Singapore: Unlocked (Insider tips for your next trip!)
When I think of relaxation, my brain cultivates two different images. The first is of me, bikini clad, lounging on the banks of a pearl white beach as I am fanned with oversized banana leaves, sipping on a mojito that is replenished by the hour. The second targets a different kind of relaxation, the kind that involves a marathon between myself, my credit card, and a surplus of designer stores that all boast 50% off.
You’re probably constructing two very different ideas of a holiday in your mind, right? The first being somewhere exotic, say the Maldives. And perhaps the second is along Rodeo Drive or Oxford Street. What if I told you both existed simultaneously, with the added zest of adventure and culture? No, it’s not in the south of Italy or along the Mexican coast, this destination, your next destination, is only a five-hour journey off the verandah of Australia.
Ni hao, welcome to Singapore.
For any first time traveller looking to make the Lion City their next vacation, there are five main attractions you need to be ticking off your list. And while Singapore advertises itself as a shopping destination, which it undeniably is, it has so many other facets that enrich it as a holiday destination, with enough diversity to appeal to the holiday appetite of every traveller.
No holiday in Singapore would be complete without a trip to Sentosa, or as I like to call it, Adventure Island. Sentosa caters to everyone’s holiday wants and needs, and I mean everyone. Remember when I mentioned pearl white beaches, adventure and culture? Well, here you are.
To start you off on Sentosa is Resorts World, home to the most exciting places on the island, featuring Adventure Cove Waterpark, S.E.A Aquarium (the largest aquarium in the southern hemisphere) and of course, Universal Studios.
If you are like me and live for the thrill of being turned upside down while spinning 360 degrees all while screaming for your life, then Universal Studios will top your list. Don’t get me wrong though, its not all death defying and hair-raising; there are attractions for everyone, satisfying both big and little kids alike.
On the other side of the island is Siloso beach, which is the spot for relaxation. Did someone say cocktails? Singapore Slings? Half price and two for one? With plentiful bars and restaurants along the beachfront and a conveniently free shuttle bus, you can hop off and on as you go. Your only problem will be deciding where to start.
Ideally located on the northeast metro line, Clarke Quay is the nightly hub of all things Singaporean. This riverfront hotspot is best experienced at night with an abundance of restaurants and bars lining the waterfront, and giving way to breathtaking views of the marina. If you’re not the clubbing type, and even if you are, a boat ride down the river at night is a must on all agendas.
Along the journey that takes you up and down Singapore River, you will see the famous Merlion statue, which with the head of a lion and body of a fish is the national mascot and iconic symbol of Singapore; giving it the title of ‘Lion City’. What makes this landmark even more spectacular is when it is set against the backdrop of Marina Bay Sands, and the captivating laser and water show that lights up the marina every single night. Is there anything better than sitting, cocktail in hand, as the nightly sounds of the Singapore River serenade you into a tranquil sense of relaxation? I don’t think so.
Gardens by the Bay
Okay, so this is an easy one. If you were to Google ‘what to do in Singapore’, the first eighteen suggestions would all bombard you with the same answer—exploring Marina Bay Sands Gardens by the Bay.
Listed as number six on the most checked in places on Facebook in 2016, Gardens by the Bay is an institution to the Singaporean identity. It is the equivalent of Times Square in New York City, or Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. This number one tourist attraction has gone above and beyond to prove its merit at the top of the countries sightseeing list. And for good reason, might I add.
The gardens form part of the Marina Bay Sands development, and features a direct vein between the hotel and the shopping mall, taking you right into the gardens. I recommend also checking out Marina Bay Sands and travelling to the top of one of the three fifty-five story buildings to the observation deck, where you will see the most amazing view of Singapore and the distant shores of Malaysia. If you have a fear of heights however, there is a surplus of designer stores situated safely on the ground floor.
