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One week in Singapore

singapore skyline from one altitude rooftop bar

Singapore is typically not your first choice when exploring Asia. You'll here people saying "I always wanted to see Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Bangkok..." but few crave to see the little island which is in fact, the main business hub in South East Asia. Yes, Singapore may appear to be somewhat small and extremely strict - did you know that chewing gum is prohibited? that drug traffic is punished with canning or even death? - but is also a very modern, cool and safe city to explore, when you are short on time and would like to blend city with paradise, like us.

Singapore is also home of Tigerair, a low cost flight company that features interesting destinations such as Boracay, the kitesurfing mecca we visited this year (to be covered in another feature) on a budget. This means that it can be quite cost effective to fly long haul from Europe, spend some days in Singapore and then take the next leg of the trip onto the Pacific. At least, this is what we did.

Singapore is a blend of modern and new, where you can go from skyscrapers to Chinese, Indian, Muslim temples, from hawkers to Michelin rated cuisine, all in one tiny island, with virtually no crime and pleasant weather year round. Sounds like a plan? Keep on reading to get a feeling of the things that you can cover in about a week.

[DAY 1] Chinatown and the Central Business District [CBD]

We stayed at M Hotel. With a very central location, it provided the perfect base to walk anywhere from there. The first day, we visited the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple - a must, if you are a sucker for barroque Buddhist temples - and then walked through the Chinatown Hawkers - even if our tummy was way too full with breakfast. From there, we followed the walking tour proposed by Lonely Planet, featuring Raffles Hotel - Singapore's most famous hotel. in business since 1887. With a lovely garden, provides the perfect set up to try a Singapore sling with some peanuts and wonder how the city felt during the Colonial Era. Then we pass through the City Hall, the Cathedral and onto the Esplanade area, with impressive modern architecture. This S$600 million arts complex has aluminium shades that maximize natural light. It started pouring, but we did not surrender and kept on walkin to Marina Bay Sands complex, the Helix Bridge and the Merlion, half lion, half mermaid, puking water 24x7 symbol of the city. We ended the day with some sushi at One Raffles Place.

Singapore Chinatown and the Central Business District

[DAY 2] Little India, Haiji Lane and Singapore Zoo

Singapore is, like Malaysia, a hub where different cultures live together in peace. Our second day provided us with the opportunity to visit a colorful indian temple, a mosque and shop with hipsters in between. When we entered Sri Veeramakaliamman, we didn't know what to expect. It was the first time, for both of us, to visit one and we were lucky enough to land there during puja (prayer time) when the weirdest things happen - yes the chalk from Beyonce's video is for real. We also saw Sri Srinivasa, but it was not as impressive. Then we walked through Mustafa Centre - quite a mall for the muslims and hindi in the area - and onto Sultan Mosque, an impressive golden mosque built in 1825 with the support of Raffles' in gratitude for a treaty that allowed the East India Company to use Singapore as harbour with the Sultan maintaining sovereignity over the area. Facing the mosque, there is a little perfume store called Jamal Kazura Aromatics which you should definitely consider if you are a sucker for oil based perfume and shiny bottles.

From here, we walked through Haiji Lane which is the coolest street in Singapore. It reminds me a lot of Harajuku Cat Street. With cute little stores, local designers and cool restaurants, bars. Perfect place to shop a souvenir to wear and to break all the prejudices about Singapore shopping being all about malls and highstreet. From here, we took a train and then a bus to Singapore Zoo. I had read great reviews and purchased the tickets online, but still, I felt it was quite disappointing (during River Safari we did not see anything, during Night Safari we had to wait for 2 hours in line - despite having bought tickets in advance) so unless you have children, I would rather spend those bucks in drinks at 1-Altitude.

Singapore  Little India, Haiji Lane and Singapore Zoo

[DAY 3] Sentosa Island to Marina Bay Sands rooftop

While everyone goes by train, we decided to walk from the hotel to Sentosa Island. After going under several highways - reminds of Odaiba - we entered VivoCity a consumption stravaganza designed for children. Candy, toys, cute princess dresses, sugary restaurants, hoverboards. It's all about kids - or people like us who didn't really manage to grow up. Then we walked through the bridge and entered the island where Beach meets Universal Studios meets Aquarium meets a million Asian tourists. It's cheese but at the same time, entertaining.

From there, we went back to Marina Bay Sands. It was our first sunny day and we wanted to see the views under a blue sky. TOP TIP is to skip the skydeck and go directly to the rooftop bar of Marina bay Sands - there is NO dresscode during daytime. One drink is about the same as the ticket for the skydeck and the view is so much better - skydeck is limited to one side, but from the bar you can get more different angles. From there, we met some good old friends for early dinner at Little India (I LOVE INDIAN FOOD) and ended the day.

Singapore Sentosa Island

[DAY 4] Clarke Quay, Fort Canning Reservoir, Orchard Road and the Fireworks

It was New Year's Eve and it was pouring, so we did our best to explore Clarke Quay, a cute area around the river where restaurants and bars occupy colorful colonial buildings. Fort Canning, which is the humongous green lung of the city and Orchard Road, the lane where over 20 shopping malls line, one after another. The queues at the entrance of luxury stores like Vuitton or Chanel was on the Hong Kong scale - despite having one of them in almost every mall O_o. From Orchard Road, you can turn into Emerald Hill, a heritage street with some of the finest terrace houses in Singapore. We got changed and head back to Clarke Quay for Thai dinner - a family tradition - right before walking with the masses to see the fireworks from the bay area.

Singapore Clarke Quay, Fort Canning Reservoir, Orchard Road and the Fireworks

[DAY 5] Gardens By The Bay and 1-Altitude

On the way back to Europe, we stopped in Singapore during one day to change flights, which provided a chance to visit the Gardens By The Bay under a shining sun and to capture the bay from a higher perspective, from 1-Altitude, the rooftop bar at the top of One Raffles. While 1-Altitude has a restaurant, TOP TIP is to save your money and go directly to the bar area, to enjoy some finger food (they have skewers, pizza, vegetable sticks and the likes) together with some cool drinks and a memorable view. A lot more bang for the same bucks.

Singapore Gardens By The Bay and 1-Altitude

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