05 July 2014


A small country packed with attractions. A multi-cultural city-state, with Chinese, Malay, Indian and colonial influences. Easy and efficient public transportation. Something for everyone, from amazing Buddhist temples to a top-notch zoo. Where else, but in Singapore?

As far as countries go, Singapore is tiny- only around 716 sq km. However, as far as cities go, Singapore is just like any other big city, with lots of different neighbourhoods with different vibes.

A lot of the action is centred around the Singapore river, with the CBD and colonial area around. The river empties in marina Bay, with Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer nearby. North of the river are the areas of Orchard Rd and Bugis. South of the river is Chinatown.

Changi Airport (SIN) is around 20-25 km north-east from the centre, on Singapore's eastern coast.

Singapore River & Marina Bay
Singapore River snakes through the centre of town. Around its banks is lots of colonial architecture and the CBD.

At the easternmost point of the river, just as it meets Marina Bay, is the Merlion, the half fish half lion, a structure meant to be a tourist icon of Singapore. The setting is really spectacular, with the skyscrapers on one side, and the Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer on another. 

Going west, on the north bank, streets are full with colonial architecture such as the Parliament and Supreme Court. Right on the riverbank is Raffles' Landing Site, the exact spot where Sir Raffles is said to have landed when he discovered Singapore. Located there is his statue. 

Raffles' Landing Site
There is a brilliant view of Singapore's skyline from there.

A few streets north, on St Andrews' Rd, near City Hall MRT, is St Andrews' Cathedral, the largest church in Singapore.

St Andrews' Cathedral
The iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel, with its 3 towers and ship-shaped roof, is home to the Sands Skypark ($23 per adult) which offers amazing views of Singapore. Check the website for any closures when you want to visit. You can buy tickets on the spot.

Singapore skyline as seen from Sands Skypark

A bustling neighbourhood south of the river, Chinatown is home to interesting architecture in tiny lanes, as well as many shopping centres.

Take a stroll down streets such as Temple St and Smith St. There are lots of small shops offering touristy trinkets and clothes, bags and the like.

Chinatown Food Street has lots of small eateries offering interesting things to eat and drink. A good place to come for vegetarian food. Free wi-fi as well!

Nearby, on Sago St/Kreta Ayer Sq/South Bridge Rd is the beautiful BuddhaTooth Relic Temple, believed to house the sacred relic. You need to cover up to visit- they offer shawls.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Getting to Chinatown is easy- Chinatown MRT is located right in the heart of the neighbourhood, while Outram Park MRT is located not far off, and Clarke Quay MRT isn't far off either.

Not far off is the Singapore City Gallery, offering interesting displays on the history and current of Singapore.

Sentosa Island

Sentosa, a small island south from Singapore, is Singapore's resort island. There are various ways to get here, such as monorail from Vivo City Mall (HarbourFront) and Cable Car.

Various attractions here include Universal Studios located in Resorts World and the Luge and Skyride, the Sentosa Merlion, and a nice beach, as well as Underwater World, which includes a walk-in aquarium, a definite hit with kids.

Other attractions
Some other attractions which I have been to in earlier visits (which were a lot of fun) include the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park.

I stayed at Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium, located in the Riverside area.
Rooms- 8/10 Fine rooms, a little small, but this is Singapore. Have all the usual amenities.
Staff- 7/10 Most of the staff is helpful.
Location- 8/10 Good location, with several bus stops nearby. Great World City is a 700m-ish walk away. Outram Park MRT is the closest, 1 km south.
Breakfast- 4/10 Breakfast was disappointing, quality was poor and rates were high for that.
Other point- 1/0 A whole load of laundry (and a load is huge) at the hotel laundromat costs only $5.
Overall- 28/40 Recommended. But I would suggest not taking the breakfast.

Singapore is known for its great dining opportunities from Chinese to Indian to Western. Food courts in malls offer good variety for the indecisive. Compared to other parts of south east Asia, rates are high.
Skinny Pizza- located in Great World City. Has paper-thin innovative pizzas, as well as amazing desserts.
SaladStop - serves great wraps in Great World City. Several options for vegetarians.
Marche- in Vivocity. A chain restaurant in a beautiful setting. You pay according to plate size differently, for different items such as salads, crepes, pastas etc.
Pita Pan- located in Marina Bay Sands mall. OK Lebanese dishes- many items were not available.
Little India has many South Indian restaurants, good for vegetarians.
Chinatown's Food Street has exciting options for drinks, desserts and snacky items.

Singapore is renowned for its myriad malls and shopping centres, however prices of branded items are similar as elsewhere. Despite this, malls can be fun to just roam around in, and they offer great dining options. Besides, malls are home to hypermarkets which are convenient for shopping for food items, especially for longer stays.

Orchard Rd

Orchard Rd
Orchard Rd is probably what comes first to mind when "shopping" and "Singapore" are put in the same sentence, for seasoned travellers and first-timers alike. Home to a vast number of malls and department stores, Orchard Rd should satisfy even the fussiest of shopaholics. Even if you're not interested in shopping, just walking around is a great way to take in the city. Some of the malls here include Ngee Ann City (with the huge Takashimaya department store) and Paragon.  

Singapore River & Marina Bay
This area is home to Great World City, a big mall with half-hourly free shuttles to Orchard Rd (we however found the timings erratic). 

Attached to Marina Bay Hotel is its very posh mall.

This area is home to Vivocity, the mall at whose level 3 the Sentosa Express monorail from Sentosa arrives. The mall is also a big, interesting place to shop. Do have a look at the fountain outside its entrance. There are good views of Sentosa from a terrace-like area of the mall.

Fountain at Vivocity
This area is home to a mall called Bugis Junction.
Nearby starts Bugis Street, an air-conditioned street market of tiny lanes offering some bargains on clothes, watches, bags etc. Also a great place for street food. 

Singapore is served by Changi Airport, on the eastern coast of Singapore, with flights from all over the world. 

Within Singapore, travel is easy with efficient bus and MRT networks. Taxis are expensive at peak hours due to ERP- the congestion charge, which can easily add $3-4 to a small journey within the city. Taxis can sometimes be difficult to find. The easiest bet would be the nearest shopping centre which have taxi ranks (but queues can be very long). 

Walking is safe as traffic lights are respected, but do not cross randomly, something that is otherwise common in many other Asian countries. Jaywalking is illegal so cross at a designated crossing whenever there is one. At crossings, vehicles give way to pedestrians. However, the universal humid weather means that walking long distances can be uncomfortable. Be prepared for rain anytime!

Last visit- Jun 2014
No of visits- 3
First visit- May 2004

No comments: