There is nothing better than having visitors come see you when you have moved abroad. To have a familiar face, someone that knows you through and through. Where you don’t have to be ‘new person’ you, you can just be… you!
We didn’t have any visitors when we lived in Doha. And truth be told… we didn’t want any. With nothing that really sets Doha apart as a destination, we didn’t want family and friends spending the money to come out to the desert.
Singapore, however was a different story. There is so much to do in Singapore. And as a popular transit hub for heading to Australia (and all my best friends being from Australia), it was the perfect place to stop in.
What to do with visitors?
Needless to say when my best friend decided to come visit us for almost a week, I was over the moon. But being a new arrival myself to Singapore there was a lot I hadn’t seen yet. This proved well in some respects as I was eager to explore Singapore with my best friend. But I wanted her to have a good time. So where were the best places to take a visitor in Singapore?
Of course a part of my friend’s visit wouldn’t have been complete without visiting some of Singapore’s icons. First on the list was the beautiful Gardens by the Bay.
Gardens by the Bay
The nearest MRT station to this attraction is Bayfront but we took a taxi (as they are so reasonably priced in Singapore!). We got our tickets to the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome at the ticketing desk (visitors price $28 for both). Although we also wanted to do the skywalk in the Supertree grove we were told to go to the ticketing desk beside the Supertree grove for that (ticket cost $8).
The Flower Dome and Cloud Forest
It would be hard to choose which dome was my favourite. Although initally a bit bored in the flower dome (I’m not a fan of cacti and there are a lot at the entrance of the flower dome), my interest peaked at the interesting exotic flower beds found in the centre of the dome.
It is hard not to enjoy the Cloud Forest with its waterfall wow factor entrance and a weaving pathway above our heads. Made to mimick mountainous views and cloud rainforests, this dome is rich with lush, moist (yes I used that word) vegetation. Of course as it is meant to mimick the mountains, it is also notably cooler in this dome. Something everyone else seemed prepared for (with their raincoats or cardigans) but us! Being an orchid lover, I was pleasantly surprised to see the abundance and variety of orchids in the Cloud Forest. What was cool about the display was that you could actually see how they would grow in the wild. From the bark of a trunk of sorts and obviously not from a plastic pot with wood chips in it.
The Cloud Forest ended with a video on global warming which although informative was depressing. A lot of advice pointed out lay in the hands of corporate companies and not every day people restricted by recycling options or packaging on their products but that’s a whole other topic.
The part I was excited to see the most was the distinguishable Supertree Grove. Standing as tall as a 16 storey building, 12 Supertrees make up the Supertree Grove. Made of reinforced concrete and wrapped in steel, planting frames have been installed on the trunks to support the growth of plants.
By the time we got to the Supertree Grove, there was a very long queue just to get up on the Skywalk. With sun already set, I wasn’t as keen to see Singapore at night so we decided to save it for another day. We did over find a nice spot on the floor to lie down. As my friend pointed out – “cos if you’re going to lie on the ground in any city, you may as well do it in Singapore”. And then we lay back and enjoyed the show!
Visitors will love the Garden Rhapsody! The Garden Rhapsody is on every evening at 7:45pm and 8:45pm and is free!
Marina Bay Sands
Not far from Gardens by the Bay, you’ll find Singapore’s iconic modern hotel. Known for its infinity pool on the rooftop and skyline views over Singapore, it is a favourite stop amongst tourists. It was hard to decide whether it would be best to have sunset drinks at the Esplanade with a view of Marina Bay Sands or rooftop drinks on Marina Bay Sands. In the end, as my friend was keen to explore Singapore’s most luxurious hotel, we had sunset drinks at Ce La Vi near the observation deck. The views are fantastic, but it would be hard to get that crystal clear view of the skyline with Singapore’s hazy climate. A tip for the pool- get there early in the day as it starts to get crowded by 3pm.
