About six years ago I had the pleasure of going to Singapore. I have a very close friend who lives there, so she showed me the ropes. I can honestly say it was one of the best trips I've ever been on, probably because I had such a great host.
She knows all the coolest places to go, and her insider knowledge meant I got to see some hidden gems. Although I think a highlight was standing on the roof of the Marina Bay Sands hotel and admiring the incredible views of the city whilst sipping on cocktails. You can read all about my trip to Singapore here.
Ever since I went, I've been trying to come up with a way of going back, but it hasn't happened yet. So, in order to motivate myself to book a return trip, I've come up with a to-do list of all the wonderful things I want to do. I had a Skype chat with my friend, and she's got me up to speed with the latest and best things to see and do (that I haven't already done).
Apparently, the city has changed a lot since I was there. She says Singapore has gone through a big transformation in the last five years, its boomed and become even more modernised. The city's MRT system is really cheap and is now even more linked up and connected. I've used it myself, it's really simple and easy to follow.
I'm excited to see for myself how the city has evolved and to delve a little deeper into the history and culture. Singapore has such a fascinating melting pot of cultures. It's the perfect mixture of Asian culture and flares with Western influence from the colonial days. When I do go back, I don't just plan to visit Singapore. It's easy to get to some other amazing destinations from Singapore, such as Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Bali.
Stopping off in Singapore beforehand is ideal because you can adjust to the warm weather, recover from your jet lag, and it's a good base to get used to the different cultures. Because Singapore is an east meets west gateway, you can get used to a mix of cultures before continuing to places where you're more likely to get a bit of a culture shock (unless you are a seasoned traveller of course).
Check out my Singapore travel itinerary below...
The Gardens by the Bay
The Gardens by the Bay are a new tourist attraction and a wonderful addition to the city. I want to go on the skywalk where you walk around the supertrees and also catch the light show in the evening which is free for everyone to enjoy. You might have seen Singapore featured on the cities episode of Planet Earth 2, in this episode they showed the two domes at the Gardens by the Bay.
One of them is a cloud forest which is apparently a bit like a rainforest, and the other one is a cactus garden. I've heard the rainforest one is pretty epic, so if you have to choose one, go with that one. Apparently, if you go for afternoon tea at "Pollen", you can get into the cactus garden dome for free.
Afternoon tea at The Clifford Pier
Last time I went to Singapore I went for a Singapore Sling and afternoon tea at the famous Raffles Hotel. But I hear there's another place where you can experience afternoon tea with a twist. At The Clifford Pier, you can relive the colonial days and sip on a cuppa in the stunning historical heritage building.
As well as traditional scones, they also serve local delicacies like "kurobuta pork kong ba bao" in "man tou" which is pulled pork in a gravy in a steamed white rice bun. This is a quintessentially Singaporean experience. Plus, if you can drag your afternoon tea out until 5 o'clock you can benefit from happy hour and witness the sunset over Marina Bay Sands on the veranda.
Haw Par Villa
To mix up modern Singapore with a touch of culture, check out Haw Par Villa. It was owned by the two brothers who invented Tiger Balm. It's a shrine of that one of the brothers dedicated to the other. The villa is right next to the MRT station and there's a fascinating story behind it, which I hope to discover for myself. I've heard it's a bit gruesome and strange, and apparently contains the ten stages in the court of hell, a moral compass that you should follow.
Sushi, the real deal
I'm not going to lie, I'm not a massive fan of sushi. Whenever I buy it in the UK I'm always a bit disappointed. Sushi is really overpriced in UK and London and the concept of sushi is misconstrued. In Singapore it's the real deal, it's a lot fresher and cheaper, and they fly the seafood in daily. I only went to one proper sushi restaurant last time, so I intend to go to a few more on my next trip so that I can make some recommendations.
A fusion of Korea and Japan at Tanjong Pagar
My friend recommended that I go to Tanjong Pagar, which is a road name and also a district. Many tourists head to Chinatown and Little India, but this area is a local secret. She says it's a cross between Little Korea and Little Japan, with influences from both countries. There are tonnes of wedding shops with magnificent gowns lined up in the windows and at least 30 places to eat.
At night it comes to life and there's lots of little bars where you can have few drinks. Head up the side street to Duxton Hill on Friday night to join the locals and expats at play.
Using Singapore to visit other places
If you're wondering where the best places to go to from Singapore are, my friend said that it's really easy to get to Bangkok, Phuket, Bali, Vietnam and Kuala Lumpur. However, these are the places that I most want to visit and why...
I want to visit Nai Yang Beach which is five minutes from the airport, there you can take a local bus or taxi to explore the other beaches which have really nice beachfront cafes. I'm also really keen to try a martial arts camp in Thailand, as I compete in kickboxing and Taekwondo and this would be a really good test for me.
I want to visit Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in particular. It's quite a compact city which is centred around the Ben Thanh Market. I want to visit the museums here and learn all about the Vietnam War and sample the cuisine as Ho Chi Minh City is supposed to be an absolute mecca for street food.
I want to set foot in Siem Reap, a really small town centred around Angkor Wat. I want to wander around the streets and shop in the knick knack shops where you can buy lots of unusual things to bring home. I also want to hop on a tricycle bike and head to the temples which are about a 20/30 minute bike ride away from the city. My friend in Singapore also says that Phnom Penh, the capital, is a really cool city and comparable to Ho Chi Min City.
What attracts me to Bali is the gorgeous scenery and it also seems like the perfect place to totally relax. In Ubud, you can completely switch off and go for walks, coffee, and bike riding through paddy fields. Bali is also a bit of a paradise for Yoga lovers, and as a newly converted Yoga addict, I want to experience a proper Yoga retreat.
Those are the main places I will try and visit each time I go to Singapore. Hopefully, I will get the chance to go soon and make all the things above become a reality. I'm dying to see how Singapore has changed and what more it has to offer as a holiday destination. Watch this space!