Exploring Singapore – part 1

Thursday afternoon we arrived at Heathrow in good time and queued up for the bag drop which seemed to take a while but eventually we were into the security area and finally spat out the other end. By now we had a couple of hours to kill so headed to the pub for a pint and a sandwich. This turned out to be a big mistake as my credit card got cloned at the contactless touch machine.

Blissfully unaware of the spending spree that the perpetrators of the crime were enjoying on my credit card we boarded the double-decker British Airways flight to Singapore. This was absolutely rammed with very few spare seats obvious. We taxied away on time but then got held as an aircraft ‘tug’ broke down on the runway and we were too big to get by – so that took a while to resolve – and eventually we took off about an hour late.

The flight was a bit bouncy with turbulence – I enjoyed two recent Oscar-nominated movies in Four Billboards and the Darkest Hour – but was slightly irritated trying to stay comfortable with the annoying woman in front of me bouncing around like a lunatic. She seemed to be determined to spill my wine with her seat being moved back and forth at speed on frequent occasions. Sigh….why do I always end up sitting behind them?!?

We arrived into Singapore on Friday afternoon having made up some of the delay. Three huge planes arrived at the same time so the immigration queue was long and slow and it took us a while to get through. By the time we reached the luggage carousels all the bags had been offloaded to the floor so we had to climb through them all to find ours. Thankfully they were there and we just then followed the easy signage to get a taxi. This was the first time we left the air-conditioned terminal and the heat and humidity hit us. Around 32 degrees centigrade with 90% humidity – but not going to complain having escaped from the grips of winter only 24 hours previously!

We got a taxi – got some good sightseeing tips from our driver – and arrived at our hotel which is centrally located near the bay. We checked in, went to our nice-enough room at the Pan Pacific Hotel and got our Singapore clothes unpacked.

We logged into the hotel internet to catch up and spotted an email from the credit card company telling me it was time to pay the bill – so went online, checked the statement, all fine and paid the bill. Of course then I spotted the ‘pending’ transactions which had been approved for numerous on-line Tesco purchases in Nottingham while we had been travelling. So had to phone the fraud team and my cards got cancelled. Just as well we travel with spares and know our address in New Zealand for a while so replacements can be sent over. What a great start!

By now we were pretty tired so we headed to a Chinese restaurant in the attached mall for dinner – puzzled by the balloon art installation – before we returned to the hotel for a beer in the bar before giving in and retiring.

Saturday morning we went out with a plan of walking the bay area and river. We enjoyed the sights across the bay to the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel, the lotus flower-shaped museum and the hedgehog-looking Esplanade Theatre and the skyline of the financial district.

Of course we had to fight the other tourists near the symbol of Singapore, the huge Merlion statue on the waterfront (which is a cross between a lion and a fish). Allegedly a Sumatran prince called Sang Nila Utama thought he saw a lion when he set foot on here so he named the island Singapura which means Lion City. However, lions have never existed here so not sure what he might have seen LOL.

We stopped along the way for the occasional bottle of water and a breather in the shade…checking out the unusual art installations…and an empty Boat Quay and Clark Quay as they get ready for the afternoon and evening tourists….

We also walked across the river returning via the historic Raffles area. When Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles landed here in 1819 the main island itself was 25% smaller than today due to huge reclamation efforts. Raffles is considered to be the ‘architect’ of today’s Singapore with his vision for the future. Since independence from the colonial past Singapore is one of only three sovereign city-states in the world the others being Monaco and Vatican City.

Having walked for about six hours in the heat dodging the occasional shower we were pretty shattered….so returned to our hotel room for some air-conditioned comfort. Later on we headed to the MTR (Singapore’s tube system), having purchased our travel cards, and took ourselves off to Telok Ayer then walked to Lau Pa Sat which is a historic food court.

Lots of lovely grub there but our destination was Boon Tat Street where the street is taken over by hawkers all serving satay each night. We found our favoured hawker and sat down to a ‘couple’ menu which included 10 skewers of king prawns, 10 chicken and 10 beef. Wow….amazing. And all washed down by a pitcher of beer as this was an area where drinking is allowed. Singapore is strictly controlled with fines for everything from chewing gum in public through to taking a particularly foul-smelling fruit onto the tube trains.

We managed to find our way back to the city on foot and found a waterfront bar where we sat and enjoyed the light, fountain and music show over the bay – including Merlion being lit up by lasers. There are also lots of art installations around lighting up at night for the current iLight festival. We then wandered back to our hotel having had a pretty full first day.

Sunday morning we were up early and headed out to the Suntec City mall (just one of a number attached to our hotel) and purchased 48 hour hop-on, hop-off bus tickets. We rode both the yellow and red lines all the way round enjoying the sights and sounds of the city without getting off. We also noticed lots of migrant domestic workers enjoying their day off camping out on the pavements.

We then took the red line again and this time we got off at Little India and enjoyed wandering the streets – I even managed to buy a couple of tops for beach throws – and then found the Tekka Centre which is a food court recommended by Michelin for best Indian hawker fare in the city. Had a lovely curry from Allauddin’s Briyani. Little India is just like being in India with the shops and the sights….but without the cows, the dust, the dirt, the rubbish and open-street urinals LOL. After our food we returned, on the bus, to our hotel for a couple of hours.

At 6pm we went down to our hotel foyer to await our pick up as we had booked a tour to go on the Night Safari at Singapore Zoo. We were collected by a feeder coach and transported to Chinatown and then onto another coach once we’d all been rounded up into different groups. We thoroughly enjoyed our night out and finished it back at the hotel sitting in one of the bar’s pods watching the lifts come and go through our little thatched roof.

Part two of our Singapore adventure to follow soon.  Bye for now