5 great things to do on a stopover in Singapore
If you have a quick weekend trip to the gem of Asia planned or you are on a stopover in Singapore before heading further afield, here are 5 great things to do while you are there. I spent the weekend in the city, which actually is its own Independent State and since the main city centre is smaller than the Yorkshire Dales National Park in England, it’s pretty quick and easy to get around.
If you only have 48 hours then make them work for you and if you are planning a short stopover, I’d consider extended your stay. You should see more than just the inside of Singapore Changi Airport!
5 great things to do on a stopover in Singapore
1. Drink a Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel
Of course, this was going to be featured on the list. Raffles Hotel has such a renowned presence in Singapore. Did you know that the Singapore Sling was actually invented by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon in order to kerb the etiquette of 1915, women not being allowed to drink alcohol in public! Hence, a fruity cocktail made with clear alcohols that look like a fruit juice, and slips down like a fruit juice too! Now served in the Long Bar, on the 2nd Storey of Raffles.
Expect a queue but if you are travelling alone or in a couple, ask to sit at the bar. You can see more of what’s going on behind the scenes there. Don’t forget to munch some of the Long Bar peanuts, fresh from the shell and feel free to brush the peanut shells off the bar or table as a tribute to the British planters who used to patronise the Long Bar. A nod to their Malaya heritage, it is far from frowned upon and more likely encouraged!
Raffles Singapore, 1 Beach Road, Singapore 189673
2. Take the Singapore River Boat Cruise
This was recommended to me my chauffeur from the airport. The ONE thing I should do whilst I was in town. It was on its banks that the foundations for modern Singapore were laid more than 150 years ago when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles landed ashore. Beginning life as a humble bustling fishing village, it soon developed into a busy seaport as trade increased between the East and West.
The Singapore river cruise is a forty minute tour, often with voice-over commentary of the sights and sounds of the developing city over the ages. It’s best to go at night when it’s dark after 7:30 pm to see all the skyscrapers of the city alight and if you’re lucky the Marine Bay Sands iconic building might put a laser show on for you!
3. Head to Clarke Quay
If you do the cruise you may start here or pootle past it for sure. This is where all the hustle and bustle is, the restaurants, bars and where the late nights are to be had. For atmosphere and good food Clarke Quay is a great spot. Back in the day, when Raffles established Singapore as it is today enterprising hawkers packed the alleyways of Clarke Quay area with their fares. Fishermen, traders and workers from across Asia and Europe soon flooded in – adding diversity, colour, and life into the thriving and vibrant community and now it thrives in its own right as a destination for locals and tourists alike.
Although I was on my own for the trip, I didn’t feel out of place. It was great to sit outside, by the riverside and people watch over dinner. I ate in Hutong, a Northern Chinese speciality restaurant. I had great steamed pork dumplings and sweet and sour pork with a side of Gin Fizz cocktail.
Hutong, Clarke Quay, 3D River Valley Road #01-07 Singapore 179023
4. Walk around Fort Canning Park
I originally intended to visit the historic Battle Box, located in Fort Canning Park. An underground Far East Command Centre from where the British Army surrendered Singapore to the Japanese on 15 February 1942. However I was short of time and visiting the Battle Box is by guided tour only, so if you intend to go, make sure you have time to fit it in. Instead, I wandered around Fort Canning Park, an iconic hilltop landmark has witnessed many of Singapore’s historical milestones. The park is a beautiful expanse of wooded areas featuring pop up statues and pieces of art and sprawling lawns where people meet for picnics, practice tai chi and explore the native trees and flowers.
In a humid city, this is a tranquil area to cool off in the shade, but remember a bottle of water if you are going to walk around as it is quite hilly and it’s easy to get too hot and bothered even when walking at a relatively slow pace. I was enchanted by the park’s ancient artefacts and rich heritage and yes as you can see from the collage above, I made a new friend!
Fort Canning Park, River Valley Rd, Singapore 179037
5. Take a break in Watanabe Coffee
Ok, strictly speaking, this is a Japanese coffee house, not Singaporean but it is fabulous. As you might know, I love my coffee and in a place where they offer you Japanese coffee, Dutch cold brewed coffee and a good selection of main courses and desserts, despite being pricey, it was a winner.
I went for regular Brazilian coffee brewed (that I had hot) and served in this amazing, almost scientific way, then I’m sucked in.
I actually saw this place on a walk and lost it twice when trying to find it again. I stumbled back upon it and dived in for a Sunday morning caffeine injection and wasn’t disappointed.
350 Orchard Road Shaw Centre, Isetan Scotts Level 1, Singapore 238868
My view of Singapore
I felt really at ease in the city. It’s well known as a low-crime city and is popular with solo female business travellers. Although the streets are relatively safe, pickpocketing does occur in crowded areas so be aware; having said that everyone walks around with their smartphone in their hand so it’s pretty chilled out. Smoking restrictions are pretty tight which is great and something odd to note, I didn’t see a single dog whilst out and about – how strange!
For me, Singapore felt very much like Tokyo, a similar buzz but without the business. It felt like Hong Kong but less smog and pollution. It felt much freer and open than Beijing and it felt really easy to get around, low key and a very easy going city. But be warned when I said easy to get around, that’s thanks to the awesome MRT (underground/subway) but the streets confused me, thanks to numerous underpasses and crossings – always have a map with you or your smartphone in your hand!
Final Top Tip
Make sure you book a hotel with a swimming pool. You might think such a short trip doesn’t warrant packing your bikini or trunks but trust me, the humidity is a killer and you will be grateful to cool off after a day in the city or start your day with an ‘awaken the senses’ dip in the hotel swimming pool.
I stayed at Orchard Hotel on Orchard Road, a great central location a few minutes’ walk from Orchard MRT and Orchard Road is the Singapore version of London’s Oxford Street. I’d recommend it, it has a great pool on the 4th floor!
I also visited the Hotel Jen Tanglin at 1A Cuscaden Rd. It’s a pretty funky hotel, with a great interior design featuring a tandem bicycle in the café and bright bikes hanging from the walls, it’s also a great hotel for a short stay in Singapore.
I hope this gives you a little inspiration for a stopover in Singapore or for a longer trip. If you’ve visited before, let me know if you have any special places to visit and any favourites to recommend!
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