I chose chicken in a tasty sauce). If it is too hot to dine on the lower level, head upstairs to the air conditioned area.

Transportation & Tourist Cards
Getting around the city is easy since Singapore has an excellent public transit system. The Tourist Pass includes unlimited travel on basic buses, MTR and LTR trains. You can pay for the number of consecutive days you require with a $10.00 refund when you return the card at the metro station.

Travelers Tip: The Bugis Metro stop has a great food court with a variety of restaurants that sell pizza, curry, pasta, Chinese food and baked goods.

I also stopped in Little India to see the colorful Hindu temples and street art. There isn’t much to do in this district so I only recommend stopping by if you have time.

Hindu Temple

After being outside in the blaring heat I felt drained but we decided to visit Clarke Quay and Promenade – a colorful little village within the city featuring a variety of restaurants, patios by the river and trendy shops.

From here you can take a short river cruise to see the famous Merlion – a popular landmark representing Singapore’s origin as a fishing village. Images of the Merlion (half mermaid, half lion) can be spotted all over the city and the locals really love this little guy.

The cruise is short but much more exciting than the metro and along the way you can enjoy Singapore’s remarkable skyline.

If you’re in the mood for some serious retail therapy, take the water taxi to Bayfont Mall and revel in the abundance of high-end shops and mid-range retailers. This shopper’s paradise is expansive (I think I saw two Chanel stores and two large Dior boutiques) and when you need a break, relax on a gondola ride along the indoor river.

The mall also has one of the coolest fountains I’ve seen. It shoots water up into a huge globe where it circulates a few times before falling back through and you can also view it from above.

At night there is an exhilarating free light and laser show called Spectra. For a good view head to Event Plaza (just outside of the mall), there are usually two show (8 pm and 9 pm daily). Most people arrive early to get a good seat at the amphitheater but for an unobstructed view stand at the rail in front of the semi-circle. The show features amazing laser images projected on vertical water walls and mist that shoots high in the air to form complex patterns.

The main reason I went to Singapore (aside from the city’s effort to go green and build rooftop gardens on skyscrapers) was to visit Gardens by the Bay. I remember seeing this beautiful park on a travel program years before and immediately added it to my bucket list. 

The colossal solar-powered super trees are covered in tropical plants and exotic flowers that provide sanctuary for birds. I traveled a great distance to see these Avatar-like trees so I purchased a ticket to the treetop canopies and waited just before the light show so I’d be on the bridge when the magic happened. The ticket is just $8.00 but once you go up, you are limited to just 15 minutes.

Travelers Tip: The canopy walk may close during high winds or rain so plan accordingly. If you fear heights, walking along the treetops might not be a good idea. The bridges sway slightly and it can be a bit daunting. You can also get a good view of the show from the ground and it’s free!

If you visit the garden (and I’m sure you will) you must (I repeat, must) visit the climate controlled Biomes or as I like to call them – Biodomes.

The Cloud Forrest is the most breathtaking garden I have ever seen! Upon entering you feel the cool mist of the tallest indoor waterfall in the word (35 meters high) and smell the refreshing breeze of the dense rainforest. 

The diverse vegetation is astounding and the Cloud Walk is thrilling! The floating walkway juts out from the mountain suspending you high above the forest floor for an amazing birds-eye view. This adventure is not for the faint of heart but it is an experience you will never forget.

And now get ready to be bombarded with flower photos...

Next head to the Flower Dome and be prepared to embark on a wondrous journey of color! There are so many interesting displays and fresh flowers that you’ll want to spend hours strolling aimlessly and enjoying the uplifting aroma. 

Another reason people visit is to see the impressive Marina Bay Sands Hotel which boasts a 360˚ observation deck with an infinity pool overlooking the horizon. The buildings are 55 stories high and crowned with the Sands Sky Park which resembles a celestial surfboard or spaceship. Visitors not staying at the hotel can buy tickets to enjoy the view.

I only had 3 days in Singapore but it was amazing! If you haven’t read my guide on Shanghai click HERE and stay tuned for my article on Phuket Thailand!

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