Singapore was the first stop on our round-the-world trip, and we were so excited. A city steeped in culture, history and charm that, until now, we had only seen in photographs and tv documentaries, but now we were going there ourselves!
The flight from the UK to Singapore would take us 13 hours, but to start our round-the-world journey wandering beneath the SuperTree Grove and swimming in the iconic Marina Bay Sands rooftop pool was worth the long flight.
I had researched some of the best things to do in Singapore, and we were ready to discover a small selection of Singapore activities to experience during our 2-day stopover. Then it would be time to fly to Penang in Malaysia to continue our epic three-month world trip.
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Our First Night
We headed to Bencoolen Ibis Hotel for the first two nights of our stopover by private transfer from Changi Airport.
The hotel had good reviews on Tripadvisor and was conveniently located in the business and shopping district with a short 10-minute walk to a choice of 3 metro stations. The room was basic but clean, and after our long flight, all we wanted to do was get dinner and go to bed.
Marina Bay Sands was going to be our home for our third night, and we were looking forward to staying in this iconic hotel.
The jet lag had caught up with us, and we woke up much later than we wanted to. After a mad dash to get ready, we headed to the Kampong Glam area to explore its street art and quirky collection of boutique shops and cute cafes.
When we travelled in late January, the weather was hot and humid, and just walking to the metro station left us hot and bothered. Be prepared by wearing lightweight cotton clothing, and ensure you drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated.
The Metro Station was easy to use, clean and punctual. As Londoners, it was unusual for us to watch people queue in designated lines to board the trains rather than it being a free-for-all to board as can be the case in London.
We arrived at the Malay Heritage Centre, just a few minutes from the Bugis Metro station. Formerly the residence of Malay sultans and their families, we followed the Kampong Glam Heritage Trail that takes you through the bustling streets of Kampong Glam’s conserved area, covering Arab Street, Beach Road, Jalan Sultan and Victoria Street.
There are many restaurants and the odd hip cafe to stop for a refreshing drink or a local dish, and the locals are friendly and welcoming. My favourite part was Haji Lane, located in the heart of the Kampong Glam area, one of the narrowest and prettiest roads in Singapore. The neighbourhood has a few fresh street art pieces and independent boutiques and gift shops.
The Masjid Sultan Mosque
The mosque is one of the country’s most impressive religious buildings, constructed in 1824 for Sultan Hussein Shah, the first Sultan of Singapore and funded by Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore and the world-renowned Raffles Hotel.
The mosque was rebuilt in 1932 due to deterioration. While you are there, inspect the onion-shaped domes as each dome base features glass bottle ends donated by lower-income Muslims during its construction so that all Muslims, not just the rich, could contribute to its completion.
Gardens of the Bay
We walked from this area to the Gardens on the Bay as we thought the 30-minute walk was not too far; however, remember that the climate is hot and humid and makes you very weary. Keep yourself hydrated, and always have water with you.
Our first glimpse of the area was the Marina Bay Sands Resort, its imposing architecture filling the skyline. We knew we would be staying here soon but decided to check out the Gardens of the Bay today to make the most of our time in the resort and enjoy the rooftop pool area.
The Gardens by the Bay consists of supertrees, biospheres, art installations and grassland. There are 18 Supertrees in Gardens by the Bay, with the tallest ones measuring up to 16 storeys in height.
If you want to experience the trees from above, you can pay to walk on the skyway that joins several of them together in Supertree Grove.
The Cloud Forest
The Cloud Forest biosphere immerses you in a tropical landscape with orchids, pitcher plants and ferns. Wander through the mist-filled Treetop Walk and then descend through the Cloud Walk. Be mesmerised by the world’s tallest indoor waterfall at 30 metres which plummets down the side of the forest.
The Flower Dome
The Flower Dome biosphere is the largest glass greenhouse in the world and quite different from the Forest Dome. Housing exotic plants from five continents are displayed in nine varied gardens.
Sculptures depicting other countries and cultures include a driftwood dragon perched high above the gardens to a section featuring Alice in Wonderland characters. Please give yourself plenty of time to immerse yourself in its beauty fully.
Both are fabulous places to visit and a welcoming escape from the scorching temperatures. Visitors can purchase combined tickets online to avoid queues. We finished our day by searching for art installations around the gardens.
Marina Bay Sands
Each leg of this humungous hotel is a tower, and we headed for Tower 3, where we would find our deluxe twin room. Check-in was swift despite the hoards of people arriving and departing, and we were soon in our room.
We were eager to take full advantage of the resort and headed to the infinity rooftop pool. Unfortunately, we both had chest infections and were on a concoction of medication, so after lying down on the sunbeds, we woke 5 hours later. The sun was setting, and we realised we had lost a day. The plus side was that we were now wide awake and hungry and went down to have dinner.
Outside on the waterfront, we watched the laser and music show that occurred each night. The SuperTree Grove comes alive at 7.45 pm and 8.45 pm with the Garden Rhapsody light and sound show, which is phenomenal to watch.
It was after midnight, and we still weren’t tired, so we decided to go and explore the SuperTree Grove. I would not have done this in other countries I have visited, but Singapore feels safe.
Clever lighting illuminated the trees with a blue hue resembling the Avatar film. As we wandered around, we realised apart from a few other restless sleepers, we were utterly alone. It was a very different experience from the crowds during the day and one I would recommend. It was so peaceful and one of our favourite things to do in Singapore.
What month did I travel? February
How was the weather? It was a mixture of thunderstorms and humidity.
Would I recommend both hotels? Yes. Please refer to my review of Marina Bay Sands Resort.
Would I recommend two days in Singapore? Yes. It is safe and clean, and the local people are friendly. I will return one day to explore the wealth of other things to do in Singapore.
Follow me to the next destination on my RTW Trip to Penang Malaysia
Thursday 16th of April 2020
Singapore is such an odd (in a good way) destination. A combination of key local cultures and they seem to merge effortlessly together. I only spent a few days there, and walked the length and breath of the city. And it was the juxtaposition of the gleaming modernism and the grubby back lanes that intrigued me the most. I can still vividly remember the curry I ate in Little India .. served on a banana leaf - and that was way back in 1996!
Thursday 16th of April 2020
We were quite poorly while we were there so didn’t do as much as we would have liked. It definitely needs to be revisited and next time I will spend longer there to really explore all its hidden gems.