“Singapore is boring”. “Singapore is dull”. I tried to quash this dominating consensus by visiting the former British colony for my 21st Birthday in April 2015.
I couldn’t have asked for a better start than being upgraded to business class for the first time ever in my life. Yes, this purely economy kid was moving to the big league (for one time only). Scoot Airlines were the gracious airline that provided me with such glee.
Scoot Airlines is a budget carrier but does contain a small business class section. I am still bewildered as to why people pay for a luxurious flight that lasts less than 4hrs but I guess I’m just frugal.
As I was going to Singapore for my 21st birthday, I instantly felt that this trip to see my parents would be great. Sadly, no gourmet food or beverages were handed to me, but a panda sized reclining chair was all I needed to satiate my travel appetite.
Land of the Merlion
One of the first things I did in Singapore was visit the Singapore Flyer. Hmm, yes…cities really must stop this fascination with constructing a ferris wheel. I am particularly talking to Hong Kong here who have included the world’s smallest ferris wheel in a city where sky scrapers straddle the clouds – a ferris wheel is more than superfluous. I didn’t object to visiting the Singapore Flyer though and it was a good decision.
The weather was perfect and the cabins big and spacious. My father and I only had to share with one other group of three. The ferris wheel is large and allows for a bountiful view of Singapore. If you are not visiting the famous Marina Bay Sands hotel and its observation deck (as I had chosen not to) then the Singapore Flyer is a good option.
Beneath the Flyer is a small oasis of tropical greenery. Exit the capsule and walk along the Helix Bridge to connect yourself to the opposite side of the river where a spacious boardwalk awaits.
There is also a vast park where people rave about ‘world class greenhouses’ at Gardens by the Bay. I had no desire to stare at plants, unless zombies were trying to yank them out of the ground and I could fire sunflower seeds at the herds.
Later on, I visited Chinatown. It was beautiful but having lived in Hong Kong the idea of a “Chinatown” seems pointless. However, there are very cheap souvenir stools here and some scrumptious fresh fruit. The temples in the vicinity are standard but a worthy visit if you are already in the area.
A new day and time to explore Sentosa Island. An island that is probably the most thrilling aspect to Singapore, especially as Universal Studios Singapore is located here [more on USS in an upcoming blog post].
Sentosa Island is cheap enough to get to by taxi and is a pristine, lively place to visit. Many shops and restaurants are located here as well as trick-eye museums and beaches. It really has it all. Unfortunately, the prices inside this area are not as welcoming. As it acts as a major tourist hub, the prices reflect this.
One of the more unique things to do on Sentosa is luging. After riding a ski-lift you collect a helmet and fit yourself into a luge – a mini go kart with no engine. As you slowly descend the first corner you have to make a very hasty decision – to go left or right. Each route would be different but with no advanced warning of what either one would entail I veered right and hoped for the best.
Our track was very bendy so the inner speed demon had to be supressed as a fear of over turning my luge and ending up in A&E didn’t quite appeal to me. The track was still fast with some adrenaline enducing drops. Racing my dad all the way down was great fun, but I just wish I had a banana or red shell so that I could unleash some hell. With Princess Peach no where to be seen I continued the steep descent and managed, marginally, to beat my dad.
The luge is great fun but was a little short.
Also on Sentosa, is one of the five merlions. A merlion being a mythical creature that has the head of a lion but body of a fish and is symbol of Singapore. The merlion on Sentosa is the best merlion in all of Singapore as it is the only one in which you are allowed to go inside!
Paying a small fee I was allowed to walk through a short exhibit which featured a film on the story of the merlion. After that I was allowed to put my hand inside of a merlion statue and was rewarded with a golden coin.
Stepping into the elevator I was deposited at the top. I climbed some stairs and was now on top of the merlions head. This was a great vantage point of Sentosa and I could see the Universal Studio attractions in the distance. After admiring the view, I descended into the merlions mouth. A photographer was waiting for visitors so that he could snap a picture with the hopes of you being gullible enough to buy it. I declined and instead used my phone to take my own pictures and waved at my parents who were waiting below.
For visiting the merlion I was gifted a free set of pencils and a magnum ice-cream!
So far, Singapore was offering lots for me to do.
Getting out of Sentosa Island we began to walk the city centre. We passed the Raffles Statue (under construction so was obscured) and saw more merlions. Along the way we stumbled across the G-Max reverse bungee. Basically a row of three seats which would be catapulted into the air, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a go.
The policy of the company is that there must be at least two people riding at any one time. My parents have long since past there adrenaline fueled days but by chance two Koreans were at the kiosk at the same time, but only one of them wanted to do it. I teamed up with the Korean and we got strapped into our seats. I didn’t know what to expect from a reverse bungee. I had seen multiple videos of it being done but had no idea at how powerful it was.
Within seconds my head was shoved into the back of the chair and I was rotating multiple times as Singapore contorted around me. It was an adrenaline rush. Although short, the initial ascent into the atmosphere is stupendous. People with a fear of heights should definitely not be persuaded on to it. I hopped off, now suffering from whiplash and continued my Singapore exploration.
Before visiting a place I will always do a Google search for “weirdest things to do in…”. I like the quirky and am always wanting to be surprised and challenged by things. Haw Par Villa was constantly featured so became a location that I just had to experience.
Haw Par Villa is mostly an area featuring statutes and dioramas of things influenced by Chinese culture, stories and beliefs. The place is free to enter and is fairly big in size. Under the glaring sun I ambled past rather mundane scenes. However, the truly interesting part is the “10 Courts of Hell”. This was particularly interesting…and disturbing.
Mini figures were depicting scenes from hell and gave detail of brutal punishments for specific acts such as adultery and murder. All this took place inside a 60 meter long tunnel. It was all very cool and atmospheric and I actually took my time to analyse the scenes instead of my usual blink and carry on walking approach.
Haw Par Villa is free and is reachable by the MRT subway. Even if it is just to do something different, then a trip to Haw Par Villa wouldn’t be a waste, but don’t expect to remain here for over an hour.
My time with my parents was up. They would be flying to Dubai the next morning whereas I still had another day in Singapore (see future blog post).
Singapore is for foodies. There is so much to choose from and eating at local places and markets will be cheap.
A top suggestion is to eat spicy crab which has become synonymous with the region as well as stingray. I personally found the spicy crab to me too much of a messy food. I don’t like having to struggle to eat my food and by tearing apart crab shells I just felt dirty. However, the meat inside was delicious and is worth scooping out but ensure you wear plastic gloves unless you like the idea of accidentally itching your eye with a finger laced in Asian spice. Stingray was a lot less messy and even more delicious. It wasn’t ‘fishy’ in taste and was marinated very well into spices. There were a few bones but not enough to turn me into the Incredible Hulk.
Dragon Fruit, is my favourite fruit. It has been since I first tried it in Cambodia. I found about a variant of my beloved fruit, red dragon fruit. Instead of being white inside, the fruit is a dark purple or ‘red’. In Singapore market stools offer the fruit at great prices and makes for a tasty snack. If you fancy something to quench your first then maybe try it in drink form as I also did.
[A continuation of my trip to Singapore, featuring USS, Pulau Ubin and more is coming soon]
All photos taken by myself. Follow me on instagram: Arik_Dane