To me, Singapore has always seemed to be a mythically enchanted place in an exotic and faraway land that my much younger and untravelled self has always dreamed of exploring. Since then (and pre-pandemic) I’ve been fortunate to explore Singapore several times and I’ve found the exotic enchantment to be not mythical but enticingly real.
But sometimes, I’ve had the opportunity to linger a little longer and to savour and explore Singapore for a few days, during which time I’ve packed in many of the spectacular sights of Singapore both historical and modern and fun and interesting.
Therefore, this post is not a fact-file of travel information or a tourist’s itinerary that you could easily source elsewhere on the internet with a quick search, but rather my own personal account of experiences and of sightseeing adventures while exploring in Singapore with a sprinkling of travel tips that might guide and help you to prioritise your own time spent in this diamond shaped jewel of an island city located at the very southern tip of the Malaysian Peninsula.
What’s in the name? Singapore’s name is derived from ‘SingaPura’ which means ‘Lion City’.
Singapore has so many attributes to offer the visitor that it’s hard to know where to start and when to finish and so maybe this personal guide will help you with that?
There’s a rich and fascinating history from the splendour and elegance of Raffles Hotel and other colonial buildings.
For foodies there’s world famously delicious food from hawker stalls or high-class restaurants.
There’s fabulous retail shopping in Orchard Road. Food and local shopping in Little India and China Town.
Adventure and fun in spades can be found at Sentosa Island and Universal Studios Singapore.
And there’s captivating culture and amazing history in the museums and art galleries and modern architecture at Marina Bay Sands and The Gardens By The Bay. And, before you even get to all of that, the airport itself is so fabulous that it has been voted The World’s Best Airport eight times.
JEWEL CHANGI AIRPORT
Changi Airport: Unless you arrive into the harbour by sea, or enter the island of Singapore by road or rail from Peninsular Malaysia via bridges over the narrow channel known as The Johor Strait, your first experience of Singapore will undoubtably be the amazingly ornate and beautiful Jewel Changi Airport.
The incredible rain vortex pouring from the dome shaped roof of Changi Airport is the worlds tallest indoor waterfall.
The airport is known as a destination in itself and as a place where ‘nature meets retail’.
Our first time in Singapore we stayed at The Holiday Inn Express as we are avid collectors of IHG Loyalty Points (not an affiliated link). We checked in for two nights and using our previously accumulated points we managed to get one of those nights free. Our first point of call after that was to enjoy a meal in Singapore.
THE SINGAPORE FOOD SCENE
Singapore is famous for its food. The cuisine is a meld of Malaysian, Indonesian, Chinese, and Indian flavours. Singapore is also famous for its seafood. Authentic Singaporean food includes its signature and national dish ‘Chilli Crab’ with spicy tomato chilli and black pepper. For fabulous food explore Little India, China Town, and Hawker Food Stalls that serve ‘street food’.
Raffles Hotel: Raffles Singapore is named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, and opened on the 1st December 1887 as a ten room hotel by the Sarkies brothers. Raffles Hotel in Singapore is synonymous with elegance and luxury and has since been a haunt of adventures, movie stars, authors and journalists – and now The Backpacking Housewife!
THE LONG BAR, CAD’S ALLEY, RAFFLES HOTEL
Thirsty yet? Then let’s try a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel!
The Long Bar at Raffles Hotel, located off Cad’s Alley, is the original home of the famous cocktail The Singapore Sling. It was created by Raffles bartender Ngiam Tong Boon in 1915 when the etiquette of the time prevented ladies from drinking alcohol in public. Insightful Ngiam made the beverage with clear alcohol and fruit juices to make it appear socially acceptable for women to drink alcohol covertly and the immediately popular Singapore Sling was born!
The Original Singapore Sling Recipe!
