Singapore: a future-focused garden city to admire

After our adventures in New Zealand, our next stop was Singapore. And before anyone asks: Yes, we did skip Australia entirely. We figured that there was too much that we’d like to see/do there that we’d be better off saving it for another point when we can do it justice. So, we left soggy Christchurch and flew ~8,500km to humid Singapore, officially marking the beginning of our trip around south Asia.

Our first impression of Singapore was that it was both extremely clean and safe—it didn’t feel at all intimidating like some bigger cities do. We also realised that there was a lot to do, and that we hadn’t planned to spend enough days there: We’d only booked two nights at first, but we quickly added on another night.

What we liked most

The food

Our hostel was conveniently positioned in Chinatown, which meant we had plenty of good food at our fingertips, including the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred meal. So, when we arrived, we went overboard and spent ~£2 each on Hawker Chan’s famous chicken and rice dish. Was it worthy of a Michelin star? We’re not so sure: While I got a mouthwateringly succulent piece of chicken without bones, Lauren didn’t get as lucky, so ended up picking at scraps of meat on bones for her protein intake. On the whole the food was delicious though—especially the dark, treacly soy sauce—and we clearly couldn’t complain about the price. The rest of the food we had in Singapore was very good, with plenty of options to choose from, especially in the famous hawker markets. The satay chicken was delicious and widely available.

Gardens by the bay

The Gardens by the Bay area is the Singapore you’ll have seen in most pictures of the city: It includes the Marina Bay Sands (the boat building), the supertrees, and so on. It was also our favourite part of the city that we spent time in. We loved the green mindset that had been applied to its construction—Singapore is intent on being at the forefront of sustainable city development. You were in the centre of a big city, but you felt more like you were in a futuristic park that balanced practicality—the “supertrees” have many functions, from providing shade, to being a home to plants and animals, to being flues for biowaste energy—and design—all the buildings look amazing and integrate beautifully into the gardens.

We loved the cloud garden here, especially its spectacular waterfall. This indoor waterfall is the world’s largest at an impressive 35m, and it’s a great sight to see on first entering the conservatory. We can’t be as positive, however, about its twin conservatory: the garden dome. If you’ve been to Kew—or any British garden in fact—this will feel like a tacky, theme-park of a garden, and it’s really not worth visiting. Nicht impressed.

We did, however, really enjoy visiting the sustainability exhibit. It was a showcase of why climate change is a fact (sorry, Donald, but it is), why it’s so dangerous for Singapore, and what Singaporeans are doing to minimise their environmental impact, including the ambitious development of the very futuristic, green, and data-driven Jurong Lake District. Singapore isn’t nicknamed the Garden City for no good reason.

The lights at night

Singapore is a city that comes visually alive at night. There are numerous light shows—the supertree one was our favourite by far—and the downtown skyline looks spectacular with its miscellany of colourful lights.

The wildlife

For a city, Singapore has managed to maintain a respectable habitat for a lot of different species of wildlife. While we didn’t see one of Singapore’s many otters, we did see a huge monitor lizard and some turtles, not to mention a lot of birdlife, including bitterns, kingfishers, egrets, bee-eaters, and orioles.

While we did visit a few of the historical attractions (Raffles this, Raffles that—after Stamford Raffles, the British statesman best known for founding Singapore and British Malaya), you can probably tell that our time in Singapore majored more on Singapore’s gardens, sustainable ethos, and delicious food. We’d happily go back to explore more of this fascinating island city-state. Three short days was definitely not enough.

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