Monday, October 30, 2017

Uniquely Singapore!!

Travelling to Singapore cannot be anything short of exciting!! While all our previous travels have been with travel agents, the limited time they give us to visit pre-selected attractions without the leisure and relaxation we expect on a holiday, was a big let down. So, we decided to do Singapore by ourselves this time! The journey, they say, is far more exciting than the destination, especially if you have been involved in planning every step of the journey. By that measure, our journey began six months ago.

The Planning:

Duration of stay:

Most people told us 3 days would be enough, but since we had planned to explore the city on our own, we decided to give it 5 entire days!

Getting there:

You can get the best airlines deals if you book really early. Be that early worm and block your dates as early as you can! Singapore Airlines is one of the best airlines to fly with but there are local airlines like Indigo, that will fly you for a much cheaper fare. Also, flights from Chennai to Singapore are economical than from anywhere else, and domestic flights are dirt cheap if you book several months in advance. So if you are on a budget, get a domestic flight to Chennai and fly out of Chennai.


We were a group of 3 families, all of us vegetarians, so we zeroed in on Little India and areas around it for our accommodation, just so food shouldn't be an issue. While we were trying to get info on various hotels in that area, a friend who is a local, suggested that we try serviced apartments as an option. Though we were initially sceptical, we fell in love with the apartment when we saw the pictures.

That apartment in the background was where we stayed. With three bedrooms for the three families, a small kitchenette, and an amazing terrace pool overlooking the city, it was way private and cosier than any hotel room could have afforded.

Visa :

Applying for Visa is quite an easy process. Once you have your flight tickets and accommodation confirmation, all you have to do is submit the application locally, a month in advance. That's all about it!

Money exchange:

Of all the exchangers we inquired with Cox and Kings offered the best rates, but we found a local guy whom we convinced (read : bullied!) to give us better rates than C&K.

The Destination:

The guy who said that the journey is more exciting than the destination perhaps wasn't talking about Singapore, because, could this wonderful place be any less exciting? Because the destination was as exciting as the journey!! We visited during Deepawali week and my! what a scene greeted our eyes! The entire Little India area was decked up for the festival of lights! In fact, we got to enjoy an amazing South India festival thali on the morning of the festival, much to our delight!

Getting around:

The city is well connected by MRT and getting around is quite a breeze! And then there were the 11 seater taxis that seemed tailor-made for us! We alternated between these two means of transport according to the ease of travel.

The amazing part of travelling by MRT was that other than English and Chinese, Tamil was the third language of announcements!

Our first stop was Gardens By the Bay. 

The Super Tree Groves is a big attraction. By night, they look even prettier! They are like these huge canopies, towering above you. They are quite a sight at night time when they come alive with a sound and light display!

The Cloud Forest is another amazing attraction enclosed in an airconditioned dome. It takes you all the way up in an escalator and you can walk your way down enjoying the view of the bay and the park below. If you do not want to get on the Singapore Flyer, this would be your best way to look around the place. 

The Flower Dome and the Kids' garden is another great place for all your photo ops! Have a leisurely stroll enjoying flora in all its glory! 

 The Marina Bay Sands Skypark is just across the Gardens and is a climb of 57 levels above the city! Once you get to the top floor, you can enjoy an unending view of the city and sample some amazing food. Best viewed at night, this place also has an Infinity pool if you fancy swimming on top of the world! Across the Bay is the Clarke Quay riverside which is beautifully lit at night time. You can stroll around the place and grab a bite while soaking in the view.

The symbol of Singapore, the Merlion is also by the bay and makes for some memorable pictures standing on the deck. You can also take a ferry ride on the river which we skipped as we were dead tired to do anything else!

We had planned Sentosa Islands on Day 2. Do not miss the cable car ride to the island. You can take the Sentosa express too but I'd recommend the cable way.

I would also recommend that you keep a separate day for Universal studios though both are in the same place. Because combining the two does not let you enjoy everything that is there to see and do.

My top five things to do in Sentosa are the Luge ride, S.E.A aquarium, the Trick Eye Museum, Sentosa Merlion and the Wings of Time.

And yes, don't forget to munch on the Garette popcorn. It is Yum! I don't have a picture because we ate it all at supersonic speed before anyone could think of clicking it!

