Singapore Sling: A Walk Through the Supertrees

Singapore Sling: A Walk Through the Supertrees

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Singapore was the first stop for our Southeast Asian portion of our honeymoon. After Europe and our African safari, I was getting a little worried about our budget for the rest of the trip. I knew that most of Southeast Asia was cheap but I didn’t really know about Singapore. I asked Diem how expensive it was and she told me it wasn’t that bad. Then I saw an article that the Economic Intelligence Unit ranked Singapore the Most Expensive City to Live in for 2017. It made me a little worried but Diem assured me that we’d stay within budget.

Officially called the Republic of Singapore, Singapore is a sovereign city-state in Southeast Asia. Sometimes referred to as the Lion City or the Little Red Dot, it lies one degree (137 km) north of the equator, at the southern tip of peninsular Malaysia. Singapore's territory consists of one main island along with 62 other islets. Stamford Raffles founded colonial Singapore in 1819 as a trading post of the East India Company. After its collapse and the eventual establishment of the British Raj, the islands were ceded to Britain and became part of its Straits Settlements in 1826. It gained independence from the UK in 1963 by federating with other former British territories to form Malaysia, but was expelled two years later over ideological differences, becoming a sovereign nation in 1965. Since independence, extensive land reclamation has increased its total size by 23%, and its greening policy has covered the densely populated island with tropical flora, parks and gardens.

We arrived in Singapore from Mauritius at 3:00 PM. It took us about an hour and a half to make our way through the long line for customs/immigration. Outside the airport, we took an Uber to our Airbnb and checked in. For dinner, we walked down the block to a local food court.  We ordered a fish ball noodle soup, chicken & rice, & wonton soup. All of that was under six dollars so I felt a little better about not busting our budget. After we ate, we walked back to the Airbnb to shower and go to bed.

On our first full day in Singapore, we slept in until 11 AM. We took the metro to Chinatown, an area known for its cheap hawker stalls, or open air food courts. In Singapore, food is viewed as crucial to national identity and a unifying cultural thread. Singaporean cuisine is diverse and contains elements derived from several ethnic groups as a result of its history as a seaport with a large immigrant population. Influences include the cuisines of the native Malays and the largest ethnic group, the Chinese, as well as Indonesian, Indian, Peranakan, and Western traditions. The cuisine also contains influences from other regions such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the Middle East.

After the good cheap food last night, I was excited to try more. Since Singapore is so close to the equator, it is pretty hot all year round. We planned to go in January so we could avoid the heat but we quickly learned that wasn’t possible. Weather.com told us it was going to be mid 90s with high humidity all week and we definitely were feeling the heat and hunger as we walked around Chinatown. For lunch, we found a food stall and ate at a chicken & rice stand.  It was pretty good for around S$7(~$5 USD). After lunch, we walked around Chinatown and then went to buy a 3 day tourist pass for unlimited metro usage (S$20 plus S$10 refundable deposit). We immediately made use of the pass and took the metro to Bayfront station and walked to the Gardens by the Bay.

Walking up to the Supertrees

The Gardens by the Bay, along with the Marina Bay Sands Casino, are probably the main attractions of Singapore. Planet Earth 2 prominently featured the Supertree Complex of Gardens by the Bay in its last episode and held up Singapore as a model of how nature and cities can be symbiotic. The Supertrees are more beautiful and impressive in person. Each of the Supertree towers are covered in plants and lights that serve both aesthetic and practical purposes. Most of the attractions of the Gardens by the Bay are free except for the conservatory complex (~$30 USD) and the Supertree walkway (~$8 USD). The gardens also have a pond with various animal statues and information stations that provide some history of the gardens and the animals within.

Cloud Forest and Flower Dome

The conservatory complex comprises two cooled conservatories – the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. The conservatories, designed by WilkinsonEyre, are intended to be an energy efficient showcase of sustainable building technologies and to provide an all-weather edutainment space within the Gardens. The construction of the conservatories is special in two ways. First, WilkinsonEyre constructed the large a glass-roof without additional interior support (such as columns). Second, they also constructed the buildings with the aim to strongly minimize the environmental footprint. Rainwater is collected from the surface and circulated in the cooling system which is connected to the Supertrees. The Supertrees are used both to vent hot air and to cool circulated water.

Left: Singapore by day; Right Singapore by night

The structures are pretty striking and very beautiful. Unfortunately, tickets are about $30 USD and we decided against going inside to help stay on budget. We walked around the two buildings and since they’re glass you can see most of what is inside so I don’t feel too bad about missing them. We also walked around the rest of gardens complex then to the waterfront promenade. The complex also contains the Bay Central Garden, the Bay East Garden, the Children's Garden, and two different sets of horticultural themed gardens.  The Children’s Garden has a little water park where kids could run through fountains. It was another 90+ degree day out and the water looked really refreshing. There was a sign saying the park was for kids under 12 but no one was around so I ran in and cooled off in the water for a bit. Diem decided not to join me but I regret nothing because it felt good. I got a couple of strange looks as we left but they were probably just jealous. After the Children’s Garden, we chilled for a little and then took metro to the Promenade metro station for the Fountain of Wealth and the Suntec City Mall.

Cheapest Michelin Star meal, so good!

