In case you missed it, here’s part 1 of our Singapore mini trip. For our second full day in Singapore we made a beeline to the lovely Asian Civilizations Museum. They charged a modest entry fee, but this felt worthwhile given the free (and good quality) guided tours in English that were available.
Shipwreck treasure and a garden rhapsody
By far the most intriguing exhibit for me, though, was the Tang Shipwreck. The exhibit features superbly preserved cargo from a 9th Century trading ship that was dredged up from the Java Sea in 1998 after over a millennium spent deep underwater. Seeing the pottery still stacked together as they were packed back then is surreal. Though some of the items are encrusted with sea life, many look pristine — close in appearance to the day they set sail all those years ago.
The rain lashing our windows in the late afternoon kept us indoors longer than we would have liked, but as soon as it subsided we headed for Gardens by the Bay. In the Skytree area we caught a glimpse of the sunset before ascending to the walkway at twilight (a fleeting 15 minutes but still impressive). We returned back to earth just in time for the Garden Rhapsody — a light show that drenched the whole garden in colour and music. With all these skeletal, larger-than-life trees towering over me, I couldn’t help feeling transported into some sort of sci-fi fairy story. Pretty magical. We were so happy to have caught this, especially since it was utter fluke. We hadn’t realised any of it was going to happen, we’d just heard good things about the Gardens!
Rain and rollercoasters
Approaching our third and final day, I was thrilled to realise we had sufficient funds left to splash out on a day at Universal Studios. I am unashamed in my love of theme parks and was only further spurred on to visit by learning that Ben had never been to a “proper” theme park before. I’d read that this one was a little on the small side, which was true, but I was also expecting huge queues, which we were lucky enough not to experience at all. Our longest wait for a ride was 15 minutes, presumably helped by the fact that we visited on a weekday and got there in advance of opening.
I had an incredible time, which refused to be marred even by the torrential rain that hit at lunchtime (thankfully it didn’t last). It was possibly even more enjoyable being Ben’s first time on “proper” rollercoasters. He didn’t hate it, although he did claim to hate me at several points! My highlights were Ben deciding that his favourite roller coaster was the (very tame) Puss in Boots ride, seeing Mel’s Dinettes perform 50s classics in Hollywood and admiring all the wonderful staging around the different areas (the fake midcentury grubbiness of New York always appeals to me, likewise with Ancient Egypt!).
On cloud (forest) 9 in the Gardens by the Bay
As I said, Universal Studios is on the small side, so having seen everything we wanted to by 2pm we headed back into the city for a second visit to the Gardens by the Bay. We’d loved the outside garden and the Skytree so much that we felt compelled to see the conservatories, albeit at extra cost. The setting was gorgeous – sleek glass domes with viewing platforms and meandering pathways, all cool and air-conditioned. The Flower Dome took the form of a trip around different Mediterranean climates, from Australia to California to, well, the actual Mediterranean. Ah, the baobab trees! Never until that point had I considered naming a favourite tree but let me tell you — once I’d seen a baobab tree, there was no contest! In all seriousness, though, they’re really very cool. All bulbous and bottle like.
The Cloud Forest hits you with a blast of air and spray the moment you walk through the doors. The sight of the central “mountain” of plants, waterfall pouring down from the top, has a similarly powerful effect — you can’t help but stand and stare. Viewed from above and up close, the whole thing is so vibrant, vast and full of interest that it’s hard to take it in.
Bright and early the next morning we were on a plane, drawing our brief stint in Singapore to a close. For me the country held true to my first impression: a contrast between leafy green plants and gardens and soaring metallic architecture, sometimes the two were side by side, sometimes interwoven (as in the Gardens by the Bay). The temperature and humidity definitely took us out of our comfort zone, meaning that we ended up very pleased to have only stayed for four nights. We also felt that we had seen all that we wanted to, with only a few small exceptions (the Raffles building, Buddha tooth relic temple and, obviously, the Marina Bay Sands infinity pool). Next stop, Tokyo!
P.S. My favourite place we visited in Japan.