Prior to going on this trip, I cannot even remember how many times we hummed and hawed about going to Singapore. It wasn’t until about a month before the trip that we finally made an executive decision to make a stopover in Singapore for 2 days while travelling from Thailand to Bali. We also decided that because we were only going to be there for 2 nights and a hostel room can run you upwards of 100$/night with a shared bathroom, that we would splurge and book a room at the Marina Bay Sands; a nice change from staying in a guesthouse for the past 3.5 weeks. The interesting part about all of this is that even with all of the indecision about Singapore; it has ended up being one of the highlights of our trip.
For those of you that know me (Sean) well, this will simply be a review, but for those of you who know me but not that well, I am going to explain a few things to you. I, at times or quite frequently depending on if you talk to Lindsay, can be a little neurotic about certain things. I love cleanliness, I love order, I love rules and regulations and I always feel that everything has a right place. I am the type of person who likes to get “shit done”, with a plan, on time and done right the first time. I had heard stories about Singapore and its strict rules and regulations as well as its famous cleanliness. This sounds like my kind of city. However, I also heard some bad things like how their court system involves just a judge, no jury and if convicted of murder, drug trafficking or weapons smuggling, you are sentenced to death. There are also severe penalties for what we consider petty crimes such as graffiti or littering (i.e. jailed for up to 20 years or various forms of corporal punishment). I had also read that the cost of living is so high in Singapore (880,000$ for a condo) that we figured homelessness and poverty would be somewhat evident, especially in the downtown core. We must say however, everything that we expected to see was vastly different from our actual experience.
We landed at the Singapore airport, voted the #1 airport in the world. The airport was stunning, efficient and very clean. The bathrooms even had a TV screen as you exited with a picture of the bathroom cleaner and a touch screen review of the cleanliness of the facilities. Of course I gave the facilities a 10/10, as I have never been in a cleaner public bathroom. As most of you know, when leaving the Calgary airport, you are greeted with our brand new Airport Trail that leads to the “beautiful” Deerfoot Trail; a mishmash of brown open fields, industrial parks and concrete. Very appealing to visitors I’m sure. Since I live in Calgary and am so used to seeing this every time I head to or leave the airport, I didn’t expect much when leaving the airport in Singapore. I was very mistaken. I have never in my life seen a more beautiful road/highway. The middle median was made up of flower beds filled to the brim with brightly colored flowers, while the outside edges were strewn with gorgeous old trees whose branches extended over the road as if providing a roof in case it rained. Lindsay and I sat in absolute awe as we drove along this road. In fact it was actually a 6 lane highway that was more beautiful than Calgary’s own botanical gardens. It was honestly like being in Alice in Wonderland. Not one leaf out of place, not one dead flower and every hedge, trimmed to exactly the same height. It didn’t even seem real. We also found out from our cab driver that if there ever was an emergency at the airport, the city was attacked or their air force base was destroyed for some reason, within 10 minutes, all of the median flowers could be removed to accommodate the landing of fighter jets on particular sections of this highway. You know… just in case.
After the breath taking highway adventure, we finally arrived at the most expensive hotel we will ever stay at. You can see the enormity of this hotel while flying in the sky and as we drove the road of wonder we could see it towering in the distance. This hotel of course, if you haven’t googled it yet, is the Marina Bay Sands Hotel & Casino. The one with the infinity pool on the very top floor, overlooking the entire city, with cafés and restaurants bordering each side and a lookout that you can stand on which is basically floating on air…. yup that one. When the taxi driver dropped us off at entrance # 3, we were immediately greeted by 2 gentlemen who opened the doors and told us where to go to check in. This was a very nice gesture as once we entered this massive building; it was noticeable how easy it would be to get lost. The lobby extended so far that we could not even see the other entrances. Art work and sculptures filled the lobby with a modern décor and even though modern can feel cold, this was one of the most welcoming places we’d been. Our necks were sore from looking up, as the ceiling was endless, adding to the atmosphere of making us feel tiny. People were wandering about, the cafés and bakery shops bursting at the brim with people trying to get the last chocolate éclair; which, by the way, tasted amazing!
Once we checked in, we were taken to our room and asked if we were scared of heights, which we both are, but laughed and said no anyways. We soon found out that the view from the 47th floor was quite spectacular and that indeed, we were both still scared of heights! When we booked this hotel we of course took the cheaper option and picked the “Garden View”. This view actually ended up being the better of the two sides as we looked down upon the massive structures that lie within the “Gardens by the Bay”. More on those later.
