24 hours in…SINGAPORE

This is the fourth issue of the latest category on my blog which is designated to transform a – maybe forced – stay like a layover into a short extra-vacation. Of course these itineraries – one for a sunny and an alternative for a rainy day – are great not only for layovers but for any kind of a brief stay, e. g. during a vacation in neighboring Malaysia.

Marlion and Marina Sands Bay
Iconic view of Singapore: The Marlion and the Marina Sands Bay in the backdrop. But this is not the half of it!

Singapore with its population of 5.75 million is the second densest sovereign state in the world (after Monaco). Interestingly of this number a quite high percentage are non-residents, and its strong suit is the service industry such as international banks, insurances, etc. Therefore, although the official national language is Bahasa Malay (very close to Bahasa Indonesia), basically everybody is fluent in English since this is the main working language. With a percentage of 76 percent ethnic Chinese and 7 percent ethnic Indians, Mandarin and Tamil are official languages, too. And just like the population presents a colorful variety, the city itself with modernism next to traditions, financial districts and shopping malls close to ancient jungle does, too. I first got to Singapore because I was on a trip to Malaysia and thought that would be a good opportunity to visit it for a day or two. Actually, I fell in instant love with the city that I find almost more vibrant than New York – and I love coming back. So if you have the chance to spend a day on a layover in Singapore, do it. I supply you with a complete itinerary that allows you to see as much of this fascinating place as possible.

?   Local Currency: 

Singapore Dollar (SGD) / 1 SGD = 0.73 US$ (October 2018) / current rate

?    Emergency Hotline:

Police 999

?    National Airline: 

Singapore Airlines

If you are flying Singapore Airlines and have a stopover in Singapore, they make you an incredible offer: a one-night hotel stay, airport shuttle, access to 15 attractions – and all this from SGD 40!

?    Airport:

Changi Airport / IATA-Code: SIN

If you have a stopover of at least 5.5 hours, you can join a complimentary city- or heritage tour offered by Changi Airport!

?    Tourist Info online and onsite:

Singapore Visitors Centres at Changi Terminal 1, 2 and 3.
Opening hours: 6 a.m. to 2.00 a.m. daily

?    Getting Downtown and Back

Subway Singapore
You can get everywhere in Singapore by public transport.
It’s fast, comfortable, and cheap.

I wish every city had such an extensive, well maintained and reliable system of public transportation like Singapore. And it’s cheap, too. I recommend you to buy the tourist pass, that gives you an unlimited amount of rides, right at the Changi Airport. There are passes for one, two or three days for SGD 10, SGD 16, and SGD 20. Even if you follow the sunny day-itinerary, the pass should pay since you will hardly be able to avoid using public transportation.

With your brand new pass, you then travel from the airport downtown to your hotel. To get to the Robertson Quay Hotel, you can take the bus No. 36 going to the Dhoby Ghaut station from where you have to walk about one km / 3/4 mile. Get alternative connections on SBS Transit.

?    Morning Activities

Singapore is a tropical country, so the chance that you will model your cute summer dress is quite high. But you better take also a light cardigan or a large scarf with you since the busses, malls, and many restaurants are air-conditioned; not as cold as in the US, but still chilly enough to catch a flue.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
At the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.

The vast majority of Singapore’s ethnic population are Chinese, so you definitely should pay Chinatown a visit. The fastest way to get there is to walk – within 20 minutes you’ll be at South Bridge Road where especially the blocs between Cross Street and Sago Lane are just amazing: There is the mint green building of the Islamic Masjid Jamae on 218 South Bridge Road – just a stone throw away from the Sri Mariamman Temple at No. 244 (and don’t you worry, nobody is throwing stones here!). Eventually, a short walk takes you to the iconic Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Singapore’s most important Buddhist building on 288 South Bridge Road..
Take your time to explore all the little alleys stuffed with shops and restaurants and all sort of mambo jambo behind the temple. If you’d like to learn more about the first Chinese contract workers in Singapore, a visit to the Chinatown Heritage Center on 48 Pagoda Street is highly recommendable.

