Singapore is an island at the end of the Malaysian Peninsula; it is one of the most efficient and cleanest cities I have ever visited. This cosmopolitan holiday city has an incredible food scene to experience from Hawker centres to Michelin star restaurants and even though it is our third visit there are still some places left to discover on the island.
View from the top (57 storeys high) of Marina Bay Sands Resort
Nearest MRT: Clarke Quay
Novotel Clarke Quay is a large chain hotel close to the banks of Singapore River, the location was supreme with a night life scene virtually on the doorstop and plenty of food choices around. The Clarke Quay MRT station (Mass Rapid Transit) is a 5 minute walk away. The Liang Court Shopping Centre is located next door to the Novotel, it is a medium sized centre and open from 10:00 am to 10:00pm daily.
Our spacious standard room (232.00 SGD p/night) included a few perks of a King bed, Nespresso coffee machine and daily complimentary coffee pods. Given the lack of service we experienced during our stay I would most likely stay in a small boutique hotel next time. I felt the price we paid was far too much for the service and no free internet in the room. It’s draw card is definitely the location, very convenient for short stay travellers who want to see as much as possible.
Kampong Glam, Arab Street area & Parkview Square
Nearest MRT: Bugis Street
I learnt whilst in Singapore that taxis in the morning were inexpensive compared to the evening (25% surcharge 6:00pm to midnight). Additionally there is not as much traffic on the roads before 10:00am and so instead of taking the MRT we took a taxi to Kampong Glam and the Arab Street area.
Stepping out of the taxi I noticed the area was fairly quiet and most of the establishments were beginning to open up for the day. It was peaceful and there was no rushing around, some owners even taking their morning coffee at the front of their shops.
Colourful lanes around Kampong Glam
Kampong Glam is a historical district that goes as far back as the 1800’s with a thriving Muslim community of Malays, Bugis, Javanese, Chinese and Arabs. The gold domed mosque that rises above first generation shophouses was built for Sultan Hussein in 1829 (I believe it was later rebuilt a century later). The area still maintains some of those generation old characteristics and the Sultan Mosque, the biggest of its kind in Singapore is the country’s national mosque.
Carpet and fabric merchants, Muslim and Turkish restaurants as well as trendy Mexican restaurants and shisha joints line the streets and attract a mix of people to the area nowadays. Haji Lane has a number of of trendy boutique store and it is almost Singapore’s version of Takeshita street in Harajuku, Japan, minus the crowds and cosplay costumes. The upstairs of most of the shophouses have been transformed into little boutiques as well.
I love wandering around small laneways discovering the little boutiques and cafes, Kampong Glam is the perfect place for it. Streets to wander in the area include Haji Lane, Bussorah Street, Baghdad Street, Bali Lane, Pahang Street and Kandahar Street.
Beautifully maintained shop houses near Arab Street
As Singapore continues to evolve into a futuristic city catering for the modern traveller it is delightful to see this historical area thriving alongside the modern high rise skyscrapers. Other historical districts worth visiting in Singapore include Chinatown, Boat Quay and Little India. As we wandered further into Kampong Glam I noticed a great deal of detail in the buildings also referred to as shophouses. They were built by skilled craftsmen with an eye for detail, this is obvious when observing the buildings in the area.
An interesting choice of colours – mint green and brown.
The Sultan Mosque is iconic in the area and is also known as Masjid Sultan Mosque. It can fit up to 5,000 people inside, wow! Travellers can take a look inside for free but you must dress respectably and females must cover up.
Masjid Sultan Mosque
We were feeling hungry and needing an airconditioned retreat from the climbing humidity. There are a number of places on Bussorah street and we stopped by BBakery, a cafe that I discovered from fellow resident blogger Lady Ironchef. As we entered the traditional shop front house we then passed through a modern glass door which has the sole purpose of keeping the cafe well air conditioned.
Wandering through Bussorah Street
We ordered a few coffees and sandwiches, to read about our visit click here.
Coffee Break at BBakery on Bussorah St
From Ophit Road we stumbled across a building called Parkview Square. Rising well above any other buildings nearby and looking like something straight out of New York with its smooth granite exterior and gargoyle statues, the Art Deco building certainly sets the scene for a Superman or Batman movie. The building was inspired by New York’s Chanin Building.
