For years Singapore has been seen as a great “link” to Asia and beyond, either via a short stopover or just for using the many facilities of wonderful Changi Airport as you filter through to your end destination. But stop the press! The Lion City is not only a convenient location (as Presidents Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un will attest) but also an exciting destination in itself.
In April this year we embarked on another “Robinson Family Venture” and sailed from Sydney to Singapore on a 14-night cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas. It was a fantastic cruise with great weather and some fantastic stops along the way including Cairns and Darwin, both of which are amazing gateways to fascinating hinterlands and worthy of further trips another time.
Our initial plan was to stay just one night in Singapore because time was against us and well, what was there to do there in a place that covers only 130sq kilometres? The answer, it turned out, is heaps! Singapore is an incredible city, very clean and secure, and a place that embraces tourism with flair and style. Yes, it’s bustling but nowhere near as compressed as you would think.
Singapore’s globally admired MRT (subway) system is easy to access and remarkably cheap and it will take you pretty much anywhere including Changi Airport. Along with plentiful buses and inexpensive cabs it made it very easy to get around the city. And while our issue of having too many offspring saw us using two cabs at times (there are not too many minivans) it was still a cost-effective way to see the sights.
Singapore is an incredible city, very clean and secure, and a place that embraces tourism with flair and style.
Singapore has an interesting history. Once known as Singapura (the “Lion City”) amongst several other names such as Temasek (“Sea Town”), this island at the foot of the Malay Peninsula came under British rule from 1819 to 1963. After separating from the new Federation of Malaysia over “ideological differences” in 1965, Singapore became a sovereign nation. This remarkable place is now a global commerce, finance and transport hub, recognised for being the most "technologyready" nation and the second-busiest container port in the world. It also has a major claim for being the world's safest country, which we can certainly attest to.
On arrival in Singapore we were blown away by the sight of hundreds (yes, literally) of large container ships waiting to berth in the harbour, all of them on tight time frames for collecting or unloading their shipments. The other thing that captured us instantly was the Marina Sands hotel complex – wow! Now probably one of the most photographed buildings in the world, this striking building includes a 2,561-room hotel, a shopping centre, a museum, two large theatres, "celebrity chef" restaurants, two floating Crystal Pavilions, art and science exhibitions, and the world's largest atrium casino with 500 tables and 1,600 slot machines.
It’s all topped off literally with a 340-metre-long SkyPark with a capacity of 3,900 people and a 150m infinity swimming pool set on top of the world's largest public cantilevered platform that overhangs the north tower of the complex by 67m. It’s quite a sight to see. Don’t expect to rock up to the top for a swim as you’ll need to be a guest of the hotel to do that. Our budget didn’t extend quite that far but given the views and experience it may be worth a booking someday.
While the Marina Sands complex is impressive, Singapore’s futuristic vision also extends throughout its CBD with a multitude of weird and wonderful-looking yet functional buildings that embrace technological advancement. This city is geared for the future and it’s not hard to be impressed by the way it presents itself. At the same time, the past has not been forgotten and a gentleman named Sir Stamford Raffles is remembered across the city in various monuments and buildings that recognise his founding of the modern city of Singapore in 1819. In particular, the famous Raffles Hotel that bears his name is a beautiful colonial building and it’s also the birthplace of the famous Singapore Sling cocktail created over 100 years ago by a local barman. Very tasty!
Gardens by the Bay features gigantic manmade super-trees plus dazzling flower displays and a sound-and-light experience. It’s simply breathtaking.
Singapore’s knack for being exciting on so many simultaneous levels – it’s working hard on becoming a world-leading eco-city as well as a techno capital – is evident in the Gardens by the Bay area close to Marina Sands as well as at its renowned Botanic Gardens in the suburb of Bukit Timah. The latter is a stunning collection of exotic plants that even non-gardeners can appreciate; the former features gigantic man-made super-trees plus dazzling flower displays and a sound-and-light experience as you stroll along the SkyPath. It’s simply breathtaking.
You can’t talk about Singapore without mentioning its amazing shopping and we purchased several electronic goodies in several precincts with subway access. For those who seek a more earthy shopping experience than multi-level malls the vibrant network of shops in China Town is also sure to please. We met some people from Darwin who fly in annually just for the shopping.
I’m running out of time and words but of course Singapore has so much more to offer like the night tour at the Zoo, and I haven’t even got started on Sentosa Island which has everything from stunning beaches, water parks and dolphin encounters to virtual skydiving. There is so much to see and do that you need at least five to seven days here and you still won’t see everything. Singapore really does have it all and you will surely want to come back.