Happy New Year (in Switzerland its custom to wish happy New Year to people until end of Jan/early Feb)! New Year means news resolutions; new plans; sometimes even a whole new life and of course, for all travelling addicts like me, new travels!!
In December I was telling you about my trip to Vietnam. At the end of my Vietnamese adventure and prior to flying back home I took advantage of being not too far away from Singapore to extend my holidays and discover the famous City-State.
But having only 48h available, I wanted to make the most of my visit. Luckily my friend planned an amazing itinerary enabling me to get a first good grasp of Singapore. So if you’ve never visited before follow the guide…
- DAY 1:
We started the day by going to Haji Lane and its rainbow-colored shophouses. Here you’ll get your share of trendy boutiques and cafés enabling you to shop till you drop while still avoiding bankruptcy. It’s the perfect spot to start getting acquainted with the city, as you get the feeling of being in a peaceful little village while being right in the middle of Singapore’s skyscrapers.
From Haji Lane you can walk to Arab street and its stunning Mosque (the exact copy of the one in Walt Disney’s Aladdin, or maybe they copied Singapore’s one, who knows… ;-)). Here it’s like being somewhere in the Middle East rather than Singapore. And the fact we arrived just when the Friday prayer was starting, hearing the muezzin’s call and witnessing the worshippers flocking into the mosque, gave me even more the impression of being in Abu Dhabi.
In the afternoon, after a very yummy lunch (think truffle fries!!) at PS.Café, we headed to Chinatown and the Buddha Tooth Relic temple. During my Southeast Asian journey I visited plenty of temples however none has been as moving as this one. There I had the privilege of witnessing a live Buddhist mass led by 4 monks. I was also “introduced” to my Buddha protector “Amithaba”. A very intense and humbling experience!
Following Chinatown we went to explore Little India and its multi-coloured vernacular houses. Having been to India I really had the impression to be in the actual country. The colours, the fragrances and obviously the noise aka honking! Exactly the same!
We ended this intense but perfect first day in Singapore’s Botanical Garden, a relaxing break from Singapore’s hustle and bustle! On your visit there wander through the swaths of virgin rainforest. Followed by the National Orchid Garden’s many-colored collection of 1,000 orchid species and 2,000 hybrids.
In the evening we got a taste of Singapore’s vibrant nightlife hopping from one rooftop bar to another until the oh so spectacular Marina Bay Sands CÉ LA VI Skybar. From this bar you get the most amazing view of the city’s skyline! However, to get a glimpse of the famous hotel at night, while watching the outdoor light and water show displayed over the water in front of the hotel, go and have drinks/dinner at the Aura.
- DAY 2:
Waking up a tat later due to some good partying the night before, we headed to Art Deco heaven: Tiong Bahru. This artistic period being my favourite I was like a child in a candy shop! This neighbourhood used to be one of the poorest and dirtiest areas of the city, until refurbished by the Brits in the 20th century. It then became an exclusive upper class housing estate until WW2. Now, it’s home to artists and hipsters. If you love Art Deco this stopover isn’t to be missed!
Another stopover not to be missed (although some would argue) is the Merlion Park, across from the Marina Bay Sands. This iconic Singaporean landmark representing the head of a Lion and the body of a mermaid symbolises the City-State’s origins. Legend wants that while fishing, some Malaysian fishermen thought they spotted a Lion on an island not far away; some others argued it was a mermaid and as they couldn’t decide they named this creature a Merlion. Spouting water from its mouth, the Merlion statue stands tall at 8.6 metres and weighs 70 tonnes. Plus from the Park/Esplanade you get the most exceptional view over the Marina Bay and its iconic hotel.
A walking distance away from the Merlion is another iconic hotel: Raffles Singapore. I sadly didn’t get the full “Raffles” experience. The hotel was being renovated while I was there. I however had the pleasure of participating to its worldwide famous tradition of peanut shell throwing, i.e. while sipping on a cocktail you throw peanut shells directly onto the floor (after having eaten the actual peanut of course). No visit to Singapore is complete without a stopover at Raffles; legend demands it!
I concluded my 48h in Singapore with a visit to the unmissable “Gardens by the Bay”, a huge, colourful, futuristic park in the bay area of Singapore. Its famous super trees – varying in height between 25 and 50 meters – are home to more than 300 species of plants climbing across its steel framework. They offer a VERY impressive skywalk over the gardens (or the equivalent of an 8 storey high building).
In a nutshell…
What really surprised me about Singapore is its diversity. Originally I thought Singapore was more like Dubaï, a sort of superficial Disneyland for grown-ups. And actually although some parts of the City-State are fairly superficial, i.e. Marina Bay Sands/Merlion esplanade, Singapore is very diverse. In two days I went from Middle East to China, and from India to any hipster European city. My recommendation: it’s really worth adding Singapore to your bucket list!
Thanks for reading and sharing!