SINGAPORE

Singapore – Gardens by the Bay

By on 10th April 2016
Walk on the streets of any big city, London, Paris, Budapest or Barcelona and you may come across beautiful gardens, or lush parks, outside spaces where the locals can congregate and take a respite from the daily grind. Some cities are better at this than others. Singapore’s aspirations are ambitious. It does not want gardens in the city, but wants to be known as the first true City in a Garden. The plans may be ambitious, but they are certainly underway. A good friend of mine visited Singapore 7 years ago, when Gardens by the Bay was just being constructed. I could not imagine the city would have had as big an impact on her then it had on me. Gardens by the Bay was a big part of that impression as well as the rest of the careful green city planning.
Successive governments here have been carefully designing the city in the past decades. They have established world-class gardens like Gardens by the Bay, rejuvenated streetscapes and urban areas, and also wanted to enhance the city’s biodiversity. Drive along any road and you’ll find miniature gardens by the roadside or the central reservations. Roof gardens or skygardens are in abundance here crowning the city’s skyscrapers and trees and plants are bursting out of the balconies of hotels and residential blocks.
Of course the most visited garden of all is the Gardens by the Bay – a relatively new attraction, which is already such an iconic landmark of the city like Hyde Park to London or Central Park to NYC. The domes of the botanical gardens and the skybridges across the canopies of the supertrees are truly a sight like no other – a futuristic vision of a green city that has come to glorious life. The Flower Dome holds the world record title for the Largest Glass Greenhouse. The Gardens are still being developed – 2 out of the 3 bayside gardens have been completed, so I can’t wait to return to Singapore one day to experience all 3 garden areas in their full glory.
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
I mentioned in my previous post about the insane hot and humid weather we experienced while in Singapore. So entering the temperature controlled dome of the flower botanical garden was a welcome relief from the sveltering heat. Tickets to the Gardens can be bought online or at the gates. Price will depend on whether you are a local resident or not. For visitors to the city the combined Flower Dome and Cloud Forest tickets cost S$26. Admission to the Supertree Grove is free and to the Skywalk it is S$8.
Believe me when I say, you do not want to miss this! We could have easily spent our whole day here, it is awe-inspiring, inspirational, educational, with stunning plants and beautiful views from the tops of the Supertrees over Marina Bay Sands and the rest of the Singapore skyline. Adam and I both agreed that Gardens by the Bay was possibly the best attraction we have ever visited anywhere.
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden / Gardens by the Bay
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
Unfortunately we did have to move on, we didn’t have that long left in this amazing city and we still wanted to explore. Most people will tell you that 2-3 days are more than enough for Singapore, some will even say that you can do Singapore over a longish layover. Well I’m here to tell you the opposite. I would have much preferred to extend our stay to 5-6 days, we could have easily filled it, the city has so much to offer, you really cannot do it justice in 2 days.
We spent some time just casually walking along the river, taking in the views over the Financial District, grabbing some food, and just generally having a nice relaxed afternoon. Singapore of course is also well-known for its fantastic food-scene especially the wide-variety  of food-courts scattered around the city, especially in malls and some underground stations. Yes, Singapore is quite a bit more expensive than other countries in the region, but you can still enjoy the city on a budget, especially if you stick to food-courts, like we did. We ate like kings on S$4 per dish and the food was delicious.
Another excellent day out in Singapore with activities for all the family is Sentosa island. Here is a full list of attarctions on the island if you are thinking of going. We chose to visit The S.E.A. Aqurium, as Adam loves diving and fish and underwater stuff, and it seemed fitting. Also escaping from the heat of the day into a dark, cool place really appealed.
You can get to Sentosa Island by getting the Sentosa Express train from VivoCity (which is a huge shopping mall). You can also get to Sentodsa by cable car. We chose to get the train there and the cable car back, which offered beautiful views of the harbour at dusk.
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
Singapore - City in a Garden
After 3 days our short stop to Singapore came to a quick end. I wish we had stayed longer, but we still wanted to visit one last place before heading back to Thailand for the rest of our Asia adventures, so we decided to leave.
However as I said in my previous post I personally don’t think 2-3 days are enough to fully appreciate Singapore. I personally would have liked to have spent an extra couple of days there, but at least I have that excuse to go back again one day! 🙂
If you are thinking about visiting the city because you will have a long layover for example, here is a fantastic deal:
‘You may just be passing through this tiny island-state, but let Singapore’s sights and sounds, colours and beats, energy and electricity enthrall you on the Free Singapore Tour. If you have at least 5.5 hours (or at least 6 hours for City Sights Tour) to spare till your connecting flight, join one of our free 2.5 hours guided tours with 2 short stopovers. The Heritage Tour runs 4 times daily and the City Sights Tour runs 2 times daily. Find this deal here: http://www.changiairport.com/en/airport-experience/attractions-and-services/free-singapore-tour.html

