Singapore has a lot to offer if you have the money to enjoy it. On our first day there we spent a couple hours doing laundry and trying to find an electric razor for Keenen. We ate a quick and cheap lunch at the mall food court that had a wide variety of Asian dishes. During our explorations at the mall we visited a grocery store. A pint of Ben and Jerry’s sold for 27 SGD!!! (That’s 19 USD). There were some electric razors at a tech shop, but they cost between 200 and 600 SGD, an absolutely ridiculous price. Feeling slightly jaded, we left the mall to head outside and soak up some green space.
We rode the immaculately clean MRT subway system down to the famous Gardens by the Bay. The Gardens are a humongous plot of green space that are home to the world famous Super Trees, and what a magnificent sight they are. The main attraction of the gardens are the Super Tree Groves. Each structure is a vertical garden housing thousands of plant species that collects water and sunlight for energy to power the conservatories nearby. The surrounding area has themed gardens for each part of southeast Asia with plants from everywhere and gorgeous landscaping.
After walking around the gardens for awhile we explored the conservatories. Two giant glass domes inspired by the shape of orchids house the Flower Garden and the Cloud Forest. We visited the Flower Garden first. The gigantic dome was cold and spacious (which felt lovely compared to the miserable heat and humidity we were experiencing outside). It was home to thousands of succulents, flowers, strange trees, and bushes all carefully arranged with statues to create a serene setting.
Next up was the cloud forest, which houses the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. This dome was created to simulate the cloud forest ecosystem found all over the world at high altitudes. These are the plants that grow at the top of mountains and obtain all of their moisture from clouds. Cloud forests are in grave danger due to climate change, as with rising temperatures clouds form higher in the atmosphere than before, leaving the tops of mountains without water and exposed to sunlight. We made our way up to the top of the waterfall and saw unique and beautiful flora, then were impressed by the informative and educational exhibits housed below about the dangers of climate change and the ways in which individuals can help.
Afterwards we spent a few hours reading at the base of a super tree waiting for sundown, then made our way to the largest super tree grove for the evening light show. It was quite picturesque, with the modern Marina Bay Sands skyscraper in the background and the trees glittering in mesmerizing patterns set to music. We enjoyed the super tree light show so much that we stuck around for the second performance before heading back to our hostel in Little India.
The following day we went out to explore the Singapore botanical gardens. We spent the entire day strolling around the huge park, checking out the different themed sections which showcased more local flora and fauna as opposed to the international species at Gardens by the Bay. I particularly enjoyed the rainforest section, which displayed what the landscape around Singapore used to look like before it was turned into a metropolis. Our favorite part, though, was the National Orchid Garden. Singapore Botanical has a well funded and groundbreaking orchid lab, which has created hundreds of hybrid orchid species, all of which are on display in the National Orchid Garden. We saw rare specimens, each one uniquely and incredibly beautiful. Many are named after famous or influential celebrities and politicians that have visited the gardens in the past.
One of the most fascinating parts of visiting the orchid garden was actually listening to the locals communicate with each other. Singapore was once controlled by the British Empire, and it’s easy to see the influence here, from the plugs to food to driving on the left side. English is the national language of Singapore, and is used on signs and in names of stores, buildings, and attractions. However, Singapore is a multinational country, and many cultures exist simultaneously. Staying in Little India, we heard a lot of Hindi. There was also quite a bit of Chinese, but no matter what people were speaking they peppered in English phrases and words. The Singaporeans speak what is called Singlish, which is a bizarre combination of Chinese and English that doesn’t seem to have any specific rules. It was both confusing and awesome.
That night I ended up with a sore throat, and woke up the next morning feeling pretty terrible. We stayed in the entire following day, only venturing out to get a take out pizza. Damn my immune system. I still felt bad the next day, so we took it slow. We visited the most popular hawker center (a food market) in Chinatown, but were relatively unimpressed with the food and even more-so the prices. I think the Chinatown hawker center has been ruined by tourism. We got over it by drinking some giant beers to get on a nice buzz, then went back to our hostel to sleep it off.
On our last day we went back to Gardens by the Bay to relax and read books before heading to the airport for our flight out to Bali. Singapore had a lot to offer, including a supposedly wonderful zoo with five separate parks, Universal Studios, a few water parks, a cable car, and a booming night life, but it’s certainly not built for travelers on a budget. Although we would have loved to go crazy and visit all of the attractions, we decided they weren’t worth the money, particularly when there wasn’t anything about them that made it distinctly Asian or necessarily different from anything we could experience at home. It was easy to make the conclusion that what people say is true: Singapore doesn’t feel like Asia, but a western city moved east.