Singapore has always had a place in my heart, luring me back time and time again. So when my dad gave my boyfriend, Tom, and me the opportunity to escape the traditional Yuletide mayhem for Christmas in the tropics, we couldn’t resist…
Following a less-than-comfortable 14-hour flight, we were relieved to finally descend towards Changi airport, watching the vibrant city light up before us as the sun sank beneath the horizon. It was safe to say a night on the town was not on the cards, so we hopped into a taxi and headed straight to my dad’s apartment for some well-needed pizza and wine.
Having visited Singapore several times before, we didn’t feel obliged to throw ourselves into the sight-seeing chaos. Instead, we opted for a more leisurely stroll along the Southern Ridges, to escape the hustle and bustle of Orchard Road. And after just a few steps off the beaten track, we were transported from an urban jungle to a tropical jungle, basking in the lofty skyline vistas and the spectacular Henderson Waves.
On the theme of architectural brilliance, the next day was spent by the waterfront resort, Marina Bay. From the lotus-shaped curves of the ArtScience Museum, to the coiled tendrils of the Helix Bridge, everything about the harbourside trumpets the drastic metamorphosis the city-state has undergone to re-sculpt its aesthetic. Unfortunately the sheer volume of crowds meant the wait to enter was over an hour, so we wandered down to Gardens by the Bay instead for a cool reprieve from the stifling heat.
One of my favourite places in the world, Gardens by the Bay is one of those rare spots where you simply stand, slack-jawed, and pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming. With breathtaking views from the futuristic Super Tree Grove, and the stunning parabolic conservatories housing thousands of plant varieties from all over the globe, this techno-garden offers a peaceful respite from the turbulent pace of the city.
While most visitors to Singapore see the island as a grown-up Disneyland, I see it as a place where a kaleidoscope of cultures are celebrated. In today’s world, it’s a truly unique experience. For this reason, I was keen to visit Chinatown and Little India so Tom could learn about the country’s multi-religious heritage through their places of worship. After time at each temple, admiring the craftsmanship of the iconic buildings that have become pieces of art in their own right, it was time for a nice cold refreshment.
The rest of our trip was spent enjoying the warm weather and great outdoors before having to return to England’s harsh winter. Our favourite spots were the Botanic Gardens, a Unesco World Heritage Site with a labyrinth of pathways through lush gardens; Singapore Zoo, an attraction that still remains a highlight for me due to cherished childhood memories; and MacRitchie Reservoir Park, where we got to experience the Treetop Walk. Talk about ending the holiday on a high!
Emma’s top tips for Singapore:
Singaporeans take their food very seriously. If you’re looking for mouth-wateringly delicious cuisine but on a budget, eat at Hawker Centres. My favourite, Hawker Chan Hong Meng, also happens to be the home of the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred meal – Hong Kong soya sauce chicken rice. Yum!
Walking around Singapore in high humidity and large crowds can certainly be challenging, but the MRT and buses are a cheap and effective way of getting around. Pick up a Singapore Tourist EZ-link card at any Transitlink ticket office, for unlimited travel in an air-con environment.
While alcoholic drinks are expensive at the best of times in Singapore, a drink and a view can be even more – but worth it! Situated in the penthouse level of the Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower is LeVeL33, where you can enjoy the best view of the city with a refreshing locally brewed beer.
The city has recently become inundated with dockless bikes. Using the relevant company app, pick one up and cycle around Marina Bay. If you’re lucky, you may stumble across Singapore’s famous otter family.
As a young girl growing up in South East Asia, Emma was able to soak up as much information as she could about the many cultures that surrounded her. However, this thirst for worldly knowledge forever left her feeling unfulfilled with the infinite amount of the world had yet to discover. Now studying journalism and public relations at university in Bristol, Emma combines her passions for writing and travel at i-escape.