Singapore - My Home, Away From Home

Posted on by Glen Wheeler

A photo of the Solar Trees and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore

My love for this city started after my very first visit back in 2013. I had no expectations from the visit other than what is always a Formula One race like no other (You can see that post here). Singapore, often referred to as the Lion City is a beautiful island city-state that sits just north of the equator.

A photo of the Merlion in Singapore
Singapore, The Lion City (Merlion)

Singapore is a country of many ethnic groups and religions but what helps the city for us British is the fact that one of their main languages is English. As soon as you hit the ground at Changi Airport it is very easy to communicate with the Singaporeans and always seem to be able to provide good and accurate information and point you in the right direction.

Each time I have visited Singapore it has been for the Formula One, so on each visit the city has been extremely busy and security is often on high alert. However, unlike other countries I have been too, I have never felt intimidated at all. Everything has always seemed pretty straight forward and calm.

A photo of Valterri Bottas on Track, The Singapore Pit Straight and VIP Club
Our seats for Qualifying on the Saturday at the Singapore Grand Prix 2016

This is one thing I really love about Singapore, it's such a busy place but everything is pretty chilled out and you can find so many places that offer silence and tranquility. One of those places is the beautiful Singapore Solar Gardens, you just don't get places like this in major cities, certainly not London. When I think of London I think dirty, too busy, too much pollution, rushing and bad manners. This is everything Singapore should be, but doesn't seem to be. It may seem a little harsh of me to say that but London is yet to prove me wrong and hopefully on my next visit it will.

So, what is so interesting and amazing about Singapore? Well, in my opinion there is so much going on and I'd like to briefly talk about my points I have noted down here in my handbook, all written up on my travels.

The Flight - I love travelling, very rarely do I get time to stop and have downtime and thinking time, so for me the flight to Singapore is not too bad. I could fly for hours and hours as long as I was comfortable, which I generally am when flying with Emirates. The fight from Newcastle does involve 1 stop in Dubai but onwards from there is only another second stint of 7 hours to Changi Airport in Singapore. The flight entertainment is always great with plenty of movies, games, books to read and time to reflect on business and get some good rest.

Dubai Airport Photo, Island Photo, Paul Di Resta Signature
A few shots from the flight including a Signature from Paul Di Resta who we met at Dubai Airport

Public Transport in Singapore - In my opinion probably the best in the world in terms of ease of use, accessibility and cleanliness. The methods of transport including city taxi's are not too badly priced. The first time I visited Singapore we booked a transfer via taxi and this came in at around $30SGD (Singapore Dollars) which is around £17.00 for approximately a 10 mile trip. The most recent visit to Singapore in 2016 we took the MRT (Mass Rail Transfer) service directly from the Airport into down town Singapore, your looking at no longer than 30 minutes at around an approximate cost of $8SGD each which works out around £4.50.

Once downtown we then took a second MRT and I really do have to admit that it's on a whole different level to London. This is probably because Singapore is a lot newer than London, however, that's no excuse for untidy, dirty jam packed transport networks. Like London, Singapore is a very highly populated place and thousands of people use the MRT on a daily basis but because of the way their system works it really doesn't feel this way. People feel so much more relaxed than Londoners, the place is so much cleaner, their ticketing systems feel so much more intuitive, easier to use which in turn allows people to get through the gates quicker. Singapore also offers a 3 day pass at $20SGD around £12.00 which we used throughout our visit, very cheap and it allows you to travel anywhere everyday, it's just great.

Once in the MRT carriages feel very spacious, clean and really nicely air conditioned. Not once did we feel uncomfortable about heat, too many people and lengthy travels. The MRT travels quickly between locations across the whole of the island, stopping for pickups are very quick and you are on your way to your destination.

Because I’ve visited Singapore during Formula One weekends I know for a fact that this pushes Singapore transportation to its highest levels and I'll be completely honest, it feels flawless. I've been to many Formula One races including Abu Dhabi and have used their transport services and none of them have been as good as Singapore. If and when you are stuck for travel information there is always someone there to help and point you in the right direction.