That lunch is planned at Little India, gives you a good opportunity to experience the stark cultural contrast within a couple of minutes. The MRT North East Line takes you there from the stop Chinatown to Little India in 15 minutes.

Little India’s arterial road is the Serangoon Road with colorful stores with blearing Indian music and exotic scents. Bollywood at its best. Once you’re done awing, turn into Kerbau Road. Behind the first crossing, you will notice a very colorful building to your left, the ‘Tan Teng Niah’. Built in 1900, it is the last Chinese villa in this neighborhood, stemming from the era when Chinese businesses used to operate next to Indians.

From here it’s just a short walk to the wonderful Indian restaurant where you’ll have lunch.

⛈    Morning Activities

Since Singapore is a tropical country, you won’t be freezing. But as a tropical monsoon region, especially from October to February, you might experience heavy rains. Never mind, grab an umbrella and let’s go.

To see at least the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, walk right along the Singapore River and cross at Alkaff Bridge. There you hop on bus No. 51 that takes you to Opp Hong Lim Park. From here, unfortunately, you have to walk; or you take a cab to the Temple, that will cost you very little.

To make up for not seeing that much of the city itself, get informed on it at the Singapore City Gallery. Here all your questions regarding the geology, the concept, the challenges, and everyday life will be answered in an educational yet fun way.

Singapore City Gallery 
The URA Centre
45 Maxwell Road
Singapore 069118
Phone: + 65 63 21 83 21
Email: ura_gallery@ura.gov.sg

Since the City Gallery covers mostly the geological and ecological side, the National Museum of Singapore deals with the settlement, immigration, ethnicities, and all related aspects – i. e. with the people; and is therefore absolutely fascinating and not to be missed.
To get there from the City Gallery, take bus No. 190 at Pearl’s Ctr and get off after only seven minutes at SMU.

National Museum of Singapore 
93 Stamford Road
 Singapore 178897
Phone: +65 63 32 36 59
Email: nhb_nm_hospitality@nhb.gov.sg

Now that you’ve learned so much about Singapore’s history and about its different ethnics, let’s sample some of their delicacies – let’s go to Little India for lunch.
Walk back to SMU station and take bus No. 147 to Tekka Ctr. From there you walk down Serangoon Road, turn left into Kerbau Road, get a glimpse at the Tan Teng Niah building (for all this, see the sunny day description), and hurry to the Banana Leaf Apolo.

?     Lunch

Indian Food
The delicious cuisine of the Banana Leaf Apolo
can be enjoyed at three locations.

Hungry? Walk down one block to the Race Course Road, and at No. 54, the gates to culinary heaven will open: There is the ‘Banana Leaf Apolo’ serving the best in Indian cuisine, sorted to the very diverse Indian regions.

Banana Leaf Apolo
54 Race Course Rd
Singapore 218564
Phone: +65 62 93 86 82
Email: enquiry@thebananaleafapolo.com

They are open daily from 10.30 a.m. till 10.30 p.m.

?    Afternoon Activities

Gardens by the Bay
Award-winning park – blooming Gardens by the Bay.

An attraction not to be missed is definitely the Gardens by the Bay, an award-winning park of a size of over 100 hectares, introducing and preserving flowers, bushes and other plants from all over the world, presented in a very educational yet beautifully arranged way. Sustainability at its best.
There are several attractions like the skyway, the super tree grove and of course the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest Conservatories. Every night at 7.45 and at 8.45 p.m. there is a – yes, beautifully kitschy – light and sound show.  

Gardens by the Bay 
18 Marina Gardens Drive
Singapore 018953
Phone: + 65 – 64 20 68 48
Email: feedback@gardensbythebay.com.sg

⛈    Afternoon Activities

Is it still pouring so that you cannot continue by any chance with the sunny part itinerary? Never mind, your afternoon will be great just the same.
You are going to see some fine art in some gorgeous buildings.

Walk back the Race Course Road to Little India station and get on bus No. 131 and get off at Manulife Ctr.

Singapore Art Museum
Cupola over the cupola – at the Art Museum even
the ancient-modern fusion building is artsy.

