Singapore

Singapore’s weather is best summed up by a quote from Robin Williams / Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning Vietnam…

What’s the weather like out there?

“It’s hot. Damn hot! Real hot! Hottest things is my shorts. I could cook things in it. A little crotch pot cooking.”

Well, can you tell me what it feels like.

“Fool, it’s hot! I told you again! Were you born on the sun? It’s damn hot!”

Welcome to Singapore. A place where its so humid that you can get a drink from the air by sucking it through your teeth.

First things first, this city is beautiful. Jaw droppingly so. The Singaporean government grant tax breaks to companies that adorn their buildings with plant life and art so naturally every major building has enough greenery for you to expect David Bellamy to pop up just about anywhere.

Parkroyal hotel
Parkroyal hotel, modelled on the hanging gardens of Babylon

Like a chameleon, by night the city morphs from green to light. Take a look at how the view changed from the hotel balcony..

Its so refreshing to find a country that actually cares what it looks like. Nothing really feels out of place here. The old rubs shoulders with the new and it just works. Once you leave the central part of the city you can see the familiar plain high rises start to pop up, but even these have greenery in abundance and you cant help but feel that the central areas vibe is slowly spreading (growing?) out across the city.

If you visit, I strongly recommend the Indie Singapore walking tours. They run three different tours a week. Check out tripadvisor for more info. We went on the Riverfront Thursday tour with a very enthusiastic and highly knowledgeable guide. The tour was mainly concerned with the colonial and historical past of the city and took in sites and events that have shaped this highly diverse city state. It’s a free tour and doesn’t take you to local “recommended” eateries for kickbacks. Bring a water bottle, there are chances to refill and don’t worry too much about the heat as there are plenty of stops in aircon. If you enjoy it you make your appreciations felt with a tip.

The main thing I took away from the tour, apart from a good history lesson, was that while the city may be broken up into ethnic quarters, they are really proud of their diversity and languages (officially English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil). This is officially a very young country (1965), but also one that has struggled through a long history of oppression, sometimes very brutal (WWII). Singaporeans are a forward looking people, with a great deal of pride in their country. Have you ever seen a teenager out with his mates just pick up a random piece of litter and put it in the bin?!

One thing that is a “must do” in Singapore (even if you are staying 1 night) is the Gardens by the bay. A collection of artificial super trees, gardens and biomes which put the Eden project to shame (probably because the climate is naturally like parts of the Eden project!). I visited in the evening, when they run a light show twice (the second one was less busy) and was rewarded with some spectacular views.

Gardens by the bay, supertrees
Gardens by the bay, supertrees. MBS showing off in the background.
Downtown from Gardens by the bay
Downtown from Gardens by the bay

If you only had one evening and were not on a budget I would take in the sunset from the Ce La Vie bar at the top of Marina Bay Sands hotel. You have to pay $20 to get up there, but that gets you a $20 token that you can redeem against food and drink, a drink will cost at least $20 though! Get up there at least an hour before sunset as the service is slow and you will want a good perch. Be warned that it gets very busy up there right around sunset.

From there I would go down to the bottom level of the MBS mall and grab a bite to eat from the food court. Tons of choice here, and very reasonable prices (for Singapore). Head back up and over to the gardens in time for the second light show (8:45 I think, but check). The light show lasts about 20 mins but its worth hanging around for a while after to let the crowds disperse and soak in the atmosphere.

After that you could walk back through MBS and take the helix bridge and waterfront path back to town and be rewarded with some more spectacular views.

Onwards! Next stop…..Brisbane!

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