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August 3rd 2012
Published: August 7th 2012
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So it turns out you do need the city even though we have found even more awesome things in the airport- free sweets plus a slide! Just don't come into the city, as it's referred even though it's a country, without comfortable walking shoes and a credit card or six! We started our big adventure with an upgrade from the regional silk air carrier to Singapore Airlines the daddy of all airlines! It meant we left an hour early, got complimentary juices and plush seats with games even though only a 55 minute flight. We signed up to the tourist pass for unlimited bus and MRT use, getting the tube to the centre and to our digs just after 1pm. When we say digs this was slumming it for us! We know KL was awful but it was private, this was anything but. We booked online and it looked as though it was a private room with 2 bunk beds. We chose this rather than an eight bed as be less chance of snorers! Well what we got for $45 a night? A bunk bed with locker that had a curtain where the elusive forth wall should have been! Think hospital wing, as curtains were just pulled round every four or eight beds but you were in one great room, if there were snorers you were hearing them! There were two wet rooms with a toilet for thirty beds not great! We took to showering at night to stand a chance! Good job we were virtually over the food poisoning! We slept reasonably ok considering, Lauren bunking in with Ben until Ben got too hot! We didn't bother with the kitchen where the sink was used for washing up, brushing teeth, doing your hair as hair dryer here and hand washing delicates! It was not ideal!!

So what did we do with our three and half days? Explored, entertained and got thoroughly excited! It was great! Definitely the best place in south east Asia and one we would come back to and bring Lauren's mum! We saw this as our holiday within the travelling, we would do the traditional tourist trap attractions, including an open top bus tour and universal studios! The first day, Monday, we went to Orchard Road, the premier shopping district, floor to sky of malls, home to every fashion label, including at least four Louis Vuitton shops! Real estate is very expensive here yet the amount of these shops and Starbucks coffee shops were incredible! We had a happy hour lunch of pasta and sandwiches and revelled in the sheer amount of cuisines on offer from German, Suisse, Italian to Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese! The rest of the afternoon was spent taking in the sights of the former colony, modern Singapore designed in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles. We saw his statue at the river and walked along the oldest remaining bridge and headed to the Merlion. A Lion's head with fish body that became the tourist icon of Singapore forty years ago. It did look freaky but behind it gave the most stunning skyscraper backdrop and on the other side the most expensive resort, Marina Bay Sands which cost over $5 billion to build, the structure is three huge towers with a ship sitting on top, but it did reclaim this cost within the first two years of opening!

Tuesday we treated ourselves to an hours lie in before setting out to the north of the country and the highly anticipated zoo. We got there with little trouble completely mastering the very easy to use mrt and bus. We had an absolute blast watching a humane elephant show and admiring the many animals on show here. It was so great as most of it was open, we didn't see a single cage even where the tiger and lions were it was an open enclosure! You could hand feed several animals but as visited a similar open zoo in the UK recently and the elephant ride in Thailand we let the parents spend the extra dollars on the kids! We took in a boat trip over the northern reservoir and admired the tranquility, this was the country out of the city. We had similar experiences the day before when we saw the Botanical Gardens, a very peaceful retreat minutes from the bustling centre.

Later that evening we went to the highlight of our trip, an exquisite steak dinner and Raffles Hotel. The dinner was happened upon by chance at one of the world's largest hotels, Suishotel. We dined on Foie gras and filet mignon complete with five accompanying sauces! It was devine with the skyscrapers lit up as another perfect backdrop. It came with a rather hefty price tag and we considered it an early birthday treat for Ben who for the first time in his life craved steak! We went across the road to the iconic Raffles Hotel, home of the Singapore Sling and before opening our mouths had two of the tastiest cocktails we had ever had put before us. Again with an astonishing price tag but worth every drop as we watched a live soul band and Ben ate his worth in free peanuts, which incidentally still have their shells cracked and pushed to the floor as they did in Long Bar when the hotel opened in the early 1900's. The hotel has been named a national monument and it's not hard to see why. The classic colonial building is simply stunning and sympathetic restoration had taken place perfectly.

Wednesday quickly arrived and took us on a trip to one of three southern islands that are connected to the harbour with a bridge and monorail system. Sentosa, the island we visited was home to the resort housing a huge casino complex plus several hotels and eateries and the big daddy, Universal Studios. Having been to its counterpart in Florida and knowing we are going in October (actually for Ben's birthday!) we were excited to compare. It didn't disappoint as when we came to pay with MasterCard we were given an S$8 discount each, roughly £4.30 each, nice one! We watched as the doors were opened by a chosen family and got going. We got round pretty much all the attractions in three hours flat! No rides were the same but this park fused the two different parks from Florida. A few people have asked what is was like, so briefly, you had big attraction similar to 'Hulk', a transformers ride just like 'spiderman' plus stunt rides like 'twister' and 'earthquake'. There was also musical shows and themed rides within the sections, the best being the 'Far Far Away' land complete with castle and a Donkey live show! This had to be the best entertainment as a man voiced donkey who was like a hologram on stage, and sounded just like Eddie Murphy, and a man dressed up was the mic holder encouraging the audience on ground level. They got a few people up asking where they were from then there was a loud fart noise and donkey accused the audience of housing a Shrek! Well you guessed it they then described the person wearing a black vest top and big bushy beard! Ben was made to stand, apologise for farting and asked to repeat the ogre pledge to continue farting in public, it even involved singing which Ben did without question and impressed the entire audience! Lauren couldn't have been prouder, well it did make her a princess!

