16 – 18 February 2017

We decided that, if you're flying half way around the world, you might as well stop and see something on the way. After changing planes in a murky Dubai, which was mostly obscured as we flew over by fog or more likely sand, our next stop was Singapore. Here we would spent a couple of days exploring.

Tired and disorientated, we were relieved to see our driver waiting at the airport to whisk us away to the delightful and, for us, pretty posh accommodation at the Furama Riverfront Hotel. Singapore passed by the window in a blur of tall buildings, many of which seemed to have mini forests part way up, trees and large illuminated roosters. The city was still decorated for the Chinese New Year; this obviously a Rooster year.

At the hotel, the receptionist took one look at our tired, jaded faces and upgraded us to a room which not only had it's own small garden area, but also backed right onto the outdoor swimming pool on the fifth floor.

Weary, we headed to bed to recover from the trip, ready for an early start the next morning for a city tour.

The breakfast buffet was a sight to behold and we made the most of it, stuffing ourselves with fresh fruit, eggs, bacon and even fried rice and headed for our tour bus.

Hope the washing doesn't blow off the line!

Normally we're not fans of organised tours and dislike being herded around like sheep to take snaps of obligatory landmarks from obscure positions, while attempting to miss your fellow bus passengers out of your photos. On this occasion, however, we had decided that the package of tours offered would be a great way to orientate ourselves in the unfamiliar city state, with only a limited time to explore. We were booked for two tours; a city tour and an evening tour to include a Singapore Sling at the world famous Raffles Hotel.

We began in Chinatown at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Here we didn't have time to work out if there was actually a sacred tooth on display, as our bus we whisked us away to the contrasting, startlingly-modern business and riverfront district. We glimpsed the legendary Raffles. We learned that our evening visit was not to be. The bar was closed for renovations and our tour had been cancelled. Somehow we always manage to get our timing just wrong. Normally the riverside stop would have allowed us to visit a famous statue of the city's emblem, the Merlion. However, it was shrouded in tarpaulins, apparently enjoying its annual bath.

Where else would you place cricket and rugby pitches?

Riverfront business district

By way of a contrast to the shiny modernity, we visited Thian Hock Keng Buddhist temple. In addition to its colourful decorations honouring Mazu, a Chinese sea goddess, it was still decorated for the New Year celebrations.

Another contrast, characteristic of Singapore's diversity, our next stop was at the city's peaceful Botanical Gardens to tour the Orchid gardens. If you were famous, you might be lucky enough to have a new orchid variety named in your honour, lesser mortals could pay to have a weird-looking plant named after them! We decided to save our Singapore dollars.

Thian Hock Keng temple

Phil ponders whether the vegetation could live up to his name!

Peace and tranquility in the Botanical Gardens.

Now it was time to sample a taste of Indian Heritage by visiting Little India and its bustling market.

Later in the day we explored by ourselves; this time Chinatown. Here, on the recommendation of our tour guide, we dined at a Michelin star rated former 'hawker' street-food stall. Due to its popularity, it was now an indoor restaurant famous for chicken marinated in soy sauce. All our chopstick practice with the grandkids paid off and we didn't disgrace ourselves in front of our German dinner companions. The place was busy and table sharing was essential.

No need to go fishing in Little India.

Dinner at Hawker Chan's restaurant.

New Year decorations

With full bellies we explored more of Chinatown's busy street market, but couldn't manage any more food. Suddenly right in the middle of things we came across a Hindu temple, followed quickly by a mosque, another indication of the city's ethnic diversity.

We ended our walking tour with a stroll along lively Clarke Quay, Singapore's fashionable riverfront wining and dining area, before heading back to the hotel, making an ice cream stop on the way.

The pool just outside the patio doors of our room was too inviting after a day of hot and humid touring. We floated beneath the stars, enjoying being alone after a day in the crowded city. Then it was time to indulge in a refreshing, cold Tiger beer.

On our second and last day in Singapore we were left to our own devices. We left our luggage in the care of the concierge at the hotel and strolled back down the river to Marina Bay, where we took a second look at the building we'd nicknamed the 'Giant Pineapple'.

The 'Giant Pineapple'.

Riverfront by day.

We walked past a floating football pitch and the motor-racing circuit, then across the 'Helix' footbridge to Marina Bay Sands. The bridge was designed to represent the double strands of DNA twisted together.

As we made our way to the bridge we saw the extraordinary Marina Bay Sands building; a trio of skyscrapers resembling clothes pegs, with a giant, boat-like garden and infinity swimming pool balancing high on the top. Definitely worth a look on our next visit, but now time was against us.

Across the Double Helix Bridge, modernity was king. We headed for the space-age 'Gardens by the Bay'. Giant, metal Super-Trees hosted vertical gardens on their trunks. Nearby, bio-domes housed two amazing conservatories, stunning from the outside, equally so inside. One dome contained a dry, Mediterranean climate, the other a steamy rainforest complete with waterfall. Among the plants nestled beautiful sculptures. All in all it was the most amazing pair of glass-houses that we had ever visited, right in the middle of a city.

Headed to the domes.


Satay chef.

Lunch was traditional 'Satay', kebabs of chicken and prawns marinated in a spicy peanut sauce.

By late afternoon our feet were tired and we were hot and sticky. A walk all the way back to our hotel was unappealing so we braved the unfamiliar metro system, which turned out to be very straightforward, clean and incredibly cheap.

We just had time for a farewell Tiger beer before our ride to the airport arrived, and we were headed overnight to Brisbane, Australia and then New Zealand.

Indoor waterfall

Walking high above the trees without even going outside.

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