Scott and I saw pictures of the Super Trees of Singapore and have wanted to go ever since. We realized once we got there, however, that we really didn’t know what to expect from this little island city state. It is an absolute haven for people who love to shop (over 100 malls on a 278 square mile island), foodies, and lovers of modern architecture. It is a very clean and organized city with fantastic transportation, a lot of history and one of the most blended cultures we have ever experienced. Singapore does seem to lack some of its own identity as it focuses so much on tourism, but even that fact adds to its uniqueness. Usually Scott and I do a lot of outdoorsy and cultural excursions during our travels, but Singapore gave us an opportunity to explore our more luxurious side.
We found the MRT (Singapore’s public transportation train system) within our first couple hours in Singapore and it became our best friend for the duration of our visit here. Our first MRT ride was to Little India because we were starving and had never visited an Indian community before. We found a restaurant called Madras New Woodland soon after we disembarked from the train. I was expecting a curry house because we LOVE Indian food here in the states and that’s what we were used to. This restaurant was not a curry house and I didn’t recognize anything on the menu. This turned out to be our lucky day because we told the waiter that and he said he wold get us something delicious. The first thing he brought us was Appalam (you may know it as pappadam if you go to many Indian restaurants in the U.S.) which is something we’d seen before. This was the best Appalam I’d had so I knew the rest of the meal would be good. The next thing he brought us was a Dosa Thali for me and a Bhatura Thali for Scott. These were the exact same dishes with different breads. Scott’s was a thin, rolled, crepe-like bread and mine was a giant puffy ball. I also got Masala Tea which was delicious.
Our next mission was to pick up our City Pass (I highly recommend this if you’re going to Singapore). We took the MRT to Marina Square and when we got our City Passes we were told we could take a night bus tour throughout the city that night. We decided that seeing the city on our first night would be ideal because we would then know exactly what we wanted to do for the coming few days. We took the opportunity to explore the nearby area while we waited for our bus tour. We got tea concoctions at R+B Tea (peachy oolong was amazing), had a very American style lunch at a pub called Harry’s before walking over to the famous Esplanade Theatre.
The architecture of the Esplanade Theatre is very interesting because it is made to look like a Durian. Durians are famous in this region and are incredibly bad smelling (in fact, they are banned from many hotels and other public places), but some people find them to be a real treat. There are amazing views from the roof of this fruit-shaped building from which you can see many of Singapore’s most famous landmarks.
After a long day of walking and sight-seeing we were ready to hop on the bus tour, rest our feet and see the island. However, when we arrived at the pick up point for the bus, we waited around until we were finally told that we were an hour late. Apparently, Singapore is an hour off from Thailand and we had no idea. Thus, we took our tired bodies back to Clarke Quay (the area in which we were staying) and rested up for another try the following day.
The next day was full of activities. We went right across the street from our hotel to Fort Canning Park and ate at a café called Fabulous Baker Boy. I had the best French toast of my life! Then we caught the MRT to the Sentosa Express and went out to Sentosa Island. Our Singapore City Passes came with access to Universal Studios and the S.E.A. Aquarium which are located on Sentosa Island right off of Singapore itself. It’s basically an island devoted to family fun.
Our first stop was the aquarium. By far, the BEST part was a HUGE exhibit with a pod of manta rays in it. We watched the mantas do a choreographed dance for at least a half hour. They were so social and graceful, I fell in love with them.
Our next stop was Universal Studios. I have been to Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, but I had never been to a Universal Studios. I was really excited to check it out! At first glance, I was amazed how they were able to create all these little worlds. From New York to Ancient Egypt to Jurassic Park, it felt like being on a million movie sets. Then we tried riding rides and chose a 4-D Transformers Ride. It was pretty intensely visual and shook you around a lot. I barely made it out without getting sick on everyone in my group. We then decided to try a 4-D, sit-down movie and went to a Shrek show where you are supposed to be in a Lord Farquad’s dungeon. After that, we saw the prices of all the food, drink and souvenirs and decided we aren’t really amusement park people. We rode the MRT back off the island and went in search of the next attraction.
Since we were in the family fun mood, we decided to go to the ArtScience museum next. The lotus shaped building is so beautiful and intriguing, so we had to check it out. There were a lot of digital art exhibits where music was set to moving artwork. There were games where you could hold a handheld device and walk through the museum seeing different things (kind of like Pokémon Go), and interactive exhibits where kids could scan in their drawings and they would become part of the art. It was truly a place you could spend hours playing and discovering new things.
Singapore has become a place entirely devoted to finance and tourism. Therefore, they have more malls than I have ever seen. After our time at the museum, we wanted to go eat at and shop one of their famous malls: Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. We went into so many upscale shops and got amazing Ramen and lemon tea for lunch. I even got an outfit for dinner the following night.
Finally, it was time for the Night Bus Tour that we had missed the night before. We drove all around the city including the shopping district, Orchard Road, which was decorated for Christmas. Having been in a Buddhist country before Singapore, we forgot that it was November and getting close to the Christian holidays. Singapore was our only stop on this trip that was Christian and primarily spoke English (although most things were in Mandarin, as well). These malls really went all out this time of year.
The final stop on the bus tour was Gardens By the Bay which included a show at the Super Trees. Being November, the show was Christmas themed and the lights danced to classic and contemporary Holiday tunes. I absolutely LOVED the light show and I belted out Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You (if we had been in The States, I definitely wouldn’t have been alone in my performance).
The next day was another LONG day of touring the island state. Our first stop was something I couldn’t miss in a place where Mandarin is so heavily spoken: Chinatown! We had been told that Chinatown was the best place to shop for souvenirs and art. Plus, I had to get Dim Sum in a Chinatown that was actually in Asia! We did quite a bit of shopping and got some really fun art pieces before finding a place called Yum Cha to get Dim Sum at. It did not disappoint! We had BBQ pork buns, mushrooms and veggies, Xiao Long Bao, steamed prawn dumplings and pan-friend chive meat dumplings. Basically, I became a dumpling fanatic on this trip!
After lunch, we went back to Gardens By the Bay to visit the other attractions besides the Super Trees. There are botanical gardens outside and two enclosed gardens: the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. Personally, I liked the Cloud Forest best, but the Flower Dome has every type of flower you could possibly imagine and was getting set up for a big Christmas event. The plant life was all breathtaking and there were also sculptures and art pieces mixed in throughout. The following is just a tiny sample of all the photos we took of plants, art, and the domes themselves.
Later that night we had reservations at Ce La Vi which is the restaurant on top of the iconic Marina Bay Sands building. This was one of the best nights of the entire three week trip! We had Pinot Noir from New Zealand, Garam Masala Potatoes, Cashew Vegetables, Crusted Lobster and Rack of Lamb. Then we drank cocktails, made friends from all over the world and danced until the dance floor closed.
The next day was our final day in Singapore before moving onto our final destination, Bali. We spent the day on a hop-on-hop-off tour getting some shots of some unique places around the city. During the tour we got off at one point and walked to the gigantic Paragon mall where we had sushi for lunch and experienced some incredibly high end shopping.
After changing and resting up, we ended our time with an incredible, seven course, French meal at Les Amis. We had the BEST time at Les Amis! Every course was explained to us and we asked questions about the food and the wine. We were having so much fun and it was pretty upscale, so we didn’t get any photos of the gorgeous food. However, the sommelier took us on a tour of the wine cellar which contained bottles of wine that would require an annual salary to replace and Scott got a couple of photos. I had a photo of us in the wine cellar, but my phone lost it…this is why Scott is the photographer. Nonetheless, it was a rich and delightful way to close out our time in Singapore.
This blog took me weeks to write because we just did SO much in the four days we had in Singapore. We had the best time here! My next post will be chronicling our final stop on this trip: Bali!