Flying from Indonesia to Vietnam required a stop off at one of Asia’s many ‘hub’ airports. We picked Singapore so that we could spend a couple of days exploring the city and discovering what it was all about.
The flights in from Flores required a change of plane at Surabaya airport in Java, which meant going from the domestic terminal to the international one. Unhelpfully, they are not very close to each other and even more unhelpfully, the man at airport information told us that it was 25 minutes in a taxi and would cost 80, 000 Rupiah. Unconvinced, we walked outside and found the completely free shuttle bus hiding behind the hordes of taxi drivers. Even more amazingly, when we got off the bus and were walking towards the door of the international terminal, another taxi driver came and offered us a ride, even after we had said we were going to the door all of 3 metres ahead of us!
The fun did not stop there. At check in, I unintentionally made a friend. A woman who was dressed in a full, flowing and sparkly wedding dress with many bags and no other people around her decided to have a chat and required help lifting her many bags on to the conveyer belt. She was very thankful but then decided I made a good porter and required my help getting on to the plane as well. She generated much confusion and sniggering from the airport staff along the way! Getting off the plane, we decided to stay seated until she had gone, only to have to dodge her while she chatted to someone who was trying to get to their departure gate. Fortunately, that was the end of that and we headed to our hostel.
Without realising, we had ended up in Singapore just before the Formula 1 GP, so a good chunk of town had been turned into a race track. This actually added to the experience as there was a bit of a buzz about town that may otherwise have not been there.
We decided that walking around was the best way to see it so set off on a DIY walking tour that took us around the main sites. We started at the home of the Singapore Sling, a bar in the Ruffles Hotel that was undergoing some pretty serious refurbishment. The 1 drink we bought (I was still not feeling great) cost more than a week’s accommodation in most of SE Asia, but was lovely and came with unlimited free peanuts, so we made the most of that!
Next, we went into the enormous library to see the view from the 13th floor which was meant to be pretty impressive, which it was. We then strolled around town (via some F1 induced detours) and saw a number of the sights including a cathedral, the courts and a few other important buildings. We were impressed by the balance between really big buildings and plenty of greenery, even up the buildings, which made it feel really pleasant. London could learn a thing or two!
After a while we made it to Chinatown where a food market containing a Michelin starred stand is located. We queued up for the stand in question, but sadly they ran out of food before we made it. Instead, we went to one of the others which made excellent dumplings so weren’t disappointed. Our food was probably not as nice as that enjoyed by the Red Bull drivers, who we came across later as they smashed their way into a lobster with a hammer!
After a walk along the beautiful bay, we soon decided it was too hot and we needed a nap so headed back to our hostel for some rest. The bay itself is really nice and includes the famous Merlion as well as some great views of the skyline. On the walk back we discovered that underneath Singapore is a giant underground network of shopping centres which appears to span the entire city, perfect for people afraid of the sun!
By chance, we found a restaurant just near our hostel called Zam Zam for dinner, which served excellent Indian food (it’s specialities being Biriani & something we’d never tried before called Mertabak, a bread + meat + egg + curry sauce combo that was delicious), and was less than half the price of all the other places nearby.
The following day we tried the Michelin stand again and this time succeeded. It was…disappointing. The food was nice, but we were expecting something special, which it wasn’t.
Later, we headed to Sentosa Island which required a trip on the cable car. The island itself is one giant park full of attractions – an aquarium/water park, Madame Tussauds, Universal Theme Park and many more. The cable car there was fun though and provided great views of the city. Having started in the middle, we went up first and found a bridge shaped like a wave, before heading to the island.
The only part of the island we found that wasn’t an attraction was an old fort which is now a museum and was really interesting, detailing parts of the history of Singapore and the role of the fort in its defense. It was mostly dark and not very photogenic though, so here’s some other pictures from Sentosa.
That evening we went to the Gardens by the Bay to watch the light show, which was actually really nice.
On the way back we even managed to get a glimpse of the F1 from a vantage point on a bridge, with one of the practice sessions underway.
After second poor night’s sleep thanks to a man who had absolutely no concept of how to behave in a dorm despite basic common sense instructions being written on the wall for those who lacked it, we spent a morning looking around an everything shopping centre. It was like a department store, but had absolutely everything you could think of in it. Then it was off to the airport ready for our flight to Vietnam. We decided we liked Singapore and it would make a good place to work away from home one day if the opportunity ever arose.