And so we were onto our final stop of the incredible first part of our travels. It was getting real now – we could count down to Australia on one hand and that was exciting.
Yet on the other hand, we didn’t want to think about it because we were immensely sad to leave this part of the world that we’d fallen head over heels in love with.
We arrived in Singapore bedraggled and confused. Singapore, one of the more innovative and modern cities of the world, has one of the worst transportation systems I’ve ever seen.
We stamped our passports out of Malaysia, being told to take all our bags with us, and ran through as quickly as we could only to be put back on the same train in the same seats. Five minutes later, we were in Singapore, waiting for a bus to a MTR station. Because Singapore doesn’t have a train station IN the city, nor is its station anywhere near an underground station.
And every single bus was full to the brim. We didn’t end up getting to our hostel (thankfully only a 5 minute walk from an underground station) until gone 10pm, after leaving Kuala Lumpur at 2pm. For some reason, the hostel thought the room was full despite two beds being empty, so they set up a Z-bed next to the door for Ash.
Needless to say, the following morning it became apparent that the bed above mine was, in fact, empty. Very strange!
We were meeting a Singaporean friend of mine who I’d met in Budapest, and he headed straight to Chinatown for one of their food markets. But we didn’t go to the outdoor tourist one that everyone hits – he took us to a more local indoor one less than five minutes away.
Like Malaysia, we were preparing ourselves for Singapore’s prices. But when we could eat lunch for $4 a meal (£2), I realised it’s like anywhere else: it’s all about where you look. The market we went to was so busy that we had to share a table with other people, which is the norm here. One of the stalls is famous because Gordon Ramsay had a cook-off with one of the chefs – and the queue showed it.
But while we didn’t eat from that stall, we had some really delicious food and I grabbed a smoothie from another stall for under $2.
We had to say our goodbyes as my friend had other plans, but I had another friend to meet, too! He took us down to Marina Bay Sands and we had a really nice wander through the botanic gardens around to the bay front.
I wasn’t expecting the Singapore skyline to be so striking.
We had a really nice, chilled afternoon before our trip up to the Night Safari at Singapore Zoo. This was one of the things I was REALLY looking forward to about Singapore, and had read hundreds of recommendations for the tram ride.
But when we got there, the trams had a 2 hour queue time. There was no point even trying – we might as well walk.
And the thing is: walking is far better than taking the tram.
The tram route is good but limited, and rolls on by animals you might want to stop to look at. Sure, you get a tour guide telling you all about them, but we had signs with more info, and we got to stop to watch a tiger feeding session. We even stopped to look at the hyenas, who suddenly bolted away from us – turns out they were having an unadvertised feed, too! And I saw a leopard for the first time!
The tram does cover a handful of animals you can’t walk to, but they were all ones we would see the following day.
On our way out, we caught one of the three fire shows they perform every night – and Ash got invited up on stage to perform with them!! And he became the star of the show when he couldn’t get his flame to go out! He’s highly embarrassed about the whole thing, but it was brilliant!
The following day, we headed up early for the day time zoo. I’ve always heard that Singapore Zoo is one of the best in the world, and I quickly learned why.
Within two minutes of the entrance, a monkey swung from a branch overhead. The animals aren’t all limited to enclosures, and so you can observe them around you and not just from a distance. Even inside enclosures they have more freedom (but not so much that it makes it dangerous for them or the public).
We also saw what we presume was actual wildlife – lizards crawling along one of the paths more than once!
I LOVED this place. I saw koalas for the first time in my life (funny considering we were off to Australia the next day), white tigers, chimpanzees, giant tortoises (and small, stupid ones!), the monkey with the funny nose, tapirs also for the first time ever (they’re cute!), a komodo dragon, and a rhino having a mud bath.
There were lots of animals I’d never seen before, but the one I was looking forward to the most was the giant panda. Typically, Edinburgh Zoo now has them and I haven’t had the chance to go – so I was very excited to see them here.
Only they’re not in the zoo. They have cleverly put the pandas in a separate park, River Safari, which you have to pay extra to enter. We bought a two-park ticket and I had prioritised the main zoo and the Night Safari, so unfortunately I didn’t get to see pandas after all!
However, it was such a good day that it didn’t matter. I love zoos when they’re done right, and this is honestly one of the best. If you’re in Singapore and love animals, GO!
That evening, the one thing I wanted to do was see the illuminations light show down at the harbour. For some reason, we got off the underground at a station that was at least a 10 minute walk away, but it meant that we stumbled across part of the Singapore F1 track!
We got to the harbour with time to spare, and although it was busy we managed to get a perfect spot outside the shopping centre for the “show”. Having no idea what to expect, or whether it would be a re-hash of the very underwhelming Symphony Of Lights in Hong Kong, we were very surprised to find that IT IS AMAZING.
The images and videos are projected onto water patterns shot up from the harbour, and tells stories of growing up, success and life backed by beautiful music.
It was actually brilliant. This is what the Symphony Of Lights fails to be: emotional, interesting and attention-grabbing.
We ate at Makansutra, recommended by one of the Singaporean friends. I couldn’t find much information online so I wasn’t sure what the prices would be like or even if we would find it.
It was actually a huge open food market right on the waterfront, near the “durian building” (so called because – you’ve guessed it – it’s shaped like a durian so you can’t miss it). And although it was filled with tourists, it also had a fair share of locals – and we could see why.
There was a huge variation in stalls, and I got a delicious plate of lemon chicken for $8. £4 for dinner in the heart of Singapore! Ash treated himself to a beer too, because they were far cheaper than the $12 charged in most bars.
It had been a good evening and a great way to end our time in Asia. Something we still didn’t want to think about.
For our very last day, we had decided to splash out on a day out at Universal Studios! Having visited Orlando last year, we knew it wasn’t going to be as good, or anywhere near as big. But it had the Mummy ride, and it would be worth it just for that!!
We had a really, really fun day out. We discovered that their Jurassic Park ride is actually BETTER than Orlando’s, we had an unabashed good time in Shrek’s Far, Far Away, and we went on the Terminator and Mummy rides just a few times! We also met Elmo from Sesame Street, ate a corn dog, and… went back on the Mummy. And we got a free ride back to the city centre!
…And then it was time to head to the airport.
To say an emotional goodbye to one of the most incredible, cultural, fun, beautiful and inspiring places in the world. South East Asia, you have made yourself a huge cushion in our hearts. Thank you for an absolutely phenomenal three months!!