Singapore Slingin’

After an overnight flight from Male, and a 12-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur, we were pretty much knackered when we arrived into Singapore at 6pm. Getting into the country was extremely easy as they use automated gates that you scan you passport, have a photo taken and a gate opens. You then move to a secondary area where you have your fingerprint taken, and then you’re through! By the time we got through our bags were already at the carousel as well.

We jumped in a Grab and it took about 25 minutes to get from the airport to the Hilton Conrad Orchard that we were staying at. We redeemed two nights on points at 70k points a night, and had a free night certificate as well. We actually booked the points stay on Tim’s account and the free certificate on my account but when we got there they were able to merge them into one and let us stay in Tim’s upgraded room the whole time! Since Tim has diamond status through his Hilton Aspire credit card we got a room on the 11th (of 12) floor and that was the floor with the Executive Lounge on it so we could wander over there for breakfast, afternoon tea, and cocktail hour.

Since we arrived so late we decided to just go to the executive lounge for a drink and some of the snacks they have out rather than heading out for dinner. I think we were both fast asleep by about 8:30pm.

The next morning we woke up and took advantage of the free breakfast at the Executive Lounge before heading out to explore. We walked along Orchard Street a ways before deciding it was way too hot and getting a 3-day tourist pass for the transit network. It was $34 Singapore (around $25USD) and at the end of the term you can return it for $10 back. So for unlimited use of the bus, train and trams it worked out to be about $6USD a day. You can’t beat that value.

We quickly learned that the transit network was AMAZING. It was efficient (there was a train almost every 2 minutes no matter where we went), it was clean, and most importantly as a tourist, it was well signed. We never felt lost or confused. Apple and Google Maps both had transit directions telling you which train to get and which exit to get out at.

After getting our cards our first stop was Little India which as you might have guessed, is the area that a lot of Indian immigrants moved to back in the day. There is a self guided tour with markers at important historic destinations and it was neat to see the government highlight another culture in such a marked way. After completing a few stops we also did a couple stops at Kampong Glam, which is the Muslim area and is marked the same way. Since it was now 90+ degrees we headed back to the hotel to take advantage of afternoon tea and a few hours of rest in the A/C before heading back out for dinner.

Dinner unfortunately turned out to be a bit of a bust. We wanted to get dinner from one of the hawker markets but we discovered upon arriving at 7pm that they are mostly lunchtime service and most of them were closed. We managed to get some xiao long bao (after getting cash out from an ATM) but almost everything was closed by the time we were done those so we headed back out to the street and found a regular sit down restaurant to eat at.

The next morning we headed down to the 2nd floor to have breakfast at the main restaurant which had more options but was much busier. It was still free though thanks to that handy Diamond status. After filling up we packed our backpacks and jumped in a Grab to head way out of the city to go to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Admission is free and there is a ton to explore. We managed to see crocodiles, monitor lizards, birds, fish, mudskippers, spiders, and a snake. One of the crocodiles we saw had to be 12 feet long and the biggest monitor lizard that was only a couple feet away (with no fence) was about 5 feet in length. They really do look like something you’d see in a Jurassic Park movie!

As we walked back to the area that was designated for Grab pickup/dropoff we took a wrong turn out of the park and ended up on the road. Well, this wrong turn turned out quickly to be a right turn in Tim’s mind as we stumbled upon a goat dairy farm where you could feed the goats! Tim was of course in seventh heaven. After spending much too long there, and at the park before that, we jumped on a bus and then a train back to the hotel and slept the rest of the day. We may have had a touch too much sun that day cos we were both wiped out.

The next morning was our last at the Hilton Conrad Singapore, but not our last in Singapore. We checked out and took a Grab to our new hotel for the last night: The Marina Bay Sands. If you know anything about SIngapore you probably know about this hotel. It’s iconic shape has been a fixture of the skyline ever since it opened back in 2011.

We got to the hotel around 11am but check in isn’t until 3pm, so what were we to do? Well, the hotel will let you “pre-checkin” meaning they take your bags and issue you a day pass that allows you to get up to the top floor with the infinity pool, as well as the floor one down that has an observatory deck.

We took advantage of this and headed up to the 57th floor to check out the pool and the view, before heading out the back of the hotel to walk around the Gardens by the Bay. Most of the gardens is free to walk around with the exception of the Cloud Forest and the Flower Bubble attractions. We skipped those and just walked around outside enjoying the views. When 3pm came we headed back and went up to our room which was upgraded to a 29th floor (we were initially going to be on the 3rd to 9th floor) with a garden view balcony. The garden view was of course the Gardens by the Bay we had just been walking around, and the rest of the room was nice too. The minibar was free so that of course was raided!

When our bags arrived we changed into our swimshorts and headed back up to the pool to this time swim in it. It’s quite a surreal feeling to be swimming in an open air pool 57 floors above the ground, especially when it looks like the edge of the pool is the edge of the building. It isn’t though, it’s an optical illusion, and because of this Tim was able to get in and enjoy the pool.

After a few hours enjoying the pool and the sun, we headed out for dinner to a place called Employees Only. I didn’t know when I found it on Google Maps but it was in fact s speakeasy. When you arrived at the address it’s not there, instead there’s a “Pyschic” storefront offering readings. If you open the door and pull back the curtain you find the bar. It was a neat place, though mainly I was going for the Truffled grilled cheese which was delicious. After a drink and dinner we headed back to our room to watch the Gardens by the Bay lightshow that happens twice a night. We had a great view and it was fun to watch. We then headed up to the pool and watched the water show on the other side of the hotel from the pool. It was interesting sitting in the pool at 9pm watching the city twinkle below.

Our last morning in Singapore came too quickly and after a breakfast from room service we checked out of the hotel, left our bags with them, and went over to explore the mall across the street. Tim had found a sampan ride you could do. The sampan is the traditional boat that Singaporeans have used for centuries, but this one just goes around the mall. It was kitschy but we both laughed at it so it was fun. We then went to the casino to get our $10 tourist free play. I lost all mine but Tim won $50 on free money.

After cashing out his winning, we got our bags back and then headed to the airport. Which is where adventures usually end, but Singapore has one last one in stock at the airport: the Jewel. Featuring the worlds largest indoor waterfall and lush greenery around it, the central area of the Jewel is a sight to behold. It truly doesn’t feel like you’re in an airport when you’re amongst it. You can get to it from all of the terminals I believe so even if you’re just transiting the airport you can still see it.

Singapore surprised both of us in different ways and we’d definitely like to go back and explore it again.

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