Singapore – A Perfect Respite from India

This post is a bit delayed and I’ve done so much in between but I can’t miss out a part of my trip (a post on Kuala Lumpur will come soon too) so here is what I got up to in Singapore.
So far in this trip I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some wonderful people who have kept me going, helped me find cool things to do and generally kept any loneliness at bay. After spending two weeks with the same group of friends and feeling like I had made some true connections I was nervous about being on my own again, after all, the few times I had been by myself so far it hadn’t gone very well. Yet Singapore surprised me. I hadn’t expected to find much to interest me and in the end I felt like I moved on too soon. It turned out that Singapore was the perfect respite from India. There wasn’t a scrap of rubbish in sight, the metro was quick and easy and rarely very crowded, in fact there were no real crowds – not by Indian standards anyway – anywhere and best of all, not once did I see someone pissing by the side of the street. The real thing I loved about Singapore though, was that for the first time I felt like I could do this travelling thing on my own.

Day 29 – I actually arrived in Singapore at a reasonable time and instead of getting ripped off by some taxi driver I managed to get a dirt cheap shuttle bus directly to my hostel. I’d booked myself into a capsule hostel, which essentially meant a narrow room with lots of curtained nooks with beds in with a little fold down table/shelf. Cosy!

Eager to make the most of what was left of the day I quickly made a plan to see the light show by the bay and see the famous Marina Bay Sands up close. On my way out I noticed it had started to rain and when I went back to get my raincoat I invited Kyle, the only other person I had seen in my room, to come with me. He happily agreed since the problem with capsule beds was that as cosy as they were, they aren’t very sociable, in fact, other than hearing the occasional snore, its hard to tell who is actually in the room at any time. He said I was the only other person he’d really spoken to here and was happy for the company too. We made our way to the Marina Bay Sands Mall, which is probably more expensive than other malls in Singapore, but offered some delicious, cheap food. Afterwards we wandered outside and watched a very confusing but quite pretty fountain and light show on the waterfront. Images were projected onto a fan of water and from what I could tell, told the story of a boy and girl growing up, falling in love, having children and joining an orchestra…? Even better was the Gardens by the Bay light show, where the huge sci-fi looking trees flashed multi-coloured to various popular songs, mostly from musicals.

Seeing the amazing “boat balanced on three towers”, a.k.a Marina Bay Sands, from the bottom just wasn’t close enough so me and Kyle rushed back to the hotel to smarten up and came back, whizzing up the towers, straight to the top. The view was spectacular – as were the drinks prices! We sipped Bellinis and admired the twinkling lights of the city spread out before us. Yesterday I had been in India, sitting by a pool in Goa, today I was on the top of a world famous building drinking cocktails. We might have been dressed the part but we were still obviously out of our league. The table next to us ordered another round and a bottle of champagne to celebrate a birthday. Me and Kyle ordered a Pimms to share. We left before we were tempted to buy any more drinks and before I knew it we were at the bottom and I had completely forgotten to take a peak at the famous swimming pool! Put it on the list for next time.

Day 30 – When I woke up Kyle wasn’t around so I made a plan for the day by myself and set off to explore. Though I would have welcomed the company I was also sort of excited about finding my own way around. On Kyle’s suggestion I checked out China town. I visited my second Temple of the Buddha Tooth Relic temple of this trip and a Hindu temple called Sri Marriamman. I saw Chinese men playing chequers in the square and browsed the market stalls full of good luck tokens, little bowls with chopsticks and cut out paper art. 

From China town I headed back to Sentosa. Here I visited the Art Science Museum, the lotus shaped building by Marina Bay Sands Mall. I wasn’t sure whether this would be worth it or not but it was something to do and in the end I really enjoyed it. I ended up going to an exhibit on how art and technology have joined together to showcase environmental issues. There were interactive maps and boards and all sorts. My favourite though was a project where you could colour in an animal, scan it in and then watch it appear on the floor beneath your feet. I chased my flower-shelled turtle as it swam across the dark floor, flowers and other animal projections floating alongside it. Finally I couldn’t end my day without posing by the Merlion Statue and I made a great fool of myself trying to use my phone to position my go pro to get a classic “catching the water in my mouth pose” until a kind woman came and offered to take the photo for me, putting me out of my misery. Selfies can apparently be both a joy and a pain when travelling alone.

