This tiny country is one of the cleanest and most architecturally impressive places to visit in Southeast Asia. It is a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures from the surrounding neighbors which appear to blend seamlessly throughout the different districts, each with their own unique vibe and cuisine.
The plan was to visit Singapore and Malaysia to celebrate my birthday on a quick four day trip with one of my closest friends. Naturally we wanted to see as much as we could on our limited schedule so we wasted no time dropping off our bags at the hostel and starting our own walking tour of the city. Beginning in Little India, the morning started with getting henna tattoos (since I am still not prepared to commit to real ink), followed by lunch in Chinatown. That second part may be a little misleading though... as we were walking through Chinatown we came across this beautiful buffet set up in the side courtyard of one of the buildings in the district. Since no one responded when we yelled out and poked around a bit, we went ahead and helped ourselves to heaping plates of delicious noodles and spring rolls. Who ever said that there are no free lunches?
We continued on through most of the city and discovered that there were lovely ‘Happy Birthday’ banners decorating the streets! Turns out they were not in preparation for my arrival, but for the national birthday which was the day after mine. It was still excellent timing to have everyone amped up for the celebration with evening musical performances accompanied by fireworks at Marina Bay and an airshow to boot. We quickly found our way downtown to the Merlion Park in the incredible bay front area where the iconic Merlion fountain, half-fish and half-lion, was spraying water and the Esplanade theater gleamed in the sunlight. We crossed over the prominent double helix bridge and made our way to the top of the Marina Bay Sands, the massive three-towered hotel. To our disappointment the SkyPark and more importantly the infinity pool stretching across the top of the three towers was reserved for guests only. Of course we did not see that as a closed door, just a challenge.
The next night we took the elevator back up to the top of Marina Bay Sans to Club 55 which provides an amazing view of the city. We ordered some cocktails and enjoyed the nightly laser show over the city. That night the show also happened to be accompanied by fireworks as part of the birthday festivities and our seats provided a direct view of the display from across the bay! When the show finished we decided to try our luck with sneaking into the illustrious pool. However, there were guards at every entrance and a room key was required to enter the gate so we quickly decided on some story about how our parents would be up shortly. The guards were polite, but steadfastly refused and said we needed to wait until they arrived with the room key. A few attempts later and my friend changed tactics and pulled the birthday card asking if we could go in just for a quick minute. After showing my ID card to prove it actually was my birthday, surprisingly the guards kindly let us in to the park where we bee-lined to the pool. Finally, we had made it to this breath taking infinity pool that stretched right up to the edge of the towers, showing off all of the sparkling city lights far below.
Completely a buzz from our victory, we continued the evening’s adventure on to the Clarke Quay where all of the biggest and most popular nightclubs in the city were located. Several people had recommended visiting Attica, which was supposed to have the best dance floors and DJs in the city (very important facts for consideration at the ripe old age of 22). The line was wrapped around the building and the cover was $50 per person, causing us to pause for whether it would actually be worth it or if we should skip it and head to another nearby club. My friend was determined that this was the spot though and began talking to the bouncer at the front of the line trying to use the birthday card again to our advantage. Someone standing nearby overheard her and made a deal that if it was really my birthday, he would get us in. She frantically waved me up and after showing my driver’s license, he laughingly followed through with his end of the bargain. Instead of just walking us through the door though to skip the line and cover charge, he led us directly to the roped off area at the front of the room and ordered up a bottle of Ciroc and Moet to start the night out. Turns out he was the main DJ of the night and we had just found our way into the small VIP area right beside the stage where all the drinks were free and we had access to any of the stages. It was the beginning of an unforgettable evening and when the bottle of Moet arrived, it was even served with a birthday crown and sparklers!
After a few hours of sleep that night, we traveled by train early the next morning across the border to Malaysia. However, after spending a few hours in the country we quickly changed our plans for spending a day or two there and immediately headed back to Singapore. The cat calls walking down the street were the worst of any country I have been to, there was nothing particularly interesting to see, and we were hooked on Singapore knowing there was still so much to see. Just as quickly as we arrived, we caught a train right back and headed to the Gardens at the Bay. These beautiful gardens or the “Supertree Grove” as it is also called, are comprised of massive 25 to 50-meter tree-like structures that are solar powered and come alive at night in vibrant colors. They are actually featured in the most recent Planet Earth series on the urban episode. It is an electric forest reaching hundreds of feet high over beautiful gardens and green spaces. We spent several hours reading about the history of the park and the envisioned future of co-existing urban spaces with strong ties to nature and exploring the park.
Over-all Singapore is an incredible and versatile city that has fused many cultures into a small and nearly spotless space. The efforts and planning the country puts into making even the shortest of visits remarkable is noticeable. Even on a long layover in the airport, travelers can visit a butterfly garden, swimming pools, movie theater, climbing wall, etc. and there are brochures with recommended activities based on the duration of the layover. There are also free shuttles into town offered from the airport as long as time permits a quick visit. One of the safest and easiest places to travel through, Singapore is a remarkable country to visit.
Hostel Average Cost: $15
Currency: Singapore Dollar
Drink: We had to try the signature Singapore Sling, but there are many other creative cocktails offered. Alcohol has the “sin” tax though (items that are bad for health are taxed higher), so all drinks are expensive even in the bottle stores.
Food: Clarke Quay in the historic district with its colorful umbrellas and buildings is the most picturesque spot to catch a meal on the riverfront!
Electric Outlet: Type G- British
Visa: Not required