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FEATURED | SINGAPORE

Arriving in Singapore

By on 7th April 2016
Arriving in Singapore
We flew from Jakarta an hour and a half north and arrived in a different world. As if we exited a time machine we got off the plane walked into the airport of the future. Changi Airport in Singapore is often considered to be the best airport in the world and it’s easy to see why. Indoor gardens, orchids, spas and massage rooms, play areas, clean and modern facilities, art on display, hotels, restaurants, even a butterfly garden all at the disposal of the weary traveller. Everything is catered for here, you almost wouldn’t need to leave the terminal building, why not just holiday right here?
The only thing that is holding me back from spending the next few days camped out in this amazing terminal is the enticing promise of a city even more exciting lying beyond the glass sliding doors.
Unfortunately I made the big mistake of not taking any photographs here, so I have to borrow one from the Changi Airport website:
Arriving in Singapore
photo sourced from www.changiairport.com
While spending a bit of downtime in Jakarta we considered all our options for the next part of our journey. We didn’t want to go straight back to Thailand just yet – our return flight to the UK was a little over a month away and given that we would have only got a 30 day visitor visa upon re-entering Thailand, we had to find the right destination to fill the next few days. I’ll be honest when we set out towards South-East Asia I never once considered that we might go to Singapore. I did not want to visit a futuristic city. Somehow in my mind I had an impression that it would not be like the ‘real-South-East-Asia’ experience we were after.
We got the MRT train into town and then made our way to our hotel. The transportation system in Singapore is really efficient and we used the MRT system almost exclusively for the whole of our stay. You’re never really further than 10 minutes walk away from an MRT station in Singapore. The lines are easy to understand, the ticket system is cheap and easy to use, the trains are fast, air-conditioned and were never overcrowded at any time we travelled on them. The last time we experienced efficient public transportation like this was right at the beginning of our trip in Bangkok.
Arriving in Singapore
map sourced from www.projectmapping.co.uk
We stayed in the Arab Street area of the city. Despite its name it’s not actually just a street but the name encompasses the whole Arab quarter or Singapore’s Muslim quarter. Singapore is very multicultural and multi-faith (which I always find refreshing) and the city is loosely organised into ‘ethnic quarters’ like this. It really is a city of immigrants as over the century people came here due to its geographically and commercially central location in South-East Asia and they brought their cultures and food, language and customs with them. Next to Arab Street you can find Little India, then there’s Chinatown near the financial district and Geylang Serai which is the Malay quarter.
We decided to stay in a stylish boutique hotel on North Bridge Road called Hotel Clover. We again made our reservation via Booking.com only a couple of days ahead of our arrival. At £65 a night this hotel would be the most expensive of our whole trip around Asia, but to be honest considering how lovely our accommodation was and how expensive Singapore accommodation can be it’s really not that bad at all. We also quite fancied staying in a slightly more upmarket hotel than what we have got used to by now and Hotel Clover with its fragrant and homely reception area and it’s rustic and minimalist designs really was a welcome change. Of course you can also stay in hostels in Singapore, there were many of them scattered around the Arab quarter.
Arriving in Singapore
Hotel Clover reception area photo sourced from http://hotelclover.com.sg

 

Arriving in Singapore
Hotel Clover bedroom photo sourced from http://hotelclover.com.sg

 

 

We checked in late afternoon, had a lovely shower, a snooze and the headed out into the night. We walked around our neighbourhood and discovered streets and squares, restaurants, bars and small food joints vibrant with life well into the late night. Shops and bazaar were still open offering beautiful Persian carpets and textiles, Turkish lanterns and jewellery, leather bags and woven baskets. Curry houses rubbed shoulders with Middle Eastern eateries and laid-back beer hangouts. The Sultan’s Mosque with its golden domes dominates the area, quite rightly so as it is the most important mosque in Singapore.
Arriving in Singapore
photo sourced from http://www.thousandwonders.net/Masjid+Sultan
Photo by Nicolas Lannuzel

 

We grabbed a couple of beers in one of the outside bars and then got some food in a corner fast food joint selling amazing Middle Eastern flatbreads loaded with hummus and all kinds of tasty toppings and then went back to our hotel to get a good night’s sleep before our busy schedule the following day. We watched fireworks lit up the sky from our hotel room and went to bed full of anticipation for exploring this city that had already enticed us.
The following day we took advantage of our Singapore City Pass which we picked up at the airport when buying our train tickets into the city. You get various different options for your city pass, depending on the length of your stay and what interest you, you an tailor make it. We choose a 2 day pass that included a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, a river boat excursion and also reduced entry to an attraction. The river boat tour was really good fun, especially as the city was really hot and muggy and sitting on a boat with a nice breeze made a real difference.
Actually a theme that run through our visit to Singapore was a continued attempt to get away from the heat and humidity. It’s not the easiest of climates to get on with, even I struggled a little bit and I love the heat! I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for Adam who really doesn’t like hot weather. It was really the humidity that made it hard to bear. So our little boat ride was the perfect escape. Luckily for us when we hopped on the boat there weren’t many other people on there, only a couple of groups of tourists, so we had the freedom to choose where we sat on the boat, switching between the open back area when we wanted to see the view and the cool dark shaded inside area when we need to get away from the heat. We travelled from the Fullerton towards Marina South and then back through the city towards the colourful Clarke Quay where we hopped off.
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Clarke Quay and Boat Quay are two neighbouring quays on the south bank of the river. If you want to party the night away or have an atmospheric meal by the river this is the place to come. Colourful buildings line the streets and all around you will find cool wine bars, eateries and clubs are in abundance.
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
We also had a little wonder around the Financial District, stopped for a nice coffee and watched the world go by, the city workers go about their business, all busy and serious and reminded me of the life I left behind in the UK, my working life in London, my daily commute, the fast walking, the office, my lunches in the park to take half an hour out of the grind of daily working life. How far we were from all that!! I would not have traded this peace sitting here, drinking my coffee in this amazing city for the world.
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
Arriving in Singapore
(For some reason I missed a trick in Singapore and did not take photos of some important things, which is not really like me. I still wanted to illustrate this post though, so I borrowed some images from around the interweb. Credits are given of course.)

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