Gardens by the Bay features acres of pristine vegetation, with areas themed to different Asian countries, the amazing Supertree Grove and skywalk, and of course, the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome. (I should mention that this is all conveniently located near the Bayfront MRT.) Hands down my favourite attraction in the entire gardens would be the Cloud Forest; a man-made ecosystem built into the clouds of a glass dome. If you have ever wanted to wander through Steven Spielberg’s The Lost World, or journey into Jules Verne’s Centre of the Earth, now is your chance.
There is something so majestic about the way Singapore has mastered the creation between nature and infrastructure. While nuances of their design can be seen throughout the entire country, there is no better example than that of Gardens by the Bay. As you walk through the gardens it will leave you wondering if you have lost your way and somehow stumbled into a utopic future, where waterfalls rain down from the sky and giant flowers made from metal soar up from the earth like our prehistoric ancestors. If Gardens by the Bay isn’t on your list, you might want to write it down.
Chinatown is all about getting back to the roots of the land, stripping back all the building and the shiny glass, and remembering the soil that Singapore rebuilt itself on. There is something that hangs in the air in Chinatown, and the hot summer heat that glides off your back thanks to the fans that spin in rotation off the eaves of market stalls.
It offers a sublime blend to all of the different tastes of Singapore and places them conveniently into one district. In one 360 degree turn, you will see a market stall selling authentic Singaporean dress, a tiny henna table with the most intricate designs, and of course a shop selling everything from Hello Kitty phone cases to Moschino backpacks. And around a corner that you thought would be a dead end, is an outdoor bar with Singapore’s own Tiger Beer on tap. And in the background rising from a web of lantern bunting and neon signs, is a temple ringing with the praise of the mid-morning worship.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and the Sri Marianmman Hindu Temple are just some of the rich cultural delights that Chinatown can offer to those wishing to broaden their horizons. Both are open to the public and offer an amazing glimpse into the practices of the region, however if you are planning a visit remember to dress modestly and enter with respect—there will be people deep in prayer.
Last but not least is Orchard Road, the promised land for those who arrived into Singapore with an empty suitcase and an itch to swipe their credit card down the boulevards. Orchard Road is the shopping heart and soul of Singapore; it has everything from designer luxury, to fast fashion retailers, to twelve story high plazas. I defy anyone who can walk down Orchard Road and not be pulled into the siren call of pure cashmere and 50% off Ralph Lauren.
What is even more enticing about Orchard Road is that it has all the stores that Perth is missing, and all the ones where the shipping costs more than your actual cart total. My yearly pilgrimage is worth it just to save on postage from Victoria Secret, Forever 21, and Sephora (just to name a few).
If you are looking to get a suit tailored, or a dress altered, Lucky or Far East Plaza is your go to. And if you want shoes, bags, and clothes you won’t find anyone in Perth wearing, then Lucky or Far East Plaza is, again, your go to. Department stores like Tangs and Takashimaya line the boulevards, and designer malls like Ion and Paragon will send you into a frenzy with their sales. Whatever your heart desires, you can find it on Orchard Road.
And if you are looking for a different shopping experience, one more authentic to the Singaporean landscape, you can hop on the centrally located MRT and ride to Bugis Junction. There you will find the most insane labyrinth of stores selling everything from iPhones, to Yeezys, to watches, to tattoos; and all for prices cheaper than you would ever expect.
Ready to book that Singapore trip now?!
A return trip to the Lion City on Qantas from Perth is always a remarkable deal, with flights to Melbourne or Sydney being a comparative price, and sometimes even more expensive. And if you want to save a few extra dollars, then Scoot and Jetstar offer flights at an even cheaper rate. Plus, check out my tips for flying as comfortably as possible!
There are so many more incredible things that Singapore can offer, different sides to the city it can show you. If you’re looking for an overseas holiday that won’t require the mortgaging of your home, or the selling of a limb, Singapore is the place you need to be. With just one visit you will be hooked, trust me.
So, Flight Centre anyone?