Saturday, 17 October 2015

After sleeping at the airport and during the entire one and a half hour flight (being ill really does drain you) we arrived at Singapore Changi International Airport which was exceptionally clean and plush. We managed to easily get money out at an ATM and wasn't charged for withdrawal like we were in Thailand. The money looked like normal paper notes but was actually plastic (yes, I did attempt to rip it) which is what our notes will eventually change too. Once again baggage collection and immigration was quick and easy and thanks to Abby doing some prior research, we knew we could get the MRT (equivalent to London Underground) to Novena which was 10 minutes away from our hotel. We got a free sky cart to the station which took only took a couple of minutes before we were at the correct station. 

The MRT was surprisingly easy to navigate and was so much more advanced than the tubes. The tickets were easy to purchase (just under 8 dollars for the 3 of us), the stations were immaculate and the trains had big metal doors lining the train doors for safety. Inside, the carriages were spacious - much wider than the underground which meant more people could cram in and on the walls there was a tube map which lit up the upcoming destination and indicated which side the doors would open. It was pretty much a carbon copy of the tube except a little more futuristic and probably more efficient. After changing and getting on another, we arrived at Novena and waited at the taxi stand where all you had to do was press a 'call for taxi button' and within minutes we were being driven to our hostel which only cost 4 Singapore dollars. The exchange rate wasn't bad so we pretty much just halved everything to work out the English equivalent. 

We'd booked into Value Thompson Hotel as we wanted an actual hotel room for our short but sweet stay. The air-con hit us as soon as we stepped foot in the hotel which was a welcome change to the 30 degree heat and after swiftly checking in we made our way up to the 11th floor to our room which was clean and modern. We had a gorgeous pool view which overlooked some of the nearby city, however unfortunately the pool was undergoing maintenance that week. Although it was a shame, due to our one night stay we wanted to cram as much in as possible so realistically we wouldn't have had time to make the most of it anyway. By the time we settled in it was about half 2 so we decided to go out for the afternoon and make the most of our time there.

We got a taxi to Singapore Botanic Gardens which was founded in 1859 and showcases the best and most spectacular tropical and exotic flora. The gardens are split up into different sections and after a quick pit-stop for food, we managed to successfully navigate the huge stretch of land with ease. I have to be honest, I've never seen someone as excited to see trees and plants than Kate who was literally bouncing around the entire gardens, but it meant she took the lead in terms of directions so me and Abby sweatily plodded along behind. Don't get me wrong, it was beautiful and also interesting to see the extensive array of flora, it was just ridiculously hot which made walking round for two hours a little bit of a chore at times, especially considering I still wasn't feeling 100%. 

While we were there, an orchestra was playing on a stage surrounded by a pond of lilies and crowds were gathering to watch the performance which was an actual show on the grounds. By the time we left, a flood of people were heading towards the large grass area with picnics and blankets and it was nice to see how the locals choose to spend their time. In Thailand, we struggled to understand what the locals did apart from their day jobs as we didn't really see them doing anything for fun, but it was obvious that Singaporeans have a much better quality of life. It's such a pretty place to spend an afternoon or an evening and although we were on the other side of the world, what with all the greenery, it kind of felt a little bit like home which was comforting. Although it's probably 20 degrees colder at home. 

After that, we walked down Dunearn Road in an attempt to find the house that Kate's parents lived in 23 years ago. Her sister Emma was born in Singapore so while we there, she knew she wanted to visit the house and see where her parents spent five years of their life. After what seemed like the longest walk and with a blister from my flip flops we finally reached the house which was pretty cool to see. It was a little bit surreal for Kate as we were in the middle of Singapore and she was standing outside the house where her older sister was born and her parents lived, but she was really thankful she got the chance to see it. 

After refusing to walk any further we all agreed on a taxi back which was 8 dollars for a 10 minute journey. We sorted ourselves out and got ready having decided to go for dinner and visit some of the sights in the centre of Singapore. We headed in the direction of Marina Bay on the MRT because of the infamous hotel and stopped at a place called Verve Pizza Bar for dinner. It looked gorgeous so we were seated at a table outside with a lantern on the table and pretty twinkly trees within eyesight. 

The atmosphere was mellow and after ordering one of the best lasagnas I've probably ever eaten, we enjoyed a lovely meal together which was a welcome change considering the lack of customer service in Thailand. The views were absolutely breathtaking and I've never seen buildings and skyscrapers like it. We were so thankful to see it all at night lit up and after dinner headed down the harbour to more incredible views. The Marina Bay Sands Hotel overlooked the water and was attached to a plush and luxurious shopping centre which had its own extravagant and intricate Louis Vuitton building just lining the water. 

