Singapore

The fast efficient MRT system takes us straight to the Fairmont Singapore in just half an hour. Buying single ticket, however is a fiddly process, far better to buy a 3 day Singapore Tourist Pass for S$34 including $10 refundable deposit. This is similar to the London Oyster Card and is valid on all the trains and buses.

Our first plan was to visit the ethnic quarters of the city starting with the furthest out which is the Malay Quarter and the Peranakan houses. There we discovered Chilli Padi, a Nonya restaurant. This was excellent and also cheap.

Arriving at Bugis MRT, the smell of kebabs and the sight of people, some in Arab dress leaving the mosque, colourful fabric shops, small cafes and handmade baskets took us to the Middle East.

The iconic Raffles hotel transported us to a bygone era where we sampled a Singapore Sling. Raffles is very romantic and a quiet oasis in the heart of the city

The Singapore Flyer is very similar to the London Eye, we watched the light changing from day to dusk and saw the constructions of the future at one end of the city, the planned casino, and sports stadium as well as remnants of its colonial past at the other end of the city.

We accidentally stumbled on Chingay 2010 the largest street parade in Asia so this was a real treat. There were 7,000 performers, beautiful costumes, not only from Singapore but also from all over Asia, firecrackers and of course Chinese dragons to celebrate the beginning of spring.

On Saturday morning we strolled past Raffles Place with its skyscrapers, along past City Hall and the Fullerton Hotel towards Merlion park and the symbol of the Lion City. Heading towards Boat Quay, we took the bum boat on the journey past Clarke Quay, Robertson Quay and the Esplanade. This was excellent value at S$20 and a relaxing, enjoyable 45 minutes and a great way to see the city old and new.

From Clarke Quay station on the other side of the bridge we took the MRT to Little India to the sights and smells of Indian spices, ornate hindu temples, floral garlands, gold jewellery, shops selling cheap jeans and Tekka market selling colourful saris, bangles and dresses.

From Little India we took the MRT to the hustle and bustle of colourful Chinatown, the crashing of cymbals to the Chinese dragon seeing out the end of the Chinese New Year. This is definitely the place to buy souvenirs and there are many bargains to be had. Laden with far too many bags we sat down for a very welcome Tiger Beer.  In the evening we made our own way to Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari and the 45 minute tram ride seeing many nocturnal animals.

On Sunday morning, back to Singapore Zoo again and this time for a huge buffet breakfast while a family of Orang Utans with their 7 month old baby sat in the trees just outside the restaurant as we ate. This was definitely one of the best things we did and we had a bit of time to enjoy the shows and wander round the Zoo. Singapore Zoo is a rainforest zoo where most of the animals are in a reasonably natural environment and not behind cages.

This year we took the bus from Orchard to the Botanic Gardens which has free entry for most of the gardens apart from Orchid Gardens which have a small entry fee of $5 (reductions for seniors and children) This was well worth it. The orchids were beautiful

In the afternoon we headed off to Sentosa, family heaven, using the MRT and then transferring to the new Jewel cars that cross the strait to Sentosa which has now relaunched. Last time we used Sentosa Express, a monorail system with four stations. Sentosa is very artificial with Sentosa Resort World and Universal Studios Sentosa. We walked down towards the beach station from Merlion through an intricate mosaic sculpture that stretches all the way down .Free trams go to Pelawan and Siloso. Pelawan has the southernmost point of continental Asia at the other end of a rope bridge. The beach is man made and it is on a major shipping lane so whilst it is a nice place to spend an afternoon, I would not really recommend staying there. This year we went to Seloso which is a little more commercialised but the beach is better and most of the hotels are located there.

A great way to see virtually the whole of Singapore at night is from the bar on the 70th floor of Swissotel Stamford.

Singapore isn’t just anywhere, it’s everywhere for everyone. It is clean, safe, friendly. excellent service, great infrastructure, culturally diverse and English is widely spoken.

If you want to find out more about Singapore or to combine it with Bali, Australia, Malaysia, Dubai amongst others please contact me cathie.odea@travelcounsellors.com 0845 058 7458

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