For many years, I wasn’t really bothered about travelling to Singapore. South East Asia hasn’t really sung much of a tune to me from past experiences and Singapore just seemed like another of those run of the mill places that boring middle aged tourists venture out to. How wrong was I?
In the past three years, I have made two trips to the island country with a population of 5.6 MILLION residents, most of whom are financially well off to survive the expensive living conditions. Sir Stamford Raffles arrived on January 28 1819 to further enhance the British Empire and, within five short years, Singapore become a full British possession under the jurisdiction of British India. The main purpose was to ensure a solid shipping base that would supply Europe, South America, Africa and Australasia. Things looked good for the British Empire until February 15 1942 when Singapore fell to the invading Japanese. Despite having over 60,000 troops protecting the region, the British were no match for a the much smaller Japanese forces. And, as you know, British rule was attempted once more with the surrender of Japanese forces in mid 1945. Sadly, chaos and havoc proceeded and fighting & looting in the street became common place until Singapore discovered her independence from the United Kingdom in 1963.
Along with Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, Singapore is known as one of the “big four” financial tigers in the Asian market holding a AAA rating and is home to some of the worlds largest financial institutions. Unemployment is also exceptional with only 1.5% of the population unemployed during 2015. The rate hasn’t risen above 4% amid decades of large financial growth. The region is also handy for English speaking tourists with over 36% of the population fluent in the language. Mandarin, Malay and Tamil account for the remainder of languages spoken.
So how do you get to Singapore from Changi Airport? It’s a reasonably simple process that involves a couple of trains and around one hour of your time. Once in the city, I’d advise you to book into a central hotel as not only are they cheap for international standards but it will save you plenty of time being so close to the action and allow you to avoid walking in humid climates or being taken for a ride by the dodgy cab drivers who haunt the tourists districts. Crime is very low to minimal thanks to tough laws on violence and gangs so you will always feel safe walking the streets late at night. Speaking of walking the streets.
A massive attraction to Singapore is the ability to see it all on foot. Well, almost all of it. There is a fantastic metro link but you kind of miss out on some beautiful sights when you go underground so why not take a step up to the pavements and chase your shadow around the streets? You can mix it with the new and exciting pulse of Marina Bay Sands, stroll through the remnants of the British Empire or find your way down to Little India where another world of spectacular sights and scents awaits. Upon my first visit here a few years back now, I stayed in a hostel amid the throng of Little India but found the humidity too strong for my liking so I booked into a hotel for the return visit in 2017. Unfortunately, I still managed to sweat myself out of no less than five shirts in one day. Yes, it does indeed get that hot!
On September 15 1972, Merlion Park opened to the public and attracts more than one million visitors annual. Whilst not being up there with the seven wonders of the world, the mythical creature (a Lion’s head on the body of a fish) is well worth stopping by for some selfie action. From here, you can sit back and watch the world pass you by from any number of cafe’s and bars or enjoy walking through the beautiful parks that entwine themselves within the city center or just stroll over to Marina Bay Sands and take in a spot of retail therapy. Of course there is so much more to do in Singapore though I am not one for theme parks and attractions which is why I can’t vouch for adventures such as Universal Studios or the night time safari.
Whilst I wouldn’t go as far as to entertain the idea of a long stay in Singapore, a few days here and there can never be a bad thing. I’d even consider heading back for a third visit in due course but for now, I cannot recommend highly enough that you find your way over and enjoy a short break away from your day to day life. You can grab flights for $119 one way departing from the Gold Coast if you book in early enough through Scoot Airways.