Day 31 – One of my favourite days in Singapore and possibly the trip as a whole. I spent the day at Singapore Zoo and two other nearby parks, the Night Safari and River Safari parks. I love zoos! The highlight of this one was getting to watch the tigers being fed. The two white tigers swam in the water, waiting for tasty morsels of meat to be thrown down to them and occasionally snapping at each other in anticipation. When the food came towards them they leaped out of the water, paws spread, claws ready and teeth bared. 

In the end I was too late to properly appreciate the River Safari park and only got a glimpse of the pandas it is known for before they headed into their enclosures for bed time. The Night Safari was a whole new experience though. Sitting on the tram and peering into the dark, trying to catch a glimpse of lions and zebras in the gloom reminded me of being on safari for real in Tanzania. The night noises of creatures howling, grunting and roaring was just the same. It was also nice to just spend a quiet moment enjoying being so close to some amazing animals, standing less than a metre away in the semi-darkness of the bat house as one of the furry, winged creatures swooped down to hang upside down and munch on a bunch of bananas. 

 I loved every minute of the zoo and you can read more about my tips on visiting the zoo in my How to Make the Most of Singapore Zoo post.
Day 32 – Another visit to Gardens by the Bay, this time to see the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest Dome. The first was not really worth the visit. Unless you’re into botanicals its a pretty place to wander around but not much more than a glorified garden centre. I did enjoy a hefty dose of Christmas spirit though, listening to carols being played as I admired tropical plants and posing by the snow globe in the Christmas display for an early x-mas message to my Mum. 

The Cloud Forest Dome was more interesting. Again it had a kind of sci-i/futuristic feel. In fact it was almost as if I had stepped onto a set from Avatar. Above me towered a massive mountain of foliage, water cascading down its sides and walk ways spiralling out from amongs the leafy walls. You take a lift to the top and then wind your way down. There is a little information on cloud forests and not much to see other than this impressive structure, but, like I did, you’ll find yourself drawn in, spotting the different coloured, shaped and patterned leaves that make up the forest. The whole way down I was getting inspiration for sci-fi/fantasy stories!

Day 33 – Perhaps my least favourite day in Singapore. It started out well with my trip to Jurong Bird park. As soon as I arrived I went straight to watch the show and was impressed by the well-trained birds. Parrots flew through hoops, parakeets took dollar notes from the audience and returned it, toucans closed doors to their little shelters and a white peacock ended the show with his impressive tail feathers. 

However, after a little while of walking around the park I began to realise something; when they aren’t performing, birds are pretty boring. Don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful and interesting animals but a whole day of birds was a bit of a bird-overload. Half-way through the day I was dragging my heels but still trying to make the most of it. I pulled out my camera to capture some pelicans preening themselves on their island in the lake when the camera slipped from my grasp and skittered across the floor. Please don’t be broken, please dont’ be broken. I thought desperately as I first pressed and then jammed my finger at the on/off button. The screen remained blank. The lens stayed in its retracted position. I could have cried. My lovely camera that had survived so much and been with me since my gap year trip four years ago had finally given up the ghost. As if I was in a movie (and something more dramatic than a broken camera had happened) it began to rain. I trudged back to the entrance and sat out the storm eating a disgusting dry chicken burger and feeling disappointed not with myself but with Singapore. I completely blamed the whole country for my unfortunate day and was actually a little glad I was moving on to Kuala Lumpur the next day.

Except I didn’t really mean it. One bad day couldn’t over-rule the fantastic time I had in Singapore and we quickly kissed and made up. My first night on top of Marina Bay Sands with another new friend from my trip was great but what was even better was the sense of accomplishment I had from having done so much by myself and having had a great time doing it! I didn’t get lost, I didn’t waste my time not finding anything to do and I loved being able to do what I wanted, when I wanted. It didn’t matter that I spent around 8 hours in a zoo because I was enjoying it whereas someone else might have gotten bored or restless. If I wanted to stop and have a frozen yoghurt looking out over the bay, there was no one there to moan that we needed to be getting on to the next thing. Singapore was easy to navigate, full of fun and interesting things to do and I can’t emphasise enough how nice it was to be somewhere clean after India. Not only was it the perfect respite from the chaos of India but it was a great way to get me back on my feet after spending so long in the company of amazing people. I left Singapore with great memories, some things left to come back for and, best of all, a massive sense of achievement – pretty much the best way to leave any place.

