Notes from the Road: Singapore

If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook, you know we were big fans of our first stop in Southeast Asia. Despite the fact that we only spent three days in Singapore, we were super impressed with the city. From the extremely clean streets and subway stations to the amazing airport (more on that later) and colorful flowers all over the city, we were completely taken by Singapore. 

Before our trip, we read that Singapore is the most expensive city in the world. While that may be true in terms of the cost of living, we found expenses to be pretty reasonable during our short stay. We stayed at Hotel 81 Dickson in Little India. The hotel itself wasn’t anything special, but the location and proximity to public transportation made it easy for us to access the rest of the city. 

Singapore skyline at sunset
View of the Singapore skyline from the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Day 1: Thousands of flowers

It says a lot that we loved Singapore as much as we did because our first day did not go smoothly. We got up early and went to the FunVee City Tour office to buy tickets for the hop-on hop-off bus tour. This tour was cheaper than the more well-known City Sightseeing tour (the big red buses in many big cities around the world) and we quickly figured out why.

For starters, the bus went through Little India, but we had to purchase our tickets at the office rather than onboard the bus. After we bought them, we learned the buses weren’t stopping at the office due to road closures; apparently it was a national holiday. So, we had to make our way around roadblocks and past military tanks that were lined up for a parade to another stop on the route. Unfortunately, the woman at the office and the map she gave us weren’t super clear about where the stop was and it wasn’t marked, so we ran around (in the heat) for 20 minutes until we finally found it. The lack of clarity about where the buses stopped, absence of signs, and a typo or two on the brochure continued to cause problems throughout the day, especially when we wanted to “hop back on” the bus. 

Military tanks lined up for a parade in Singapore
Military tanks lined up for a national holiday parade blocked our path.

If you’re familiar with City Sightseeing Tours, you know they offer headphones and audio guides so you know what you’re looking at as you drive around the city. Our bus did not. Occasionally, there was some information over the loudspeaker, but it wasn’t consistent and the driver often spoke over it, making it impossible to understand either. The driver also paused at most stops for only a few seconds. So, when we wanted to hop off the bus, we had to figure out where we were, pop up, and fly down the stairs from the upper deck as soon as he stopped so we could get off. Needless to say, we weren’t huge fans of FunVee City Tour. Pro tip: Spring for the more expensive bus tour; it’s worth it.

Building covered with greenery in Singapore
Singapore is so green!

Ok, rant over. While on the bus, we did see a lot of cool stuff. Many of the city’s skyscrapers had luscious gardens hanging off their balconies. We couldn’t get over how green Singapore is! To get a closer look, we got off the bus at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. There, we walked around the National Orchid Garden, which had more than 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids of different orchids and other flowers on display. It was pretty amazing, but that was just the beginning of our day of flowers. Before we continued on to Gardens by the Bay, we grabbed lunch in Chinatown and visited the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.

  • Orchids at the National Orchid Garden
  • Waterfall at the Botanic Garden
  • Archway at the National Orchid Garden
  • Chinatown in Singapore
  • Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
  • Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

Before we visited Singapore, two things got me really excited about it: “Crazy Rich Asians” and Instagram pictures of Gardens by the Bay. We’ve developed a lot of thoughts about how Instagram and social media have influenced and changed the way people travel (that’s another post for another day), but one of the major downsides is that styled and edited pictures can exaggerate a place so much that it can end up being a bit of a letdown in real life. Things don’t look quite as magical when you’re battling hundreds of people who all want to get that perfect shot. That said, Gardens by the Bay really met my expectations. It was incredible! 

First, we took an audio tour on a shuttle for $5.80. This was a great way to get our bearings, figure out what we wanted to get a closer look at, and learn a little about the park. We decided to buy a ticket package that included the Flower Dome, Cloud Forest, Floral Fantasy, and a shuttle that went between the attractions. The total package cost $33.35. We were able to go into the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest whenever we wanted, but we had a designated time when we were allowed in Floral Fantasy. We had limited options because we got there late in the day, so we had to rush through the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest a bit to get to Floral Fantasy on time. Our advice: Give yourself plenty of time to explore the entire park. The earlier you buy your tickets for the exhibits, the more time you’ll have to mosey your way through. 

Flower Dome

  • Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay
  • Peacock topiary in the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay

The Flower Dome is the largest glass greenhouse in the world and it is absolutely filled with flowers and plants. Everything has been meticulously cared for to create beautiful, colorful works of art. It’s like a scavenger hunt trying to spot all the little details. There were so many people there that we got a little overwhelmed, so we cut out a little earlier than we would have otherwise, but it was definitely worth fighting the crowds to see it.

Cloud Forest

  • Waterfall in Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay
  • Walkway in Cloud Forest

According to our audio tour, Cloud Forest houses the tallest indoor waterfall in the world. We later learned that Jewel in Changi Airport stole that honor by 5 meters in 2018, but the waterfall at Gardens by the Bay is still amazing. We made our way around the dome and got in line to take the elevator up to the top. The elevator can only hold so many people so we had to wait in line, but the benefit was that the crowd was staggered a bit. We got to the top just as the misting started (aka the “clouds” rolled in). We also had a really nice view of the city from the top. As we made our way back down, we got up close to the waterfall from different angles and admired the hundreds of flowers and plants throughout. 

