If you have been following me for a while you will know anxiety is a big part of my life. Last year one of my closest friends asked me to go away on a weekend to Amsterdam with her. Petrified would be an understatement! She sorted out flights and accommodation etc, all I had to do was to get on a plane (on my own) and meet her at the airport on the other side. Seems like a minor feat to most I know, but for the girl who once was too frightened to walk down the road to go to the post office, this was a BIG DEAL.
So fast forward to January 2019, the husband booked a work trip to Hong Kong and Singapore. He does this quite often, but this year was different. As part of our new years goal setting, we both decided travelling would be high on the agenda. So I surprised myself when I agreed to go with him during term time, which would mean leaving the kids behind (without both of us) for the first time ever. Cue anxiety in full force, he will tell you how many times I changed my mind after he had booked my tickets to go! Those of you who know what it feels like, will have some idea of the questions racing through my head faster than Speedy Gonsalez. As if flying solo wasn’t enough, I had to navigate my own way from Hong Kong airport to the hotel. Then obviously as he was working I had to show myself around Hong Kong and Singapore and he would join me in the evening after work.
Somehow, I got over the anxiety and I just did it.
I don’t really know the words to explain how it felt after the trip was over. I had overcome some deeply horrid anxieties and the icing on the cake was the I LOVED EVERY SINGLE SECOND!
So this blog is a document for me to look back on when I am feeling like I can’t do something, to show me well, actually, I can. I have split it into two write ups, this one is of course about Singapore and I will write about Hong Kong separately. If you love architecture, art, food and travel as much as I do, then do read on!
Day 1 - Singapore Airport and Fullerton Bay Hotel
It was a late afternoon flight from Hong Kong to Singapore so we arrived in the evening feeling quite tired. We stayed at the exquisite Fullerton Bay so decided to explore the hotel and have dinner and drinks at their rooftop bar, Lantern.
Blown away by the architecture at Changi Airport Singapore
Stunning Lantern Rooftop bar at Fullerton Bay Hotel
Chinese lanterns in preparation for Lunar New year festivities at Changi Airport
Check out that view! The infinity pool at the Fullerton Bay Hotel
We were super lucky to have caught the light show above the iconic Marina Bay sands, I have to say, this was probably the most spectacular view of the trip! We had some pretty decent Mojitos with a hummus and pitta tapas plate. Being tired this was filling enough for us, but on any other day I would have needed a bigger meal!
Day 2 - China town, Singapore
With only a week here, I wanted to do all the “touristy” places as well as find some hidden gems. Luckily Singapore is really easy to get around, you can walk easily from one part of the island to the other and if you need to give your feet a break the metro system is just incredible. We walked from the Fullerton Bay and headed towards the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.
One thing that really stands out in Singapore is how incredibly clean everything is. The streets are so clean in fact you would worry about having muddy shoes in case you ruined the perfection! I loved the small side roads with sweeping slopes, the shops stacked together like a perfect row of dominoes.
I spotted the Nagore Dargah, which has been closed for renovation for many years now. The architecture is pretty special with a mix of Indian, Muslim and Chinese influences. I especially loved the lattice details and the tall pegoda like minarets! I have not been able to find out much about this place, but I found it beautifully interesting nonetheless!
We came across this little temple en route and decided to take a look around. Thian Hock Keng Temple was not in any of the tourist guides I picked up, which is strange as it is actually one of the oldest and most important temple of the Hoklo people in the country. The temple is richly decorated with traditional techniques of gold gilding, red and black laquered wood with ornate embellishments and traditional figures. This is definitely a secret gem to check out if you are able to!
I will be honest I had not researched Singapore before coming here, and my geographical knowledge is lets say lacking! So I didn’t really know what to expect, just that the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, was one of the “places to see”. Let me tell you it completely exceeded my expectations. The buzz around the temple was sensational as there is a vibrant market selling all sorts on the way into the temple.
What is interesting is that the temple design, reflecting the Southern Chinese migrant community of Singapore was rejected, instead Northern Chinese design from the Tang dynasty was adopted. Unfortunately photographs are not permitted inside the temple housing the Tooth Relic on the 4th floor, but hopefully the few that I took everywhere else in the temple will give you an idea of its magnificence. If you are lucky enough to visit, don’t forget to enjoy the serenity of the roof top gardens, I am sure when the orchids are in season this will be even more spectacular!
Day 3 - Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay
We wanted to have drinks at the top in the evening so decided to check out the gardens by the bay during the day. It was a lovely walk around lush landscapes, the gardens are so big that despite us being there on the weekend it didn’t feel crowded at all. Heading over to the Super trees, these mammoth structures in the pictures below provide shade during the day and a stunning light and sound show in the evening. But they are much more than being decorative, in fact each super tree is embedded with environmentally sustainable functions. Some have photovoltaic cells to harvest solar energy for lighting up the Supertrees, while others are integrated with the Cooled Conservatories and serve as air exhaust receptacles. SUPER COOL!
Tired from all the walking, we headed back to the Marina Bay Sands hotel to go to their rooftop bar C’est La Vie. Ok so I admit, after watching Crazy Rich Asians, this just had to be done! The building itself is probably the most iconic in Singapore if not in the world. The engineering is phenomenal, I mean not only are there three skyscrapers but they decided to put a boat shaped capsule on the top with roof gardens! If there was a “blow-my-mind” emoji, I would add a fair few here!
Once at C’est La Vie the views were pretty awesome, but I have to say not as amazing as others on the trip. It felt very touristy (as would be expected really!) and it was literally heaving, we hadn’t booked in advance so had to wait a while for a table. Service was really good and attentive so cannot complain, at least I can now say I have been there!