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel which was built in 2011 was right at the end and we were aware of a visitors viewpoint right at the top. For 23 dollars you could go up but the ticket office kindly told us you could go up to the bar for free. Looking up to the hotel almost gave us vertigo, but the architecture is beautiful. The main hotel has a shopping mall in the middle and an infinity pool which looks amazing. I think it's around £250 a night but if you google it you'll understand why and I guarantee you it'll make you want to go. Once we reached the 57th floor we walked out into the decked bar area which was dim and romantic. Trees were twinkling, candles were flickering and you could hear the low buzz of chatter and laughter. The bar was central with a cordoned off eating area to one side and a seating area to the other. Not to mention the fact it overlooks a very beautiful Singapore. 

It really was one of those surreal moments where I felt so lucky to be seeing what I was seeing. Having only been there for less than a day at that point, I knew it was a country I needed to revise and explore more of. After that we headed back down and walked over to Gardens by the Bay which again is comprised of an array of trees and plants and lit-up footpaths. However, in the middle were these incredibly huge beautiful trees. They looked almost futuristic with their leaves and roots entwined and fibre optic-esque tips. They shone a bluey purple colour and were completely mesmerising. We were unfortunately too late to go up on to the glass path viewing platform where you could walk inbetween the trees and overlook the sights but just being there was enough as it was one of the most enchanting things I've ever seen. 

It was around half 11 by this point and considering that day we'd flown to Singapore, been to the Botanic Gardens, walked to Kate's parents house, been for dinner, overlooked Singapore from the 57th floor of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and seen the sights in Gardens by the Bay, we were all knackered so got the MRT back to our hotel room, collapsed into bed and enjoyed one of the best nights sleep we'd all had in a long time. The following morning we had a well deserved lie in before gathering our things, checking out and leaving our baggage in reception as our flight wasn't until 8.20pm that evening. We decided to go to the zoo as it's meant to be one of the top 10 things to do in Singapore and my grandparents had previously told me it was really worth going. 

We got the MRT to Ang Ko Moi and then got a bus to the zoo. The bus station was very clearly labelled with a separate queue for each bus which was handy, especially for tourists. In England bus timetables can be really confusing so it was nice to feel at ease in a different country. The bus was only about 7 dollars for the three of us and after the half an hour ride we arrived at the zoo. Three tickets and tram passes cost 111 dollars (£52ish) which we thought was very reasonable. After being cliche tourists and grabbing a map, we navigated our way round the zoo with ease. The tram passes allowed us to get on safari type carriages which drove us to the five different points within the zoo where you could get off and explore, so we jumped at the chance.

My favourite thing about the zoo was the fact it was all open plan. There were no cages meaning the animals weren't enclosed which was a welcome change to most of the zoos in England. I'm not quite sure why, but we made the assumption that it's because the animals are very docile and trustworthy. Plus, it's nice to know they're not cooped up in a confined encasement. A couple of the animals had half a glass wall separating them from the public along with an outside space that wasn't particularly accessible. What made the zoo even more impressive was the surroundings. Most of the grounds overlooked a huge beautiful lake and the rest was swamped with rainforest trees and plants. 

The animal information was fun and interactive and the range of feeding times, shows and activities were great. Pushed for time with our flight that evening we still managed to spend a good couple of hours wandering around seeing zebras, monkeys and gorillas, lions, cheetahs, giraffes, white tigers and more. It's definitely a must-do if you're going Singapore as we could have definitely spent so much more time there. The next thing on the cards was tracking down Raffles - an infamous English cafe/bar we'd been recommended numerous times. It was meant to be plush, stylish and as cliche as it sounds 'the place to be', but because of time constraints and going to the wrong place to start with (Raffles Place MRT station which looked like the bankers area of Singapore and also very impressive looking) we had to settle for a picture outside before rushing back to our hotel to pick our baggage up. 

After another jam-packed day it was time to head to the airport and leave Singapore. I still can't quite believe how much we managed to pack into just over 24 hours but I'm so glad we did because there's so many things worth seeing and doing in Singapore. It's such a wealthy country which transpires in the people's lifestyles, the countries architecture and the general entertainment. During my short Singapore bubble I got a small glimpse into how glamorous and luxurious it is as a country and it's definitely somewhere I need to explore in more depth. 

It had a very English feel to it in terms of lifestyle, however maybe a little more advanced in some areas but I felt like a was a stones throw from London which which was a welcome comfort. Officially three weeks into our trip it was time to head to Australia for five weeks, starting in Sydney. Highlight of the airport was Kate accidentally leaving her oat and raisin cookies in Subway which ended up in the bin. Devastated. Although it serves her right for choosing the worst flavour cookies in the world. Karma. So, we boarded our flight ready to land on the complete other side of the world to where we live.

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