Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Lion City - Singapore 10 - 13th April

Flying into Singapore we noticed the amount of cargo ships moored off the coast, not tens not twenties but over a hundred at the very least. We landed in one of the best Airports in the world Changi, we walked for ages through what looked more like a massive shopping mall filled with beautifully decorated gardens of orchids, than an airport. We were also convinced after walking for what felt like more than 10min that we had missed the baggage reclaim sign!
A look out the plane window just before landing

Our first impressions on Singapore was over the top clinically clean, first world concrete jungle in a tropical environment. There is a diverse mix of cultures from around the world living and working here. Walking around places like the famous Orchard Road is a bit like Regent Street in London, although that's hardly a comparison, the culture is so diverse its just some of the same branded shop fronts jump out at you. We were awe struck by how affluent Singapore is. We decided to only spend 3 days here as we knew this would put a bit of a dent in the travel budget.

Landing at Changi Blue Sky's and hot!
 Endless entertainment in the Airport!
These globes move up and down independently on a cable which moves them around like waves or shapes a little like a graphic equalizer.

So what to do in Singapore, when you only have 3 days? There is plenty to see and do, but again it depends on what you truly want out of this place, a shopping spree, that is if you have the bucks to splash the cash or be a typical tourist and do some of the touristy things and eating out cheaply at some of the hawker stands.
Hotels are tricky to find under US$60 per night that have good reviews, bearing in mind we are not going the whole hostel route which would have been a whole lot cheaper. We managed to find a hotel for US$65 per night in Balestier Road. Reading review after review of hotels in Singapore we decided on The Fragrance Hotel Balestier. Don't expect big rooms or big bathrooms in Singapore. For us the hotel was sufficient, a place to leave our luggage, sleep and have a shower.

Transport is fantastic just dont eat or drink anything!

Eating out!  

The food was fantastic in Singapore and if you love hot spicy seafood this is the place, not to mention that compared to London's food prices with the exchange rate you're 60% cheaper! Depending on what you are after Singapore offer a medley of Chinese, Malay and Indian foods. Some of the places we found down Balestier Road had some interesting items on the menu such as pigs trotters to marinated frog soup. Here is a list of some of the places we ate at while in Singapore.

 1. Whampoa Keng Fishead Steamboat, 556 Ballesteir RdWhampoa Restaurant & Menu

How to get here: Catch the MRT to Novena Rd and catch the 124 or 21 bus down Ballesteir Rd. There are alot of light fitting shops down the road so you need to watch out for all the restaurants. They are around Irrawady Rd if you want to ask the driver!

The Calamari Hot Plate Nyona Sotong is recomended but not the Sambal Sotong, make sure you try the fishhead steamboat though its the best! You will see that is what everyone orders here and is a must try in Singapore! We did try a Chinese black herbal jelly for dessert, a bit of a sour/bitter taste and not quite to our liking. It was similar to a cold herbal tea!

For 2 people this cost 75SGD and included a large Tiger beer so not quite as cheap as you thought Asia might be?

2. Din Tai Fung, 313 Orchard Road, Somerset mall
Din Tai Fung Retaurant & Menu

How to get here: Catch the MRT to Orchard rd and take a stroll along Orchard Avenue if you want to shop this is the place so allow plenty of time. The resuarant is in the Somerset mall.

We ordered alot of food here. The Hot Sour Soup on the menu was fantastic! The pork dumplings were out of this world, they had a small amount of soup in them. Once you dipped the dumpling into a mix of vinegar and freshly sliced ginger and popped this in your mouth, the soup inside the dumpling burst and the flavour was amazing. The prawn bread and the mushrooms with noodles were equally delicious. You can watch the chefs making the dumplings in the kitchen. This is a well known food chain in Singapore.

For 3 People 150SGD

3. China Town Foodmarket

How to get here: Catch the MRT to China Town and you will walk straight into the chaos of Chineese food market, electronics and clothes. This is the traditional Chinese quarters of town. Some of China Town has been done up to meet tourist standards, if this is not what you are after  head away from this area and you will find the small family run food stalls that have a small seating area outside. The popular food stalls seems to be the ones where you choose the ingredients you want in a bowl and tell them how you want it done.

We chose the Hot Pot, also a place where you can choose your own ingredients from mushrooms, to meat, to veggies and spices.We opted for a Spicy Pepper Beef which was fantastic with ginger, garlic and lots of pepper kernels. We also tried the spicy squid.

For 2 People 25SGD.

Little India is also meant to be just as cheap to eat out at too, unfortunately we did not make it there.

We constructed a typical comparisson of prices compared to London rates. Yes Singapore is an expensive city but we found some things cheaper than London.

A price comparison between London and Singapore with minimum salaries the two cities both have a high standard of living and the lowest working class compare about the same here with food costs and earnings.

Base salary: 1370GBP London   vs       600GBP per month

Exchange rate: 1 British Pound GBP = 1.90 Singaporean dollar SGD
                             London                             vs           Singapore                        
Pint   Kronnenburg 1664:  4.20GBP                        Tiger      2GBP                

Plate of Fish & Chips         15  GBP                         Grouper 3.6GBP              

Salt n Pepper Squid              7   GBP                         Salt n Pepper Squid  3GBP   

Cocktails                              15 - 30 GBP                  Singapore Sling 12GBP
Nightclub AnonAnon Picadilly                                 Raffles, Sky 57 bar.

