After running around trying to organise things like crazy for the past nine weeks, we finally started out adventure with our stopover in Singapore. We arrived at 6 in the morning and were hit by a wall of humidity as we left the wonderful air conditioning of the airport, the scariest bit was realising it was only going to get warmer during the day. Even after a week in Singapore we still had not acclimatised to the humidity, we just welcomed the rain which meant the temperature would drop below 30C.
Those of you who have visited Singapore will know how well it is set up for tourists. It is so easy to get around, there is so much to do and see, and you don’t feel bad just being a tourist. It is made a lot easier by the fact that English is one of the official languages, so you can generally ask strangers for directions and they understand you. From shopping in mega-malls to shopping in Louis Vuitton, from Chinatown to Little India and from Bird Parks to the Zoo, it would be impossible to get bored in Singapore.
Our hotel was in a central location on Bencoolen Street, close to tourist spots and train stations. Included in the hotel was free tour of the city, a great way to work out what we wanted to go back to and visit. This lead to us spending an afternoon at the Botanic Gardens and the famous Orchid Garden, admiring not only the flowers but also the wildlife. Apart from the dragonflies and other insects that the plants attract, we saw numerous beautiful birds and even a squirrel. The tour also inspired us to wander to the Merlion Fountain overlooking the river and with the CBD in the background as well as looking around the Raffles Hotel, where the Singapore Sling was invented. Although when we realised the price of cocktails in a 6 star hotel, we decided that trying Singapore Slings on Singapore Air would do us just fine.
We got a three park pass to visit the Jurong Bird Park, the Night Safari and the Singapore Zoo. The highlight of Singapore for me was the Night Safari (although I didn’t get any photos because of the lack of light and ban on camera flashes). Although it is really just another theme park, it was so well set up and you saw the animals in their own environment, they weren’t stuck in concrete cages with no room to move (although there were still walls and rivers to keep them from eating us). My favourite animals was the Flying Squirrel. When he flew over us, we could feel the air being swished above our heads. But that doesn’t mean that the elephants, lions, lepards, rhinos, hippos, hyaenas and others weren’t cool to see up close too.
I’m not one to shop at the best of times, but Singapore is famous for its amazing shopping so I did make an effort to see what it was all about. We were staying a couple of minutes walk from the vibrant Bugis Street Markets, selling fake watches, handbags etc. as well as a range of exotic looking (and smelling) fruit and vegetables. Directly across from the market was a massive five story mall complex, one of the many mega malls that we stumbled upon every few blocks. For those not on a budget, the best shopping is on Orchard Street. We could afford to eat in the food courts, but I could only dream of Chanel watches, LV handbags and Armani dresses.
Food was excellent and we were spoilt for choice. European food was often ridiculously overpriced, but the massive range of Asian fare catering to the imported labourers was well within our budget. We were staying across the bridge to Little India, so wandered over one night for a delicious and filling curry set for only $3 (NZ and Singapore dollars are about equal). We tried to eat a lot of the local food, but one thing I couldn’t bring myself to try was ‘Pig Organ Soup’ which was not only available in many food courts, but also included in the name of a lot of food stalls… I hope we weren’t missing out!