As we settled in quickly to our new surroundings we both decided that the pool was the place to explore first. Up to the 57th floor and out to the deck we went. The view was incredible; skyscrapers across the little lake, huge hills behind miles of city structures, and the harbour with what seemed to be a thousand boats with the ocean that stretched on forever. It was hard to just look at one thing as our attention would immediately be drawn to something else off in the distance or down below. The pool extended almost the entire length of the hotel and there were trees and plants growing along the deck. It was quite hard to leave that view and eventually we had to come back later that night for some drinks and supper!
Our whole plan of when we arrived in Singapore went out the door once we went to the pool. We originally wanted to leave the hotel to try to see however much of the city that we could. However, after the pool, we decided to check out the rest of the hotel and that was where we ended up staying for the rest of the day. For those of you who have been to Las Vegas, this hotel was like any hotel on the strip, except way larger. There were 3 floors and some of the most expensive clothing and jewellery stores in the world. Louis Vuitton even has its own store that you have to walk through a tunnel, under the harbour, to arrive at their personal floating building.
Underneath the hotel there is a massive casino with multiple security checks. Since Singapore opened its first ever casino in 2010 (there are only 2 in the entire city) the security in the casino was as intense as it was at the airport. No fooling around there. I was told prior to going in that I could only wear my hat if I wore it forwards. Security is so tight we actually got in trouble for taking pictures inside. We never gambled though as the cheapest black jack table bet was $50.00 and we weren’t ready to spend that when it could buy us 3 meals! Instead we spent our 3 meal money on heading out to one of the world’s best nightclubs. Zouk; rated number 5 in the world only behind the massive legendary clubs of Fabric, Green Valley and a few that lie on that little island in Spain called Ibiza. We will simply end this by saying that I may have woken up with a bit of a headache and Lindsay with a stomach ache from eating all those very expensive pringles from the mini bar.
After leaving our friends for 3 days, we reunited with 2 of them on our last day in Singapore. After showing them around and allowing them to get their bearings, we headed out that night hunting for some foodhawker stalls. Not far from the hotel on the other side of the harbour we found ourselves gorging on delicious Singapore, Indian, Chinese and Mixed favourites at a place called Gluttons Bay. As the name suggests, we ate until we couldn’t force anymore food down into our bursting bellies. It was actually kind of disgusting how much we ate that night, but it was one of the best meals on this trip and so worth it.
Later that night we headed into the “Gardens by the Bay” (I told you I would get to it). The Gardens consist of 250 acres of reclaimed land just behind the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The Singapore government claim that this park is part of an attempt to better the quality of life of its citizens by changing from a Garden City to a City within a garden. There is no other way to describe this “garden” but absolutely breathtaking. We had a great view of the entire compound from our balcony, but we never imagined that it would look the way it did on the ground. In the middle of the gardens are these structures called “SuperTrees”, which at night light up and illuminate this park. It literally makes you feel as if you just landed on another planet. I know that this blog is a way to describe our experiences and create a picture of what we have seen, but for once we both honestly cannot find any words to describe what we saw. It was a crazy sight and it didn’t hurt that the massive Marina Bay Sands Hotel along with a full moon were in the background. We will leave it up to you to decide upon seeing the pictures how to best describe this park.
Ultimately Singapore was a whirlwind adventure that unfortunately only lasted 2 days. The people of this city are some of the nicest and warmest I (Sean) have ever encountered on any trip I have been on. This city is immaculate in every way and something that the people of Singapore should be proud of. While heading out to the club in a taxi and while walking outside of the hotel grounds, we never saw any garbage or graffiti, no homeless people, no unattended gardens/trees or even a single pothole in the road. Throughout our entire stay we always wondered if this city of perfection came at a cost. We quickly realized that this high cost of living has its downfalls. We spoke with many cab drivers who are angry with the government over how lavish their life is, while they themselves suffer along. One also voiced his opinions fairly loudly telling us about the imperfections that lie within the justice system. He continued by saying that if you do anything wrong/break the law, the judges simply ignore your pleas, punish you and refuse to listen on a case by case basis. Everyone is painted with the same brush regardless of circumstances. We started to feel for these people. Yet, no matter how worked up they got while voicing their frustrations, all of them would always say that they still loved the city of Singapore. I feel there is so much more to see and to explore. So much that we were simply unable to see due to time constraints. The people, the architecture, the liveliness and simply the beauty of this city has drawn me in. I will see you again Singapore.