Day 4 - Little India Art Trail
As part of Singapore Art week, I decided to check out Little India and the urban street art trail. Remember how I said Singapore was the cleanest city I had ever seen, well Little India is the exception to that rule! Around 30 degrees, it was a tough walk around, stupidly I had forgotten my hat and shades back in London (good one Natasha!). Luckily I was a lady of leisure so took my time to stroll through all the little streets, following my trusted navigation device so kindly provided by the Fullerton. (Other hotels take note, this was a game changer for me!)
The gem of the day was coming across a parade like I have never seen! Thaipusam is a huge colourful, annual, Hindu festival where devotees seek blessings, repent their sins and offer thanks. The Thaipusam ceremony starts in the early hours of the morning. The first batch of devotees carry milk pots and wooden kavadis. Some pierce their tongues with skewers and carry a wooden kavadi decorated with flowers and peacock feathers balanced on their shoulders. Other devotees carry spiked kavadis that require elaborate preparation. (source Visit Singapore). Felt so incredibly blessed to have witnessed the procession first hand! Below are some pics of the street art on the trail and of the procession, how glorious is all that colour!?
Day 5 - Singapore Art Museum, Red Dot Design Museum, Clarke Quay and Singapore National Gallery
Penultimate day in Singapore I managed to cram a lot in as you can tell by the title! By now I feel I am quite the expert at navigating my way around the metro, so bye bye tired feet! Started off the day at Singapore Art Museum, for the presidents young talents exhibition. Showcasing artworks by Singaporean emerging artists. Zarina Mohammed and the “Scars that write us” made the greatest impact on me.
The scars that write us adopts the keloid scar as its reference and offers a narrative on wounds and scars, and those that bear them. Entering into a dark, quietened space, a visitor first perceives rather than sees the work directly, evoking a sense of anticipation, curiosity, and uncertainty for what lies ahead, obscured. The work unfolds in three types of spatial experiences: near, far and wide. The sense of proximity – or distance – alludes to the complex relationships between the audience, the person who bears the scar and the stories behind each wound. The installation also endeavors to provide a space to consider the unregistered contemplations for those who live with the ordeal of scars – the physical, and otherwise. The scars that write us is dedicated to wounds, scars, markings, traumas of all kinds. It is an installation that speaks of the most personal of experiences that every person holds.
After a pit stop at Raffles for lunch, I head down to the Red Dot Design Museum only a short walk away from the Fullerton Bay Hotel. The architecture is wonderfully geometric, glass fascades and exposed structural steel elements make up the building sitting a stone throws away from the water front. The Red Dot Design award is one of the most prestigious in the industry, and the most recent designs are curated inside. The current exhibition is named Human Nature and looks at how humans can surpass their natural abilities using innovative designs and techniques. Think robotic arms, drones and high tech watches and bikes! A few pics of my favourites below…
For dinner we headed down to Clarke Quay and a vegan bistro called Omvnom. To have a whole 4 page menu dedicated to vegan burgers was beyond exciting and I am so happy to report the food did not disappoint! Clarke Quay is a bustling hive of shops, bars and restaurants, we had a walk through the main square but decided to go somewhere a little less loud. National Gallery was on my list of places to see so that is where we headed!
Aura was such an extra special place to spend our last evening in Singapore, the views were without a doubt the best we had experienced. The ambiance of the bar is sophisticated while still being relaxed and the service was second to none. The architecture of the National Gallery is the perfect mix of contemporary and classic with some amazing exhibitions. My favourite being Sculptures by Anish Kapoor and the Minimalism exhibition. If you find yourself going to Singapore, this needs to be number one on your list for sure.
Day 6 - Art and Science Museum
Final day in Singapore and I have just enough time to squeeze in the Art and Science Museum. I am so glad I made it here, but really sad I didn’t have the kids with me to experience it. If I don’t manage to bring the kids here while they are still young, I do hope they bring something similar to London!
The thing I loved most about the Singapore skyline is just how creative and unique the buildings are. The architecture of the Art Science Museum is beyond belief. Shaped like a lotus flower, it is iconic without brushing the sky. The exhibition explored how science meets art in the digital age, how it can be used to teach children to enhance their skills in a multi sensory way and it was fantastic!
Responsive screens that changed and adapted to touch, showing children the processes of germination, turning slides into responsive digital ball pits and cubes that glowed as you stacked them to create whatever the imagination allowed. Before experiencing this exhibition I admit that my thoughts on technology and children was pretty limited and to the most extent quite negative. Although it is obvious the benefits technology has, the fact that computer games and internet have so many adverse affects is something that is quite prevalent for many parents. But this exhibition showed me a completely different side to how technology can actually help enhance children’s imagination and creativity. I would recommend this to everyone, and I do hope it is shown all over the world, although I have no doubt we shall see all aspects shown in schools and homes in no time!
Almost time to head back so we grab a quick lunch at a place local to Fullerton bay called PS Cafe. This really is a hidden gem, nestled between offices, you would easily miss it if you didn’t know it was there. The interiors are just stunning and the food is casual although of very high quality. I toasted our last stop in Singapore with a Giggling Pig cocktail, a new year special, and had a delicious stone baked pizza to accompany it.
If you have read this far, well done! I have never written a travel diary before, but as I get older and much greyer I realise these moments are captured by photographs but feelings and experiences quickly get forgotten. I hope to continue to do this as much as I hope to travel more and more. There is so much beauty to see and experience and I know one lifetime will never be enough, but here is to trying!