Monday, August 31, 2015


The first destination on my gap year:  Singapore!  I had previously transited through Singapore but had never ventured beyond the airport.  This time, I managed to work in a 3.5 day stopover on my way to Africa.  I stayed with the amazing Nick and Angela – friends of friends that I met at a wedding in New Zealand in May.  Having lived in Singapore for a few months, Angela was quite keen to take me around and show off Singapore to me.

Singapore was way more western than I originally anticipated.  A blend of cultures – Chinese, Indian, Malay, British, and more – Singapore stands out from its neighbours in that it doesn’t really feel like Asia usually feels (the drivers follow the rules, the streets are clean, and you can drink the water).  Wandering around downtown, you could think you were in any big North American city, and the riverside area along the quays and the main shopping strips were super posh.

A few highlights of my time in Singapore:

Singapore Botanic Gardens:  Well-worthy of their UNESCO World Heritage Site status, these are undoubtedly the best botanic gardens I have ever been to.  It takes hours to fully cover and appreciate the sprawling area of the gardens.  Admission is free, but there is a small fee to enter the Orchid Garden.  I am so glad I paid the extra few dollars because the Orchid Garden cannot be described as anything other than splendid.

Night Safari:  Adjacent to the Singapore Zoo, the Night Safari contains animals that are more nocturnal in nature.  Most visitors automatically hop on the forty-minute tram ride around the park first, or jump to see the live show as soon they arrive, but I had been given advice to skip the queues and wander around on my own before the throngs of other visitors made their way into the self-guided walks.  The result:  it felt like I had the whole zoo to myself.  There were no screaming children to ruin the experience.  Later on, I didn’t have to queue for the tram or the last session of the show.  Survey says:  the best zoo experience I have ever had.

Singapore City Gallery:  this building contains the urban planning museum which goes through in meticulous detail just how meticulously the city-state of Singapore has been planned out, is currently run, and what will be happening in the future.  It was an absolute nerdgasm.

Marina Bay Sands:  far too expensive for me to venture into, the stunning new icon of Singapore was still great to look at from the outside.  One loud, obnoxious American tourist next to me screamed out “It looks stupid! It looks like someone put a surfboard on top of those three buildings!”  That man needed to be shot.  The Marina Bay Sands is a great icon for the city situated right across the water from one of Singapore’s other great icons, the Merlion.  The best views came from LeVeL33 – a brewery, restaurant, and lounge on the 33rd floor of a downtown building.

Gardens by the Bay:  while the man-made “Supertrees” were quite cool, these outdoor gardens just behind the Marina Bay Sands don’t compare to the Singapore Botanic Gardens.  But when it’s too hot and humid to handle the UNESCO listed version (which is pretty much most of the time in Singapore, right?) the massive enclosed and air-conditioned Flower Dome and Cloud Forest are a fantastic (yet expensive) alternative.  Tight budget?  Skip the Flower Dome and buy a single ticket to the Cloud Forest.  It’s definitely the nerdier of the two.

And finally, no trip to Singapore is complete without an exploration of the many varied neighbourhoods of the city:  Chinatown, Little India, Arab Quarter, Colonial District, and the fancy shmancy quays and Orchard Road shopping district.  And with these come the food:  Chinese, Malay, Indian, Peranakan, plenty of Western options, and of course, I had to sample the local take on Mexican food.  Piedra Negra lost a point when they served their burrito with French fries instead of tortilla chips, but the food was pretty good overall.  But enough about Mexican food - this is Singapore.  Satay me, please!

To see more photos of my time in Singapore, follow this link: