When first arriving in Singapore, before evening leaving the airport, you get a sense why this place is
known as the garden city. A concept proposed by the “godfather of Singapore”, Lee Kuan Yew, to
transform Singapore into a city with abundant lush greenery and a clean environment to make life
more pleasant for the people. This vision starts at the airport. It is filled with lush greenery, indoor
waterfalls and amazing biodomes. A great way to spend a few hours if you are one the many
travellers transiting through Singapore onto your next adventure as Mr Jones had done many times
This time, however, Singapore was my adventure and after this trip, it will certainly be a
place I will return.
I was in Singapore for a 72 hour for a business trip so hadn’t planned on being able to explore too much of the city, beyond the hotel I had been booked in to, the Park Royal Hotel in the Marina District.
Before arriving, my plans, given my late arrival into Singapore, were to have dinner by the hotel and an early night in. This plan changed however, 20 minutes into my drive from Changi Airport to my hotel, as I passed through the gorgeous streetscapes that contained a perfect mix of modern and colonial architecture, with secret gardens hidden on the umpteenth floor on the same skyrise buildings which contained buzzing shopping malls and large open public spaces, I knew I’d have to find some time in my 72 hours to see what I had been missing all those times I flew into Singapore before, only to say hello to its airport- albeit an amazing one.
The Marina Bay and the surrounding area where my hotel was located, is a financial and business district and has all the things that comes with that; skyscrapers, wonderful [fancy] hotels and luxury malls. Hence why I had been booked into the Park Royal – all my meetings were a short walk from the hotel. The district is best known for the beautiful Marina Bay Sands Hotel which is now pretty much the front and centre image on any “Visit Singapore” brochure, but as I found out later the marina itself and the district were very much a part of the heart of the old colonial Singapore with iconic sights like the Raffles Hotel, Fort Canning Park and what was once the centre of commerce in the 1900s and now a great place for local eats Clarke Quay.
Other sights in the district include the Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel (not for me) and The Gardens by
the Bay Helix bridge.
Two days of business meetings didn’t see me leave the hotel for food, which I can confirm, is not advised. Given the upmarket area the hotel is located in, the meals were not cheap (AUS$100+ for my single person dinner) but I will admit that they certainly were very good.
Having visited Japan many times, you can say that Japanese culture and food is a favourite of ours, so on the second night, I opted to leave the hotel and venture out for something else. I didn’t stray far. In fact, I ended up at another hotel dining at their in-house restaurant; Sushi Jiro. The food was exceptional and having a traditional bar-style service area means you can watch the chef prepare your meal, a welcome addition when travelling for business and dining alone.
So after two days of business meetings, I had a full day to explore before my evening flight home. I checked out in the morning after breakfast and was able to leave my bags at the hotel, who also gave me access to the gym, pool and showers for the rest of the day before my flight. So with that in
mind I ventured out into the humidity. And boy is it humid. With only a few hours to see the sights I decided a good walk around the marina would give me a good overview of the garden city, and it didn’t diasappoint.
I went toward the Singapore flyer, but not for the ride, I wanted to see some of the Singapore street
circuit from the F1 Race on my way to the gardens on the bay. I was struck by the cleanliness, and manicured gardens all over the city, bridge overpasses have vines growing up the supporting legs, that feed into planter boxes hanging off the edge of the highways – it really does makes the place feel very alive.
For a small island that’s now pretty much all city and buildings, it didn’t feel that way. The botanical gardens attached to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel are worth a visit and it’s a great way to kill a few hours.
Mr Joneses Rating
$$ / $$$$
Singapore in general is pretty pricey. If you stick to the main areas, or especially in the area I stayed within, expect to pay a lot.
Anything serving local food or places like the hawkers markets are where you can save some money.
In saying that, a well made cocktail [at any of the luxurious cocktail bars] are worth the cost.
My walk took me past the Merlion, the Old Parliament Buildings and Supreme Court on my way up to Fort Canning Park. This is one of the taller points in the city, surrounded by more botanical gardens and a nice spot to view the city from, as well as taking in some history of the city and how it came about. Be warned though, the park is an uphill trek and in the Singapore humidity you’ll feel it. Conveniently adjacent to the park is the National Museum of Singapore, one of the benefits of travelling sans Mrs Jones means I can go visit a museum [she’s not big on the history stuff] and it was also a welcome escape into the aircon.
The museum documents the changes of Singapore from colonialism to what it is today, telling the story from many different viewpoints. It’s interesting and worth a look if you like that kind of thing. Plus its free, or at least it was for me as their was no ticket desk to be seen anywhere near the door I entered, but maybe check that for sure on their website. Singapore isn’t a country for breaking the rules. With half my day gone and the weather starting to heat up, I only had one thing left I wanted to do, a famous Singapore Sling at The Raffles. My Google Maps was playing up so I ended up at ANTI-DOTE which I thought was a cocktail bar inside The Raffles Hotel but is actually across the street and inside the Fairmont Hotel, but by the time I got there I wasn’t fussed where the cocktail came from so I enjoyed a delightful smokey old fashioned and looked at The Raffles Hotel through the window. At least I can say I saw it.
Maybe next visit I’ll get there.