Arrival at Chiangi Airport was easy. In our limited viewing, I noticed that it’s very large and clean. We had to go through 3 additional security screenings, which was a bit excessive, but I guess they have some pretty strict laws. For example, on the back of the arrival card it says, in bold red letters, “DEATH TO DRUG TRAFFICKERS BY SINGAPORE LAW”. They don’t play.
We didn’t have time to go to the lounge in Kuala Lumpur before departing (I accidentally had the Uber driver navigate us to the wrong terminal, the other is a 10 minute drive away) and thus we were both hungry by the time we landed at 4pm in Singapore. So before grabbing our bags we went to the “Dnata” lounge, which we had access to with priority pass, and it was pretty great. They have a full coffee bar and wet bar which appears to be sponsored by Chivas since they had a lot of “signature cocktails” made with it. We had a nice quick lunch and then went to grab our bags.
I was finally able to use my Keepgo router and it connected quickly. With it, I was able to hail an Uber quickly and successfully to the airport’s “pickup area”, which is a great idea. It’s a separate enclosed hallway with a road running adjacent. I called the Uber to that location and we sat in the AC for a few minutes until it arrived. Nice and easy.
We got to the hotel in about 20 minutes with minimal traffic. We were staying at the Fairmont, which we booked using Veronica’s two free-night certificates from the Chase Fairmont credit card and also applied her suite upgrade, which gave us access to the executive lounge as well. Read my review of the hotel here. We absolutely loved it!
After a quick trip to the Executive Lounge for a snack, we walked down toward the marina where they had some kind of an outdoor art/light festival. Essentially this meant there were odd pieces of art, some lasers, and lots of people.
It was still pretty hot and sticky, but we strolled along the promenade for a bit, visiting the Merlion monument, outdoor stage, and then ended up at the National Theater where they had a free singing performance.
We ended up going to a couple of these shows over the days, and they all sang oldies that neither of us recognized–but the old people in attendance really ate it up. We later discovered that this series of events was geared towards keeping “older adults active”, which explained it. We stuck around until the end of the performance and then headed back to the hotel.
The next morning we slept in a bit but got up to have breakfast in the lounge at 9:30am, which was pretty good. We then planned our day and set out into the heat soon after, heading first toward the Botanical Gardens. We took the metro there to try it out, and it was pretty nice and efficient. We had to walk 7 or 8 minutes to the station, pay the S$3.50 fee (for 2, ~$2.58), then it was just a few stops.
The gardens are quite extensive and includes a little pond, lots of walking trails, and plenty of greenery. On the other side of the park is the Orchid Garden, which is exactly as it sounds. It costs S$5 ($3.68) to enter but is quite beautiful. We spent about half an hour in there and there were lots of other tourists. Again, it was hot and sticky so we tried to stay in the shade as much as possible.
After finishing up there, we called an Uber to pick us up and bring us to the National Gallery. By this time it was about 3pm and we decided to push through the museum instead of getting lunch, which was a mistake.
The National Gallery was huge, pristine, and very expensive. To see both the main galleries and the special exhibit on colonialism it was S$30 (~$22), although we got a $3 discount for having a flight with Singapore Airlines. Because we were hungry and tired, we were only there for about an hour, which was not worth the price for me. Cool to see (and a nice break from the heat outside), but there was too much to see with too little time.
We headed back toward the hotel (only a 10 minute walk) and there was no food at the lounge so we grabbed a pizza at a place on our block.
That evening, we headed across the street to the famous Raffles hotel to get a “Singapore Sling”–a well-known drink that was invented at the bar there in the 1800s by a bartender who came up with it as a way for women to drink alcohol without it looking like they were, as it was against social norms at the time. It’s gin-based but very fruity and they charge S$31 ($22.83) per drink, which is absolutely outrageous. I had a blood-and-sand whiskey drink instead, which was still S$25. We paid a total of S$65 ($47.88) for our drinks, which is a first for me. It was our most expensive bill in Singapore! It was worth the experience, I guess, but no reason to ever do it again.
For our final day in Singapore, we got up early and went to the gym, which is awesome. We finished at about 9:30 and decided to get breakfast at the Italian restaurant on the ground floor, where they had a giant buffet that was great.
We filled up and then headed back upstairs. Veronica went to get her nails and hair done and I stayed in the room to get some work done (i.e. travel arrangements and other GeekSquad-like activities). We stayed inside until we had to check out at 2pm, at which point we brought our stuff downstairs and we’re able to store it until we needed to leave for the airport.
We walked back to the national Gallery where they had a free music performance and listened for a half hour or so.
We then walked down to the Fullerton Hotel and hopped on the River Cruise, which cost S$25 ($18.5) each. It was a decent distraction and gave some info about the buildings. It also gave us some coverage when the sky opened up and it poured rain for an hour.
After the cruise we hopped in an UberPOOL to get to a restaurant we had been wanting to try. However, when we got there we learned that they were only serving drinks and the kitchen had closed an hour before we arrived. Womp womp. We grabbed a salad and foccacia next door then headed over to the theater for another free performance. It was another singer of oldies, but was decent.
Then outside, they had a huge country line-dance event going on. It was pretty wild to watch a hundred or so Singaporeans in cowboy hats and boots line dancing to country music. I even joined in for a song or two, which was hilarious.
After that it was about time to head out, so we went back to the hotel. There, they gave us access to their “hospitality lounge” which is just a hotel room that they let people use to freshen up after checking out if they need to shower, get on WiFi, etc. It was a great benefit and helped us reorganize our bags before calling our Uber to take us to the airport. And just like that, our time in Singapore was up!
Thoughts about Singapore:
- It was deathly hot and humid, as all countries on this trip have been.
- It’s definitely an expensive country, but there are more budget-friendly options than I expected. At least you have a choice!
- We saw a lot but, didn’t get a chance to go down to Sentosa which would have been nice.
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Brandon Chase is a writer, endurance athlete, and guide based in Maine. He is a former Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State and spent nearly a decade overseas serving at embassies in Egypt, Cyprus, and Pakistan.
Along with a 98-day thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, he has summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiked the West Highland Way, fastpacked in the Himalayas, and trekked around New Zealand and South Africa. He also regularly competes in ultramarathons at the 50k, 50-mile, and 100-mile distances. He is a Lead Guide for Andrew Skurka Adventures and the New England Outdoor Center.