A Few Days In Singapore
Last month, after wrapping up a job that we didn't really enjoy in Australia, Emmett and I had finally saved up enough money to reach our goal. That being to leave the expensive country-continent to launch ourselves back up into the Northern Hemisphere in order to bop around Asia for a few months. Stop one on our journey was the island state of Singapore. We were in the tiny country for just three nights and two days, but we like to think that was enough time to get a decent peek at what the nation had to offer.
Little India was probably our favorite of inner neighborhoods of Singapore that we visited and it also happened to be the first. The whole place was a riotous explosion of colors, incense smoke, and best of all - cheap vegetarian food. I'd love to paint my future abode some of these bold shades.
Even while reading countless articles about how a visit to the top of Marina Bay Sands Resort was a "must do" (spoiler: we didn't), I missed the boat (HA) that the resort was comprised of three skyscrapers topped by what resembles an ocean liner. As soon as it came into view, I was perplexed by this design choice. As we got closer and closer - and walked along the DNA-inspired helix bridge - it turned out that the whole of the Marina Bay was the epicenter of modern, futuristic architecture in Singapore. Basically Marina Bay = Future World.
Gardens By the Bay
Part 1 - The Cloud Forest
Gardens by the Bay is a beautiful, futuristic nature park that has become a proud icon of Singaporean progress and environmental design. The whole place is well-kept, aesthetically pleasing, and just all-around a great place to spend half a day or so.
Our first stop at the Gardens was the Cloud Forest. The Cloud Forest is a 2 acre conservatory featuring 138 foot tall "cloud mountain" that is home to an array of gorgeous, lush tropical plants. You take an elevator to the top and then stroll along a multi-story walkway that encircles the whole hanging garden. Not only that, but the whole place is actually cooled to resemble the temperatures found at a mountaintop i.e. like in a real cloud forest. It was a very welcome escape from the all-encompassing tropical humidity of downtown Singapore.
We took a few hours to explore the conservatory, taking in all the orchids, epiphytes, pitcher plants and other species native to the forest that used to encompass much of Singapore. I could go on and on about how lovely this place was, but hopefully our photos do it justice. Other than eating out, this was our one expense of the day - and at $30 SGD for both of us (about $23 USD), it was worth it.
Gardens By the Bay
Part 2 - Supertree Grove
The Supertrees are probably the Singaporean icon that I was most familiar with before arriving. Much like the Cloud Forest, they are a beautiful example of environmental design. They are even more impressive in person than all the photos I'd seen prior to being in Singapore. We stayed for the 7:45 PM Light Show (which was freeee!) and were treated to an oddly delightful time. The theme for the evening was "A World of Wonder" and the Supertrees were lit up - using their own solar-harnessed power, I might add - in a myriad of colors in tune to a bizzare medley of Disney ballads, epic movie themes, and Super Mario soundtrack songs. The Supertrees had been impressive during the day, but at night was when they became super visually striking. Just look at 'em:
Our second day in Singapore was a rainy one. After staying in and watching the storm from our rad hotel room (see end of post), we decided to get out and take a look around Chinatown. Unfortunately, our hearts weren't really in it. We enjoyed going to the very impressive Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and quietly observing a ceremony. We even went to one of the city's famous hawker centers for lunch but then found next to nothing available for our veg-o selves... Alas, it seemed like a fun area to explore - the rain just made us give up easily. Well maybe that and the fact that we'd walked about 7 miles (11 km) in 95% humidity the day before.
Haw Par Villa
Haw Par Villa was a place that I'd read about online before we arrived in Singapore. I was very intrigued by the idea of an old theme park established by one of the creators of Tiger Balm and even more intrigued when I found out that it was free. We rode the wonderfully efficient metro from Chinatown to the eponymous Haw Par Villa stop. Once we entered, we were treated to a very strange and often downright confusing series of luridly painted statues. A lot of these bright figurines were carrying out scenes from Chinese mythology. Others were just odd and seemed to be at the whimsy of the original artist.
A Swanky Stay
My Mom travels a lot for business and has thus racked up quite a lot of hotel points. More specifically, she has racked up a lot of points with Marriott. For our trip to Singapore, she graciously donated some of her hard-earned and got us a room at the Courtyard Marriott Novena. It is one of the swankiest places we have ever stayed and we felt a little bit out of place walking into the posh lobby wearing our big beat-up backpacks.
The best parts of the stay (other than the super comfy bed and fast WiFi) were the AWESOME view of Singapore. The view from our room's window/wall was pretty cool but the views from the hotel's rooftop were even better. It was fun to live the high life for a little while, as it's totally different from our usual budget-travel style of taking overnight buses or sleeping in our car. Thanks again, Mom!
Overall, Singapore was a great start to our Backpacking Asia 2018 trip. We had gone in expecting a somewhat boring, sanitized, futuristic city. What we got instead was a very lively, diverse, and fascinating futuristic city. If you get a chance to stop here, even just for a day, you definitely should explore this multicultural city-state.