Although we did not venture inside, I was told there is a bar called Devine Wine Bar located on the lobby level. Winged divine angels ‘fly’ up the glass wine tower to fetch your choice of wine.
Am I in Gotham City?
I do not think I have called a building beautiful until I saw this one, looking through the camera’s zoom lens I could clearly see the building was perfectly smooth featuring a series of vertical straights and curved edges. It is oddly beautiful against Singapore’s urban backdrop.
Art Deco features of Parkview Square
Marina Bay Sands Resort
It really is hard to believe that when I last visited Singapore over five years ago Marina Bay Sands did not exist, the epic looking structure developed by a Las Vegas company is certainly extraordinary. The resort comprises of three sloping interconnecting towers 57 storeys high with a rooftop and several floating islands down below on Singapore river.
Our taxi dropped us off at one of the tower entrances and the first thing we did once we paid the taxi driver was look up at this foreign object above us, the rooftop I believe is as big as an aircraft at 340 metres long.
Marina Bay Sands
The mini city purely built for entertainment purposes consists of a hotel, restaurants, theatre, museums and a shopping mall. It is all set in the upper echelon of luxury and walking through you just want to be a part of the rich club.
The ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands
Singapore does not have the luxury of land space and building designs must create and maximise as much as possible the feeling of space. I think you feel that at Marina Bay Sands, it is simply huge and even the pot plants inside the tower are 3 times the size of normal ones.
Inside the towers at Marina Bay Sands
Unfortunately we were unable to enter the casino as there is a strict dress code and we needed to present our passports which were locked away in the hotel safe. Interestingly there are stricter rules for Singapore citizens, they have a separate entrance into the casino and must pay 100SGD to enter. The casino is definitely for high rollers having a policy that accepts single bets as large as S$1 million. To me that is nonsensical but there are many wealthy people around at Marina Bay Sands, whilst in the shopping mall we saw a man accompanied by 10 burly secret service looking personnel.
Harry Potter Exhibition at Marina Bay Sands
The Marina Bay Shopping Centre (otherwise known as The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands) houses all the big name and exclusive brands, it is a pleasant shopping mall to walk around in especially with the high ceilings and wide walkways. There is even an ice rink and canal to take a boat ride in.
The celebrity restaurants include Wolfgang Puck’s CUT, Daniel Boulud’s Bistro Moderne, Gus Savoy’s (ahem) Gus Savoy, Mario Batali’s Osteria and Pizzieria Mozza, Santi Santamaria’s Santi, Justin Quek’s Sky on 57 and Tetsuya Wakuda’s Waku Ghin.
The main attraction of the Marina Bay Sands development is the Skypark which happens to be perched on top of the three towers and comprising of the Skypark Observation deck, KU DÉ TA, the Sky on 58 restaurant and the hotel’s infinity pool.
View of the infinity pool and Singapore Port from KU DÉ TA
The public viewing platform (Tower 3) in the Skypark costs 20SGD to enter and it is currently the world’s largest cantilever observation deck. We were told by the lady at the counter that if we went up for a drink or meal at one of the restaurants then we would be able to access the observation deck for free. We thought okay, lets have a drink at Kudeta. My cappuccino was 10SGD and Dk’s cocktail was 20SGD
The Observation Deck is open daily from 9:30am to 10:00pm (and until 11:00pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday). We went during the day and it was very hot and humid, there was no shade or seats compared to the hotel occupied side. This was a little disappointing but the view made up for it.
Photo time at the Sands Skypark Observation Deck
Louis Vuitton sits on a floating island on Singapore river next to Marina Bay Sands. It is located in the Crystal Pavilion North and the nearest MRT is Bayfront. It is two storeys of refined glamour and also features a bookstore. It is the largest Louis Vuitton store outside of Paris.
Louis Vuitton store view from the Skypark
I went, I saw and I would describe Marina Bay Sands as a world class mini city, everything you could think of is integrated into this resort with an obvious in your face focus on high end luxury brands and comforts. It speaks volumes about money. I thought it to be strange that the public side of the Skypark was barren with no trees or seats and yet the hotel side was full of greenery. It is gigantic, ultra modern and luxurious but personally for me I find it lacks some charm and character. It was comforting to be enclosed in an air-conditioned environment in the Shoppes Mall however once we were done with shopping and eating there was not really anything to see or do for free. The sheer design of the resort is worth seeing and admiring, I highly recommend watching the mega structures documentary on how the development was built – very amazing.