A photo showing the cleanliness of the MRT and people travelling around Singapore
The above picture (left side) shows us on one of the MRT carriages in Downtown, Singapore

The Weather - As you can probably imagine the weather in Singapore is pretty warm and very humid with it being just off the equator. However, from experience is also often pretty wet! Singapore often has some pretty amazing, aggressive thunder and lighting storms. Whilst visiting I had seen and heard this first hand, it is frightening yet very cool. The weather here also makes for a great F1 race, it gives the track some real grease and can cause major issues for teams and drivers.

The Island - So, what about the island and the city itself? Both during the day and at night the city is absolutely stunning. I have travelled around the majority of the island, including areas that are not really for tourists. The first thing you will notice about Singapore is cleanliness. You hardly see any litter at all and there are reasons for this. As you travel around Singapore both on foot and on the transportation services you see boards and signage everywhere about fines. These fines can be between $300SGD-$1000SGD (£170 approx - £580) which is a pretty heavy price for dropping any form of litter. Public transport does not allow food and drink to be consumed and must be kept until after you leave the network.

As you approach Downtown Singapore you are presented with some of the most beautiful architecture the world has to offer. Some of those to mention are the Pan Pacific Hotel, the ArtScience Museum, Esplande Theatres, The Sail, One Raffles Place, Raffles Place, the whole financial sector buildings, Raffles Hotel, the Fullerton Hotel and possibly the most eye catching of them all, the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The Marina Bay Sands sits in the heart of Singapore, designed by the architect Moshe Sadie and stands just off the Marina at 656 feet. The building is topped with a 1,120ft Skypark which includes a public viewing platform, infinity pool, restaurant and bar. Trust me when I say this will be one of the best views you will ever see if you ever visit Singapore. I stayed at the hotel for two nights whilst here in 2016 and have spent some time at their hotel, in the pool and on the viewing platform.

Photos showing the whole of Downtown Singapore, The Solar Tree's, Hotels and Pool
A beautiful Panoramic shot of Downtown Singapore, a beautiful pool shot opposite the first hotel we stayed in at Novotel, Singapore.

I'd like to give you a little bit of background about this hotel and what it offers. As you can probably imagine the hotel is very expensive. We stayed in one of the deluxe suites on the 26th floor which has a floor to ceiling glass panel viewing window, see the photos below. This room cost us £325 per night which did include the mandatory Singapore city tax and service charges for the stay.

So, what do you get for this money? As I said we had a deluxe suite for our visit which gives you the large panel viewing window. The room is a decent size, over a standard size room that comes with a king size bed, walk in shower, sink and toilet. In the living space of the room you have a small size sofa, full HD TV that comes with a variety of channels in multiple languages including English. The main costs I would assume is the access to the Spa areas, bar, restaurant and infinity pool at the very top of the hotel. It is honestly out of this world, something that I will personally never ever forget.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel Room with Floor to Ceiling glass panels
Our room at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, beautiful, clean rooms with floor to ceiling viewing window.

Below a time lapse taken from our room window;

The 490ft infinity pool area comes heated with a view like no other. The pool looks and faces directly over the city and Marina Bay area. At night, the views and Marina light show is very impressive. Opposite the pool at the top of the hotel are a number of relaxing areas, seating, loungers and four warm Jacuzzi's that allow for around 6 people. These Jacuzzi's also face out onto glass panels looking over Gardens by The Bay and the Singapore Solar Trees, which is another spectacular view.

The Marina Bay Sands Infinity Pool
Spending time at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool

The Marina Bay Sands also has amazing things going on in the lower levels. The hotel lobby has a direct escalator down into their very own shopping mall. As you get to the bottom of the Escalator you are faced with some of the must luxurious consumer brands including Cartier, Rolex, Dior and Louis Vuitton. As the Marina Bay Sands is owned by the Las Vegas Sands Group it cannot go without a casino which hosts over 500 tables and slot machines. Throughout the Mall you have some of the most amazing shops for both the rich and for the average spender. There are also heaps of places to eat including a great food hall located on the bottom floor. This offers a variety of different foods at a very good price, however, if you are looking for something more up market you have multiple choices including one of Gordon Ramsey's Restaurants at the west side of the mall. In terms of additional entertainment, the mall has a cinema, theatre and ice rink. It is believed that the whole Marina Bay Sands property is the most expensive standalone casino property, worth an astounding $8 Billion Singapore Dollars.

