I’ve been to Singapore so many times, I’ve literally lost count. Growing up, it was always to visit my aunt, a quick jaunt across the causeway via a 30 minute flight (just enough time to buckle up, drink the proffered o.j., blink twice, then disembark) or a 4 hour car ride. Going back this time, however, was different, because it was my partner’s inaugural trip to Singapore, and I had an opportunity to see the Lion City through new eyes.
9 am: We started our morning with a walk by the riverside, before the tropical heat descended. Clarke Quay is deserted in the morning, with only street sweepers and club workers cleaning up the evidence of the previous’ night debauchery. This historical riverside quay has been beautifully restored – the old warehouses now host restaurants and hip clubs.
From here, you can embark on a Singapore River Cruise to orient yourself with the city. Singapore was (and still is) a trading port, and the city grew up around the river. Old houses line the riverside while soaring modern glass skyscrapers define Singapore’s skyline.
11 am: A city walkabout is compulsory wherever we travel, so with an MRT card in hand and a map, off we went. The sights within the city are imminently walkable – the only limitation we encountered was the humidity and the heat, which made us want to stop at every single hawker stall selling ice-cream sandwiches that we passed along our way. We stop at the Armenian Church, St Andrews (where a Sunday service has just finished) and the Peranakan Museum (beautifully presented and fascinating).
3pm: It’s time for tea (well, almost) and so we make for Raffles Hotel with their uniformed, turban concierge, and start with a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar. Peanuts crunch under our feet as we walk towards our table, and the mechanized fans creak on the ceiling above us. After a drink, we set off for more sustenance. The choices are myriad at the Tiffin Room, but the curry buffet is legendary, as is the high tea, served by white-jacketed waiters. We peek into the fine-dining room, then high tail it out of there for Little India and the temples and (cheaper) restaurants along Serangoon Road instead.
6pm: Tired, hot, sticky, fueled up on curry and decidedly sleepy, J and I head for some retail therapy on Orchard Road, where big brand names jostle alongside…well, more big brand names. Orchard Road is a temple to consumerism and everyone seems to be carrying a shopping bag, or two. We did briefly contemplate visiting Marina Bay Sands for the view across the island, and the casino, but it was all too hard at this point.
8pm: A recommendation for the Crystal Jade Golden Palace Restaurant in the Paragon shopping centre (why is everything in Singapore in a shopping centre?) for dinner brought us to the day’s best meal – perfectly done roast pork, delicately steamed razor clams and deliciously fragrant melon soup. The restaurant serves Chinese food and private dining rooms are available, which is perfect for karaoke – we could hear next door’s diners crooning to all sorts of songs.
10pm: We were back in our serviced apartment by this point, but other options for a Singapore night out include the excellent Night Safari at the zoo (a friend came face-to-face with a sleeping leopard), drinks and dancing at Zouk, or if all else fails, a late night snack at Gluttons Bay, with its varied offering of hawker food.
There is much more to see in Singapore than you’ll be able to cover in 24 hours, and if you give it some time, the city is much more than just shopping malls. However, the city is small enough that you can see many of the main sights in a day. If you are in Singapore on transit, with more than 5 hours to spare, hop onto the free two hour guided tours offered by Changi airport – the tour gives you a taste of Singapore, and you may decide to return… even if it’s just for a day.