Embarking on research for a whistlestop trip to Singapore, Emma Bangay unearthed tales of the historical trading deals and futuristic ex-pat existence. But with two kids in tow and only 48 hours to burn, what would she discover about the Lion City?
I have travelled far and wide within Asia, from Indonesia to Hong Kong, Japan to Malaysia, Thailand to Korea, but never had I set foot outside of Singapore airport en route to somewhere else.
So our recent family trip - which saw us land in the ‘Red Dot’ for two days and three nights - meant we had some scheduling and sightseeing to do!
Checking into the Westin Singapore was the perfect way to land. I have to admit, there were a lot of options when it came to hotels in Singapore, but we wanted to check off the glamorous horizon pool for the kid's sake (OK, mine) and luxe accommodation with a view to die for. Or is that dive? The pool outside our window was too much for us all to resist, so the first afternoon was pretty much spent submerged, looking across the incredibly busy bustling bay.
An island city-state off southern Malaysia, Singapore is well-known for its financial business heartbeat, and as we strolled to Chinatown on our first balmy evening, we were all struck at how safe, orderly and clean it was for such a busy centre. It was only when we arrived in Chinatown that the hustle and bustle abated and the low-rise traditional Malay houses – many converted into commercial buildings – gave us a taste of days gone by.
The kids got their kicks out of a few too many key chains and gadgets at the local markets, but the food hawkers tempted husband and I, so we headed to Lau Pa Sat for our pick of every edible Singapore could offer! The chicken rice had been highly recommended, as had the need for speed when securing a seat within this very busy area! (You’ll be glad to know we achieved both with aplomb - and an ice cold Tiger beer for our efforts!)
Credit: f11photo / Shutterstock.com
I do love to keep fit on holidays, and it’s always made a little easier with a running partner waiting for me to strap on my sneakers at 6.30am. Since I couldn’t rouse hubby, it was a win to have the RunWESTIN™ concierge waiting downstairs before dawn to take guests on a five-kilometre jog from the hotel so we could see the sights and work up a sweat simultaneously.
Once back at the hotel, there was no chance to wind down as we set off in a taxi it to Sentosa island (note: the public transport system is fantastic in Singapore. Each driver we encountered was friendly, organized and cost-effective.) Arriving in Sentosa Island early is key. A mecca of ‘worlds’ from SEA Aquarium and Adventure Cove Waterpark, a day is never enough to see and do it all. So we decided to choose just one destination and the pin dropped on Universal Studios. (We paid extra for an express pass on unlimited rides to skip the queues, and it may have been the best Singapore dollars we spent! The wait is long, and the temperature is HOT, so it’s highly advised if it’s in the budget!)
Credit: Everything / Shutterstock.com
For a more chilled approach, there is a beach at Sentosa, but if sitting on the sand isn’t your thing, you can take advantage of the entire area via the Skyline Luge, which in itself is a thrill and a half.
As evening approached, we headed back to The Arab Quarter, otherwise known as Little India. A riot of colour, noise and conversation! Vivacious textile, leather, rug, jewelry and basket purveyors made this visit come alive, and the cash flow fast!
With only a few hours up our sleeves before heading home, we had one more box to tick. For the green thumb in the family, this had to be the Gardens By The Bay. Within the Flower Dome – the largest greenhouse in the world according The Guinness World Record – there are over 380,00 plants, thousand year old olive trees and a view that just won’t quit. The Cloud Forest is all about the tropical Montane region complete with a 35-metre man-made waterfall and mountain which the kids couldn’t get enough of. The children’s garden is sure to keep the juniors transfixed as well – and pack your bathers for all the wonderful water adventures that abound!
En route to the airport, we simply had to stop for a peek at the iconic Raffles Singapore. Since it’s opening in 1887, this five-star enclave has hosted royals, celebrities and politicians around the clock and embodies the romance of old and new Asia. Visitors can dip into the experience with a (reservation recommended) English inspired high-tea. A sight – and taste sensation - to behold, just ensure you’re dressed to impress, with collars on gents and kids on their best behavior compulsory!
All up, Singapore gave us a snapshot of the past, and the future; the refined and the fun. The perfect pit stop – or destination – that really is so much more than a financial hub!