The Singapore Art Museum’s building used to be a Catholic boys’ school. After the school moved out and gave way to make it a gallery,  the building had to be transformed thusly. Especially the huge glass hall, where also special events take place, is very impressive. The huge venue owns and presents an important collection of Southeast Asian contemporary art and organizes exciting special exhibitions such as the Singapore Biennal.
Little fun fact: My profile picture was taken on the museum’s steps that were designated as an artsy photo spot.

Singapore Art Museum 
71 Bras Basah Road
Singapore 189555
Phone: +65 – 65 89 95 80
Email: enquiries@singaporeartmuseum.sg

Asian Civilisations Museums
I could use this abundance of hands quite often.

Still ready for some art? The next venue is by far not as ample as the Art Museum, but it hosts some fine Asian antiques and art – no wonder, it’s the Asian Civilisations Museum. While the permanent collection – although absolutely exquisite – is fairly small, their special exhibitions are absolutely worth seeing since they often combine art with some strong environmental or sociological aspect.
To get there, just walk back to the Manulife Ctr stop and keep going by bus No. 131 to Opp Singapore’s Cricket Club.

Asian Civilisations Museum
1 Empress Place
Singapore 179555
Phone: +65 – 63 32 77 98
Email: nhb_acm_vs@nhb.gov.sg

?    Dinner

Marina Sands Bay
Luxury shimmering in the sun: Marina Sands Bay Complex.

Everybody has to experience the Marina Sands Bay – the gigantic surfboard on three pillars. It counts with a luxury hotel with an infinity pool on the 57th floor,  with a first-class shopping mall, an artscience museum – this place is just amazing. If you did the sunny day program, you just have to cross the bridge connecting the Gardens by the Bay with the Marina Sands and you’re there.
On a rainy day, coming from the Asian Civilisation Museum, it’s a five minutes walk – you have to cross the Singapore River at the Cavenagh bridge and you’re practically there.

Since next to the hotel is the fancy shopping mall, you might want to do some (window-)shopping and get lunch at one of the varied eateries here (the least expensive option is the food court in the basement).

Ce La Vi Bar at Marina Sands Bay
High life on the 57th floor.

Of course you can also have dinner at one of the restaurants at the hotel complex, which is divided in  – and eventually stay for a nightcap or two. Actually, the small but satisfying menu at the CÉ LA VI Club Lounge with a choice of burgers, pizzas, and other snacks might just do the trick at a reasonable price. This is the cheapest option. On the same level (57th floor) is the CÉ LA VI Restaurant and Sky Bar with a more complete menu, higher prices, and a consumption minimum of SGD 80 per person.

They open on weekdays at 12 p.m. and at weekends at 11 a.m. and remain open till late – the ‘day lounge’ closes at 10 p.m., though. 

?   Nightcap

Sorry, you are already at the greatest place in all Singapore – where else do you want me to send you?!
Just order another drink, lean back and let the view take away not only your breath, but all your worries.

?   Singapore Extra 

Night Safari
Creatures of the night: When the bats come out…

Since the night safari is supposed to be the big thing to do in Singapore, I add some extra info. Fact is, I was not impressed. Although it’s very organized, still it’s packed, there are long waits. Yes, the animals in the dark do give this zoo a special atmosphere – but I’ve found it really exhausting to wait so late, then the zoo is quite far away from the center…I just wasn’t impressed. But it’s easy to say since I’ve seen it. So decide for yourself – after all, it is a unique thing.
They have a really good website with lots of useful, clear information – like how to get there by public transport or by special shuttle and much more.

Night Safari 
80 Mandai Lake Road
Singapore 729826
Phone: +65 6269 3411
Email: enquiry@wrs.com.sg

?    Accommodation

Robertson Quay Hotel
15, Merbau Road
Singapore 239032
Phone:Phone: +65 6735 3333
Email: sales@robertsonquayhotel.com.sg

Need assistance planning this or other trips? Check my service pages

Plus – I’m happy to answer all your questions and share further information. To get in touch, please follow my blog (check also facebook and twitter) and send me a message, I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

If you’re not flying into Singapore but taking the bus e. g. from Malaysia, you might like this little story about my adventure doing so.

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