Floral Fantasy

  • Floral Fantasy flowers
  • Flowers and fountains in Floral Fantasy
  • Water art in Floral Fantasy

Because you have to go in Floral Fantasy during an allotted time, we practically had the place to ourselves (comparatively, at least). Before our trip, my mom sent me a picture of Floral Fantasy that she saw on Facebook, so I was excited that we found it and that it was just as magical as it looked on social media. Flowers hung from the ceiling, topiaries danced to the music, and bursts of water created patterns in mid-air. It was like walking through Wonderland. The exhibit ended with a 4D experience in which we followed a dragonfly around Gardens by the Bay. It was cute but we could have done without it. 

Garden Rhapsody Light Show

Supertrees lit up during Garden Rhapsody
We had a great view of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel behind the Supertrees.

Before we left Gardens by the Bay, we went to Supertree Grove to watch the Garden Rhapsody light show, which takes place each night at 7:45 and 8:45 p.m and lasts 15 minutes. We sat in a grassy area in front of Supertree Food Hall and watched the Supertrees light up in time to music, making it look like they were dancing. It was well worth sticking around for.

After the show, we walked around Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the adjacent mall, which has a Venetian-style canal down the middle and a few really cool fountains. Outside, we got a great view of the city all lit up across the bay.

Day 2: View from above

Due to jet lag and our jam-packed first day, we slept in a bit on day two. Once we did get going, we went back to Chinatown to visit the famous Liao Fan Hawker Chan stall for chicken rice, the cheapest Michelin-star meal in the world (about $1.45). Unfortunately, it was closed. Dejected, we walked away to find something else to eat. But then! Miraculously! We stumbled upon the Liao Fan Hawker Chan restaurant they opened when the stall got so popular. Chicken rice for everyone! After that emotional roller coaster, we were a little disappointed that we weren’t blown away by the dish. It was good, but I think this was a case of high hopes being a little too high. Still, I was glad we got to try it during our short visit.

We then went to Merlion Park, said hi to the Merlion fountain, and walked around the bay to Marina Bay Sands Hotel. We opted to go up to Ce La Vi SkyBar rather than the observation deck, which ended up being a great choice. The tickets included drink vouchers, which we exchanged for Singapore Slings, and we got to see the famous infinity pool (it’s only open for hotel guests, unfortunately), take in the view, and grab a seat just as the sun was setting and the city lights were switching on. We stayed put to watch the water show that takes place in front of Marina Bay Sands each night. It would have been better to see the show from the ground so we could hear the corresponding music, but it was still cool to see from 55 stories up.

  • Singapore Slings
  • Infinity pool at the top of Marina Bay Sands Hotel
  • Marina Bay Sands light show from the top of the hotel

Day 3: A day at the airport

Having seen so many cool videos and photos of Changi Airport, we knew we had to spend more than just a couple hours there before our flight. So, we spent a whole day exploring “the World’s Best Airport.” There’s so much to do on the public side in Jewel, which is seven stories! 

Rain Vortex in Jewel Changi Airport
Rain Vortex in Jewel Changi Airport

We had a reservation at Yotel Air, the on-site pod hotel with a space/futuristic theme, but we couldn’t check in when we first arrived, so we went to a movie! Right there in the airport, we saw “The Lion King” in a theater that had a play space with toys and bean bag chairs in the front for kids to play while watching the movie. We were warned about this possible distraction ahead of time, but there weren’t any kids there when we went.

After the movie, we checked in to the hotel and dropped our bags. We were surprised by how compact our room was, but it was super comfortable, clean, and perfect for one night. Pro tip: While you can certainly explore Jewel upon arrival or before you leave Singapore, we wouldn’t have enjoyed our day as much if we had to cart our luggage around. We highly recommend staying at Yotel Air (you can book for just a few hours if you just want to store your luggage, shower, and/or nap) or using luggage storage so you’re free to explore.

We wanted to see everything Jewel had to offer, so we started at the top in Canopy Park, where the attractions surrounding the indoor waterfall (aka the Rain Vortex) are housed. There were a ton of ticket packages that incorporated different activities. We chose to go through the Topiary Walk, Discovery Slides (the best view is from the top of the slides!), Petal Garden, and Foggy Bowls, which were little craters in the ground that filled with fog every few minutes. Like everything else in Singapore, everything was perfectly curated and beautiful. We spent about 45 minutes exploring this area, but there were more activities we opted out of, such as the Sky Nets and Canopy Bridge, so you could easily spend an hour or more in this area alone.

  • Top of Discovery Slides

Afterward, we made our way down the floors of Jewel. There are tons of fun stores to explore, lots of food options (we got Shake Shack!), and awesome views of the waterfall. And believe me, you’ll want to stop each time it comes into view. It’s that incredible. Before calling it a night, we watched the Rain Vortex light show from a balcony right outside the hotel. The show, which is set to music, takes place every night at 7:30, 8:30, 9:30, 10:30, and 12:30.

Day 4: Beyond security 

Flower display in Changi Airport
Even the airport had gorgeous flower displays.

The next day, our flight left Singapore around noon. We got up, had breakfast at the hotel, and checked into our flight early so we could check things out on the transit side of the airport. We had plenty of time to check out terminals 1, 2, and 3 thanks to shuttles that connect them. Aside from more beautiful flower displays, we found an outdoor sunflower garden; a koi pond; a butterfly garden; two 24-hour movie theaters; multiple free lounges with comfy chairs, charging stations, and big TVs; a video game room; and another hotel with a gym. It would be impossible to get bored there! If we had to be stranded in any airport in the world, we would choose Changi Airport. 

Exploring the airport on our way out was just icing on the cake to an incredible three days in Singapore. We definitely plan to go back!

2 thoughts on “Notes from the Road: Singapore

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *