This article was published in Metro Plus, The Hindu.
Living in Asia has its perks. The weather, the food, and most importantly, easy access to incredible travel destinations. Singapore has consistently been a favourite among couples, friends and families alike. The Singapore Tourism Board reported an incredible 12.4 million international visitors from January to September 2016. 817,000 of them were Indians.
The ease of travel and range of accommodation catering to different budgets makes Singapore a must-do destination, even if you have just 48 hours.
Indigo, Scoot, Jet Airways and Air India Express operate budget flights from Chennai to Singapore (ranging from INR 13,000 to 16,000 return depending on when you book). Taking the 10pm flight will get you to Singapore at 4.40am local time. Check-in to your hotel and catch a few hours of sleep.
8:30 am – Singapore Zoo
The zoo is well connected by buses or you can take a taxi from the nearest train station connected to your line. Hang out with free range orangutans and lemurs, feed the giraffes, watch the Komodo dragon, learn about tropical and polar critters, and walk through the fragile forest enclosures. You can pack your own lunch or go to the restaurants on site for a choice of Indian, Malaysian, Chinese and international food. The zoo also offers River Safaris and Night Safaris which we decided to skip to be able to tick more things off our list.
We then took the free bus shuttle to the Khatib MRT station, and made our way to HarbourFront Station.
2:00 pm – Sentosa Island
The HarbourFront Station connects mainland Singapore with Sentosa Island. Faced with a choice of getting there by cable car or the monorail Sentosa Express, we chose the latter, only to realise later we could have had a leisurely stroll through the Sentosa Boardwalk.
We went straight to Universal Studios and in the excitement of it all joined the very first queue we saw. After waiting over an hour to get on the ride, we decided to come back later after doing everything else on the island.
The S.E.A. Aquarium houses over 100,000 marine animals, plenty of educational information, and a stunning 36 metre wide Open Ocean Habitat. There’s also the Dolphin Island, Butterfly Park, Water Park and indoor skydiving among other attractions. Walking by the beach is a bit of a disappointment though – if this is on your list, skip without a second thought!
Universal Studios offers some fantastic rides, experiences, live shows and interactive entertainment until 7pm (9pm on some days) and can easily be done in the second half of the day once the crowds begin to thin. Remember that it is the most popular destination for families with children, so you will be surrounded by screaming toddlers and chasing parents.
On your way back from Sentosa Island, make sure to catch the view of the bay at the HarbourFront station.
9:00 pm – Duxton Hill
Located in the Tanjong Pagar area, Duxton Hill is lined with charming cafes and bars offering every cuisine you can imagine. We headed to the Lucha Loco Mexican bar and were thoroughly impressed – except for the tiny portions (which we were told are standard in Singapore).
9:00 am – Jurong Bird Park
While getting to see toucans, snowy owls, Lories, penguins, swans and birds of prey is great, it is particularly interesting to see the park’s conservation centre. The park has beautiful walkthroughs and has made a commendable effort to mimic rainforest ecosystems.
1:00 pm – Lau Pa Sat
Head to Lau Pa Sat, a food market reminiscent of London’s Borough Market for a hearty and budget-friendly lunch of Indian, Malaysian, Chinese and continental food. Satays and Tiger beer are recommended! At $5 a pint, you’ll return craving this Asian lager with your next meal. If you are vegetarian, your options are unfortunately restricted to Indian and Asian tofu. My determined quest to experience local cuisine began with a visit to every stall, and ended with a Mysore Masala Dosa.
2:00 pm – Marina Bay
An easy 15 minute walk from Lau Pa Sat, use the second half of the day to discover the central Marina Bay area. Go to the Gardens by the Bay to explore the impressive botanical conservation efforts at the Flower Dome, and learn about fragile cloud forests on the elevated walkways.
Walk along the harbour, get a picture with the Merlion, grab a bite at Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen (we took a good longing peek), and go up the Singapore Flyer or the Marina Bay Sands SkyPark for a beautiful view of the city’s skyline.
9:00 pm – Clarke Quay
So much of Singapore’s culture revolves around food experiences and Clarke Quay offers yet another unique dining setting. On the banks of the Singapore River, Clarke Quay was once a vitally important trade area. Now, it serves as the city’s nightlife capital with restaurants and bars taking home in the erstwhile warehouses.
Every restaurant vies for your attention with live bands and performances. We chose the Octopas Tapas Bar by the river – a lovely view to enjoy your last evening in Singapore, with a white wine sangria and Singapore Sling.
- Indigo and Air India Express operate early morning flights to Chennai. If you’re flying back in the evening, Scoot operates a luxurious Dreamliner with lower cabin pressure and intelligent lighting.
- Alternates to Lao Pa Sat for budget meals include Smith Street in Chinatown and Tekka Centre in Little India. They are also good areas to take a wander and shop for knick-knacks. Remember to check out the Buddha Relic Temple in Chinatown.
- Getting around Singapore is easiest on the MRT system operating five lines connecting the entire city. Pick up a map and a travel card at your nearest station. Taxis can be expensive, but worth it to get to the Zoo and Bird Park.
- Purchase a Singapore Attractions Pass on singaporepass.com.sg and redeem it for a travel card at Changi Airport to save time and money. You can also purchase a HoHo bus pass which will get you to every tourist spot in the city and offer bus top tours.
- Indian citizens have to apply for a visa in advance. Check ica.gov.sg a month before your travel.