Singapore

So much has changed in Singapore since my last visit and continues to do so at an alarming rate. It is such a clean and efficient city where everything works.

This time we arrived quite late at night so we just took a cab which is around £13 into the city which is about half an hour drive. We had a lovely rooftop pool and gardens in our hotel so it was lovely just to relax and swim in the morning and then go out in the afternoon. We bought an EZ link card in the local 7-11 which is valid on MRT and buses. A $10 top up goes a long way and enough for a weekend of usage. It is also a very walkable and safe city

Travelling to Sentosa is a little more expensive than elsewhere in Singapore but nice to relax on one of the beaches. There are some nice bars with good wifi and an afternoon of relaxation after a hectic few days in Sri Lanka was just what we needed.

In the evening we had tickets for Chingay Parade which brings together dancers and colourful floats from many countries. This year was a flower theme, half a million of them made from carrier bags and it was a celebration of 50 years of Singapore as a nation. It is amazing how far this city has come. It is one of the richest countries in the world with the most efficient infrastructure, world class hotels and an ethnic mix of Chinese, Indian, Malay and European that seem to live side by side without any conflict. Things seem to happen very quickly, they don’t spend 30 years debating a third runway, they just go ahead and do it. In some ways there are similarities with Dubai with innovation and imagination but I think it is the cultural diversity that makes it different and interesting.

We had lunch at Dempsey Hill a nice little village near the Botanical Gardens. There are a few antique shops and restaurants and a pleasant place to spend an hour or two.

Another day we visited the new attraction, Gardens by the Bay, well worth seeing and definitely recommended. The gardens are free but there is a charge for Flower Dome and The Cloud Forest and a separate charge for the Skywalk. Flower Dome has mini exhibitions within it and the current one was for Chinese New Year. Flower Dome contains flowers, cacti and baobob trees from all over the world in geographical sections all under one roof. It is beautifully maintained. Cloud Forest was amazing and we accidentally caught it at spray time which added to the experience. There were some Lego exhibits of carnivorous plants which were interesting and then we took the lift up to the top and started the gentle walk down a tower of tropical plants and inside a display of crystals, stalagmites and stalactites and through the glass we could see a view of the city in the changing light before dusk. We waited for the sound and light show and managed to find a really good viewpoint without having to pay for the Skywalk.

On the last night we took the lift up to the bar at Marina Bay Sands, the crazy building with the boat on top. On the lower floors is a posh shopping mall with all the familiar designer brand shops and in the basement there are gondolas. We took the lift up to Ku De Ta where you can buy a rather expensive cocktail and watch  the sun go down over the city, we finished our last night in Chijmes which has been closed down and rebuilt since our last visit. It is still very nice but it has lost the lovely charm and atmosphere it had before. We also revisited an old haunt Lot, Stock and Barrel near Raffles. It has a long Happy Hour so it relatively cheap for Singapore.

I wouldn’t deny that Singapore is expensive but there are a few tricks to keep costs down. First of all public transport, amazing value. air conditioned buses are just a few cents. We revisited Chinatown which I love, good prices and hassle free, a wander round the market stocking up on some lovely little gifts for all the family and a cold beer for much less than elsewhere in Singapore. We also discovered Daiso which is a $2 shop pretty much equivalent to Poundland but with a bigger variety. There are many bars with happy hour or order a jug which is better value and you can eat very cheaply in Singapore if you look around. Asian food tends to be better value than Western food but it is very easy to get both.

We spent most of our evenings at Robertson Quay which has some decent bars but it is quieter and more relaxing than its noisier neighbours at Clarke Quay and Boat Quay. Singapore is still one of my favourite cities and one I really look forward to visiting again and again. Even though I have been back a few times there are still places I haven’t been to yet.

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