Singapore has a reputation as being the most expensive and highly regulated place in Asia. From our experience it's all true. It's also very humid, it rains a lot and there are lots of mosquitos!
Were it not for the fact that we've been house-sitting for a week, we'd only have been able to afford to stay for two nights at most. As it was we stayed for just over a week and still didn't get to see all the sights we hoped to.
Of the sights we did see the highlights were the cable car ride over to Sentosa, the Botanic Gardens, the 'Battle Box', the Chinese Heritage Museum and last but not least Marina Bay Sands
Sentosa is a manufactured resort which can be accessed from the mainland by cable car. The resort has all sorts of attractions, however most of these are an anti-climax after the cable car ride to get there!
Perhaps the oddest of all the attractions is the 'beach' which looks out onto one of the busiest shipping lane in the world. I guess you can always close your eyes and dream that you're on a desert island! Next to the beach is the wave machine and next to this the 3D virtual log ride. On the plus side it has two golf courses, including the host course for the Singapore Open ($450 Singapore Dollars about £250 per round!) and is home to Univeral Studios, Singapore, which sadly is a poor relation to its American cousin. Overall Sentosa is a somewhat bizarre place but nevertheless hugely popular with some 19 million visitors a year. This is in spite of its local nickname which is So Expensive and Nothing TO See Also!
The Botanic Gardens are one of the free (!) sights to enjoy in Singapore. The gardens cover such a large area and with nature left to its own devices they're also a haven for wildlife. It was a pleasure to walk around such a large 'natural' area in the middle of one of the most developed cities in the world
The Battle Box
Singapore holds an unenviable reputation in British military history as being the only place where the British have surrendered to the opposition. This followed the Japanese invasion of the island in 1942. The events leading up to the decision to surrender are recreated in the 'Battle Box', an underground bunker in Fort Canning that remained undiscovered until 1988. The bunker has been painstakingly restored and together with the lifelike waxwork figures (courtesy of Madame Tussauds) it now offers a very realistic glimpse into what life was like for the individuals operating out of the bunker up to the time of the surrender
Debate still continues as to whether General Percival's decision was the right one. He was shunned by Winston Churchill and other members of the establishment when he returned to England at the end of the war however there's no doubt his decision saved many military and civilian lives
Chinese Heritage Museum
Another 'life as it was' attraction is the Chinese Heritage Museum which provides a history of Chinese immigration into Singapore. Living conditions of the early 20th century have been recreated based on photographs and personal testimonies, and are so accurate that former residents couldn't believe their eyes when they saw them for the first time. It gives a real insight into the hardships that people suffered in trying to make a better life for themselves as well as the distractions of gambling, prostitution, drinking and opium smoking
Marina Bay Sands
The hotel is probably the most iconic structure in Singapore. The viewing platform offers a 360 degree view of the city. Luckily for us our visit coincided with rehearsals for the Independence Day celebrations in August so we were treated to a firework display and a fly past of jets from the Singapore Air Force. The area around the hotel is equally modern. As with other super-malls in Asia, all luxury brands are present, perhaps even more so here. One of the frustrations of travelling is that the only shopping you can do is window shopping. On the other hand when shop windows are displaying pieces of jewellery for $1,500,000 Singapore Dollars (about £750,000) there's not much you can afford anyway!
So, no visit to the Raffles Hotel and no Singapore Sling cocktail. They'll be first on the list if we return!