Singapore – so much more than a stopover

If I have said it once, I will say it a thousand times….Singapore is much more than a stopover destination!

I know accommodation can be expensive there and I am lucky as I have a dear friend with a guest room, so I can visit for a couple of weeks at a time.  I don’t get bored as there is so much to do; from discovering new places to eat, drink and shop no wonder it is one of my favourites to visit.

The last time I visited was a bucket list moment for me being a VIP at the Singapore Grand Prix. Even if you are not a car racing fan you will still get behind the excitement of this exhilarating event.  I even found out that the majority of people who buy passes for the three day event spend more time off the track – exploring Singapore or dancing the night away at the first class concerts they bring in – last year we had Kylie Minogue, KC and the Sunshine Band, and Imagine Dragons. 

Anyway if you can’t head to Singapore in September for the F1, then keep reading for more tips on what to do in this small colonial country…

Singapore is a melting pot of culture, one of the main ones being Peranakan, known as the “local descendants” - Alvin is the perfect host explaining the Peranakan’s influence in his own home, The Intan.  With so many cultures and influences making up Singapore there are plenty of museums that all have their own touch. The National Museum of Singapore, Asian Civilisations Museum, Peranakan Museum, Singapore Art Museum and the Art Science Museum are my favourites and can be all visited over 1 ½ days.

I love getting out in the fresh (although hot) air; a walk through the botanical gardens to the National Orchid Garden is a must. If you love your food then make a booking at Michelin Star restaurant Corner House. The other famous gardens are Gardens by the Bay; I recommend going there late afternoon timing it to watch the sunset and the city lights come alive from Indochine bar (located at the top of one of the supertrees).  Another great spot for a view of the city is from the Singapore Flyer – just take a short walk over the Helix Bridge, and if the day is clear you can see right to Malaysia.

The activity that most people think of Singapore for is shopping….and I am a pro!

Orchard Road is still the hub of shopping with malls lining both sides of the street.  The great thing is that you can pretty much get from one end to the other all in the comfort of air-conditioning thanks to the underground walkway connecting malls with the MRT.

My favourite mall is ION; the inside is like the infinity symbol – this is reason my first visit last four hours (three of them trying to get out)!  It has everything from high-end Gucci to “elcheapo” mobile phone covers.  Visit the Tourist Privileges desk with your passport to get your booklet of discounts.  Some key shops I “contribute to the economy” are Sephora (for all your make up needs) and Charles and Keith (for great value shoes).  My tip with Charles and Keith is; if you don’t find anything that suits you in one shop going into another (there are plenty around) as they have different styles in different locations, depending on the local shoppers.  If you visit around Christmas the decorations are to die for!

The other thing I love about this mall is the food. The food hall has a huge selection – I always rush to the dumplings.  TWG is the place to go for a traditional English Tea; with white linen and gold trimmed tea sets you have a little touch of elegance.  With over 100 teas there is something for even the passionate coffee drinkers.  Get in early for afternoon tea or you will have to queue.  Up on one of the top floors is Paradise Dynasty.  They have the coolest tea pot with the pourer being about a metre long (how do they get it into my cup each time)?  They are famous for their xiao long bao (soup dumplings).

Easting is a pastime for Singaporeans and they do it so well; I am not too sure about telling you my picks because I want them for myself…but…oh well…here goes…

  • Tim Ho Wan Michelin Restaurant at Plaza Singapura - amazing Michelin Star dumplings, but you have to get their early to avoid a queue.
  • We love going to Dempsey Hill area on the weekend.  It is the old army barracks housing a variety of home wear style stores as well as western style restaurants and some local ones.  It is popular with the ex-pats due to there being car parking. I enjoy Culina for a touch of France and Jumbo Seafood for some of the best chilli crab!
  • Hawker Food is clean, cheap and plentiful.  Maxwell Road in Chinatown and MakanSutra are the places we visit the most.
  • Sunday champagne brunch at one of the hotels is a must!  Just don’t plan on doing anything ajor later in the afternoon, as you will be too full to move.
  • Starting out life as a Catholic convent, Chijimes is a series of historical buildings in the city that house a variety of casual restaurants and bars.  A place where you can get every type of dining in the one area.

If drinking is more your focus then…

  • Haji Lane in Kampong Glam is a cool lane of funky bars and quirky shops.
  • 1-Altitude is the highest rooftop bar in the world, a place for great views over the city and dancing the night away.
  • The Library is a small speak easy bar at 47 Keong Saik Road, grab a taxi and then get the password from neighbouring shops to enter.
  • Emerald Hill – off Orchard (near 313@Somerset) is a lane of shop-houses that are now fitted out with bars.
  • Cocktails at Lantern is a highlight for me; the roof top bar of the Fullerton Bay Hotel is there perfect place you can watch the laser light show of Marina Bay Sands.
  • Finally feeling like you need a cold beer, then visit LeVeL33, located in the Financial District this is the highest “urban brewery” in the world.

My final tips are for getting around this small country / city….taxis are cheap and plentiful, until it starts to rain and then you have to resort to Uber.  The MRT is so easy to use, just download the app, grab a card and off you go. Finally head to Changi Airport early – this isn’t because it is busy but because there is so much to do there.

For a country the size of Lake Taupo, Singapore has so much to offer and is so much more than a stopover!