Singapore is the perfect antidote to the trauma (*dramatically presses back of hand to forehead*) of spending the best part of two weeks face down in a pool of your own rancid sweat because your left lung somehow managed to pick up a dose of fucking pneumonia somewhere along the line. Only my left lung, mind, probably as my right lung shook its head and pretended it didn’t know the other one. But Singapore is an absolute delight, it’s like Asia but without someone trying to rip you off at every turn. It’s expensive enough to give your bank account palpitations but not so much that it’ll have a compete nervous breakdown provided you book your accommodation in advance and you eat at hawker stalls.
And the MRT. Guys, the air-conditioned wonderfulness of the MRT, which is kind of like a more modern version of the London Underground. You can pick up a tourist travel card at a special counter in arrivals in terminal 2 when you first rock up for S$20 (plus S$10 refundable deposit, just bear in mind the counter closes at 9pm) which allows you unlimited travel on the entire MRT network and buses all over the city for three days. There are one and two day options too. We shuffled off our plane in the morning which we’d caught at some god awful hour from Bali because it seemed like a good idea at the time, having spent the money we saved on catching said flight on the quantity of caffeine required to keep one’s basic motor functions afloat.
Once you’re here though everything is so fucking easy regardless of how sleep deprived you are. You can catch the MRT to almost anywhere and the hostel we’d booked through Agoda was right by Rochor Station, an hour and three easy train lines away from the airport. And guys, if you know your dates then get your accommodation booked in advance with Agoda. We paid wayyyyy less than we would have if we’d just rocked up. I mean, Adamson Lodge is nice, it’s just not S$40 a night for a dorm bed nice, I don’t care how hot and amazing the shower is, and a clean, hot shower after a few weeks in Indonesia is basically the holy grail. The location though is damn near perfect; you could spit to the MRT station if you wouldn’t get arrested and fined S$1000 for it, and Little India is a mere hungover stumble in search of a masala dosa away.
So. Singapore. Shit we did, day one.
Maxwell Road Hawker Centre
After a random stroll around the area we were staying we figured we should probably apply some food to our faceholes before our stomachs started digesting themselves. You can shovel so much incredible food into your chops at these hawker centres for S$5 or S$6 a meal, it kind of makes you wish you had four stomachs like a cow so you can fit more food in as opposed to the two stomachs humans have because everyone knows you have a separate stomach for dessert. They’re often found in the basements of malls but we’d heard tell of one in Chinatown called Maxwell Road so we headed there and spent several agonising minutes trying to decide which stall to relieve of a plate of deliciousness. I mean, it might not be the most difficult decision you have to make in your life and no one is going to die if you choose incorrectly but you might end up side eyeing your mate’s food with unmitigated envy. It could cost relationships. Once we’d done here we waddled back to the MRT to head to the Supertrees.
Gardens By The Bay by day
Gardens by the Bay, home to the fucking incredible Supertrees which are pretty much the main reason I wanted to visit Singapore. Tarrant has wanted to come here for years, she has a minor obsession with city states and wants to visit all three confirmed city states, but for me? I’m a massive sucker for a big, shiny tourist attraction. The closest MRT station is Bayfront so we alighted here and I tried to refrain from running round in tiny circles of excitement because it’s unseemly and people would look at me funny. If all you want to do is gawp at the Supertrees and drool a bit it’ll cost you exactly fuck all, but there are always ways for you to part with your cash monies should you choose to. We chose to. Gardens by the Bay also has the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome which will set you back S$28 for both. If you’re foreign you don’t have a choice, you have to buy the standard ticket but locals can see one or the other or both at a discounted rate.
I thought the Cloud Forest would be some manner of brutal tropical dome hell bent on relieving you of every single molecule of moisture but it’s not like that, it’s surprisingly cool in a temperature kind of way and has a big waterfall cascading right through the middle of it, emerging from a column covered from too to bottom in plants and flowers, with walkways snaking in and out. It’s really rather wonderful. You catch a lift to the top then make your way slowly down the escalators floor by floor through areas with names like Cloud Walk, Crystal Mountain, and Earth Check. They’ve brought in a load of stalagmites and stalactites from somewhere to display on one level, I’ve no idea why, they do look pretty badass though, but if they’re real I think they might have looked better still in the cave they came from.
As you wander along the walkways that stretch out from the central column you catch glimpses of the Supertrees through the towering glass dome, beyond both the trees growing inside and the ones outside. The whole thing has a futuristic feel to it, like the apocalypse has happened and we all have to live in fuck off great big greenhouses and you can see the outside world but if you go out in it your flesh will melt and the mutant cockroaches will feast on your eyeballs. Eventually you finish in a room playing a video on repeat called +5, a short film about the effects of climate change as our planet heats up. It’ll only take a rise of 5°C before the planet as we know it is pretty much fucked. So maybe the eyeball eating mutant cockroaches aren’t such a far fetched idea after all.
The flower dome is almost as good, it reminds me a lot of the temperate biome at the Eden Project in Cornwall except it’s slightly more amazing. It has sections dedicated to succulents and another one, somewhat awesomely, to baobab trees. There’s some interesting information on plants that pretend to be dead so shit doesn’t eat them too, maybe lettuce needs to take a leaf (ha!) out of their book.
Cé La Vi
You’ve got to throw money at a rooftop bar at least once in Singapore, it’s basically the rules, and Cé La Vi is the one that you’ve probably heard of. There’s meant to be a dress code from 6pm and we shuffled into the lobby at about 5.15pm after spending hours trekking around the city, clad in shorts, singlets and flip flops, very aware that the majority of the moisture we’d consumed that day had seeped out through our pores and we stood there, sweaty, filthy and scruffy and probably stinking like we’d just rolled in roadkill, waiting to be turned away. Surprisingly they didn’t bat an eyelid as we were charged S$20 each to get up but that’s consumable, you get given a voucher that you can swap for drinks. So it’s free to go up there but they ensure that you do indeed fork out for a pint and don’t just nip up there for the view, you tight bastard.
There’s an observation platform just below the bar but that costs a lot more for only a marginally better view. You’re taken to level 57 in a lift that shoots up so fucking quickly your stomach relocates to your feet and your ears pop twice. Then when you exit the lift you can turn right for a cheeky panoramic view of Singapore including the Supertree Grove and you can glare in envy at the pool that’s only available to the flash bastards staying in the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, before doubling back to the bar where you can part with S$20 plus tax for a single drink. Try not to cry. The view is worth it. Promise. Even if it’s Stella fucking Artois.
We were hoping to hang out there until nightfall before heading back down to the Supertrees, it’s a fine line between nursing your terrifyingly expensive pint and your beer heating up to the same temperature of lava, but the thought of having to buy more than two drinks each caused me actual physical pain. It turns out that it doesn’t matter how out of place you look once the well dressed people who’d showered within the last couple of hours start turning up, you’ll not be thrown out as long as you’ve got your grubby backpacker mitt wrapped around a drink that cost more than your night’s accommodation.
Gardens By The Bay at night
These Supertrees then, they’re not just a bit of eye candy, they actually have a function. They harness solar energy using photovoltaic cells (I literally have no fucking idea what they are, I’m just copying it from the info boards, I’m assuming us peasants refer to them as solar panels) which is converted to the electricity used to light the trees themselves, fire up the pumps for the water features in the gardens, and even to power the computers in the office. The trees also collect rainwater for irrigation and fountain displays, and serve as air intake and exhaust functions as part of the conservatories’ cooling systems. I stole that entire line off Wikipedia. Just so you know, full disclosure and all that. I was too busy gawping like a slack jawed imbecile to actually learn anything at the time.
If you think they’re stunning by day you should see them all lit up at night. We headed back here after hemorrhaging money at Cé La Vi and I tripped up over my jaw all over again. I could look at them all night. I love them. I want a Supertree of my very own. The light show is a bit naff, let’s be honest here, but the structures themselves are worth photographing from every angle. We saved our S$8 OCBC Skyway walk for the evening too and I regret nothing. It’s incredible. I’m sure it’s great in the day time too but night time is just wonderful. Just make sure you start queuing for your ticket early enough, ticket sales close at 8.30pm and we just made it, then you have to queue to get into the Skyway itself and that closes at 9pm. If you’re scared of heights you might want to pack a spare change of knickers, mind. I shuffled along at the kind of pace that makes people want to punch you in the back of your head and all photos were taken with one vice-like claw grip on the handrail.
We hustled straight back to our hostel after we’d just about gotten the Supertrees out of our system. We already had a million photos to sort through without loitering longer and ending up with even more because what if we missed that one angle. To be fair we were pretty shattered after our stupid early flight, and despite the MRT being everywhere you do still find yourself walking ridiculous distances in Singapore and I think my feet were considering legal action.
Stayed at: Adamson Lodge