Gap Year Days 6 – 8
Our arrival in Singapore late in the evening meant we went straight to our hostel. Even though we had had a brilliant flight on Singapore Airlines in Suites Class it was close to midnight Sydney time when we left the airport.
Having visited Singapore before, we knew that the MRT is easily the best way to get around. When I think of the good train systems I have been on around the world, the Singapore MRT would arguably be the best. For only a dollar or two it is possible to get nearly anywhere in Singapore.
As always when we arrive in Singapore the heat and humidity hit us as soon as we ventured outside. I thought this time that since we were arriving at night (it was about 10pm by this time) it would not be as bad, but it was a really hot night. About 30 degrees (Celsius) still. By the time we arrived at Betel Box Hostel we were dripping with sweat under our packs. We collapsed on our bed under the air-conditioning!
My crazy body clock had me wide awake before 6am, so much for a sleep in! The plan had been to have a rest morning before we checked out at eleven and moved to new accommodation. I crept down to the common room with my laptop, and sat in the dark with a coffee to avoid waking the extra bodies that were sleeping on the lounges with all their baggage stacked around them. Very late arrivals I assume.
As the time came to leave, we steeled ourselves for the trip across town. Carrying our packs in this heat was always a chore. Three MRT trains and $1.40SGD later we were deposited at the Bayfront station. We made our way, loaded with our packs, into the foyer of Marina Bay Sands.
I wish I could say that this was our normal standard of accommodation, but it’s a huge treat for us. Back in February 2016 I was lucky enough to win a $1000AUD voucher for a travel agent in Adelaide. I could have been sensible and booked a whole pile of accommodation or airfares with it, but instead I decided to splurge. I have wanted to swim in the infinity pool on the 57th floor of Marina Bay Sands for years.
Check-in at MBS is normally 3pm, but a nice request saw us in our room before midday. We oohed and ahhed over the room, the view, the automatic curtains and the oh-so-comfy bed. Then our stomachs called and we jumped on the MRT again and headed the two stops to Chinatown to indulge in another of Simon’s favourite foods – Fried Kway Teow.
Emerging back into the light from the underground MRT station, we were confronted with rain. Not just a little rain, it was bucketing down in a way only the tropics can. Lightening flashed around followed by the deafening thunder. The vendors though are prepared for this, so we were able to walk along mostly under cover before choosing a stall to eat at.
We finished our meal with the rain still pouring, then had a quick look through the street stalls. One of the good things about backpacking is that it is not tempting to buy anything, because I don’t want to carry it.
The MBS pool was calling me, so we head back and make our way to the 57th floor. To my dismay a “Pool Closed” sign confronts us. This ended up being a blessing in disguise as I returned to our room, checked my emails, and found some friends of ours were en route to Singapore and were keen to meet up for dinner later that evening.
As the sun went down we went back up to the 57th floor, this time not to swim but to admire the view on the Skydeck. With the storm now over, we were left with crystal clear skies. The skyline of Singapore stretched spectacularly out before us. There are so many highlights. The floating soccer pitch, the Singapore Flyer, the Helix Bridge, the ArtScience Museum, the list goes on.
Back in our room we watched the clock to ensure we open our balcony doors in time to watch and listen to the Gardens by the Bay light show. It’s currently got a classical theme and was just long enough to entertain without getting boring.
Our friends’ flight lands, and they let us know they are staying near Chinatown, so we jump on the MRT to Chinatown for the second time that day. We managed to get some food just before the stalls close down for the night. The warm air was lovely for sitting outside, eating, and having a good catch up with friends we hadn’t seen for twelve months.
It had been a long day!
The day between our two nights at Marina Bay Sands was spent in the hotel or the shopping centre attached. We predominantly ate in the shopping centre food court as the MBS restaurants stretched our budget just a bit too much. The restaurants are mostly celebrity chef restaurants, or at least aimed towards the well heeled customer.
I went swimming in the pool twice during the day, firstly in the late morning heat and later once the sun had gone down. The sun lounges that were right in the water were great. My feet dangled in the water until my pale skin had to be taken inside. That is perhaps my only complaint. No part of the pool itself is in the shade, so if you are in the water, you are in the sun. There are many sun lounges around the pool, and perhaps fifty percent of them are in the shade, but these are highly sort after during the day. It means those people like me that burn, can’t spend as much time as I would have perhaps liked poolside.
With my personal trainer’s word ringing in my ears (hi Ryan!) we spent an hour in the Marina Bay Sands gym, working out with a view. The gym was surprising. It was relatively small, and hot and stuffy! The equipment is great, and everything is available as required. It just didn’t match some other hotel gyms I’ve seen.
Our last day in Singapore began with a visit to Haw Par Villa. It’s a Chinese theme park paying homage to mythology and morality. Haw Par Villa is not really a theme park, there are no rides, food stalls or overpriced souvenir stalls. Built in 1937, it’s a former private garden. It’s kitsch and out of date, with some of the displays ending towards the macabre, but that is its appeal. See my full post on Haw Par Villa here.
We had arrived at Haw Par Villa at 9am, and we were so glad we did as by the time we left 90 minutes later the sun was fiercely beating down. We retreated to the cool of the MRT yet again.
Marina Bay Sands had given us a late check out time of 1pm, and then stored our bags as we again ventured to the attached shopping mall for lunch and a last stroll. We whittled away a bit more time relaxing in a coffee shop in the MBS foyer before collecting our bags and making our way out to Changi Airport.
There is so much to do at Changi, but we wanted to work. We found a quiet table in Starbucks and hunkered down next to a powerpoint, with a fist full of free wifi codes and memories of the first class lounge we were in only days before!
I love Singapore, but this time I leave with a slight feeling of disappointment. Travel and food go hand in hand, and usually as soon as I land I stock up on my favourite fruit and stuff my face until we leave. No, not durian, it’s the delicious mangosteens I love. This trip they were elusive. We didn’t get a reason why, just that they wouldn’t be back for a few days. Just more incentive to visit again next time we go past.
See where we went next here
Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.