We made it to Singapore 45 minutes later than anticipated due to a delay departing Colombo. We made our way through their gorgeous airport that has consistently been rated the number one airport for years. The spacious walkways, open areas, and plentiful greenery made for a lovely airport experience. For those of you with more time to kill at the airport they also have a butterfly garden, swimming pool, and gym. We cleared immigration, grabbed our bag, and headed for the MRT (Mass Rapid Transport System).
When trying to purchase a ticket from an automated machine for the MRT we were left frustrated as for purchases under $6 dollars you need to use bills smaller than $10 notes. Having withdrawn money from an ATM, the smallest note we had was a $10 note. I did a mad dash back up to the airport to a money exchange to trade my ‘big note’ for two $5 notes. We were then successful in obtaining tickets and boarded the metro and easily navigated our way to our stop. Along the way we were a bit culture shocked with how clean the metro and passing streets were, how western (and scandalous) the people on the metro were dressed, and how simple it was to make our way to our destination. After such a long time in developing countries we felt we had landed in the world of the Jetsons.
When we reached our stop there were two options to reach the hostel; walk or take a bus three stops. We figured it was easiest to walk as we didn’t know how much the bus cost or if you could even pay with money on the bus as it seemed the public transport system required cards. When we exited the metro station we were met by heavy rain that showed no signs of letting up in the immediate future. We laughed, kitted up in our rain gear, and headed out into it. We got thoroughly drenched, but the warm temperature of the air and rain made it not an entirely unpleasant experience. We arrived to our hostel, Tree in Lodge, water-logged but in good spirits. We were warmly welcomed by the owner and promptly began to try and dry out. We hadn’t eaten anything other than the free breakfast on the flight all day so we quickly made our way across the street to a ‘coffee-shop’ for our first taste of famous Singapore cuisine. They call a small collection of restaurants and beverage shops coffee shops, while a large collection is known as a food court. We randomly picked a restaurant and food to eat as we were too hungry and tired to try and sift through the plentiful options. The food was very nice and we ate a meal and a half each for less than $6 CAD.
We headed back to the hostel where we sat down with the owner and got the rundown of what to see and do in our short stopover. We got a thorough explanation, including what means of metro to take to get around, and made the decision to go to bed early and tackle all that we wanted to do in one day.
We woke very early the next morning to be able to fit everything in. We had a quick breakfast and then headed into the beautiful sunshine to begin our day. Our first stop was to visit China Town, only a few bus stops from our hostel. It was early Sunday morning and the streets were blissfully quiet. We walked slowly through the beautiful streets, admiring the architecture of the buildings.
We found out way to the market and walked through the food section, where you could find just about anything. We watched as one man tried to transfer live catfish from their holding tank to a basket to purchase, but they were thrashing about and ended up on the floor. We passed by cages and cages of live frogs, awaiting their imminent fate of becoming a delectable meal. Every type of fruit and vegetable was available, as were most cuts of meat. The fragrance of the market had our stomachs rumbling.
Our stomachs prompted us to head to the top floor where there was a very large food court. We walked through the food stalls at a loss as to which one to choose. Chris then spotted a line of locals that snaked around the corner of one food stall and decided that would be our spot. The que took over an hour, and he passed the time by making friends with the locals in line and taking suggestions as to what to purchase from them. We ended up with a chicken and pork dish, and they were devine, totally worth the wait (only $5 CAD for the two large meals). We ended the meal with the best iced coffee we have ever had. We watched it being made and the secret ingredient appeared to be a mixture of condensed milk and fresh milk.
Bellies full, we walked around China Town which sprang into life during our time in the food court for a while longer before heading back to the metro and onto our next stop, Riverside.
On exiting the metro we had to walk through a small mall to get outside. On the walk I noticed an ‘Express’ Haircut shop and stopped to take a look. You inserted a $10 note into a machine, received a ticket with a number, and then waited for your number to be called. You then received an ‘express cut.’ My hair was in dire shape and I decided to go for it, I just needed all the dead ends taken off. For $10 it was total value, the hairdresser did exactly what I asked, even thinning my hair for me! It certainly isn’t 100% perfect (or anywhere close to the quality of cut my lovely hairdresser Maryann does), but it will do until we get home and I can get a proper cut.
Feeling better about my hair, we headed to the National Art Gallery that had opened only days earlier and was offering free admission until December 7th. We spent several hours in the monstrosity of a building, overwhelmed with 5 floors of galleries to make our way through. The building was the old Supreme Court in the days of British Rule, and I found I was most impressed with it rather than the galleries as I am not much of an art connoisseur.
After the gallery we headed to ‘Arab Street’ to check out a famous restaurant called ZamZams. We indulged in their famous meat pies, sharing a beef and lamb. They were fantastic, we could see how they are so famous!
At this point in our whirlwind day it began to rain and we chatted about different options to spend our time until the evening light shows around the bay area. We decided to head to a cinema to take in a movie as we were rather tired and could use the rest. Luckily malls are a dime a dozen in Singapore so we easily found one close to the bay area with a theatre. The latest Hunger Games movie was really the only option for our time frame, and we both enjoyed the movie (it was rather drawn out by the end, but I expected this).
Movie over, we dashed to make our way to the Gardens by the Bay for the nightly lightshow on the ‘supertree grove.’ You should read a bit about the supertrees if you are interested, they are much too complex to go into detail on this blog but are very interesting! We caught the tail end of the show, and it was magnificent. The Christmas Market was set up below the supertrees, so after the show we got in the Christmas spirit by wandering through the stalls. They even were making fake snow, and had a skating arena set up! It was incredible to see.
We then hurried to the bay to catch the evening lightshow on the water. On our walk we had some incredible views of the skyline lit up, including the crazy spaceship like building.
The lightshow by the bay was a bit of a let down, and we were absolutely exhausted so we snuck off before the show was over. We made it back to our hostel and collapsed into bed.
Although it was a very quick stopover we enjoyed Singapore much more than we were anticipating. The amount of green space in the city was incredible, and the food was worth the stop itself. It was also much cheaper than we budgeted for, and we left with over $70 dollars in our pocket! I highly recommend taking advantage of a stopover if you can!