The last time I visited Singapore was in 2002, on my way back from living overseas for six years. With the recent release of the film Crazy Rich Asians and my need for a destination to celebrate my son turning 18, Singapore was an easy choice. I am also fortunate to have a dear friend living Singapore for over 20 years, so my tour guide was already in place.
Using Qantas points that I have saved for an eternity, I had the budget to stay in the most talked about place in Singapore, Marina Bay Sands. You know, the one with the infinity pool overlooking Singapore and the bay and appears like a ship stacked on three buildings. Incredible.
Sharing a room with my husband and my 18-year-old son did have me concerned until we walked in and saw how big it was with spectacular views across the city from the 43rd floor. First thing we did was move the very comfortable fold up bed to the other side of the room, giving parents and teenager plenty of personal space.
We had five nights and four days to spend in a destination with endless food and shopping experiences, so we filled our schedule easily. We really could have spent more time there to enjoy cocktails by the pool at the hotel.
Rather than take you through my day by day journey, I thought I would share my highlights and hope one day you can make your way to Singapore. My only real tip is to expect that you will need to save your ‘drink’ money or decide to hold back on splashing out. The cost of a glass of wine, in many places, can set you back $20 – $25. Cocktails are priced the same.
LONG BEACH, LITTLE INDIA & CHINA TOWN
My friend, and work colleague, Brad explained to me there are many Hawker Centres in Singapore and he took us to three to eat at. On our first night we sampled the well known chilli crab at Long Beach overlooking the , view of the extremely busy port of Singapore. A group of six indulging in an all seafood meal, wine and beer did end up being a pricey evening with a bill of over $500 – OUCH! I offered to pay too.
However the price point went dramatically down with our next meal in Little India at a restaurant called Ghandi. We were the only caucasians in the restaurant and we needed our friend for guidance… “Eat with your right hand and not your left” was Brad’s first tip. The food and experience was amazing, sharing tables with locals and eating without utensil off a banana leaf. You definitely need to be prepared for spice. The bonus was the whole meal, for six, cost $50.
The last meal was in Chinatown at a restaurant called Yum Cha. We downed dumplings and green tea galore, again enjoying the great company that came with it. This particular lunch was just me and the boys (plus Brad) and it was hot and sticky in the restaurant but the stories of Brad’s adventures as a National Geographic Director of Photography were just so fascinating.
Again we had friends with benefits and were whisked away by boat from Sentosa Island. We spent the morning looping Singapore Island and then anchoring for a swim, cup of coffee and biscuits. It was my son’s first boat ride in the open sea, so it was a special moment to share as well as being amongst houses that were priced over $50million… SERIOUSLY. We drove past Jackie Chan and Gina Rinehart’s place and they were well over that price. The wealth on this island was intoxicating but so unreachable for us average folk from Brisbane.
Think Versace, Prada, Chanel and Tiffany & Co and that summarises the shopping in Singapore. I did manage to find a Zara and Adidas store where my main shopping occurred for the boys and myself. One affordable find was a local Singaporean brand Charles and Keith which was by far the busiest shop in the complex with a price point of shoes and wallets being $50. It is very clear what the market is in Singapore, so if you love these high end brands and can afford to purchase rather than just look, you will love the endless shopping this destination has to offer.
Between all the eating and shopping we did manage to do some sightseeing outside of the views offered from our room and hotel infinity pool.
Across from our hotel is Gardens By The Bay which was just beautiful and steamy at the same time. We took the opportunity to go into the two air conditioned domes with the Flower Dome being the highlight featuring the Sunflower Show. I do think we stayed in the domes a little longer than expected to avoid the heat outside but we didn’t admit that to each other. My husband and I were quite surprised our 18 year old really enjoyed the experience of both cooling down and the exhibition.
Also, right outside of our hotel is Spectra – A Light and Water Show (Marina Bay Sands). As the name hints, it was a spectacular 15 minute show on the bay with music, light and water. It was well worth finishing off our dinner quickly to make the 9pm and last show for the evening. There are two shows mid week at 8pm & 9pm with an extra show at 10pm on Friday and Saturday nights.
We didn’t feel we had time to explore Singapore Zoo so we decided on the Night Safari. One thing that determined that was it would be cooler. The men in my life do not like the heat. We were picked up at our hotel and bused to the venue for a buffet dinner, tram tour and then walk tour. It was fascinating to see the animals at night, however your time was limited as the Night Safari is only open for 4 hours each evening so no time for just watching and pondering.
Would I go back to Singapore? Absolutely. It has come along so much since I was last there exploring in 2002. The architecture, the food, the shopping, the culture… just loved it (and so did my 18 year old).
NB: 18-year-olds can’t go to the Casino (which I promised), as age restriction is 21 years old.