Two days in Singapore
In November I needed to travel to Singapore for work, so I thought I’d extend my stay to explore the city. I’d been to Singapore once before but only had a couple hours as I was using it as a hub to fly elsewhere. While I needed to work during the days on Thursday and Friday, I had an evening and almost two full weekend days at my disposal, with a 6pm flight back to Perth on the Sunday night.
Prior to my trip, I didn’t really know much about Singapore other than it has an excellent airport and it’s hot. So starting off with next to no idea what I wanted to see, I bought Lonely Planet’s “Pocket Singapore”, that sets out all the highlights by the major areas of the country. Using this as my guide, I narrowed down the areas I wanted to explore and then planned out how much of those areas I could realistically see in my short time.
In the end, besides eating my bodyweight in dumplings, I visited the following sites:
- Clarke and Boat Quays – the waterfront restaurant and bar precincts
- Marina Bay Sands – the giant hotel with what looks to be a giant boat on its top
- Orchard Road – the road full of (mostly air conditioned) shopping centres and food courts
- Gardens by the Bay – the futuristic public park with giant “trees”, biodomes, intriguing sculptures and an evening light show
- Chinatown – for history and food
- Singapore Botanic Gardens – one of the city’s largest parks with an Orchid Garden in its centre
- Little India and Kampong Glam – colour shops and food options
Hopefully this post will give you an idea of how much you can fit into two days and nights in Singapore!
Evening one – Clarke and Boat Quays
Arriving in the early evening, my first stop was an evening stroll along Clarke Quay and Boat Quay. Clarke Quay has a number of restaurants, shopping centres and bars along both sides of the river. There seemed to be a lot going on in this area, and lots of people strolling along the river, pre and post dinner.
Following the river eastward (towards Marina Bay Sands), you’ll enter the Boat Quay precinct. On the north side of the river, you’ll find the Singapore Parliament building and the Asian Civilisations Museum. Just after the museum, you’ll reach Cavenagh Bridge, a pedestrian bridge takes you to Fullerton Hotel, a huge and very high-end hotel that used to house the post office in the 1920s.
Following the river westward back towards Clarke Quay, you’ll find a strip of less expensive restaurants, a number of them with riverside seating, and also a number of restaurants that label themselves as for “backpackers”. I got the feeling that this area is a lot less expensive than the higher end options over in Clarke Quay.
I decided to skip all of the restaurants and headed back towards my hotel, the Fairmont Singapore, conveniently located as part of a major shopping centre, Raffles City. I ate at a restaurant called Salt Tapas and Bar, which is owned by an Australian chef called Luke Mangan. The food was great and worked out well as a place to eat as a solo traveller.
Bonus site – Marina Bay Sands
During one of my work days, we had an excellent (and likely very expensive) lunch at Imperial Treasure at Marina Bay Sands. After lunch, we had a cocktails on the rooftop bar called Spago and then walked around the shops and saw a level of tacky I didn’t know existed – gondolas that will take you up and down the canal as if you’re in Venice. Cringe!
Day 2 – Orchard Road, Gardens by the Bay and China Town
Due to a work party the night before at the St Regis Hotel ballroom, my Saturday of exploring started just after midday! While I tend to get out on the sightseeing road as early as possible in the morning, it just didn’t happen this time. I blame the cocktails the night before at the Manhattan Bar (excellent bar at the Regent Hotel, though expect to pay S$20 for a cocktail).
One thing you’ll soon realise when visiting Singapore is that the midday sun can be very hot and air conditioning will be your best friend.
Luckily, Orchard Road is lined with numerous air conditioned shopping malls, many which are linked together underground (which is just another level of shops). I was visiting the city at the end of November, so many of the shopping centres were decorated for Christmas such as this one:
If you’re in the area and you’re not in the mood for shopping (or you’re all shopped out!), just off of Orchard Road along Emerald Hill Road, you’ll find a street lined with heritage houses like these:
Gardens by the Bay
After some R&R by the pool at my hotel, which was interrupted by a quick but very rain intensive storm, I set off on the metro to Marina Bay Sands.