15ml Cherry Heering Liqueur
7.5ml DOM Benedictine
120ml Sarawak Pineapple Juice
15ml Lime Juice
A Dash of Angostura Bitters
Garnish with a Slice of Pineapple and a Cherry
SHOPPING IN SINGAPORE
Shopping: If you love shopping for high fashion and trinkets and souvenirs and you also love a bit of designer inspired retail therapy then you will undoubtable think you are in a shopping paradise in Singapore. Because I only carry a small backpack on my travels around the world, my forays into the shops are more of a window shopping and fun browsing venture – although I might on occasion treat myself to a new lipstick or perfume or small wearable trinket!
Orchard Road with its international stores, local boutiques, and mega malls at each end, is considered by many to be the best shopping in Singapore. Others will insist that title belongs to Marina Bay.
If your shopping budget (like mine) is far more conservative than designer then perhaps shopping in China Town’s fabulous market for authentic (and affordable) local produce might be more your bag.
AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN SINGAPORE
Gardens By The Bay: In the incredible Garden By The Bay you will find a Cloud Forest, a Flower Dome, and a Super Tree Observatory. In Super Tree Grove you can see a free Garden Rhapsody music and light show. There is so much to see and do here, in fact, that you’ll need to see and explore it all yourself to believed it!
Marina Bay Sands: Here you will discover shows and events and nightlife. This is where you’ll find the fabulous Marina Bay Sands Hotel – looking like a ship on the Singapore skyline – with its iconic architecture and infinity sky pool and Sky Park Observation Deck.
Sentosa Island and Universal Studios: There are over 30 totally incredible world class attractions on Sentosa Island including the Singapore Cable Car Network linking Mount Faber, Harbourfront and Sentosa Island.
And, in the heart of Resorts Word you’ll find Universal Studios Singapore!
On the official Singapore website it asks you to ‘reimagine’ when you explore Singapore and says: “with its century-old temples, bustling hawker centres and lush green spaces, Singapore’s varied charms are bound to enchant visitors to our island. Our city’s calendar of events is equally diverse, and present travellers with ample opportunities to explore, indulge and express their passions” – and I heartily agree!
A LITTLE FURTHER AFIELD
Off the Singapore Strait and lying between the Malacca Strait, the Karimata Strait, and the South China Sea, is a group of 1,796 small islands known as the Riau-Lingga Archipelago that form a part of Indonesia. The three largest of these islands are Batam, Rempang, and Galang. And the reason I’m telling you about this is because, with a few days in which to be flexible, we decided to take a ferry from Singapore harbour – passing through Indonesian immigration – over to the island of Batam for a weekend stay at The Holiday Inn Resort Batam (not an affiliate link).
Our motive for this impromptu weekend break was actually part relaxation and part financial as there is no getting away from the fact that Singapore is an expensive city to explore and to enjoy and that neighbouring Indonesia is a very affordable option by comparison.
The Holiday Inn Resort at Batam Island is a tropical oasis with wonderful resort facilities including the fabulous and authentic Balinese Treetree Spa (where I had the best treatments and massage I’ve ever had in my life) and a beautiful swimming pool.
Just what we needed after our hectic few days spent exploring Singapore!
A Few Interesting Facts About Singapore
To the north, Singapore is separated from the Peninsular Malaysia by a narrow channel known as The Johor Strait. To the south is the Singapore Strait.
Singapore is also a hub as one of the largest maritime ports in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in the world as it is so well connected to over 120 countries.
In 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles – British statesman and official of the British East India Company – is perhaps best known for establishing modern Singapore. Raffles first landed in Singapore on 28th January 1819. He has a statue and a plaque to mark the spot which hails: “On this historic site, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles first landed in Singapore on 28th January 1819, and with genius and perception changed the destiny of Singapore from an obscure fishing village to a great seaport and modern metropolis.”
“The Port of Singapore is a free port, and the trade thereof is open to ships and vessels of every nation, equally and alike to all.”Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles
The currency of Singapore is the Singapore Dollar.
However long your stay and opportunity to explore Singapore do use the What To See And Do Calculator on the official Visit Singapore website. Simply tick the boxes of the kind of things that interest you and how many days you have available to explore Singapore and an itinerary will be instantly produced for you!
Have you ever explored Singapore?
Is Singapore on your travel wish list?
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