A mecca of shopping, sightseeing, food and fun, Singapore is the microcosm and the island country in Southeast Asia.
Singapore also known as the “Lion City”, is one of the world’s major commercial hubs, with the fourth-biggest financial centre and one of the five busiest ports. It has a rich social mix of Singaporean, Chinese, Malay, Indian and the European cultures.
Singapore’s Changi airport, rated as the world’s best, proves every worth of its sash. If you have enough of time at your hands, you can easily spend half a day just exploring the airport.
Enter Singapore and you are sure to get more than what you bargained for. We were received at the airport by Raj, a Tamil and a third generation Singaporean. Speaking to him we realised, not only does Singapore, but its citizens too have their own history to tell. He was friendly enough to explain some of the important rules and regulations of Singapore which run in the blood of every resident of this Lion City.
Day 1: We were transferred to our Hotel Aqueen Lavender in Little India. As the name suggests, Little India houses lot of Indians, which is why the tour operators press a lot on this one. With so many fellow Indians around, it makes you feel at home even in a foreign country.
We reached our hotel at 3.30 and had a nice little snooze. We were booked at 6pm for Night Safari, the world’s first ever night wildlife adventure. When they say 6, you gotta be there by 5.45. Singaporeans are very particular about the time. From 6 to 6.45 is the animals show. The Safari actually starts at 7. Due to heavy traffic in the evening, we missed the Animals Show, but luckily got the Safari.
The guided open tram-ride is fascinating and the close encounter with wild animals… spectacular. Lions, tigers, tuskers, wild boars, leopards, deer… all in their natural habitat and less than few metres away from you. Its breathtaking !
You are not allowed to use the flash of your cameras, which made it difficult to click.
There are walking trails like the Leopard Trail and the Wallaby Trail. We did the latter one.
There are lot of food counters to stuff yourselves after you are done with the wildlife rendezvous.
Later, we returned to our hotel, only step out again and explore the place. We dined at the nearby hawker street and took a stroll down to explore further.
Clark Quay: To explore the high-end night-life of Singapore, pay a visit to Clark Quay. Clarke Quay, Singapore’s choice dining and entertainment destination, is a colourful kaleidoscope of buildings housing antiques, restaurants, hip cafes, jazz clubs and more. At night, the entire zone is a sight to behold with all five blocks of restored warehouses lit up and beamed with an array of quirky alternative to mainstream clubs.
Day 2: was reserved for guided City Tour. We were booked on a seat-in-coach basis. Our guide was Mr. Jack who has claimed to have guided the likes of Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor and also our respected PM, Mr. Modi. He is a Chinese settled in China Town area of Singapore. So you see, there is an array of cultures and people whom Singapore has sheltered with open arms.
Further down is the Haji Lane which houses Singapore’s Muslim community. It is also a haven for fashion fanatics, where local designers and entrepreneurs have set up their boutiques.
SIC experience is way different than a private cab one. Everything is timebound. This was the reason we had no stop-over at Haji Lane.
We were then whisked to Singapore’s major attraction – The Singapore Flyer. The 165-metre-high flyer is Singapore’s answer to the London Eye—with the title of being the world’s largest ‘Ferris wheel’ up until March 2014.
The 30-minute ride offers stunning views of the Colonial District, Marina Bay and the South China Sea extending all the way to parts of neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia.
Marina Bay, situated in the heart of the city is the island’s largest and the most urbanised catchment. You have a lot of photo-ops here.
The iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel is the star attraction.
The ArtScience Museum is one of the attractions at the Bayfront. The lotus shaped architectural marvel is also referred to as “The welcoming hand of Singapore”.
Merlion is the national mascot which is the head of a lion and the body of a fish. This is the marketing icon and the national personification of Singapore.
It was noon and we had to break for lunch. We were told to gather at a specified point at 2.30 pm to continue our sojourn to the very famous Sentosa Island.
Getting to Sentosa is a memorablia in itself. Its a 15 minutes cable-car ride which takes you to the top. Pay a visit to the Butterfly Park and the Insect Kingdom.
And then time for some adventure – The Luge Ride and the Sky Ride
The Luge Ride, something you might have never done before and will wanna do again and again.
The Sky Ride – I got stoked the moment I got into it…as if I was possessed by a child’s soul. And that over-excitement led me dropping one of my slippers down somewhere in the woods. But the staff were kind enough to search and get it for me. Such courteous behaviour is a rare find. The best part is when you get clicked in all your natural expressions by the unnoticeable cameras here and there.
The Dolphin Lagoon – adorable pink dolphins performing their antics alongside the black seals. We were booked in the VIP lounge. Its time-slotted so better rush before time.
The Underwater World- You have an up, close and personal rendezvous with the aquatic world. Its an underwater glass tunnel with automatic walk-through which offers a super-close view of the sharks, sting rays and many others swimming right above your head and all around.
Songs of the Sea – One day visit to Sentosa comes to a closure with the spectacular Songs of the Sea show located at Siloso Beach on the Sentosa Island.
