And so we were onto our final stop of the incredible first part of our travels around South East Asia: the tiny country of Singapore. 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 from Kuala Lumpur, bedraggled and confused. To my surprise Singapore, one of the more innovative and modern cities of the world, has one of the worst transportation systems I’ve ever seen if you’re entering the country by train. I’ve actually read that the train from Malaysia has got even worse since we took this trip, as from a month later, you can no longer take the train over the border; you have to get off in Malaysia.
(Ironic considering Singapore airport is probably the best in the world and its underground system is pretty good too!)
We stamped our passports out of Malaysia, having been told to take all our bags with us, and ran through as quickly as we could with our loaded baggage, only to be put straight back on the same train in the same seats. Five minutes later, we were in Singapore, waiting for a bus to the nearest MTR station.
Because for some nonsensical reason, Singapore doesn’t have a train station IN the city, nor is its station appropriately located anywhere near an underground station. And of course 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! Surely if the other mystery person had turned up, they should have been given the Z-bed? Presumably they didn’t pay any more than us.
After our chaotic arrival in one of the least chaotic cities ever, we had a good day ahead of us planned, and I’m pleased to say it was all up from here!
Chinatown – Maxwell Food Centre
We were meeting a Singaporean friend of mine who I’d met in Budapest, and he ushered us 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, Maxwell Food Centre.
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.
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. The place was full of locals, unlike when we passed the tourist Chinese food market, which seemed to be exclusively tourists.
Marina Bay Sands & Gardens By The Bay
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 took a really nice wander through the botanic gardens around to the bay front.
The Gardens By The Bay is like stepping onto another planet. This futuristic “forest” was opened in 2012 and has become one of Singapore’s most visited attractions.
Unfortunately I didn’t even know about the huge cascading indoor waterfall in the Cloud Mountain conservatory so we didn’t make it that far, but it was an enjoyable wander before heading back to the concrete towers of the city skyline. Even on a dull day, Singapore is pretty awesome.
I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting the Singapore skyline to be so striking and we sat with this view for a while.
We had a really nice, chilled afternoon exploring the waterfront and taking a walk around the boutique stores in Marina Bay Sands before our trip up to the Night Safari at Singapore Zoo.
Singapore Zoo Night Safari
This was one of the things I was REALLY looking forward to about Singapore, and I 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 even 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 anyway. The best part of the Night Safari is that you get to see nocturnal animals that you wouldn’t normally get to see at your regular zoo. This was such a unique experience and I loved it!
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 accidentally 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 encountered 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. Edinburgh Zoo actually now has them but 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!
Illuminations water & light show
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 accidentally stumbled across part of the Singapore F1 track, which was a highlight!
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 heartfelt 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.
Makansutra Food Market
We ate at Makansutra, recommended by one of our 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’s 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.
We couldn’t have asked for a better way to end our time in Asia (something we still didn’t want to think about!) but we still had one final plan to go out with a bang.
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 more times than I can count! We also met Elmo from Sesame Street, ate a corn dog, and… went back on the Mummy. And we even unwittingly got a free ride back to the city centre!
If we’d had more time, Sentosa Island is a lot of fun and has way more to offer than just Universal.
…And then, with a heavy heart but simultaneous excitement for the adventures ahead, 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!!
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Curious to see what else we got up to on this trip? Here are just a few of the highlights!
⭐ My 10 Best Experiences In Asia
⭐ An Incredible Week In Siem Reap: Angkor Wat & Meditating With A Monk
⭐ One Of The Best Weeks Of Our Lives Volunteering At Elephant Nature Park
⭐ Koh Tao: Our Favourite Thai Island
⭐ Songkran In Bangkok: One Of The Craziest Festivals In The World
⭐ And Then We Fell In Love With Koh Lanta
⭐ We’re Gonna Miss You, Hanoi
⭐ Our First Week Travelling In Hong Kong
⭐ You’re A Pretty Cool Country, Malaysia