A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Singapore, a country I knew little about. Thanks to some quick Googling, I quickly learned that the country is practically on the equator, meaning year round summer heat and humidity. I knew there was more to learn, so after a very long flight, I joined a free walking tour to learn about the history and modernization of Singapore.
When visiting new-to-me cities, especially in a land so foreign, I’ve found that getting your bearings on day 1 is extremely beneficial throughout the rest of the trip. The SneakPeak Singapore walking tour was no different. Darren, our tour guide, explained the long history of Singapore, British colonization, and the modernization of this tropical city. I admit that it can be a bit awkward to join a group walking tour as a solo traveler at first, but soon I was talking up fellow travelers from Spain, Australia, and Canada.
Due to the colonization, some of the historic buildings looked more like Charleston or New Orleans than any other Asian city. Then you turned the corner and walk into dozens of modern skyscrapers. The city was a real mix of old and new.
After my Seoul, South Korea trip just a few weeks before, I was expecting to find that nobody spoke English and all food and culture would be strictly from Singapore. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Seoul and Singapore are complete opposites. While Koreans protect their cultural identity – including food, pop culture, language, etc., Singapore invites in international influences. The whole city was a melting pot.
We walked through Chinatown, which featured Buddhist temples, skyscrapers, and historic row homes.
A few hours of walking city streets in 100°+ heat will really wipe you out. I was excited when our guide led us to a local Hawker Center, an open air food court, and invited us to take a snack break. The group ordered made-to-order sugar cane juice (yellow drink below) to rehydrate, fried plantains, and a vegetable and peanut wrap.
This was the extent of my Singapore food sampling during the trip. Most of the food I ate was asian of sorts, or something I could find back home – like pizza and pasta. So visiting a Hawker Center, where the locals eat their daily meals, was a nice.
The walking tour finally came to an end 4.5 hours later… by which point I was hungry, thirsty, sore, and drenched with sweat. I vastly underestimated the heat in Singapore. Just stepping outside of a building, I was hit by a thick and humid heat wave that wiped me out. The whole trip was hard to handle due to the intense heat, it was unlike anything I’ve every experienced. It was scary to realize that December was their coolest month of the year. I think that night of the walking tour I drank a giant bottle of water and passed out at 5pm.
Later in the trip I went to see the city at night and had dinner at Chijmes, a charming historic complex of white buildings. All lit up at night, the white buildings and church looked beautiful. Throughout the walking tour and my time exploring, I fell in love with the historic buildings and beautiful city. Next door to Chijmes was Raffles Hotel (right), the historic hotel that invented the Singapore Sling, decked out in Christmas decorations.
Even more impressive in Singapore was the vegetation. Due to the tropical location, Singapore is full of the most beautiful plant life. In recent years the city has made an effort to make the city more green and it has paid off. The whole city was covered in palm trees, colorful flowers, and crazy plant life. It reminded me of Hawaii.
On my final day in Singapore I wanted to see the plant life up close, so I walked to Gardens by the Bay, the popular botanical gardens across from Marina Bay Sands where I was staying.
The Gardens are famous for the Supertree Grove, gigantic metal tree structures, climbing with plant life and connected by a pedestrian pathway.
I was most excited to see the beautiful plants up close. So many beautiful trees and flowers that I’d never seen before. My favorite were the tall palm trees with striped red-orange colored trunks. Throughout the modern and bustling city there was so much beautiful vegetation. It was like Miami and Hawaii mixed to create Singapore, it was really neat.
Finally the main event of my trip had arrived… I was finally able to check into Marina Bay Sands hotel, famous for the world’s largest and highest infinity pool, which overlooks Singapore. After a extremely long flight and a busy week in the heat, I had rewarded myself with a stay at the (not so cheap) hotel so I could spend a day at the famous pool. I checked in early to beat the crowds and rushed to the pool deck.
And it was all worth it. The pool deck was beautiful, but the view of the city from my seat was the best. I ordered some lunch, grabbed a book, and started sunbathing for the afternoon.
After warming up in the sun, I was eager to jump into the pool water. It was amazing to look over the edge and see the city I had been touring the past week below. I had that lay of the land from my walking tour on day 1, so I looked down and identified the sites below.
And when you travel solo, sometimes you have to befriend the nice people next to you and ask them to take a picture. Because you don’t fly half way around the world to the most famous pool view and not get a picture of yourself.
Selifes help too.
I could have stayed in the pool for hours. The view below and people watching were top-notch.
The Marina Bay Sands hotel was not cheap, but the infinity pool is the most famous attraction in the city and one I could enjoy by myself. And yes, it was totally worth every penny. It was like sightseeing and relaxing poolside all at one.
After many hours of lounging and by the pool, I could feel my skin frying in the equator-strong sun. So I sadly had to pack up my beach bag and headed back down to the hotel to prepare for my journey home back to snowy weather in DC. Thank you for my rare winter-time suntan, Singapore!