Having landed at 2pm in Changi Airport, Singapore, Helen and I rushed to our hotel (which happened to be pretty much in the airport) and checked our bags, ready to take on one of the most modern cities in the world with only hours to spare. A 6am flight pretty much obliterated any ideas of wild nights out, so we had about 8 hours to make the most of.
First things first, food.
We hadn’t eaten on the flight, a tiny Firefly Airlines 60 seater, so our thoughts went first to our stomachs. We got a cab down to central Singapore, to a great little Tapas spot at Clarke Quay. Clarke Quay reminded me of sitting on the west bank in London on a sunny day: Amazing buildings towering off in the distance; the cathedral dome of St Andrews, which very closely resembled St. Paul’s in London; and the bustle of folks getting out from work for a drink or snack. There was only 1 not at all subtle difference, the humidity!
I’m pretty sure my shirt would have become the most uncomfortable item of clothing I’d ever worn as soon as I stepped out of the hotel, but jumping into a freezer-like air-cooled cab prolonged the feeling of just being.. moist.. that hit me like a wall as soon as we sat down for lunch. Even a cold drink did nothing against the thick, moist air of Singapore.
Anyway, the food at Octapas (yeah, someone went there) was fantastic, particularly the lamb and beef dishes. We sat on one of many multi-coloured restaurant frontages, surrounded by riverboats, bustle and warmth, and enjoyed the ambience of Clarke Quay. I couldn’t help but think of the multi-coloured houses of Bristol, where I went to university. Clarke Quay exudes character and is well worth the visit if time permits.
Lee Kuan Yew and a Mojito for two
To say that there were 10 hour lines to see the former founder of Singapore resting in peace would be something amazing. To say that the very next day there was no mess or slight trace of the existence of the several million people who paid there respects is just another example of the ruthless cleanliness of Singapore and it’s phenomenal utilities management. We did, however, spot an amazing tribute to the founder of this crazy place projected onto the side of The Fullerton Hotel, an historic hotel which nestles into the forest of skyscrapers that is the finance district, much like a Hobbit among Ents.
Following the waterside around from the Fullerton, we stopped for a Mojito in a bar within Customs House, the block of restaurants and bars (Thai, Indian, Cocktail, etc) with possibly the best waterside drinking in all of Singapore. The Mojitos that we ordered (Kumquat and Lemongrass, respectively) were absolutely stunning, but more stunning was the outside view of Marina Sands Skypark. Arguably the coolest building I’ve ever been in / on top of, the Sands Skypark looks as though someone supplanted the deck of a cruise liner and placed it neatly onto a trio of 60-storey tower buildings that just happened to be perfectly aligned to hold it up. Reality – the casinos of Vegas decided that they should branch out and, with typical Vegas exuberance, built an enormous homage to the city of neon, roulette and strip clubs right in the middle of a pretty conservative business capital. And it wouldn’t be Vegas without a light show – every 10 minutes the entire waterfront area was illuminated with lasers, smoke and strobe lighting, all choreographed alongside a booming soundtrack. Amid the tranquility of our mojitos this seemed almost totally out of place, yet the modern architecture looming in front of us somehow matched the tempo of Singapore, which had constantly surprised me since I set foot outside the airport.
View From the Top
There’s a lot to be said for scouting available options. There are 3 ways to enjoy the best view in Singapore.
1) Stay at the Mirage Sands hotel as a guest ($300+), with complimentary access to the waterfall pool and the entire skydeck garden
2) Pay $23 for a ticket to the viewing deck .Get corralled into an elevator and then onto a glass walled (safety first) platform with limited space to move around
3) Head to Ku De Ta, the bar that sits smugly atop the observation area, via the private lift within the building. Cost – totally free, until you have a drink. But as I explained to a guy sat next to me at the bar, I may as well spend $23 on cocktails (sound GSB logic) as this was the minimum alternative cost. And what good cocktails they were! Here, at the top of the world, with a better view than Top Of the Rock and Empire State combined, I enjoyed some of the best bourbons and manhattans I’ve ever had. The combination of exquisite alcohol, great background jazz and wonderful views definitely justified my forking over well in excess of $23 for multiple cocktails, and I felt that it was worth every penny. The only way to describe the VFTT would be to take Manhattan and thin it out a little. Singapore has armies of skyscrapers, but the layout has been planned to allow breathing room between each and every one. As a result the city seems to go on forever, truly breathtaking on a clear night. Ku De Ta sits within Marina Sands – best to go in and ask for directions through the medley of expensive watch, fashion and froyo specalists.
Note: Ku De Ta has a dress code, smart for the bar and strict for the Club Lounge (which has a better view) – that night the strict code was Vintage 30’s – Be prepared.