I’ve read a few stories about travelers making big day trips of foreign destinations, mostly because it was convenient. Some that come to mind include two bloggers stopping in Bahrain and Dubai, a fella from Manchester who flew via a Spanish island to London because it was cheaper than the train (he also hired a car which still kept him under budget) and a friend of mine who took her kids to London from Paris for the day. These stories have held my fascination and it was up until recently that I seized the opportunity to do it myself.
Singapore ticked a few boxes for me, the biggest one being that it’s close enough to Australia to justify a quick taster. When I was looking for flights in and out of Indonesia I came across one that would include a layover of twenty hours in Singapore – that of course got my interest buzzing. Following a reply from Changi Airport saying that I would be allowed to leave said airport for the day, I booked the ticket and the rest is all in this post.
I just gotta say, Singapore is something else. The architecture is nothing but photogenic, the culture is a mix of traditional and contemporary and the people I met were lovely and welcoming (except maybe the fast food seller who insisted I eat her friend chicken – that isn’t a euphemism). Having only twenty hours to do some damage, I didn’t waste any time.
Flying into Changi Airport at about 2:00 in the morning from Denpasar (we were delayed for a little thanks to engine two not responding) I was quick to sort myself out, which included charging my phone, storing my luggage (they will not take laptops apparently) and finding something for breakfast, all while fighting the urge to fall asleep (it’s very hard for me to sleep on planes).
Some facts about Changi first. It is a large and fully equipped airport where camping out by airline check in might just be the most universal thing I’ve witnessed… and taken part in… as a traveler…
…where the KFC is kinda spicy and the potatoes are whipped…
…and where Hello Kitty stands tall, proud and supreme like the statue of a long dead dictator.
I could’ve spent the whole day here doing everything they have on offer, and they have A LOT, but I was focused on my plan to tick off another international destination. Remember, the rule is that it only counts if you leave the airport. After finding a taxi (the train service wasn’t operating at this point in time so it did end up costing a bit), I was on my way to my first stop – The Gardens by the Bay.
Before 2018 I was seeing images of these gardens everywhere, and I wanted to see the real thing for myself. Safe to say I wasn’t disappointed, even if I didn’t see the super trees light up during the early evening.
Arriving there so early, I had the place to myself which was pretty good and I immediately made it my mission to get lost. By doing this, I found a lot more than what I’d expected.
The Gardens themselves have the super trees and plenty of flora on display, as well as water features and the odd dragonfly and resting baby statues to keep one intrigued. It is very artistic around here and walking consistently will result in sore legs and several blisters on the toes (it took visiting a Hindu temple to discover this), which was made even more concerning by the several times I almost fell asleep when I sat down.
Now, all of this was happening before the sun appeared, and I had plenty of time to see what was about before the Garden’s ‘paid for’ attractions opened up, so I walked a little further. If you hadn’t already noticed the featured image, the Marina Bay Sands (a eco friendly venue I have learnt) is something very impressive… which is made all the more special when a super blood moon is shining down upon it.
Other perks of walking around the Gardens include having great views of the Singapore Flyer (the cities own version of the London Eye and the Southern Star), the city’s skyline and the flower-like ArtScience Museum which can all be easily photographed from the Helix Bridge which has been designed to resemble a DNA structure (see following images for awe inspiring effect).
Back to the Gardens, where the sun finally reared it’s shining face, the green really started to show… as well as the people. This is when I took part in two paid activities – on account of time constraints, I passed up doing the Flower Dome.
The Cloud Forest is the home to the world’s largest indoor waterfall and it has the type of design that convinces one they’re in a Canadian made sci fi show (right now I’m all about The Expanse but Altered Carbon has potential).
I had a lot of fun walking through all of the levels (the lift was a huge relief) and taking in all of the plant life, some of which is made from Lego. Spec fiction is already being conceived kiddies!
Following my wanderings through the Cloud Forest I took on the OCBC Skywalk, where I got to walk up in the air with the super trees for company.
The views are brilliant, which I can only assume are even better when the super trees have been lit up for the evening. I didn’t spend forever up here because I had other parts of the city I wanted to get to, but ten or fifteen minutes should be enough to take everything in.
With that all done and dusted, I was ready to get into the city… which is easily achieved if you walk through the Marina Bay Sands.
It looks just as nice on the inside as it does out.
Getting around the city on foot proved quite easy for me, even if I was working flyer’s fatigue. People were happy to give directions, the traffic was nothing like Indonesia and Thailand and there is plenty to see, but should you get fed up with legging it, the city has train stations just about everywhere (they’re opening up new ones just about every two months I learnt).
My first stop was Chinatown, because I’ve always wanted to try Singaporean Sweet Chili Crab and I thought, why not where it’s named for? I already had a place in mind and finding it shouldn’t have been a drag.
That’s what Chinatown looks like if you’re breezing through, dingos and all which should make up for my not taking a pic of Michelle Yeoh endorsing the baby seat (she was on a billboard), but oh how wrong I was about the sweet crabs kiddies! Couldn’t find it at all – I could’ve had the pig’s intestines but I wanted the real deal, which of course left one devastated (I can hear vegans giggling at me now).
Moving on from my crab tragedy (cragedy?), I made my way to Little India which some Swedish girls I hostelled with in Ubud were very encouraging about.
Now I’ve often said that I’m mythologically inclined and Singapore’s Serangoon Road (I’ve always liked the sound of that name) provided me with a very good find.
Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is devoted to the destroyer goddess Kali, one of my all time favourite deities, and you can walked through the temple provided you slip your footwear off (remember, thongs – I don’t care if it means something else outside of Straya – or sandals might just ensure fewer blisters) and keep your shoulders covered (I’m not sure if they provide coverings).
Walking amongst the devotees was something spiritual, and seeing the goddess in her varying forms might just be the definition of versatility – she appeared both benevolent and malicious which I already had an understanding about, along with Kali being known as a demon and as the first vampire.
Always remember to step carefully because practitioners were seated all over the place and I didn’t want to trip onto them during their prayers.
Following my stop at the temple I was rather content with finding something to eat (by this point I’d moved on from my cragedy), as well as a wooden figurine for my collection back home – let’s just say one led to the other in a way.
Finding Asian Arts and Crafts, by accident, I was able to get my hands on one of many wooden figurines. I was holding out for Kali but she didn’t come in my chosen medium, so I settled for a little depiction of Ganesh (I already have Thai elephants but I didn’t have a Singaporean deity) which led to a positive discussion with the shop owners about Hinduism.
Let me just say, a discussion such as this might just encourage said shop owners to recommend an Indian place nearby for lunch (which I’d already passed and collected a menu from) which turned out to be all right.
Khansama came with a nice atmosphere, friendly staff and the hottest butter chicken I’ve ever eaten, which left me considering if the generic Melbourne recipe I’m accustomed to was… generic.
For those wondering, two cans of Coke will help fight back the heat, and I did finish the naan and saffron rice.
Those are the highlights about my day trip to Singapore, and I hope they’ve benefitted you. As I’ve said, I am looking to go back for a stint with a lot more time attached, and believe me I will see the Gardens when the super trees are lighting up… and maybe I’ll avert another cragedy.
If you ever get the opportunity to spend even one day in another country, be sure to make the most of it.