I remember distinctly where we were in March of 2020. We were just about to embark on a 3 week tour of Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand when rumours of a pandemic were whispering their way across the globe. We had decided to start in Singapore – a little out of the way but I had always been intrigued by photos of the city/state and this was our opportunity.
There were a number of clues that this vacation was going to be like no other – the international arrivals area in Singapore was deserted. Literally no line ups at all. In fact, I took a couple of photos of the arrivals lounge because it was so eerily quiet. I was promptly told to erase the photos by a security guard who didn’t want the world to know that Singapore had become unpopular. (I guess I forgot to erase this one!)
Singapore, (“Lion City”) has the world’s highest proportion of millionaires and attracts about 18.5 million visitors each year. The city is clean, opulent and gorgeous. English is widely spoken and is one of 4 official languages (the others being Malay, Mandarin and Tamil). We found the people to be very friendly. As you can see below, there were very few visitors which made getting around a lot easier. However, I think there would be a different vibe with a lot of tourists and that was definitely missing.
The best word to describe Singapore might be “futuristic”. The architecture ranges from colonial, gothic, European neoclassical to the modern, contemporary buildings that give a “wow factor” to the downtown harbour. Singapore today has a strong focus on sustainability and preserving its gardens and green spaces. Most high rise buildings have eco-friendly vegetation and you will find trees and flowers everywhere.
We enjoyed some excellent food in Singapore. However, the restaurants had very few patrons and service was a bit “relaxed”. Singapore has Hawker Centres which are large food courts with stalls around the perimeter serving every type of cuisine your can imagine. Seafood is particularly popular as are chicken and rice dishes. There is a lot of Asian and European influence in the food. It is easy to see why Singapore is considered a gastronomic paradise!
One of the most noticeable landmarks in Singapore is the world-renown Raffles Hotel. It is a colonial style building which opened in 1887 and apparently quickly became a hangout for some of the most famous writers of the time – Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham and Ernest Hemingway – among others. There are many restaurants and bars within, including the Long Bar where the Singapore Sling was invented. The hotel lobby of the main building is open to the public – be sure to take a quick peek!
There are so many amazing sites to see in Singapore. Be sure to cross these off your list:
Marina Bay Sands Hotel – at 10 Bayfront Avenue in Singapore, this 57 story hotel with a ship perched on its top floor is one of the most photographed buildings in the world. It is actually part of an entire complex which is comprised of the hotel, a convention centre, a casino, a shopping mall and two theatres.
The Marina Bay Sands Hotel is the most expensive hotel ever built with a price tag of $5.5 billion USD. The hotel’s roof-top boasts the planet’s largest infinity pool, two bars and two restaurants along with spectacular views of the city. If you can’t afford a night at the hotel, you can go up to the the observation deck for about $20.
Official site: http://www.marinabaysands.com/
Merlion Park (In front of the Fullerton Hotel at Marina Bay) – With the head of a lion and the tail of a fish the Merlion is the iconic emblem of Singapore. Interesting tidbit of trivia – the Merlion was damaged by lightning in 2009 and had to be repaired so that it could spew water again.
Gardens by the Bay – one of the most photographed locations in the country which embraces nature and architecture. There are 18 of these Supertrees which were designed to be both functional and beautiful by mimicking photosynthesis and creating the energy that the entire park runs on. During monsoon season, these trees collect water and redistribute it through the park’s irrigations system. Official Gardens by the Bay website
Singapore Botanic Gardens – the only tropical garden to be honoured as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Singapore’s Botanic Gardens includes a Rainforest Garden, the National Orchid Garden and a Ginger garden. Botanic Gardens Website
Clarke Quay – traditionally the business centre of Singapore during the 19th Century, now you can spend a day – or an evening – checking out the boutique shops, restaurants and trendy bars with live music. There are several river cruises to enjoy the view of the Quay and the Marina Bay from the water. We took an hour cruise in the evening and the views were spectacular.
Singapore boasts some amazing art installations all around the city as well as some beautiful murals. Unfortunately the Arts and Science Museum was closed due to COVID when we visited. I know it would have been great to see it.
We used Singapore as a stopover on our way to Vietnam and Thailand. 3-4 days in this amazing city will give you enough time to see the most iconic sites.
There are so many neighbourhoods and activities to enjoy in Singapore. Some of those that we didn’t get to see including the Night Safari, and the Singapore Flyer – the highest ferris wheel in the world. (The latter is closed due to COVID.)
We stayed at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, which is not too expensive and nicely situated along the river.
We’d love to go back to the Lion City once this pandemic is finished and all of the attractions are open again.