When I was in eighth grade, we learned about unique cultures and customs in history class one day. I vividly remember my teacher saying that in Singapore you couldn’t chew gum on the streets; I remember thinking that she was joking. For some reason, that fact always stayed with me. Fast-forward 13 years, and I found myself spending 48 hours in Singapore…and yes, I did remember to spit out my gum before exiting the airport!
En route home from Cambodia, I made the last-minute decision to break up my flight time by resting in Singapore for two days. I quickly learned that it’s the absolute perfect stopover spot, as there’s just enough to see and do that you’ll never be bored, but you certainly won’t be rushed either. These seven sites and activities are bound to give you both beautiful views, and a bit of a thrill too!
1. Cé La Vi atop Marina Bay Sands
So I’m guilty of not having done any research on Singapore prior to my arrival. Needless to say, it came as an absolute surprise when a friend told me that you didn’t need to stay at Marina Bay Sands in order to take in the iconic view! Cé La Vi is a rooftop bar in Marina Bay Sands located directly next to their infamous infinity pool. While only guests of the hotel can access the pool, you can easily get the same views – with much fewer people and for a fraction of the price – from Cé La Vi.
There’s an entrance fee of about $15 USD, however, it not only gives you access to arguably the best view in Singapore, but includes an alcoholic beverage as well.
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2. Gardens by the Bay Flower Dome and Cloud Forest
While Gardens of the Bay itself offers free entry, it’s so much more than just walking through the public park. Within Gardens by the Bay, you will find Two Conservatories: the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. Entrance to both Conservatories is about $20 USD, and absolutely worth it!
Spend some time wandering the unique flower dome, consisting of the Flower Field, Australian Garden, South American Garden, South African Garden, Californian Garden, Mediterranean Garden, Succulent Garden, the Olive Grove, and the Baobabs. It’s fascinating how flowers from all of the world have found life within this one dome. The dome itself is as big as 75 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Personally though, I preferred the Cloud Forest, as it offers breathtaking mountain-like views, lush vegetation, and waterfalls! In fact, the Cloud Forest touts the world’s largest indoor waterfall.
I could have spent hours wandering around the Cloud Forest dome; I recommend going in the late afternoon and watching sunset from within the dome itself.
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3. Gardens by the Bay Light Show
The daily Gardens by the Bay Light Show is completely free for residents and tourists alike. Just make your way to the Supertree Grove and find a spot to sit and enjoy. The first shows is at 7:45pm (which was just after sunset when I visited) and the second show is at 8:45pm. Each month, the Light Show changes. While I was there, it was the beautiful Waltz. Next month, it’s Broadway. The following, disco… I think you get the idea by now. Locals told me that even they enjoy coming for the light show whenever possible because it’s always something new and exciting.
4. Marina Bay Sands Light Show
Spectra – the light and water show in front of Marina Bay Sands – is not to be missed. Like Gardens by the Bay, Spectra is a free-to-the-public event that is best viewed at the Event Plaza along the promenade. With lasers, fountains, and visual projections, you will watch Singapore simply come alive. You can catch this everyday (or stumble upon it, as I did) at 8pm and 9pm, and even at 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
5. Haji and Bali Lanes
Haji Lane and Bali Lane are potentially the most vivid and unique streets in all of Singapore. Plastered with murals, and filled with both traditional shops juxtaposed with trendy boutiques, spend some time simply walking through this area. Bring your camera, as it’s totally Insta-fabulous.
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6. Katong Residences on Joo Chiat
Joo Chiat, located in the Katong area of Singapore, is the perfect step back into time. You’ll find pre-war architecture lining the streets; colorful two story houses, elaborate gates, beautiful terraces. Despite it only being a block or two long, this was one of my favorite hidden gems in all of Singapore, tucked away from the tourist trail.
7. AJ Hackett’s Bungy Jump
I certainly hadn’t planned on finishing up my Southeast Asia trip by doing Singapore's first bungy jump! Located on Sentosa Island, you can find AJ Hackett’s Bungy Jump and Giant Swing. As soon as I discovered that AJ Hackett set up shop in Sentosa, I simply knew that I had to check it out!
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I’ve jumped at AJ Hackett’s Original Bungy in New Zealand, and completed the World’s Highest Bungy Jump with AJ Hackett in Macau. Needless to say, I’m hooked. From their giant swing to swan diving off their bungy, AJ Hackett’s Sentosa is bound to give you a thrill! I cannot wait to make my way to all of the AJ Hackett jump sites around the world!
Where to Sleep? Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong
I think that I could honestly talk about my love for Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong all day long. From the moment I walked in and took a look around, it instantly felt like home. The lobby was full of light and color, and I was mesmerized by (what I learned was) the Peranakan culture.
For those that don’t know, the Peranakan culture came to be when the Chinese migrants married local women and blended the Chinese way of life with the Southeast Asian and Western customs in the Malay peninsula.
Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong is located in one of Singapore’s most vibrant neighborhoods – Katong – where the Peranakan culture remains strong. In fact, Katong was Singapore’s first Heritage Town. Hotel Indigo, as a global brand, prides itself on the fact that each hotel is specifically “designed to reflect the local culture, character, and history of its neighborhood through its design, food & beverage, amenities, and services.” So while you’ll see the thriving Peranakan culture throughout Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong, you will not see these same features in any other Hotel Indigo around the world.
After being offered a tasty iced coffee at check-in, I made my way up to the room on the 13th floor. When I entered my room, I honestly felt like I was entering a movie set because it was just SO colorful (and right up my alley!).
There was a small seating area, king-sized bed, and separate half bath, vanity, and shower. But it’s so much more than that. The friends that walked me into my room had grown up in Singapore. We were instantly captivated by the carrom board used for a table, the patchwork designs of the rugs, the minibar built into a traditional display cabinet, the Singer sewing machine legs on the vanity counter, and the enamel basin bowls in the bathroom… and that barely even scratches the surface of the intricacies of this room.
And for those who aren’t guided through the room by friends, there are incredibly helpful descriptions on the decor throughout the room to enlighten you on Peranakan traditions. The room is brought together by the mural along one of the walls depicting what life used to be like — my room specifically illustrated what breakfast used to look like vs breakfast today. The juxtaposition of the old and the new – the newspaper and the phone – really drove the point home.
Take all this color and historical significance, and pair it with one of the most comfortable hotel beds I’ve ever experienced, and let me tell you… it’s difficult to pry yourself away!
If you can extricate yourself from the comfort of your room though, you’ll find an infinity pool and exercise room on the rooftop, both of which offer fantastic views of Katong. While this section of the hotel is new, I found it intriguing that Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong was actually built into the former Joo Chiat Police Station. Remember how I said that Hotel Indigo likes to truly reflect the local community? Well there’s no better way to do that than integrating the hotel into an already-historical building.
Making your way downstairs and into Baba Chews Bar and Eatery, you’ll notice that they converted this old prison into a fabulous restaurant; they even kept the original jail bars on some of the windows to keep its authenticity. Named after one of the founders of Katong – Chew Joo Chiat – Baba Chews is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Lucky for me, I had the opportunity to enjoy both breakfast and lunch at Baba Chews!
For both meals, there were an array of options. They describe the menu as “a tribute to the unique Peranakan culture, with a good balance of traditional and modern cuisines from places that have influenced Peranakan cooking.” Everything is a la carte, and absolutely delicious.
Between the vibrant rooms, cozy beds, awesome views, nearby attractions, and yummy food… let me just say, I will most definitely be stopping by the Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong next time I’m in Singapore!