Breakfast we ate every morning at this place.... Fruit skewers and Avocado shakes!

Places to Visit!

Mt Faber - Get the MRT to Harbour Front. Mt Faber is a tropical environment, thick tropical bushes and trees. A few spiders too! The walk is easy although the walk way is either concrete steps or made of wooden walkways and steps. Best to go early morning or late afternoon or you will get to the top and look like you have just climbed out a swimming pool. Hard to beleive that such a thick tropical ''jungle'' is in the middle of a concrete jungle. We really enjoyed the walk and also some of the amazing views at the top.

 A sign before walking Mt Faber!
 The start of Mt Faber

 Mt Faber walkways.
 One view that struck us was the dockyard! Huge does not describe it.

Raffles Hotel - This was recommended by a freind of ours so we decided to check this place out and to sample the famous Singapore Sling! Raffles Hotel has a colonial cosmopolitan charm about it. We were finally seated at the Long Bar after a short wait and were given a wooden box full of monkey nuts, looking around the floor was covered with cracked nut shells. So we followed suit, cracked the nuts and dropped the empty shells on the floor under our feet. The original Singapore Sling is simply to die for. This is definitely the place to try a Singapore Sling!

 Nutshells on the floor.
 The original Sling!
 The queue at the end of the bar of people wanting to try out the famous Sling.

Sky 57, Dragonfly Bridge - Located near Gardens by the Bay, is a three towered building connected by a long ledge at the top. Sky 57 bar is the only bar at the top of tower 1 open to the general public. The views at the top are incredible, from looking out over Gardens by the Bay, the ocean and then the towering sky scrapers of Singapore. You even get to check out the hotel's swimming pool next to the bar, a 150m long Infinitely pool that is only available to guests of the hotel. It would have been quite something to have been able to swim 57 stories up in a pool that looked like the water is flowing over the edge. We had another Singapore Sling here, but not as good as the original Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel.

 To take a swim in this pool would have been incredible!
Infinity pool 57 stories up.

 Sky 57 Towers
 View from the top.
 View from the top.
The Merlion from Sky 57

Sentosa Island & Aquarium- Also known as the activity island. It offers anything from water parks, to aquariums, standing waves, wake boarding, maritime museum, theme park rides, Universal Studios etc. There are a few different ways to get to the island, there is a monorail, you can walk across a brdige or you can get the cable car from Mt Faber. We got the cable car since we were already up Mt Faber. Basically a fun day out for all ages. The new aquarium opened 6 months ago and it is rated the world's biggest oceanarium. It was the biggest aquarium we have been to and very well presented and designed. Also on the island is the most southern point of continental Asia!

 Cable car from Mt Faber to Sentosa Island.

 Looking around this what you can see..
 The Merlion

 Massive tropical fish tank.
 The biggest tank - filled with massive mantra rays, sting rays and reef sharks.
 Sardine Blender...................... I mean fish tank run.

This guy looked funny.

 Someone left the tractor beam on again!
Underwater space exploration in the Marina Trench is going well!

 The tunnel was fun!
 Have you ever seen a Nautilus?
 Smiles all round with the Manta Ray
 Sun shark!
 I believe I can fly!

 This fish sat listening to the tank next door all day!

Singapore Zoo - The zoo is a great day out. There are 3 optional tickets, the zoo itself, the river safari and the night safari. Originally we opted for just the zoo but we were informed after purchasing tickets that the Pandas are located in the river safari section, so we ended up with the zoo ticket and the river safari ticket. The night safari is apparently really good, however being in the Serengeti and Masai Mara not to long ago and doing quite a few game drives in Africa the night safari at the zoo would not top what we have already seen and done in Africa, so we gave that a miss. Seeing the pandas Kai Kai and Jai Jai were a first experience for the both of us however the one was in a private den while the other was just sleeping the whole time. Slight disappointment but at least we saw a panda. We did not get to see everything at the main zoo, partly because we wanted to see animals we have never seen before like the Komodo Dragon or the White Benegal Tiger. We did manage to watch the tiger feeding and got some amazing pictures.

 Some of the sequence shots of the white tiger feeding time. This one is great, the tiger managed to catch the meat in its paw and slam it into its mouth.
Pause for applause!

                                   I see you!
 Kai Kai fast asleep. Jai Jai was in her private quarters apparently shy and hiding away.
 Rhino Beatles
Got a closeup of this Butterfly!
Orchard Rd - The famous shopping strip in Singapore. Anything from Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Armani to Marks and Spencer, Gap and H&M, basically every store is here. People with cash to splash walking around with bags and bags of shopping. Nothing in Singapore is open before 11am, you'll be lucky to find a few coffee shops open before 9am as almost everything (except bars and restuarants) close at 9.30/10pm at night, and Fridays and Saturdays are open till 11pm. It was lovely to window shop here, the only purchase made was a spare camera battery as I had left my spare one in a hired car in Australia.

Gardens By the bay - We didn't really have enough time to actually check out Gardens by the Bay, but we did see the design and it looked impressive. Something to definitely check out if we ever end up in Singapore again. The aim is to raise the quality of life by enhancing greenery and flora in the city. After reading a bit more on this place we assume this is similar to a botanical garden of sorts or a permanent designer garden show similar to the Kew Garden show in London.

Dragonflies at Garden by The Bay
Universal Studios Singapore!

Shevy on the rope bridge!

We made it to the Southern Most point of Continental Asia

Sunsets are always great

The refinery and fuelling station!

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