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This is an installment in my March 2012 Asia Trip Series which includes: A Birthday Present To Myself: Business Class on the World’s Longest Flight for $2.50, Help Me Plan My Asia Trip Starting With Singapore, Flight Review: Singapore Airlines All Business Class Flight From Newark To Singapore, Hotel Review: Intercontinental Singapore, Video Trip Report: Singapore, Hotel Review: Le Meridien Bangkok Avantec Suite, Video Trip Report: Bangkok, Hotel Review: Le Meridien Angkor, Video Trip Report: Siem Reap, Hotel Review: Intercontinental Phnom Penh, Video Trip Report: Phnom Penh and the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields, Hotel Review: W Hong Kong.
For a great look at Singapore through my experiences, take a look at the video below in the post- just pardon the editing and video taping, since I just got the HD video camera. In the meantime, read on to see what I did during my whirlwind two-day visit to the city-state and stay tuned for more footage from my Southeast Asia trip including footage of me getting attacked by Cambodian monkeys!
After arriving at the Intercontinental Singapore and washing off the wears of travel, I was starving and it was just about breakfast time, so I decided to dive head first into Singapore and get breakfast at a Hawker Centre.
The Hawker Centre
The Hawker Centre is basically a busy food court with tons of stalls serving up all kinds of cuisines and Singaporean specialties. Cheap and tasty–my favorite!
Per TPG reader recommendations, I looked for the stall with the longest line since that’s usually an indicator or good food. On the way I picked up another recommendation: lime juice, which was sweet and a good way to energize for my first experience. The first busy stall was a fish ball soup – not a very appetizing name, and certainly not a normal breakfast food for me, but I decided to go for it anyway and asked the lady at the counter of the stall we chose for the most popular dish, and that’s what I got. It was piping hot fish stock with these sort of crunchy meatballs of fish and super fresh green scallions. I have to admit I wasn’t sold after the first piping hot, crunchy bite but the more I ate I got used to it and the lime juice helped wash it all down.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Several readers also suggested visiting the Singapore Botanic Gardens first thing because it tends to get steamy. We got there just in time to catch some people finishing their morning tai chi class, then wandered through the various paths looking at all the gorgeous flowers. They are known for their Orchid gardens, which were pretty spectacular. The park is adjacent to the beginning of Orchard Road, so after taking in the scenery it was easy to walk to the main entertainment and shopping district in Singapore.
Though many people suggested staying away from Orchard Road–probably the city’s busiest thoroughfare–I couldn’t resist strolling along it for a little while looking at all the malls and electronic stores. Then we took a ride up the elevator to the roofdeck of the world’s tallest vertical mall, the newish Orchard Central. It was pretty much empty while we were there, and a very pleasant place to take in they city, get my bearings and have a break from hustling around.
For lunch later that day we did the food court at the bottom of the upscale Ion shopping center and got great dumplings. The mall itself was reminiscent of upscale Vegas shopping, complete with Harry Winston, Louis Vuitton, Prada, etc. Note: if you do shop at Ion, sign up for their rewards program!
Of course, I couldn’t visit Singapore and not visit what is perhaps its most famous landmark: the Merlion statue. The statue was moved from its original location at the entrance to the Singapore River to the new Merlion Park along the Marina Bay Esplanade near the Fullerton Hotel in 2002 after the construction of the Esplanade Bridge. It was extremely hot and crowded, so I didn’t stay long. The highlight was posing with a crowd of Chinese tourists that were fascinated with my height.
Marina Bay Sands
I also couldn’t miss one of Singapore’s newer landmarks, the gargantuan Marina Bay Sands complex of hotels, casinos, shopping, celebrity chef restaurants, bars, clubs and more. They are very protective of the famous rooftop infinity pool, allowing only hotel guests, but we were able to walk right in before dining at upscale Sky on 57, which is the restaurant on the roof. The views were great from the restaurant, though the food wasn’t anything noteworthy. They have an outdoor terrace and bar, which I’d recommend if you want the view and not have to shell out major cash at the restaurant.
Besides the Hawker Centre, we ate in a bunch of great restaurants thanks to TPG reader suggestions. I met up with fellow blogger Seth from The Wandering Aramean in Little India at Banana Leaf Apollo (stay tuned for a video interview I did with him) and also decent Chinese at Jade at the famous Fullerton Hotel. However, Jade has no view, so I wouldn’t recommend it – instead opt for Town Restaurant, which has outdoor views. I also met up with TPG reader Kevin who took me to the swanky, members only Tower Club. We noshed on the Chinese tasting menu while talking miles and points – all while enjoying sweeping views of Singapore from the 64th floor of Republic Plaza Tower.
Overall, two nights in Singapore gave me a nice taste for the city, though I was excited to move onto the high-paced/frenetic energy of Bangkok.