A Fabulously Full Day and Night in Singapore
Created by Colleen Sims * 27 January 2023 * Updated 15 August 2023
We didn’t have long enough in Singapore. It was a stoppover and we were determined to make the most of our time. And oh my we walked from dawn to dusk!
Well maybe not exactly dawn but from 8.30 in the morning until the wee small hours and my feet ache but it was so so worth it!
Walking Tour of Chinatown in Singapore
We started in Chinatown and joined a GuruWalk walking tour and spent fours hours exploring the well known and not so well known corners of Singapore’s Chinatown. Whenever we land in a new destination we find a great walking tour really helps us to centre you and get a feel for the local life. There are many options available but our favourite sites are Viatour and GuruWalk.
We met our guide at the MRT stop in Chinatown. If you are visiting Singapore we thoroughly recommend purchasing a multi-use pass; we bought a 3 day pass at Changi Airport MRT. Our IBIS Bencoolen hotel is in a great location and just a few minutes walk from the MRT station. It’s also reasonably priced for Singapore, the rooms are clean and comfortable and the breakfast is excellent so we’d recommend this too!
We met at the allotted time and we introduced ourselves to our fellow walkers; there were seven of us today. Our guide was an enthusiastic young woman who clearly and genuinely loved her city and was full of knowledge and anecdotal stories. We started with a history of the Chinese women who helped build Singapore and walked around the local temples and markets. We were shown street art and modern housing, film set locations and food markets. Partway through the day we stopped for coffee in Maxwell Food Centre where we ended up being interviews for a tourist film by the Singapore Tourist Board.
We continued along more streets, more art, more history and more temples. It was a glorious few hours and we could have happily stayed for more. Book a city walking tour; you wont regret it!
Michelin Star Hawkers Stalls
After our tour we decided to head back to the Hawkers Stalls in the Chinatown Complex Market and Food Centre to find some lunch. There is a Hawker Stall here which has won a Michelin Star twice but it had a queue an hour long so instead we headed into the centre of the market to find our lunch.
We opted for a stall with a reasonable size queue (it must be good if the locals queue) and found ourselves some delicious chicken and rice followed by a freshly made pineapple and soya milk smoothie for pudding. Both courses were very tasty and cost us just a few dollars. I know that some folks might be a little nervous to jump in and join the foray but trust me… it’s well worth it!
Singapore’s Botanical Gardens
It was later than we planned to start our afternoon but undeterred we headed back to the MRT in Chinatown and took the metro to the Singapore Botanic Gardens; the garden has it’s own MRT station.
The Singapore Botanic Garden was founded in 1859, inspired in part by the botanical gardens created by Sir Stamford Raffles (of Singapore Sling fame) in 1822. The gardens were part of a wider project that saw Singapore collect and experiment with a range of plants; one of the most successful experiments being the promotion of Hevea Brasiliensis, a rubber plant that became a hugely important crop and in part helped Singapore and SE Asia to prosper.
I can’t overstate how large this garden is; an 82-hectare garden which in 2015 was recognised as the first and only tropical botanic garden on the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list. There are only two other (non-tropical) gardens to be awarded this status, the Orto Botanico di Padova in Italy and the Royal Botanic Gardens, in Kew, England.
From the MRT it’s very easy to wander directly into the gardens and there is no charge to walk around the main garden area. There are well laid out paths and opportunities to stop for refreshments, although be warned some were expensive, so perhaps take some water and your own snacks. The garden’s website has a good plan of the site and detailed instructions and a map showing the different entry points.
The National Orchid Gardens
We wanted to reach the National Orchid Gardens, we’d read that they were particularly impressive. Indeed in the early 1900s Singapore Botanic Garden started an orchid breeding program and pioneered hybridisation techniques. From where we left the Metro we walked for maybe an hour before we reached the Orchid area. It’s a beautiful walk and there is so much to see but ensure you wear comfortable shoes and bring sunscreen too! There are closer entry points but we wanted to see as much of these glorious garden as possible.
It was 15€ for me to enter the National Orchid Gardens but only 3€ for Gerry (over 60’s get a big reduction!). I would say it was worth the entrance fee, we spent a good hour just wandering the site and the Orchid house was just stunning. It reminded me a little of the Orchid House in Estepona in Spain and I know that Gerry’s mum would have loved this visit.
We love discovering new gardens and we spent almost four hours wandering around this enormous site. We could have quite happily returned to the hotel and slept but there was one more thing we wanted to do so it was back to the MRT for us. The Singapore Botanic Garden also offer open air concerts and guided tours ; visit their website for up to date information.
Supertree Grove at Night
We have such limited time in Singapore that we don’t have time to be tired. Instead we took the MRT metro to the Gardens by the Bay and returned to the Supertree Grove. Unfortunately our plans clashed with a very big water boat festival being held as part of the city’s Chinese New Year celebrations which meant that the area was very very busy. We had wanted to walk along the harbour front area but we were too tired to rub shoulders with the crowds so we’ll just have to save that for another visit and perhaps take an evening river cruise for some excellent views from the water. Instead we headed to the restaurant area (by the ticket booths) and ordered cold drinks and dinner; it’s a fast food menu but we had burgers and fries and it was very tasty and not too expensive.
The main reason for our return was to see the Supertrees at night. Each evening there are light shows to music and we missed one but got in line for the second show. You may have to queue for 30 minutes or more but it’s worth it and it’s very well organised. Once into the area, we headed for the Skyway. We still had our ticket from yesterday so we asked if it was still valid and joined that queue for another 30 minute wait. These attractions are very popular so you should allow time for queuing. When it was our turn to head to the lift our ticket wouldn’t work. It’s only valid for one use but it’s not clear on the ticket. We explained that we had asked when we joined the queue and were told it was good on this occasion. So heads up, the ticket is only valid for one entrance but thankfully they took pity on us and allowed us to enter. And wow! I am so glad that we did this again.
At night the views are magical and the trees are so other-wordly. We walked and paused and stopped and admired the view and took photos and meandered as slowly as we could until we reached the other side on the walkway. They only allow you 15-20 minutes so there was nothing for it but to head down and go watch the sound and light show. It’s worth the wait and the queue. There are no fireworks, it is just sound and light show but these Supertrees are so unique and I am so happy that we were able to experience this. There are regular maintenance closures and changes to park schedules so be sure to check on the Gardens by the Bay website when planning your visit
We followed the signs back to the MRT and headed back downtown to our hotel. Oh my, we covered a lot of kilometres today but we are so happy we kept to our schedule. Storms are forecast for tomorrow; its been super hot and humid today but not a drop of rain fell on us. Singapore is proving to be an amazing stop-over, my only regret is that I wish we had more time.