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel
A view of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel from the opposite side of the bay

Singapore has some of the most amazing attractions and if you're looking for some of the best, I have been lucky enough to have visited the following and I highly recommend you do too if you’re in or around the island. Some of my favourites are; Sentosa Island, Sentosa Mall, Universal Studios, The Singapore Flyer, Gardens by The Bay, Marina Bay, National Orchid Gardens, Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, Chinatown, The Helix Bridge and The National Museum of Singapore. My favourite? I would have to say Gardens by the bay. In my opinion this is due to how peaceful it is down there, a place to relax, have a nice cold beer and just take in the stunning views of architecture, innovation and wildlife. The Gardens by the bay is certainly one place I would recommend every human being to visit, it is perfection.

Some of the best things to do in Singapore include Sentosa Island, Singapore Flyer, Music, Hard Rock Cafe
Our Top 10 Attractons in Singapore

Talking about refreshments, what else better than ice cold beers and delicious food. The island of Singapore offers some of the best varieties of food, from high end restaurants, to fast food to amazingly delicious food halls all priced very differently but very fairly in my opinion. We spent most of our time in the food halls which offer a variety of food including noodles, Singaporian style dishes, British food such as chips and burgers, pasta’s, seafood and so on, the options were endless. Each section of the food hall are so well priced giving you the opportunity to try everything if you spend a few days in Singapore. One of the best places to eat was down in China town, just a few minutes walk from the Sri Mariamman Temple. The restaurant was actually located inside of the China Town Street market, here we found hundreads of Formula One fans taking in some delicious fresh food and VERY reasonably priced Tiger beer!

Singapore Food and Drink
Some of the best times in Singapore was when we were eating and drinking :)

The Overall Trip, Small Tips and Things to Remember

I would highly, highly recommend Singapore to anyone. It’s probably my favourite place on earth, not just because of the Formula One being there (although that is the reason I've travelled there twice) but because of the overall experience as I’ve mentioned. It is such a beautiful city, there is so much going on and the people who live there are so friendly. Singapore is also very clean and green which is something no other city can quite achieve.

Innovation and technology is booming in the city and it is one place that is in very good health in terms of the financial market.

If you are going to travel and stay in Singapore then these are the few things I would highly recommend and point out before you leave.

  1. If you are travelling from the UK be aware that the journey is very long and the chances of delays and being restless is highly likely. Get plenty of rest before you travel and travel in something really comfortable. But enjoy it! It’s all part of the experience.
  2. Be aware that Singapore charges service charges everywhere you go. You will also pay city tax on every hotel stay. You can read more about that here.
  3. Be aware that you can not eat or drink on the trains and the MRT in Singapore. You can be fined up to $SGD1000. Be aware of this as soon as you leave the airport.
  4. Chewing gum - There is an import ban on chewing gum in Singapore, this has been enforced since 2004. Only chewing gum of therapeutic value is allowed into Singapore under the "Regulation of Imports and Exports (Chewing Gum) Regulations". The exception is made for dental or nicotine gum.
  5. Be prepared for heat and especially humidity. Singapore sits right on the equator and is absolutely scorching hot. We would highly recommend booking into a hotel that has a swimming pool just to cool off when you get up on a morning and before you go to sleep, it's so refreshing!
  6. Thunderstorms and lightening strikes happen most evenings in Singapore and do often come out at night so if you are travelling with children be aware of this as it could frighten them. For us, it was more of a spectacular show of nature, it’s pretty impressive when it really gets going.
  7. Work out your currency before you arrive in Singapore. It’s easy enough to follow but it’ll help you weigh up costs before you get there.

To close this post I’d just like to add in this episode of a podcast we did with Ahmad Zulkiflie. Ahmad is a Singaporean who has been studying his degree in the city of Newcastle upon Tyne. Ahmad popped in to have a chat with us about growing up in Singapore, living there and what it’s like being in the UK. It was a great discussion and you can listen to that very podcast below.

Thank you so much for reading. You can join the conversation below by leaving a comment, we would love to hear from you.

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