The Luge Ride is a two-part ride where you go down a hill in a Luge and come back in a Skyride. Didn't seem too exciting at first but trust me, one ride will not be enough! Don't be surprised if kids ask for a second and third round!

The S.E.A Aquarium is one of its kinds with over 800 different species of marine life and more than a lac sea animals! The jellyfishes were my favourite!

The Trick Eye Museum is one of the most amazing places we visited! You could not tell adults apart from kids! Before you go in don't forget to download the Trick Eye Art Cam app on your mobiles. You'll miss most of the fun if you don't. You don't need mobile data to use the app, so freak out clicking the most amazing pictures of your trip! 
The illusions are a lot of fun and we had a field day clicking pictures like never before! Only when our legs refused to carry us anymore, we reluctant carried ourselves outside!

The Wings of Fire is another lovely show by the beach. Using lazer and colourful strobe lights, it tells you an absorbing story of a bird finding it's way back home. It is assisted by two kids who learn the deeper meaning of friendship as they undertake this journey. It is mesmerising, colourful and one of a kind.  Make sure you don't miss this one!

On Day 3 we toured Universal Studios which is by far the best on the Island (have I used that phrase already? :-P) If you take the cable ride to Sentosa, you could try the Sentosa express to Universal Studios the next day. That way you get to enjoy both the rides.

My top five for Universal Studios would be:
1) The Transformers show (you just cannot miss this!!)
2) The Galactica twister ride (But avoid if you have a weak tummy and/or fear of heights, being hung upside down, speed etc etc)
3) The Jurassic Park water ride
4) Lights, Camera, Action @ Water World (Straight out of a Hollywood action movie!)
5) Shrek 4D.

You could avoid Madagascar unless you have really small kids who'd enjoy the show. The Mummy could get a bit scary for the weak hearted.

There's a lot of waiting time before every ride and the long queues and the unending wait could sometimes get torturous. But the wait is worth it, especially for the Transformers Show! If the queue wasn't so serpentine, we'd have gone in for a second time!

This is on the sets of Lights, Camera, Action at the Water World. With live action, gunfire, pirates, fires, and a lot more, you get the feel of being in the center of a Hollywood action flick being shot! The energy of the cast is mindblowing!

The boys are sure to enjoy this drama!

If you want to have the best of Universal Studios start early. You will need an entire day if you want to enjoy all the shows.

 We spent Day 4 at the Jurong Bird Park. Get in by 11am and you can enjoy the Bird show at the Pools Amphitheater. The kids loved the singing parrot, the trained to perfection macaws, hornbills and flamingoes as they went about their tricks!!

Don't forget to include the tram ride in your ticket. Walking through the entire park isn't such a great idea! You can hop on-hop off the tram and have a look at the birds. 

One of the Tram stops is the Lori feeding station. Buy a cup of bird feed and the colourful Loris will flock to you, sit on your head, shoulders, where ever, making for a delightful time with the kids and for the kid in you!

 We visited the Singapore zoo too. But I'd strike it off my list if I'd known it wasn't quite worth the visit. Book a tram ride ticket here too as walking can get your nerves. There's not much to see and our very own Mysore Zoo is way better!

The Night Safari on the same premises promises to be better, but it is quite a farce with the animals being put up on display under lights.

The Sea Lion show was the only saving grace at the Zoo. There are some more feeding shows but at specific times which don't really fit into the schedules of tourists.

Since we stayed in Little India, we hopped on and off into Mustafa's the mall every now and then, when we had the time. It is a great place to shop for souvenirs. You can also shop at China Town and Bugis and the MRT will take you wherever you wish to go!

A local friend recommended the Laska noodles, but I can't say I enjoyed it. I guess it had more to do with our tongues being accustomed to the Indian version of Chinese food which made the authentic Chinese taste tricky!! But there are tons of Indian restaurants in the Little India area if you are missing home food.

 And before we said our goodbyes to Singapore, we treated ourselves to a visual delight at Changi Airport. We took an MRT to T2 to witness the amazing Kinetic Rain - a synchronized movement of over a thousand tear shaped brass droplets forming different patterns. Our terminal T4 had the Enchanted Garden where we clicked our last few memories!

Did you enjoy reading this? If you have visited Singapore before, what was your favourite part? Tell me in the comments section below. 

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