The mall was nicely air conditioned and Diem got an iced Kopi with condensed milk at the Food Republic (S$2) so we enjoyed the coffee and Wi-Fi for a while.  After that nice break, we made our way back to Chinatown to check out Chef Chan's Michelin starred hawker stall (Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle). The line to get in was pretty long but it went fairly fast. After about 30 minutes, we got to the front of the line. We ordered the famous chicken rice combo with drink (S$5), chicken noodle (S$4.50), added on char siew (S$2) & roasted pork (S$2) and an order of vegetables (S$5). All the food was very delicious and cheap. After dinner, we took the metro back to Gardens by the Bay for the light show at 7:45 PM. The light show is daily at 7:45 PM and 8:45 PM. It was pretty cool, complete with music and coordinated light displays. We picked a spot right under one of the main trains which, in retrospect, wasn't the best spot. We had to lay down and crane our necks up to see the lights and couldn't see all the trees. I would recommend picking a spot further away and maybe a little higher up. The show lasted 45 minutes and there was a good crowd of people around. The guy next to me was lying a little too close. After the show, we walked back to the metro and made our way back to the Airbnb, we were exhausted.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

The next day we slept in again.  For lunch, we took the 100 bus to Tai Hwa Pork Noodle (S$8 for large) for lunch. We didn't really like the food and the kitchen/prep didn't seem that sanitary. After lunch we took the metro to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum. The museum is beautiful four story building that has a shrine of the Buddha on the first floor and the remaining floors contain relics and detail the history of Buddhism. We spent a couple hours exploring because of all the things to see and because the museum had AC & Wi-Fi. Then we took bus to the Henderson Waves bridge. We ended up getting off a stop too soon so we had to walk up the hill without a footpath. Henderson Waves is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore. Unveiled in 2008, its fantastical shape has lent an unexpected jolt of design savvy to the lush green belt in the south of Singapore. True to its name, the bridge mimics the undulating shape of a wave, curving and twisting along its entire 274-meter length.

Left: View from the bridge; Right: Henderson Waves bridge

The bridge is pretty cool to walk over with hidden recesses and shell-like niches, where you can sit and observe their surroundings. Because there’s privacy and room to rest, the bridge is a popular spot on weekends with couples, families with children and joggers. We saw some couples making out and some joggers while we were walking on the bridge. There are also some beautiful views from bridge of the six curved towers of the Reflections at Keppel Bay. The sun was right over the buildings so pictures weren't clear. It was another really hot and humid day and the walk up the hill to the bridge didn’t help much. I was sweating pretty badly so we didn't spend much time there.

From the bridge, we took the metro to Timbre+ food court for dinner. Diem wanted to try Fishball Story but they closed at 6 PM and we didn’t make it in time. We checked out two other nearby stalls: Tuk Tuk Viethai food and Soon Huat. At Tuk Tuk, their fryer was not working so Diem couldn't order their Viet wings. I ordered Pad Thai (S$8.90) and Diem got a Thai iced tea (S$3.50) then walked to Soon Huat and ordered their prawn paste wings (S$6.80) and a side of vegetables (S$3.90). We ate there and took the metro home.  Back to our room, we did laundry and booked a few hotels/flights for Burma.

Yes, this is before we started drinking

The following day we were still feeling jetlag effects and woke up around 10 AM. We got ready and took the 100 bus to Jalan Sultan Prawn Mee shop for lunch.  Diem and I ordered Sultan Prawn Mee (S$10) and Pork Rib Mee (S$5).  They were both very good but it was so hot and humid that it was tough to enjoy in the open air restaurant.  After lunch we walked to the metro nearby and made our way to Tiger Beer Brewery Tour scheduled for 2 PM. The tour lasted 45 minutes and the tour guide had a very strong accent. He let us pour our own pints at one of the stops of the tour and we finished the tour at the brewery tavern and had 45 minutes of unlimited tasting.  Another tour guest gave us their free pint vouchers so we stayed longer to enjoy more beers. We were feeling pretty good after the tastings and took the bus to make our way back home. For dinner, we stopped at Chinatown for more chicken and rice at the food street. Diem was dying to try a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel, the birthplace of the Singapore Sling. We met up with a friend of Diem’s to try this famous drink. The drink is S$26 so Diem and I just shared one. It was good but definitely not worth the price. I guess it’s still good that we got to try it. The bar was nice and the conversation was good but we were ready for bed and made our way back.

On our last day, our flight was leaving at 4:30 PM and check out of our Airbnb was at 10 AM. Diem’s friend told us that Singapore’s airport was really nice and that we should get there early to enjoy. I did some research and found out that she was right. Singapore’s airport has been awarded the world’s best airport for 5 years in a row and we decided to go there right after check out to enjoy. Singapore airport lets you check in really early. We checked in almost 6 hours early so we didn’t have to carry our bags around everywhere. After checking in our bags, we returned our Tourist Pass Cards to get $20 back and use while we were here. We grabbed breakfast and coffee at a place. Diem got the traditional Singapore breakfast that our taxi driver recommended we get. It’s called a Kaya breakfast and it is basically toast with butter and jam and soft boiled eggs served on the side. It was OK but I wouldn’t get it again. We went through security and went to enjoy the amenities of Terminal 1.

We found a spot next to the free foot massager and waited our turn. The foot massager felt really good and all the airport amenities were so nice. We enjoyed the free internet and comfortable seats. I also walked through the Terminal 1 cactus and water lily garden. The terminal also has a number upscale shops and affordable restaurants. Time flew by and we left Singapore and took our quick flight to Langkawi.

See the full gallery of our time in Singapore here: Singapore Sling.

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Paul is a lawyer taking a mid-career break focused on capturing all his adventures during his yearlong honeymoon around the world.

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