Since our Thailand travel visa in 2018 only allowed for a 30-day consecutive stay, we had to find someplace to explore outside of the country — doing so reset the clock for the remainder of our stay in Thailand.
We’d never been to Singapore and on the urging of a family friend who lives there, we booked our tickets.
In all honesty, I knew very little about Singapore before we set out on a weekend adventure. I did know that chewing gum is illegal as is spitting in public. What more did I need to know?
I’d often heard Singapore described as an immaculately clean country (city-state). Perhaps that’s why I arrived with expectations of a Disneyesque environment. For this trip, we travelled with my Bangkok-based brother-in-law, whose co-worker’s sales pitch had us chomping at the bit to add a new stamp to our passport.
Landing at the airport and getting to our hotel was seamless. The MRT (metro) delivered us from the airport to within a few blocks from our hotel. Since we travel pretty lightly, we each had a small backpack with weekend essentials.
The minute we left the metro station, I learned about Singapore humidity.
To carry a backpack of any size (let alone be clothed) was a sweaty proposition. The weather is Singapore was more suited to a pair of flipflops on the beach.
We had booked a room at a trendy little hotel (Hotel G), a location from which we felt we could walk around quite easily. On the short walk from the station we prayed the hotel had ample air-conditioning.
Thrifty travellers that we are, the moderate room prices piqued our interest. Singapore is, after all, the filming location for ‘Crazy Rich Asians.’ Things don’t come cheap there.
We’ve certainly stayed in more expensive cities but when it comes to hotel rooms, we only need clean, not big. And this room was both of those things: spotless and miniscule. It had an airplane-sized lav and the rest of the space was no wider than the queen-sized bed itself. And blessed be it had AC. Charming. Functional. Perfect if you didn’t plan to spend much time there.
Had we spoken too soon? Mere seconds after checking in and trying to figure out where to put our small backpacks, the achy, flu-like symptoms Frank thought might be due to the flight and subsequent humidity began to surge.
The poor boy was running a fever. Thankfully this was pre-COVID so, being the thoughtful, caring, sympathetic partner that I am, I tucked him in, placed several bottles of water within reach and accepted the burden of sightseeing for two.
Two steps out of the hotel and slammed back into the humidity left me feeling parched. I connected with my brother-in-law and we agreed to meet up with his local buddy at an outdoor beer kiosk. We spent a good, long time sampling their wares.
Simiar to establishments like this in Bangkok, one vendor manages the sale of all beverages and there are multiple kiosks that sell food. As we drank, we made a plan for the following day touring around.
Singapore is known for some iconic buildings and sights. The Raffles Hotel, a colonial-style luxury hotel in the downtown core, was closed while we were there for a massive renovation.
With our dreams quashed of having a Singapore Sling in the hotel bar where it was created, we set out in search of new adventures.
While we’re speaking of hotels, it’s impossible not to notice the Marina Bay Sands Hotel on the edge of the core. It’s a visual spectacle with three hefty towers linked together at the bottom by a massive casino and shopping complex, and capped with what looks like a surfboard, but is home to a 150-metre infinity pool — the world’s highest — 57 floors up.
Dreams of sipping their C$20 version of the Singapore Sling poolside were dashed when we discovered that only hotel guests can access the pool area. It seems our budget hotel was becoming more of a liability.
Before we went back to drinking street-side beers, I called to check in on Frank. Still alive.
After a few more rounds, I wandered back to Hotel G and plied Frank with more water and called it a night. Sightseeing for two is exhausting.
Day two and Frank was feeling marginally better. He agreed to tough it out and live up to his sightseeing duties if we agreed to take taxis between stops rather than walk in the blistering heat. Agreed.
After a few false starts due to Frank’s queasiness and chills/fever flipflopping, we set out for lunch.
Singapore is known for its large, covered, open air eateries called hawker centres. Much like a food court in a North American mall, but minus the mall and with a bit more grit — think birds flying around beneath the canopy. I zeroed in on a dish called “Fried Carrot Cake” — no carrots, no cake. Instead, radish, egg, garlic, rice flour and a variety of spices. Savory and delicious.
We determined that Frank had about two or three hours of energy left in him, so we hightailed it down to visit the two gargantuan glass conservatories at the Gardens by The Bay.
First the Cloud Forest: Beneath the 12,000m2 glass dome they keep the humidity at approximately 80 per cent and the temperature ranges from 23C to 25C. That’s a significant amount of air to chill considering it’s like a green house in direct sunlight. Inside is an extensive array of plants that cover and surround a 35-metre tall ‘mountain,’ complete with waterfall, wrapped with a series of pathways and catwalks that lead you to breath-taking vistas. Truly and engineering marvel.
Second, and no less impressive, the Flower Dome. The semi-arid sister to the Cloud Forest. Maybe half as tall but a much larger greenhouse: 16,000m2 of glass shelters several zones that cover an area more than two football fields, showcasing different seasons and festivals. We were there for Japanese cherry blossoms. Gorg!
Well kids, that was Singapore. A tiny wedge of it at least. Short and sweet. We didn’t push ourselves. It was, after all, a holiday from our holiday.
I can’t say that I learned a whole lot more about Singapore in such a short time on the ground. It is a beautiful place. Very clean as far as other Asian cities go that we’ve visited, but by no means is it sparkling.
In other news, Frank was only down and out for about a day. What a trooper. His fast recovery is due in large part to the exemplary care he received — I assure you.
On a final note, we were lucky enough to leave Singapore from their new (at the time) international terminal 4. Plenty of indoor green spaces, sculptures, eating areas and countless stores. In addition to being a beautiful space to wait for a flight, it was by far the most technically advanced of any airport we’ve been to. We had no contact with any airport staff. To check in and to board the flight all we did was scan our passport, scan our ticket, then the camera at the gate turnstile took our photo, compared against our passport, and the gate opened to let us in. It was pretty impressive. For those technophobes reading this, they did have some humans there to help when needed. Otherwise, it ran very smoothly.
*edit note – in the teaser text of the email for those who subscribe, where I said one of us was “hold up in the hotel…” I meant, “hole up…” 🙂