What to do with a Day in Singapore
Singapore Changi Airport hasn’t won 430 awards since 1981 (including 30 ‘Best’ awards in 2012) for nothing.
Where else can you find foot massage chairs, baby care rooms, quiet sleeping areas and communication centre, all for free, of course? Not to mention a spa, various entertainment facilities, restaurants etc. It is an airport where a long layover feels like a pleasant surprise and not like a punishment.
So, finding myself in Changi on my way from Europe to Australia this summer turned out to be a valuable extra for my trip and an appreciated break from those ever so uncomfortable plane seats. As a first timer in this vibrant city and on a limited time budget I headed to the information centre to ask for advice – something I rarely do on my travels. However well traveled I might be, all the crowds, mixture of dozens of language and the dusk behind the windows of the airport caused me to feel a bit overwhelmed.
A friendly girl at the desk told me that with just a few hours to spare, I could try to check out two of the newest attractions in town: Singapore Flyer (the highest observation wheel in the world) and Gardens by the Bay (a huge park with manmade supertrees and botanical gardens). I took her advice and before I knew it, I was on a train heading to downtown Singapore.
The weather there in late July can feel like a constant sauna but having a scarf in my bag saved me from freezing in the train – the air condition caused a dramatic drop in temperature! I had planned to eat some snacks on the train while enjoying the view but my plans were ruined after I saw a sign threatening anyone who dares to eat or drink on the trains or in the stations with a hefty fine.
I had heard about the chewing gum ban in Singapore, of course, but the amount of warning and prohibition signs all around the place was striking. For instance, in order to break the Singaporeans’ old habit of barging into the public transport before letting other people disembark first, large schemes with stickmen were drawn on most station’s floors – and followed by almost everyone. Oh, and about the view I was going to enjoy – it was a gray early evening with threatening rain clouds covering the shy Sun which made the buildings along the railway, all in the fifty-odd-shades of gray, look even grayer.
I felt pretty safe as most of the people passing by were couples or families and from what I’ve heard, there is really very little crime in Singapore
Despite the bad weather I couldn’t help but gasp as I walked out of the Promenade station. The famous and huge Marina Bay Sands resort was even more stunning than on the pictures I had seen. Actually, I would have been willing to pay just to use the infinity pool but unfortunately, only the hotel guests are allowed up there. Anyway, I had enough sights to check out anyway so it wasn’t a big deal.
Walking in the various themed areas of the Gardens by the Bay (Indian, Chinese, Malay and Colonial), I didn’t see any signs prohibiting the consumption of food or drinks so as the sun set, I had my little improvised dinner on one of the benches. Even though it was getting dark and I was by myself, I felt pretty safe as most of the people passing by were couples or families and from what I’ve heard, there is really very little crime in Singapore.
Two huge white domes in the back of the park are Cloud Forest and Flower Dome which proved to be the most amazing botanical-garden-like-exhibitions that I’ve ever seen. Even though flowers and trees are not exactly my first interest, the rainbow of colors, smells and sounds was indeed breathtaking. A misty Cloud Forest is home to the highest indoors waterfall in the world and allows its visitors to marvel at the plant life of tropical highlands while climbing up on one of the walkways.
Even though the place was wonderful and interesting, the jet lag and the general traveling tiredness got me after visiting the two domes so I just sat down on one of the benches at the Gardens watching locals pass by jogging or strolling and a girl feeding some homeless cats with fancy cat food. It was completely dark already and I still had a good 5 hours before my next flight was to take off. Suddenly, something amazing happened – the supertrees which dominate the park being both mystical and a bit unnatural came to life all at once. About 15 minutes long performance including music and light created a really romantic atmosphere that is always best to enjoy in pairs so I wasn’t sure if to feel happy or sad. Just in case, I felt a little bit of both.
Singapore Flyer seemed to be just next to the Gardens by the Bay but quite literally, a bay was in between. I walked around, using the crappy map I’d got from the airport and just couldn’t find my way between the skyscrapers and highways. Finally, another famous landmark caught my eye – The Helix Bridge. It’s a pedestrian bridge curved as the DNA structure, stunning to say the least. I felt as a tiny molecule walking through the structure and finally made my way to the entrance of the Singapore Flyer.
After a time consuming safety check and pretty long queues, eventually it was my turn to step on one of the 28 air-conditioned capsules. With me, there were two Japanese couples who appreciated both each other and the amazing views of the city all through the 15-minute ride. Again, I had never really been a big fan of those rides but I must say it was worth the ticket money. All those lights for as long as one could see made me fall in love with Singapore even more – the clean, safe and fun city that I’d only just begun getting to know. Back at the comfy airport, I promised I’d come back. And I’m sure I will.