We met several other characters and got some great pictures, Lauren meeting her idol, Betty Boop! We were so impressed with how real the street seemed just like the movies and to see characters moving around was the icing on the cake. We also got free tickets to the maritime museum to learn about Singapore and other ports in the East and took some time away from the rides to learn about the past from around 400AD to Raffles encounter with the Lion City. We also walked down to the beach which although not as pretty as where we had been showed the dynamics of this country, it really has it all! We hit the southern most point of SEA and marvelled in how much we had seen in these past few weeks.

This was followed by a last hours visit to Universal where we went on the four favourite rides again within that time and even met Optimus Prime! We dined at Chilis and felt slightly cheated as to the price costing double than KL. Things are more costly here, but as in most places, wages match and evens things out.

Thursday was a lot more relaxing as we made our way to Suntec City where we would begin our city bus tour. We initially planned to do this Tuesday so we would get more orientated with the city but felt we didn't need to as we were comfortable in the city almost immediately. We took in all other sights we had missed or had limited time with, and even a boat trip along the river. It was easy enough to sit on the top deck allowing the sun to top us up and listen to interesting tales of this fascinating country.

The evening was exciting for us, we were actually meeting a friend, Emma, who we met on the boat trip in Koh Phi Phi, it's normally one of those things "yeah we will email" blah blah, but we actually did and she actually replied! So we made plans to meet at Ku De Ta, a rooftop bar above the Marina Sands Hotel at 7pm. We got up wearing the only decent clothes we had, which meant Ben was in a form of sandals, not open toed but they had holes. We wore this to Raffles and thought it would be OK. We got to the top and admired the fantastic central business district skyscrapers watching the sun close its eyes and the lights twinkling. We couldn't find our friends, but tapping into wifi we discovered there was a bar around the corner still on top deck, we wandered in but Ben was refused entry due to his shoes! We were gutted but went back to the other bar before heading down to the promenade and watching the fountain and light show sipping beer and vodka. We had a great evening of chit chat learning about Emma and Steve and how Singapore came about, both being British, and they sold us Singapore! We discussed our future plans and made Emma a tad jealous with our upcoming adventures, which further fuelled our adrenaline demonstrating just how lucky we are doing this!

Friday came about far too quickly and our alarm sounded far too early but we quietly packed our things got the mrt and headed back to the airport. We reflected whilst enjoying breakfast and a hot chocolate about our time here. Gutted to be leaving but slightly relieved based on the purse bulging with credit card receipts! This wouldn't be the last time we saw this crown jewel, so with that we happily boarded our Singapore Airlines flight to Hong Kong, gutted it was only a three and half hour flight meaning we watched all of one film but half of another, very frustrating!

Things of note:

You can't help but go into malls, most mrt stations are housed beneath them and to get to other places you walk through them if not for the shops or themes but as a retreat from the heat. Malls are so important they even have 24 hour malls!

English is the first language followed by mandarin, and you do not feel out of place as whatever nationality, it is very multicultural.

There is always construction to redefine the landscape and city to keep it ahead of its peers but it doesn't intrude upon you in any way, in fact they have kept an old temple within the central business district as they try to preserve their historic past through buildings. They also do not fight to be the tallest as their height is set at a maximum by aviation law.

The grand prix was being prepared for and the track was looking awesome, it is the only one at night we believe.

To keep congestion in the city to a minimum not only do they have their first class mrt which normally has seats available, they make it very expensive to drive, you pay heavy taxes and tolls and if you have a car older than ten years you will pay extortionate fees, making Singapore the highest exporter of cars after China as people always trading in!

We played with some beautiful parrots at Sentosa for free, one baby even lay down in our hands as we stroked but they wanted S$100 for five photos about £52! No freakin' way!

At universal it was so quiet on two rides we were the only participants, including the biggest ride, the Cylon, where we were on the front solo!

At Sentosa you could easily not go to mainland Singapore there is so much on offer we would love to do next time, from gondola and luge rides, to climbing the Merlion and jet skiing.

What would we do differently:

Just come with more money so we could do everything, but that's just why we will come back!


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