If you're off to the Southern hemisphere and are thinking of a short stop to break up a long journey...tropical, clean, lush, cocktails and beaches, think Singapore
My visit to Singapore stemmed from a trip to visit friends in Australia. Flying with Singapore Airlines (a very good pleasant service) the refuel stop was with no surprise in Singapore. I took this opportunity to see a new country and also break up the long haul flight.
The Lion City, as Singapore is also known, is well documented as being exceptionally clean. Due to its geographical location it is very lush with plenty of trees and other flora. The island saw plenty of action during the Second World War and as a result it is host to quite a selection of war memorials dotted around the city with varying structures from water features to varied cenotaph monuments. As well as the commemorative sights there are churches and temples, which bring a sense of mixed culture amongst the skyscrapers. The mix of old and more modern architecture compounds the notion that you are somewhere new and different. New and different from my perspective is a good experience, seeing as this was the furthest I had been from home on my own!
The time of year I travelled was mid-November and on arrival into Changi airport around 6.30am the spotlessly clean city state was, as to be expected, exceptionally humid (there had been a recent rain fall which, had I had longer hair quite possibly would have resulted in a frizzy bad hair day...think Monica in an episode of Friends). I presume all buildings, at least public ones, have air conditioning which was greatly received on my part.
Where to stay
I stayed at the Miramar Hotel Singapore (around $90SGD pn) just west of the city centre, which is approximately a 30 minute taxi drive from the airport. Taxis are reasonably priced if your stay doesn’t include hotel transfers. The Miramar with breakfast was well priced for my two night stay and fairly central to my needs for use as a base camp.
My circumstances were quite favourable as I had the opportunity and pleasure to stay with friends once at my final destination. This meant that I could choose a reasonable hotel in Singapore and still have spending money. I was pleased for the level of service and cleanliness. The reception area and staff were all pleasant and helpful. I was more than satisfied with the hotel for my requirements on this tropical island on the trip of a lifetime.
Sights and shops
When it comes to shopping in Singapore there is an abundance of shopping malls and a varying spectrum of places to cater for many gastronomic styles. The main area for shopping situated along Orchard Road has plenty to offer in known high street brands and fashion labels. In this climate regular refreshment breaks are required to prevent dehydration and to stay focused. You may however wish to save extra spending money when visiting the bars. Alcohol is at a premium and is very expensive as it has a ‘sin tax’. Some bars do offer happy hours which have a slight reduction in price. A bottle of beer can be priced from around £5 GBP.
Carrying on the alcohol theme, Singapore, or more precisely Raffles Hotel, is the home of the Singapore Sling cocktail ($25 SGD). Created sometime in the second decade of the 20th century, a visit to the Long bar for a refreshing taste was on my check-list of things to do. The Long bar also is at poles to the super clean streets of Singapore. As you walk into the Long Bar there is the sound of monkey nut shells crunching under your feet. All the tables are bestowed with boxes of the nuts for customers to munch on and then encouraged to scattered the empty husks onto the bar floor giving a relaxed comfortable parallel feeling from the litter free city.
Raffles has the appearance of an extremely exquisite and impressive hotel. As it states 'patronised by nobility, and loved by all'. Guests are greeted by what is supposed to be the most photographed person in the whole of Singapore – an extravagantly uniformed bearded doorman. Within the grounds of the hotel there are also boutique style shops ranging from china crockery to posters and souvenirs or even Tiffany jewellery. The colonial style building also has a ballroom, several bars and places to dine. You don't have to be a resident in the hotel to browse the shops, stop for a drink or just to take a look around.
Singapore also claims to have the world’s largest fountain, known as the 'fountain of wealth'. After all Singapore is one of the richest principalities in the world. The fountain is situated amongst five skyscrapers at the Suntec City area. The skyscrapers represent the five digits of a hand (and are aptly named One through Five) with the fountain representing the palm. When the fountain is not in full flowing action, you can walk up to the centre and are encouraged to walk around the water spume placing your hand in the water and making a wish. At certain times the fountain is switched on with an accompanying light show which can be watched from the main road as the fountain itself is set below the road level and acts as a roundabout.
One thing in addition to going somewhere new and getting a taste of new sights and cultures is the taste of local cuisine. Singapore has like many places a wide range of restaurants and places to eat. From traditional Asian to Italian restaurants, there is plenty of choice and variety to cater for your taste buds.
One place I did not get to visit was Sentosa, an island resort just south of Singapore. It can be reached via the main island by either a causeway or cable car. Sentosa roughly translates as ‘peace and tranquillity’ in Malay. Sentosa is more of a holiday destination, with golf courses, 5 star hotels, several beaches and other attractions such as an underwater sea-life centre, a cinematic ride and a state of the art 4D theatre.
All in all, Singapore is quite a pleasing place to stay and works well for splitting up extremely long flights. If cost is an issue and only one stop off is affordable, in hindsight I would have done this on the return journey, as long flights back home during the night are usually more restless than the departure for the adrenalin fuelled excitement of an antipodean trip away.