The Raffles Hotel
For me Singapore’s most iconic hotel will always be The Raffles Hotel. Opened in 1887, The Raffles is one of the few hotels in the world still maintaining it’s 19th century look and charm. The pristine white historical building can easily take you back to a different time in Singapore. We headed straight for the Long Bar to sample Singapore’s famous Gin Sling, also known as The Singapore Sling. At $35 a drink, it was certainly one of the most expensive drinks I’ve had, but it was made to perfection!
Other landmarks we didn’t quite make it to for the photo-op was the Merlion. Although we were close when walking around Esplanade, we didn’t quite come face to face to Singapore’s guardian protector. With 5 on the island, it’s definitely worth hunting them down. We also didn’t do the highly regarded Night Safari and Singapore’s Zoo. But I’m hoping more friends will visit to give us an excuse to go there!
Singapore is amazing for its outdoor activities. A nice alternative for visitors used to being inside a museum or gallery. Although it has a humid climate, respite is found with some grey cloud. There were two places I really wanted to take my friend: East Coast Park (by the beach) and MacRitchie Reservoir. We settled on MacRitchie Reservoir which is near the North West of the island. Unfortunately, just as we left it started to rain. However as always with the weather in Singapore, it didn’t last long and by the time we arrived at MacRitchie we had blue skies.
The nearest MRT station to MacRitchie is Marymount. However, you will still need to walk to the entrance and for some reason with the 4 of us…this proved difficult to find. My map reading skills were poor that weekend but with the help of google maps, and the locals, we were soon on the right track. We found a small path off the MacRitchie viaduct and walked through to the reservoir where we were greeted with monkeys( always a favourite with visitors)! Note: the main entrance is along Lornie Rd.
MacRitchie is huge covering 12 hectares of nature! There are many trails available for hikers, a pontoon available to launch kayakers and canoers and a treetop walk for the adventurers out there. We cruised around the reservoir not making it around the whole way. It was a pleasant, albeit sweaty walk and a nice part of Singapore to show visitors. Probably better done in the morning or in the evening but enjoyable nonetheless. More information on MacRitchie reservoir can be found here.
We didn’t have time to stroll along East Coast park or rent bikes… Which is probably a good thing given our track record with bikes (think head over heels).
Food Glorious Food
Singapore has a reputation for some of the best food around the world. With its unique make up of culture and history impacting the food industry, it’s hard not to find a decent meal in Singapore. And it doesn’t have to expensive either. When my friend visited we indulged in 4 foodie areas.
Located in the centre of Singapore and somewhat away from most of the major attractions (and public transport), Dempsey Hill is a small village marked with ranging cuisines from Spanish to Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. We hit up Australian owned Jones the Grocer for a late lunch.
Makansutra’s Glutton Bay, located near Esplanade. is tourist-friendly hawkers market for visitors wishing to dip their toes into local cuisine. With a beautiful view of Marina Bay Sands, it’s a nice spot for lunch or dinner. Prices are slightly higher than a normal hawkers. So if you think Glutton’s Bay is cheap then you’d be floored by the prices at a local hawkers.
Keong Saik Rd, Chinatown
This one street has a reputation all on its own for being the place for new and trendy restaurants. The choice is endless from British pub style cuisine to walk in cheap eats. We settled for Potato Head Folk and headed up to the rooftop for the best burgers we had ever tasted and some moorish truffle fries to accompany it.
A very touristy spot for eating and drinking. To me it is Singapore’s answer to Leicester Square (minus the theatres). Located right by the river, there is plenty going on with happy hour deals everywhere. We visited Senor Taco for a Mexican chow down.
For a more indulgent dining experience, check out one of the Sunday brunches with free flowing champagne. We tried out Mezza9 at the Grand Hyatt. The food and drink did not disappoint but the atmosphere was a bit flat. A visit to Tanjong Beach Club on Sentosa island helped liven things up for the rest of the afternoon though.
So there you have it. Some highlights of what I did with my first visitor to Singapore. I’m looking forward to getting to know the city more and showing more of Singapore’s secrets to future visitors. Hint hint… come visit!