Gardens by the Bay and the Lotus Leaf looking building – ArtScience Musuem
After our experience at Marina Bay Sands we hopped into the taxi bound for the colourful and vibrant Clarke Quay.
Nearest MRT: Clarke quay
Clarke Quay is an entertainment district with restaurants, club lounges, wine bars and a shopping centre all positioned along Singapore River. It has become slightly touristy with places like Hooters Singapore and the Fremantle Seafood Market. Boats also called water taxis chug from various points along the river to Clarke Quay and some even have a jazz or string band aboard playing sweet tunes. A great way to skip peak hour traffic!
Colourful Clarke Quay
During the day it is a pleasant area to walk around, many people sitting by the water’s edge. There are steps along the Clarke Quay area to stop and relax. One difference I noticed about Clarke Quay compared to my last visit five years ago is the amount of joggers and cyclists in the area now, there is a great path that traces the river to other places like Boat and Robertson Quay.
Moi at Clarke Quay and Novotel Hotel behind
We stumbled across a restaurant called Fremantle Seafood Market, offering fresh West Australian seafood.
The area becomes electronic at night with a busy nightlife scene of food and drinks, the tables spill out onto the promenade and the music volume is increased. Some people come to area to bar hop and others come for the choice of food, there is every type of cuisine available. As we continued to wander around I noticed a small Wolf Blass bar close to the river bank, good to sit back and watch the scene.
There is a Jumbo Seafood restaurant at Clarke Quay and it is very popular. The staff were setting up for the dinner service and when we returned back to Clarke Quay later that evening all of the tables were full.
Jumbo Seafood at Clarke Quay
Nearest MRT: Chinatown
When the sun disappeared and the balmy evening arrived, we hopped onto the MRT to Chinatown. We then walked for a little bit until we found Pagoda Street, a pedestrian access area and perfect starting point to Chinatown, it is also where you will find the chinatown night market which also continues along Trengganu and Sago streets.
Chinatown, one of the largest historical districts in Singapore I discovered to be a perfect place for thrifty shopping, there were countless shophouses selling all sorts of items such as bracelets, trinkets, Chinese tea and souvenirs. I bought most of my families presents as well as some bracelets for myself. I bought a set of paint brushes made from wolves hairs.
It is a great bazaar atmosphere and the area is lit up with red lanterns revealing the intricate features of the pre-war shophouses.
The allure of Chinatown
Sri Mariamman temple and Chinatown shops
I spent most of my childhood watching the adventures of Tin Tin on television after school and when I discovered there was an official store in Singapore a visit was a priority of the Singapore leg of our trip.
For those that do not know about Tin Tin, it was an adventure comic book series created in 1929 by Belgian cartonist Georges Remi. The comic books were turned into digital cartoons and then more recently in 2011, a movie.
“Clever and ever-curious, Tintin is a reporter-turned-detective whose pursuit of villains, criminals, treasure and the occasional artifact takes him all over the world, along with a colorful cast of friends. Hergé based his stories on real-world events and cultures that had caught the Belgian national attention — from space exploration to Arab oil wars — and brought them to life for his readers in inspiring and exciting ways.” Quoted from the Official Tin Tin Website
The store is nestled in the middle of Chinatown on Pagoda street and there is a small refreshment stand outside so you can spend even more time at The Tin Tin Store.
Inside the store there are life size figurines and all sorts of Tin Tin memorabilia from T-shirts to books to rare collectibles and film shorts. To protect the integrity of the products there is no photography allowed inside and be sure not to break anything! I took my photos standing outside the store.
Tin Tin Store
We returned to Clarke Quay and found an ‘uncle’ and his ice cream kart near the bridge. We sat on the bridge eating our large icecream sandwiches and watching the lively night scene.
Midnight in Clarke Quay
Novotel Clarke Quay
177A River Valley Road 179031 SINGAPORE
15 Bussorah Street
65 6293 9010
600 Northbridge Road, Singapore
Marina Bay Sands
56 Pagoda Street, Chinatown MRT, Singapore