Our week in Singapore was our first week in a developed country since we left Japan in early October. In over four months, we had stopped noticing the dangerously uneven sidewalks, the trash discarded in the gutters, the incessant need to bargain before any purchase, the fact that crosswalk signs (if there was one) never worked, and drinking tap water was dangerous.
And, suddenly, overnight, we were in Singapore. Singapore is, without a doubt, still part of Asia; yet it felt nothing like the countries of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand or even Malaysia. The streets were impeccably clean, the sidewalks were wide and even. Everyone spoke English well here, and ….. wait for it….. we all brushed our teeth with water from the tap. It felt quite luxurious.
But, with these privileges comes the price tag. We were no longer in the world of $6 massages, cheap street food, and inexpensive accommodations. In Singapore, our accommodations alone broke our daily budget. Eating too? …. Well, that was for special occasions. But, despite the budget breaking, we found some delightful attractions that we all loved.
Singapore Botanic Gardens and the National Orchid Garden
Our first day, we went to the Singapore Botanic Garden which is a huge garden in the middle of the city. It’s a hidden botanic oasis. Once inside, you couldn’t imagine that you are in one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The 183 acre botanic garden is open from 5am – midnight every day of the year and is completely free. Because of this, it caters to locals and tourists alike. We saw lots of joggers and walkers mixed in with the tourists and tour groups. The Botanic Garden is also home to a Botany Center, a Ginger Garden, an Orchid Garden, a Children’s Garden, and several other smaller featured gardens.
We enjoyed them all but the highlight was the National Orchid Garden. There was a $5 charge to get it, but what an amazing selection of orchids of every color and design. We spent hours working through it and snapping photos.
A highlight here was the “Cool House”. Looking like a big green house, it was actually a cooler and mistier version. Made to resemble the mountainous regions in the tropics, it was significantly cooler than the outside air. It also housed the carnivorous plant section: a wide variety of pitcher plants which the boys loved!
High Tea at Shangri-La
After a full 6+ hours exploring the Singapore Zoo (see my other post), we treated ourselves to High Tea. (Something you gotta do when you go to Singapore, right?) On a recommendation from a good friend, we chose the luxurious Shangri-La Hotel’s Rose Veranda. What a treat! With an endless buffet of amazing Asian food, including all you can eat sushi?! (Yep, they lost money on my kids.) The food was amazing and they even had some European cheeses and finger sandwiches as well as delectable spring rolls, dim sum, and coconut curries.
But, even more exciting for the boys, was the dessert buffet. What kid wouldn’t be excited about All-You-Can-Eat dessert? (The hotel only charged ½ price for the boys for the high tea – a big mistake! 😉 ) The mini cups of desserts allowed for many trips back and forth before starting over yet again..
And, the skewered strawberries and bananas next to the chocolate fountain allowed the kids to go wild. With perhaps even more variety than the lunch buffet, the dessert buffet included dozens of choices, each one more delicious than the last.
As for the kids, they did amazing in the formal white linen setting. We even all ate finger sandwiches with our pinkies in the air and drank fancy tea served individually in pots for each of us. We went so late in the afternoon that we combined it into a big lunch and dinner. A fun splurge for us all!
Gardens By The Bay and New Friends
The Gardens by the Bay is technically a park of more than 100 hectares in central Singapore, right near the bay. Although the Gardens span over several minor parks, the most notable is the SuperTree Grove. The supertrees are huge 50 meter vertical gardens in the shape of metal trees. All the way up the side are exotic ferns, vines and orchids on display. Up between them, is an aerial walkway where amazing views of the city can be seen. It was an amazing way of combining an unique art form with a natural element. The large supertrees are fitted with environmental technologies that can mimic a tree’s natural functions. It was a bit complicated but amazing way of combining art, photosynthesis and beautiful in a really interesting city attraction.
In addition to the highlights of the Gardens By the Bay, we also were able to meet up with some other travelers: Jason and Simone from JS Living the Dream. Traveling in opposite directions, we spent an enjoyable afternoon visiting with them, swapping travel stories, and sharing tips. The kids immediately took to them and chatted on and on sharing their travel stories with our new friends.
Merlion, Walking Tour, sights and sounds of Orchard Way
With our remaining time in Singapore, we enjoy walking the streets and exploring the sights and sounds of Orchard Way – Singapore’s high end shopping street. We learned all about Singapore’s rich history at the National Museum of Singapore. We checked out both Buddhist and Hindu Temples. We walked down to the pier to see the famous merlion statue and walked across the helix bridge.
We ate some amazing street food and went to a fantastic exhibit on dinosaurs at the Art Science Museum.
Our final evening in Singapore, while sipping drinks in the ship atop the Marina Bay Sands Towers, we took photos of the city and concluded that Singapore certainly has something for everyone.