How to Make the Most of Your Trip to Singapore Zoo

I’m a sucker for zoos so when I heard Singapore had not just one amazing zoo but a whole complex of zoos in the same area, I was so excited! I mean who doesn’t love spending your day looking at cute animals? And Singapore Zoo even manages to stretch the fun out into the evening with their Night Safari Park. 

It turned out to be one of my favourite things in Singapore and maybe even the trip as a whole. I managed to see tigers leaping out of the water to catch scraps of meat, I saw Barusa warthogs with tusks growing out of their heads (yes they actually exist) and watched bats flit by me to nibble on sweet fruit. Still, there were some things I wished I had known before-hand to make my visit even better, so here are some tips for you to get the most out of your visit to Singapore Zoo.

Do Your Research – First things first, do your research into what the parks have to offer. This may sound like an obvious one but I made a few assumptions about the parks, such as believing that the River Safari and Night Safari were more like attractions when actually they are full parks in their own right, and this messed up my timings for the day. Simply check out the website and really take note of what shows, feeding times and other attractions you want to hit and have a rough plan for your day. The website even offers a pretty intensive itinerary that you can try out if you want but the main thing is to have an idea of how much time you will spend in the park. People will tell you 3 hours is enough but I think you are looking at more like 4-5 hours if you really want to take your time and enjoy it. Get there in the morning and you’ll have plenty of time to fit it all in. 

Choose the right ticket for you– There are several ticket options for you to choose from:

1. Single Park Admission from S$24-45

2. Two Park Entry S$49

3. Four Park Entry S$69

4. Park hopper (four parks plus shuttle bus and boat within the parks) S$79

I would definiely advise getting one of the combo tickets, not only because price wise you get excellent savings, but also they are just so good you’ll want to see more than one! You can do any combination of the four parks, Singapore Zoo, River Safari, Night Safari or Jurong Bird Park in the two park entry; my recommendation would be Singapore Zoo as it has the most animals and then the Night Safari because it is such a unique experience. What I wouldn’t recommend is the Park Hopper ticket. The only added perk to this is you can use the tram to take you around the park and on the river safari you can catch the boat ride. Unless you have mobility issues it is not too hard to walk around the park and if you change your mind you can buy tickets there (S$5 for tram and same for boat). I ended up using it just for the sake of it and because of timings I didn’t make it to the boat ride at all so even though it is just S$10 extra it wasn’t worth it for me.

Bring Your Own Food – This almost goes without saying for zoos, the price of food is always going to be astronomical so it makes much more sense to grab some snacks and have a picnic. Also, the food I did have was terrible. Stop at one of the bread shops in the metro stations and buy some cheeses rolls, crisps and fruit and you will be all set!

Don’t Miss The Feeding Times – The shows at zoos are always good fun but I find mostly they are aimed at kids, if you want a more interesting experience try to catch the feeding times. I was at the tiger enclosure in time to see them being fed and it was the best part of the day. The two white bengal tigers swam in figures of eight below the keeper, leaping up into the air to catch their food and sometimes swiping at each other too. You are also more likely to hear some cool facts about the animal and get a chance to question the zoo keeper, something you can’t do at a show.

Know What To Expect For the Night Safari – I thought this one of a kind experience was brilliant! The idea behind it is that a lot of animals are more active at night so why not go see them then? While I would say this is still true, don’t expect them all to be running about everywhere, animals have lazy days (or nights) as much as we do. Yet hearing their calls to each other was like being out in the African bush. The fact that the park was a lot quieter at night (many people seemed to do the included safari ride and skip the walking section – which is still worth doing as you see things you don’t on the ride) meant I could enjoy a peaceful moment just watching the animals be. What I want to warn you about though is, again, maybe an obvious point but still worth noting: It gets dark at night. There is low lighting for you to be able to see the animals but it is designed not to disturb the animals too much so is not the best for viewing them. If you have difficulty seeing in low light then maybe this isn’t the park for you, that being said, peering into the darkness to figure out whether that shadow is a sleeping lion or just a big rock is all part of the fun! There is also no flash photography so if you fancy yourself the next National Geographic photographer then don’t expect perfect conditions.

There is so much to see and do there you could easily spend a couple of days visiting two parks each day and have a great time. Singapore Zoo and the other parks were a highlight for me in Singapore and hopefully with these tips to help you along it will be for you too.