This post is about my recent & first visit to Singapore, the name that leads you to imagine tall buildings, clean streets, fancy attractions, rich culture and diverse nationalities. What attracted me most to this city is how well it knows to sell itself and how dedicatedly it has invested in the process. From the serene beaches to the opulent hotels, Singapore has literally made itself from scratch.
During my time there and while reading about the country, I came across various facts about Singapore, some interesting, a few shocking and few absurd. Let me share my experience with all you guys, a tentative itinerary you may refer to for your visit and some of the facts I was fascinated by.
Singapore does not provide VISA on arrival to Indians, so you need to apply for Visa through a travel agent which would generally take less than a week to process. (Approx. INR 2,000) As far as reaching Singapore is concerned many major cities in India like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru have direct flight connectivity taking an average of 4 – 5 hours. I started my journey from Delhi by the Indigo flight at 18:55 IST and reached Singapore the next day at 3:05 SGT. (Approx. INR 21,000)
It is always a good idea to take a local SIM from the airport, generally all countries provide the tourist plans ranging from 7 to 30 days at reasonable prices. I took the one valid for 7 days from the airport and got the EZ-link card along with it. The card can be used for commuting in the MRT as well as the local buses. Since Singapore is very well connected by public transport and taking a cab turns out quite expensive, the card was handy over the next few days.
Fact 1 – Singapore is a FINE city, in two ways. The second one being it has penalty clauses for the most common things Indians do like forgetting to flush a public toilet, walking naked in your own house, spitting in public, chewing gum, feeding pigeons, connecting to another person’s wifi, singing obscene songs in public. So BEWARE and BEHAVE!
On my first official day in Singapore, I decided to visit the Sentosa Island.
How to reach - Take the MRT till Harborfront and change for the Sentosa Express from the Vivocity Mall (level 3). The ticket price for Sentosa express is SGD 4 – this covers your round trip journey and entrance to the island as well unlimited use of the Sentosa Express around the island for the day.
Alternatively, cable car service can also be used, but that will be a little too much on the pocket.
After boarding the Sentosa express, I got down at the immediate next station “Waterfront” to experience the Resorts World Sentosa. There are many activities to indulge in at the island. I decided to explore the S.E.A. aquarium.
The ticket can be booked online at discounted prices and you can conveniently combine few other attractions along with one to get good deals. (I took the S.E.A. aquarium and Universal Studios 5 day valid pass for SGD 114)
S.E.A. aquarium takes you to the world of more than one lakh marine animals of over 800 species and every section is a sight to behold. No wonder they say life under the sea can change your entire perspective about life, mere looking at the marine life through the aquarium window brought so much tranquillity within me.
After the mind-boggling experience of the aquarium, I headed to the beach station to experience the beach life Singapore has to offer. There are three man-made beaches at the Sentosa Island - Siloso, Palawan, and Tanjong. With views of harbour cargo ships floating in the distance, they are no substitute for the serene paradises of Indonesia or Thailand, but it is worth an excursion to make the best out of Singapore’s heat.
My personal favourite is the Palawan beach because it is less busy than the Siloso beach and more engaging than the Tanjong. It has playgrounds, gardens, cafés, beach clubs, thatched shelters, palm trees and a rope bridge which takes you to the Southernmost Point of Continental Asia.
I ended my day with shopping at the Vivocity Mall because that’s what you are tempted to do the most in Singapore.
Fact 2 – Singapore is the second largest port in the world. At any one time, there are about 1,000 vessels in the Singapore port. Every 2-3 minutes, a ship arrives or leaves Singapore. Singapore is the world's top port for ship refuelling, with the total volume of bunkers lifted at over 42 million tonnes - the quantity to fill more than 17,000 Olympic-sized pools. (You will connect more to this one when you visit the port)
After a lazy start to the day and a late breakfast, I decided to indulge in experiencing the most fancy and sumptuous attractions of Singapore – the Marina Bay. The Marina Bay is the biggest winner in the fast paced development of Singapore and is now the de facto centre of Singapore for tourists.
The day was spent exploring and shopping at “The Shoppes” at Marina Bay Sands which houses the best boutique stores from the top designers and luxury brands. You can get your hands on the curated collection from the likes of Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co.
In the evening, I visited the 57th floor of the hotel to get an aerial view of the city and see it converting into a glittering gem as the night draws in. There are two options to enjoy the view (obviously, if you are not staying at the property) – One is to buy the ticket to the Observatory Deck (SGD 21) and the other is to get the entry to the Ce La Vi bar at the top (SGD 23 and you can order for the same amount). I preferred the latter and had one of the best evenings of 2020. Later, I toured around the casino at Marina Bay Sands just to check it out, the entry to the casino is free for foreigners by showing the passport. Ended the day with a clam walk on the helix bridge.
Fact 3 – MBS has the world’s longest elevated swimming pool – 200 meters above the ground. The infinity pool at the top of the boat-like structure holds 14.2 lakhs litres of water. Even if you drink a gallon a day, it would take a millennium to finish it – you’ll be drinking well into 3000s!
With an early start to the day, caught the Hop On Hop Off bus for a city day tour. You have 4 routes to select from, I chose the yellow one as it had all the attractions I wanted to cover. Buses run between 8:30am and 6pm, every 20 - 25 minutes - depending on the routes and is the best way to explore the city at your own pace with multilingual commentary on board. I covered all the major tourist attractions with the tour starting from Gardens by the bay, Merlion Park, Botanical Garden to Orchard Street.
Later I went to Boat Quay for dinner. The place has some really nice Indian restaurants with Bollywood theme live music and dance shows happening late in the evening.
(Pro tip – Cover Gardens by the bay towards the end so that you get good time to explore it and can enjoy it in daylight and in evening as well when the place lights up)
Fact 4 – Singapore has four official languages – English, Malay (National Language), Tamil and Mandarin Chinese.
Fact 5 - Singapore is also called The Lion City. The lion head is also a symbol of Singapore. It’s funny because actually no lion has ever lived in that area.
It was the day I was looking forward to the most. The kid in me excitedly jumped out of bed to start the fun filled day I planned to spend at the UNIVERSAL STUDIOS SINGAPORE. Try to reach the place by 10:30 am and prefer a weekday to avoid crowd and long queues. Given the weather of Singapore and vastness of the park, wear light clothes and comfortable shoes.
The movie-theme park is divided into seven uniquely designed zones (Hollywood, New York, Sci-Fi City, Ancient Egypt, Lost World, Far Far Away, and Madagascar), each with its own set of attractions. I had the most fun (in order of preference) on these rides - Transformers, Revenge of the Mummy, Cylon & Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure.
There are some great shows happening at fixed times which are equally spectacular. The Waterworld performance located in the Lost World zone was amazing, it features some death-defying stunts and jaw-dropping explosions.
The park is equally engaging for all age groups and is a great place to spend a fun day in Singapore.
Since this was my last day in Singapore, I decided to buy some souvenirs and gifts for family and friends. I explored the bugis street and Little India, shopped at the famous Mustafa Centre and had great Indian food at one of the many Indian restaurants in the area.
In the evening went for the light & sound show at Gardens by the Bay.
Fact 6 - The Mustafa Centre is a 24-hour mall. This is the only mall in Singapore that operates all day long, even on public holidays. You can get everything starting from a packet of noodles to an LED here. It also has a vast section dedicated only to gold.
Took a late night flight back home and returned with a lot of memories and shopping bags. (Honestly, I did not want to come back)