Gardens by the bay

An island state in the heart of Southeast Asia, Singapore is unlike anywhere else in the world. Before I visited last year, I imagined a clean and orderly city with Western-style modernity, high-tech industries and air-conditioned malls. But, what I hadn’t realised, is that Singapore offers so much more besides.

How to experience Singapore?

Alongside its glamorous hotels, efficient public transport and futuristic buildings, this city-state has historic neighbourhoods, green spaces and rich culture. Far from the sterile stereotype it‘s often given, it’s a place of diversity, intrigue and excitement; and there are several ways to enjoy it:

  • A Singapore stopover

A global transport hub, Singapore is a common place for flight connections and re-fuelling. UK flights tend to stop in Singapore during the journey to Australia, and you may find yourself stopping here to change planes en-route to other Asian destinations. This creates a perfect opportunity to break up your journey with an overnight stay. I took advantage of this last year, when I landed in Singapore on my way to Laos with Singapore Airlines.

The city’s efficient transport systems and accessible attractions mean you can pack a lot into a short stay. And, with English widely spoken, it’s easy to hit the ground running.

WITH A 24-48 HOUR STOPOVER, YOU COULD:

    • Gaze up at the world’s tallest indoor waterfall at Gardens by the Bay, and walk beneath the Supertrees – these iconic installations are synonymous with modern Singapore.
    • Visit the shophouses and street markets in Chinatown – a vibrant ethnic quarter and the city’s biggest Historic District.
    • Have lunch in a hawker centre – these bustling food courts have hundreds of stalls, selling every type of Asian food imaginable.
    • Hit the shops on Orchard Road – a 2.2km strip of malls, designer stores, galleries, entertainment and more.
    • Sip a Singapore sling at Raffles Hotel, or indulge in afternoon tea at this historic colonial landmark.
    • Work your way around the swanky bars and clubs in Clarke Quay – a favourite nightspot for locals and expats.
    • Stay somewhere central – with the city centre on your doorstep, you’ll find it easier to take it all in.
  • A hub for exploring Southeast Asia

Singapore’s central position makes it an ideal base for exploring more of Asia. Instead of a quick stopover, you could spend more time enjoying Singapore before catching a short flight to a nearby country like Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia or Cambodia. You could then return to Singapore for a final night or two before catching a direct flight home. With low prices and a huge range of daily flights, there are lots of options to choose from.

FOUR DESTINATIONS YOU COULD EASILY COMBINE WITH SINGAPORE:

    • Bali

Fly from Singapore to Denpasar (2 hrs 40) and spend part of your holiday on one of Indonesia’s most serene and spiritual islands. The artistic town of Ubud is one of my favourite places, and Balinese beaches are up there with the best.

    • Malaysia

With beaches, scuba diving and great shopping, Langkawi island is less than 2 hours’ flight from Singapore. If you’re not a fan of flying, you could take train to Malaysia instead – Kuala Lumpur is around 10 hrs by rail from Singapore.

    • Cambodia

From Singapore, it takes just over 2 hours to fly to Siem Reap and the UNESCO ruins of Angkor Wat, or slightly less to reach Cambodia’s exotic capital of Phnom Penh.

    • Thailand

Combining Thailand with Singapore gives you lots of options. For a contrasting Asian city, you could fly to the bright lights of Bangkok (2 hrs 20) or the chilled out vibes of Chiang Mai (3 hrs). If you’d rather hit the beach, fly direct to Phuket (1 hr 50), Koh Samui (1 hr 40) or Krabi (1 hr 45).

  • A destination in itself

Few people are aware that Singapore is a fantastic destination in its own right. For longer stays, you could combine the city sights with daytrips to wildlife reserves and the surrounding islands, making sure to factor in plenty of time on the beach or by the hotel pool. I’d be inclined to stay just outside the city centre in the lush suburbs or at a beach resort. Sentosa Island is particularly popular, and is easy to reach from the centre by cable car, sky-train, taxi or on foot.

10 ACTIVITIES FOR SINGAPORE HOLIDAYS:

    • Sun yourself on a sandy beach like Palawan, Tanjong, Siloso on Sentosa Island, or Changi Park, East Coast Park or Pasir Ris Park on the East Coast.
    • Charter a boat or take a public ferry to an offshore island. St John’s Island, Lazarus Island and the temples and tortoises of Kusu Island are particularly popular.
    • Have fun at Universal Studios Singapore, the Resort World Sentosa, and the Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom on Sentosa Island.
    • Play golf on a world-class course. Some of the best include the Garden course at Tanah Merah Country Club, Serapong course at Sentosa Golf Club.
    • Work your way through museums and galleries like The National Gallery, the ArtScience Museum, the Asian Civilisations Museum and the Peranakan Museum.
    • Once you’ve experienced Chinatown, take a rickshaw ride around the markets, temples and painted buildings of Little India.
    • Stroll around the UNESCO-listed Botanic Gardens and visit the National Orchid Garden, then relax on the grass with a picnic.
    • See monitor lizards, snakes and otters at the Sungei Buloh wildlife reserve; meet rescued turtles at ACRES Wildlife Rescue Centre.
    • Experience Singapore Night Safari (the world’s first safari park for nocturnal animals) or take a River Safari to the Giant Panda Forest in Asia’s only river-themed wildlife park.
    • Hike the 9km Southern Ridges walking trail and pass through four of Singapore’s parks: Mount Faber, Telok Blangah, Kent Ridge and West Coast Park.

A fresh look at Singapore

I’d never considered Singapore as a holiday destination before but, since visiting, my opinion has changed. In a single day, the diversity of neighbourhoods, culture and attractions you can experience is astounding, and I was completely unaware of its beach resorts, nature reserves and outlying islands. My Singapore stopover has certainly given me a taste for a longer trip.

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