This show is one stupendous feast to your eyes with the mindblowing pyrotecnic displays, water jets that shoot up to 40 meteflrs, laser show, flame bursts, a live 7-person cast, and an open-air viewing gallery. Be sure to choose the seats at the centre to have a direct and undisturbed view. This show is ought to leave you spell-bound.
Day 3: We chose to be on our own with a quest of exploring the city. As per me, the best way to explore a new place is grab a map, be on your own, get lost, speak to the locals, ask for directions, hop on the metro, bus or just keep walking. This is exactly what we did and made our way to Jurong Bird Park.
Jurong Bird Park – Its is one of the most renowned bird sanctuaries with the largest free-flying aviaries.
Take a guided hop-on hop-off tram tour or just walk it out and take your own sweet time to explore the place. There’s multitude of birds you can ever imagine – flamingoes, pelicans, eagles, kites, scarlets, swans, macaws, penguins, spoonbills… the list is never-ending.
Can anything be more beautiful…
They also have various shows lined up like the Kings of Skies show, the High Fliers Show, etc. These are very informative and interactive.
You have to have one full day at your hand to explore the entire park and be one with nature.
Day 4: We were on our own to explore.
Gardens by the Bay – Enter a world of perpetual spring, where unique plants bloom in an ever changing display of flowers.
Flower Dome: Step into the Flower Dome and you’ll be standing in awe of nature.
It replicates a mild, dry climate and features plants found in the Mediterranean and other semi-arid tropical regions (e.g. parts of Australia, South America, South Africa).
The Supertree Grove: Supertrees are tree-like structures that dominate the Gardens’ landscape with heights that range between 25 metres and 50 metres. There is an elevated walkway, between two of the larger Supertrees for visitors to enjoy a breathtaking aerial view of the Gardens.
There’s also the Cloud Forest which replicates the cool moist conditions found in tropical mountain regions between 3,300 ft and 9,800 ft above sea level, found in South-East Asia, Middle- and South America. We could not make it here as it was closed for the day.
Shopping in Singapore:
China Town: Chinatown is Singapore’s largest historic district, nestled close to the bustling business hub. The best time to visit Chinatown is during Chinese New Year, when the Chinatown Food Market is abuzz with activity, from lion dances to Chinese opera performances. Here you will find everything from fine silk and jade jewellery to traditional handicrafts.
Kampong Glam: To explore Kampong Glam, hop on the MRT and alight at Bugis MRT Station. A stone’s throw away from Bugis MRT Station, you’ll find shopping haunts such as Bugis Junction, the bustling Bugis Street Market, and of course Kampong Glam. Its also line with restaurants, caterers, art galleries, and craft and curios shops.
Little India: As its name suggests, Little India is Singapore’s foremost Indian enclave. Look out for stalls selling Ayurvedic massage oils, gold, incense and fabrics in a variety of textures.
No trip to Little India is complete without an all-night shopping spree at the 24-hour emporium, Mustafa Centre, located at the corner of Serangoon and Syed Alwi Roads. Despite its modest exterior, Mustafa Center is a treasure trove of household knick-knacks, decorative items, foodstuff, Indian spices, apparel and textiles, electronic items and more–at some of the lowest fixed prices in Singapore. Legend has it that Mr. Mustafa, a hawker from Hyderabad, started off with just one stall in Singapore which is now an empire in itself.
Dining In Singapore: Old airport road hawker centre, Singapore food trail near Singapore flyer, Maxwell Food Centre in China Town, Newton Food Centre near Orchard Road are some of the places to enjoy Singapore’s best street food. Do not dare miss these places when you are in town.
Cuisines: Singapore is a hot pot of cuisines, incorporating a rich heritage of food dishes consisting of Chinese, Indian, Malaysian and Indonesian influences. Here are some of the must-try delicacies you cannot afford to miss. Walk down any of the hawker centres and see for yourself. Its pocket-friendly and delicious.
Chilli Crabs: The sight of it is enough to get you drooling. The crabs are cooked in a sweet, spicy tomatoish chilli sauce or with black pepper sauce.
Laksa: Its a traditional Singapore Curry which uses vermicelli, coconut milk, tau pok (beancurd puffs), fish slices and shrimp.
Carrot Cake: No, this isn’t a dessert and is far from being one. The Fried Carrot cake is made with eggs, preserved radish (chai poh) and white radish flour cake, which resembles a ‘white carrot’ and how the name comes about.
Chicken Rice: This is one of Singapore’s most well-known and celebrated dish. No coffee shop in Singapore is complete without a chicken rice stall.
Satay: Satay is a dish of skewered, Turmeric marinated meat that is grilled on an open fire. Typical meats include chicken, beef, mutton and even pork. A spicy peanut dip is also provided for the Satay and sides as well.
Hokkien Prawn Mee: Its a combination of egg noodles and rice noodles in a rich prawn stock with cubes of fried chicken, prawns, fish cake and squid.
Culture, food, shopping, sight-seeing… 3 days were just not enough to soak in the whole of Singapore. Looking forward to a longer stay to experience all that we missed.