I wanted to time my visit to Gardens by the Bay in the early evening so I could see the giant trees before it was dark, but also to watch the light show where all the trees light up to music. Given the time of year, the light show was set to a number of Christmas music.
The Gardens by the Bay area is very large, so scope out the numerous attractions before you arrive and plan accordingly. Two of the major sites are the giant domes in the middle of the park. One houses the Cloud Forest and the other the Flower Dome. The Gardens by the Bay website describes the Cloud Forest as “a realm high in the mountains ” and the Flower Dome as “the world of perpetual spring, where unique flowers bloom”. Both attractions are highly rated and I’ll be visiting them on my next trip.
For the Gardens by the Bay website click here.
The giant trees are actually large “exhaust pipes” for the two biodiversity domes. The ‘trees’ are covered in thousands of different types of plants, and well it’s really hard to describe how big and cool they look without seeing them in person!
Besides the Trees and the Domes, the park is full of sculptures and art. Two of my favourites were the giant flower filled clock and the Giant Baby Statue (and by giant I mean 9m long and 3m tall – it’s one big baby) titled Planet. The Giant Baby is definitely worth a detour when you’re roaming through the park. I stumbled upon it as I was trying to find my way out of the park.
After taking in what I could of Gardens by the Bay, I walked along the waterfront, through the central business district and finally over to China Town. Zigzagging through the city’s CBD, I knew I was in China town when I saw the temples and interesting and diverse architecture.
While my guidebook mentioned a number of food courts, it started to rain and I settled on the pretty much solely tourist-aimed Smith Street named “China Town Food Street” which my Lonely Planet guide noted as a place to avoid. I had a very cheap bowl of noodles, while not the best I’ve ever had, they did the trick.
Nearby to Smith Street, you’ll find a couple of streets lined with shops, including the night market on Pagoda Street. This is what you would refer to as the tourist-centric part of China Town. If you want cheap souvenirs, this is your street!
Day 3 – Singapore Botanic Gardens, Little India and Kampong Glam
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Definitely one of the highlights for me was visiting the Orchid Gardens at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The Gardens are fairly easy to reach by metro (stop – Botanic Gardens), which the entrance a very short walk from the exit of the metro station.
I visited on a Sunday morning so the park was full of early morning runners and families enjoying some green space before the midday sun crept in. For me the definite highlight is the Orchid Gardens that at S$5 per adult entrance fee, is an absolute bargain. The rest of the botanic gardens are free to enjoy.
I combined the Botanic Gardens and Little India on the same day as you can reach both of them on the same train line. What I hadn’t thought through was how hot it was going to be walking around Little India at midday!
By the time I was exiting the Little India metro station, my leisurely stroll turned into a “what can I see quickly before I melt?!” quick walk through of the area.
If you arrive at the Little India station like I did, you’ll come upon the very colourful and vibrant Buffalo Road full of shops. To see colourful ramped up to the next level, while walking along Buffalo Road, turn left down a lane before Serangoon Road to see the extra colourful “Tan House”.
While I’m sure there is lots to see in Little India, I was happy with a quick walk along the streets, a short look into Thandapani Co (on Dunlop Street) to see the smorgasbord of spices, a peek at Abdul Gaffoor Mosque (also on Dunlop Street) and continuing over to Kampong Glam.
Little India is adjacent to Kampong Glam, so combining the two is a quick way to cover both areas. I crossed over from Little India by walking along Weld Road that turns into Arab Street. That walk, while fairly short, has no shade so it was very hot!
Crossing into Kampong Glam, you can’t help but see the giant Sultan Mosque. I wasn’t sure what else to see, and I stumbled upon Hijin Lane, located between North Bridge Road and Beach Road. It turned out to be a highlight and made me feel better for all the walking in the heat! The laneway is full of different and interesting shops, including an ice cream shop called Hokkaido which puts a ball of ice-cream inside a cream puff. At the end of the lane, there’s some very cool street art painted on the buildings. The laneway is worth a walk through if you’re in the area.
Have you visited Singapore? What were your highlights? Leave me a comment below!