Round the World in 40 Days: Stage 2 – Singapore and the Gardens by the Bay

In our initial plans, Singapore was to be a three hour stopover on our way to Taiwan after our three-day Golden Triangle tour in India. However by booking a flight directly with Tigerair (an airline which did not appear on STA Travel’s booking system) we were able to have an evening and morning to explore Singapore.

Singapore skyline over Marina Bay
Singapore skyline over Marina Bay

Three of our party of four had visited Singapore several times before and were expecting to see again the usual mixture of high rise hotels, apartments and shopping malls, interspersed with the occasional row of traditional shops.

However our previous visits were several years ago. On this visit we found one outstanding new feature – the Gardens by the Bay – and one disappointment.

Yes everything in Singapore was still as clean and hygienic, with everyone only crossing streets when the traffic lights permitted, and no chewing gum disfiguring the pavements – it is banned.

Shops and restaurants on East Coast Road
Shops and restaurants on East Coast Road

We stayed at the Holiday inn Express Katong, which is conveniently located between the Changi Airport and the centre of Singapore. We were confused at first by the hotel being just the top storeys of a high-rise block – you need to take a lift to the seventh storey of the building to find the hotel reception. The rooms were clean and smart, if maybe a little small, and the complimentary breakfast was excellent.

Close to the hotel on East Coast Road was a block of traditional shops and restaurants with plenty of choice of food and drink at reasonable prices – unlike the expensive establishments in the city centre.

Palm Court at Raffles Hotel
Palm Court at Raffles Hotel

A ten minute taxi ride took us to the central part of Singapore and our disappointment. On previous visits we had enjoyed ‘Singapore sling’ cocktails in the ‘Long Bar’ at Raffles Hotel, a watering hole of Kipling, Maughan and Coward among many others.

Alas, all has changed. The ‘Long Bar’ has now been squeezed in to a small upstairs room and is now no more than a tourist trap for those willing to pay £15 or more for the famous drink. Only the Palm Court gives some indication of what Raffles Hotel used to be.

The drive back to the hotel past Marina Bay was more encouraging. Across the bay we could see the lights of some fascinating buildings and various strange structures, which the taxi driver told us were in the Gardens by the Bay. Well that decided us as to what we would do the following morning.

Skytrees in the Garden by the Bay
Skytrees in the Garden by the Bay

The Gardens by the Bay were opened five years ago on reclaimed land with the main part, Bay Garden South, covering about 130 acres.  They aim to showcase “the best of tropical horticulture and garden artistry”.

Dominating the gardens are the Supertrees, which are tree-like structures, 80 to 160 ft high, which act as vertical gardens. An elevated walkway connects two of them.

The outdoor gardens, which include the Sun Pavillion, World of Plants, Heritage Gardens and Dragonfly & Kingfisher Lakes, have free admission. The two conservatories, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest have an entry charge of about £15 for both. Seniors 60+ get a 40% discount, but unfortunately only Singapore residents.

Crazy, but mesmerising Marina Sands Hotel
Crazy, but mesmerising Marina Bay Sands Hotel
Strolling through the gardens not only allows you to see some very impressive floral displays along with more than 40 pieces of sculpture, but also provides great views across Marina Bay towards the central part of the city. We could have happily spent the whole day exploring the gardens and indoor displays.

Walking along the bay front from the gardens leads to the totally crazy, but mesmerising, Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The hotel has a massive open-air swimming pool perched 650 ft above the ground in a ship-like structure resting on three tower blocks.

We didn’t venture up to the swimming pool on this occasion, but wandered through the massive atrium lined with all the usual posh shops. On our next visit to Singapore we will most certainly stay at this fascinating hotel.

So after our short, but definitely sweet, visit to Singapore, it was a four-hour flight by Tigerair – definitely a no frills airline – to Tapei in Taiwan.

See also:
Round the World in 40 Days: Planning and Booking
Stage 1 – Golden Triangle of Agra, Jaipur and Delhi
Stage 3 – Taipei and NE Taiwan
Stage 4 – Seoul and the DMZ
Stage 5 – Hong Kong Revisited
Stage 6 – Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef
Stage 7 – Earthquakes and Vineyards in New Zealand
Stage 8 – A Tour of Santiago, Chile
Stage 9 – Cusco and Machu Picchu
Stage 10 – Lima and Miraflores, Peru
Stage 11 – Miami and the Everglades