Sunday, 23 March 2014

The best things to do in Singapore

We recently spent three nights in Singapore on the way back from New Zealand and gosh it was nice! I've been to Singapore several times before for shorter stopovers but this time we were able to rest and relax and re-set ourselves to the new timezone.

I love Singapore 'cos it's warm, there's great cheap food and great shopping (ranging from cheap to eye-wateringly expensive), it's easy to get around, feels safe and everyone speaks English. 

I really enjoyed our hotel's swimming pool, but what else would I recommend if you're visiting Singapore?

 Singapore Zoo and/or the Night Safari
I've been to the Singapore Zoo on a previous trip and thought it was one of the best zoos I've visited. There are masses of lovely animals. Two highlights were the Malayan Tapirs (this was the start of my love for tapirs) and all three types of spotty cat to compare and contrast: leopards, cheetahs and jaguars. The only downside is that you get very hot and tired walking around in the heat. There is a hop on, hop off train with commentary which is helpful to cover some ground.

This time visiting Singapore we did the Night Safari which is where you go to a different bit of the zoo at night to see nocturnal animals. My lovely husband had been when he was in Singapore for work and seen the Fishing Cats jumping in the water after fish. I was keen to see them for myself. Fishing Cats are super-cute but this time they just sitting by the waterside or pacing about. The Night Safari had a train with commentary going around most of the zoo which was good to save the feet but didn't give you much time to look at the animals. However the bits where we walked around by ourselves were actually a bit spooky at it was quite dark and forested with not many people about and lots of strange noises. Generally, I think I prefer the daytime zoo visit.

Gardens by the Bay
This was our favourite outing while in Singapore. The outdoor gardens were huge and beautifully put together and free to visit. It was well worth paying to enter the two big cool domes, though.

 The cloud forest was particularly lovely to visit as you step into a cool, moist space after the heat and humidity of Singapore. The space is about six stories high with walkways all over the place to admire the different plants and the waterfall.

If you've got children, the Children's Garden had a brilliant free water feature for kids to splash around in with sensors and timers causing shrieks of delight as buckets of water tipped over or jets shot out of the ground. There were several adults getting in on the action too!

We ate masses of delicious little satay sticks with peanut sauce, clumps of rice and slices of cucumber at Satay by the Bay which is a little outdoor food court set in the gardens, overlooking the Singapore river.

Lucky Plaza food court
Lucky Plaza is one of the old style Singaporean malls full of odd cheap stores selling freshwater pearls, electronics, tailors hawking for business, re-packaged make up samples (I got a Clarins cleanser sample and an Estee Lauder Pleasures sample) and more. I like it much better than the ridiculously expensive and glossy malls which clump around Orchard Road. The best bit of the Lucky Plaza mall is the food court in the basement. There was a range of cheap, authentic Asian food. They have a good food rating system in Singapore so you can be confident that food is safely prepared. We got delicious and filling main meals for lunch or dinner for about 2 or 3 pounds each.

Hotels and transport
Hotels in Singapore are expensive, but I do think it's worth finding one that's a short walk from Orchard Road and that has a swimming pool. An afternoon swim was just the ticket after getting hot and tired walking around and it is such a luxury for it to be warm enough for wimps like me to dive into the water.

This visit was the first time that I'd used the MRT train system, but I can highly recommend it as a cheap and easy way to get around. It's very similar to the London underground but less busy and cleaner. If you're arriving with just hand luggage, the MRT from the airport is much cheaper than a taxi. With luggage, it seems a taxi to your hotel is the only choice but it was only about 10 pounds for us from the airport to a central hotel so that's fine, I think.

So, if you haven't been to Singapore and you're heading anywhere in that direction, put a few days stopover on your itinerary and make time to check out some of the attractions. Let me know if you've got any other tips as I'm sure I'll be back there at some point. 

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