A Few Days in Singapore- ringing in the Chinese new year

I’m watching an eerily space-like image from the plane’s tail cam view and remembering when I last visited Singapore. Nicknamed the Lion City, my visit 10 years ago was too brief and I told myself I need to return someday. Back then, it was a stopover after a Tibet/Nepal Everest trip for me and a fellow traveler. We met up with my old friend and colleague who lives there to give us a tour. We had a delicious salt and pepper crab dinner and a night out on the town. Singapore is such a fascinatingly bright, modern and clean city. I’m looking forward to exploring Singapore further this time.

Qantas wide angle tail cam view

The Airport-

Changi airport is a large ultra modern and lush airport. If you have a long stopover in Singapore you could entertain yourself for a day here. A new addition to the airport since I was last here is this giant waterfall starting from a skylight and ending in this funnel. Pretty awesome!

Waterfall in Terminal 1 Changi Airport

There’s so much lush landscaping inside the terminal to make the airport itself an attraction.

A mountain of botanicals- terminal 1


Arriving at the Jamilla Boutique Inn at $15.40 a night for a four bed dorm room I check out the breakfast terrace view. With a near downtown location, free breakfast, and plenty of dining around I thought this was a good deal.

Jamilla Boutique Inn

Exploring free sights with a friend-

Raffles Hotel

I meet-up with my old friend again to sightsee. We catch up on our life history for the last 10 years as we walk with our first stop at the Raffles Hotel. Old world charm gives this legendary Raffles Hotel it’s colonial ambiance. Visited by writers and movie stars such as Rudyard Kipling and Elizabeth Taylor this hotel has welcomed countless legendary names throughout its history. When you walk around here you feel you’ve stepped back into time when only the privileged few traveled to exotic places.

Raffles Hotel

New Year Center, Marina Bay Sands and Shoppes

Chinese New Year carnival across from Marina Bays Sands and the Shoppes.

It is the Year of the Metal Rat which is my Chinese Zodiac. Each Zodiac display had a favorable percentage listed and mine was at 68% for this year. I think it will be higher than that.

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Shoppes. Gondola rides inside the Shoppes.

Visiting the Marina Bays Sands Observation Deck is not free with a cost of $32 Singapore dollars. With the welcome Singapore Sling option, about $28.90 USD. Such a breathtaking viewpoint of the whole city. I really enjoyed sipping on my Singapore Sling while taking in the city view, feeling on top of the world. Plus there was a cool breeze blowing to make this one of those perfect moments in time.

The Observation deck of Marina Bay Sands and Welcome Singapore Sling drink

Singapore is a pedestrian connected city with many walkways where some are bridges and some are cooled tunnels linked with the MRT (transit system). We passed through the mall to the Marina Bay Sands, then across a bridge to the Gardens by the Bay which is also free. There are many places to escape the heat if you’re feeling too warm. The weather was running about 81degF in the morning to about 90degF in the afternoon. Given that it was Chinese New Year the city streets were rather empty, not much of a crowd which was nice.

Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay

Daytime is good to visit the gardens but you’ll want to remain there for the after dark light shows. There’s the glowing color changing eggs on the lake. They’re interactive, so if you touch one the color changes and all the others follow. Then there’s the tree light show spectacle synced with music that lasts about 15min and repeats later in the evening.

The light show at Gardens by the Bay

Simply awesome views wherever you look. I’m mesmerized. You just can’t stop talking pics.

View from Gardens by the Bay and light show on the lake.

The Botanical Gardens

You can spend a good half day or more leisurely walking these botanical gardens. There’s much to see and explore with some places to eat. Just sit and watch life around you. As we were walking I was surprised by the large monitor lizard crossing our path. He’s also a visitor to the park… well hello there!

The botanical Gardens, Kek posing with wild monitor lizard, orchids and Sundial Garden.

The Swan Lake was a good spot to sit for awhile, there’s also very large carp in the water that come up to gulp little bugs on the water’s surface. You can buy some cool drinks from a vending machine gazebo.

Botanical Gardens Gazebo and Swan Lake

Faber Peak and Forest Walk

There’s a system of parks that are all interconnected with trails and pedestrian bridges. The Forest Walk elevated platform will make you feel deep in the forest except for the occasional open area city view. There’s a blending of city meets nature. I would walk here several times a week if I lived here!

I really enjoyed the forest walkway above the ground, if hunger and thirst wasn’t calling me I would continue further.

The Forest Walk with female and male Yellow Garden spiders.

Near the end of our four hour or so walk we turn back and stop for lunch at the Arbora restaurant on top of Faber peak at the Gondola station. This gondola goes all the way to Sentosa Island, a very touristy island. We order the seafood bowl for two. I had a passionfruit Margarita which was a pure refreshing heavenly drink after a long walk. For desert I had the Jar of Joy which was an accurate name for this ice cream, cake and meringue desert. I sat there thinking, man, this is what heaven would be like. The total for lunch with drinks and deserts for two people was $94 Singapore dollars or $70 USD. Not bad for the excellent food and view.

Arbora restaurant on top of Faber Peak. Passionfruit Margarita, Jar of Joy desert, seafood bowl.

The Chinese New Year is Metal Rat again which is me and I’m off to a good start!

A brief visit to the dentist-

I have a minor dental issue that developed and I quickly searched the internet for a dentist. Filling out one of those search forms the Smile Makers clinic contacted me and I was able to get an appointment just before lunch. Taking the metro to the Newton stop on the red line I find this clinic is in the medical center area of a large mall. In all it was a pleasant experience considering it was short and I had lunch right afterwards in the mall. Not exactly exotic but the Coffee Bean had this delicious looking pepper chicken pie and mango passionfruit cake. The pepper chicken was so tasty.

Novena Mall and Medical Center

Wandering around town- the Duo Towers

I walk over to the MRT looking for adventure the next day but I find there’s a few places to eat and drink here. My first stop was for some coffee at the Joe and Dough which had excellent WiFi speed. I caught up on picture downloads and other internet stuff.

The Duo Tower area

Walking into the So France I sample some triple cream cheese and just knew I had to have more.  Since it’s a market with some seating I buy the cheese and a nice fresh lightly sourdough bread. They slice it up for me and there’s more than enough to save for breakfast tomorrow. Then I set a up a little picnic at the tables while ordering a nice Sauvignon blanc from the bar. That was a late lunch that really hit the satisfaction button- yum.

A downpour of rain kept me from leaving this place so I headed back to Joe and Dough for a cool fruity drink. The rain kept getting worse so I went back to So France for dinner. Checking the weather it seemed the downpour was going to last some time. Inevitably I had to find an umbrella since this was not a light rain at all. I would be too drenched to walk the half mile back to the hostel. Luckily the MRT underground had some shops where I purchased a large clear umbrella for $5 USD. Some lucky person a the hostel could use this umbrella later since it was to big to tote for my suitcase.

The So France restaurant and market in Duo.

Another day for just browsing around and window shopping after a lazy morning at the hostel. This time I check out the immediate area around the hostel. With a variety of different ethnic foods and cool drinks along pedestrian streets this was a good half day. I like to design my trips interspersed with lazy days which is the secret of long term travel. My laziest day in Singapore still had 10,000 steps though.

Area a couple block from hostel: Mosque and pedestrian street

I spend my last day with an early start taking the MRT to Downtown. My first objective was to have coffee then head over to the Merlion to snap some pics.

The Singapore Merlion

Just after the Merlion is an under pass with some drink and food stands. There was a lot of cool fresh fruit available as well. I ordered the avocado/coconut smoothie along with a piece of dragon fruit. My smoothie was a mix of savory nuttiness from the avocado and subtle sweetness from the coconut. Such a welcome flavor mix along with the blended ice for a warm day.

Refreshments under the bridge; Dragonfruit and an avocado/coconut smoothie

Ever onward along the river I pause for pics and sitting along the bank to relax, ponder and soak in the environment. Very peaceful and satisfying to just people watch and stare at the city. Soon enough a couple hours went by in a flash as I headed up the river to scout the group of restaurants up ahead.

Crossing the river towards Boat Quay on the way to Clarke Quay

The first restaurant was an English pub which looked inviting. I scout further not sure yet what I wanted to eat. Though I was sure that I wanted to sit on the riverside table setting.

Restaurants along the river

This italian restaurant Pasca Fresca Da Salvatore had set menu lunch specials and the lighter fare swordfish option with veggies seemed appetizing. Starting with mushroom soup and garlic bread I ordered a Peroni beer to go with this meal. Everything was quite tasty and satisfying along with a light breeze and great view.

Set menu lunch special: mushroom soup, garlic bread, swordfish, pistachio ice cream

It seemed harder to walk on now even though my meal wasn’t too heavy. I was just too relaxed. I checked my location on the map and looked for a bridge to cross over the river. Clarke Quay had a whole new set of restaurants which all looked great. Clarke Quay was pretty quiet though in the afternoon. I was told this place gets hopping in the evening. But now I’m headed for the Fort Canning Park.

Clarke Quay

At some place and point I can’t remember where I saw an image of a spiral staircase with a tree overhang that was a tunnel entrance into the park. After researching, I found it was somewhere in Fort Canning park and now I was determined to find it to take a pic. As I enter the park from the side of the Fort Canning MRT just after the Quay I can see this park is on a hill. Letting my randomness instinct guide me through different paths I came across this beautiful fountain area. The sign said it was a wading pool and OK to dip your feet in it. There was no one else around the time so it was my private little exotic spot for awhile.

Fort Canning Park: Pancur Larangan wading pool and fountains, park path

Luckily for me there were a series of escalators to get to the plateau. I saw a sign for Tree Tunnel and thought that sounds like the spiral staircase tunnel. Following the signs then abruptly no more signage, this place was truly hidden. No people around in the immediate area to ask, though I do like the challenge of finding things on my own. Down below some steps I see this guy walking and his head disappears into the brush. Rushing down I see a circular pattern of plants. That was it, I got my perfect wide angle shot. Mission accomplished.

Fort Canning Park: Tree tunnel path

Now it’s time for pure wandering and discovery. This was a WWII base and has what is called a Sally Port. It’s a small door and path for defenders of the Fort to enter and exit quickly. The word sally is used for a sudden and quick exit.

Fort Canning Park: The Sally Port

After wandering the park I feel it’s time to exit and make my way back to the MRT station I passed by earlier.

Fort Canning Park: Pathway

I can see the Fort Canning MRT station directly below me but the path winds away from this. There’s a children’s park and I’m studying these slides along the slope thinking “why not”. I slide down for a shortcut to the MRT. I’m laughing while I see some other people are chuckling as well.

Fort Canning Park: Children’ s park slide

For dinner I thought something near the hostel neighborhood and stopped at Piedra Negra. Something about a frozen margarita along with nachos and avocado just sounded like what I wanted right now. Turns out it was!

Piedra Negra Mexican restaurant: Avocado Mango salsa salad, chips and Margarita

Well that was my week in Singapore. I downloaded a Grab app which is the Uber for Asia and cost me $17 USD to get back to the airport. Since my friend Kek lives in the area he stopped by the airport and we had a goodbye chat before it was time for me to depart. As always I left with still more to see and do.

Goodbye Singapore, Hello Vietnam!