Singapore has been on my must-visit list for a long time. After seeing photos of the famous Gardens by the Bay and the Marina Bay Sands infinity pool, booking a short visit was an easy decision. The Supertree Grove was an absolute masterpiece. The Sands, though bougie and swarming with irritating nouveaux-riche, is by far the coolest hotel I’ve ever stayed at.
But Singapore as a whole confused the hell out of me. It somehow managed to simultaneously fascinate and bore me; I thought it was visually stunning, but otherwise pretty bland. I expected a place with so much creativity and innovation to have an equally cool vibe, and instead the city felt kind of sterile and artificial.
I loved exploring Singapore and ticking off my bucket list items, I loved everything I saw, but I was also ready to leave and never return lol. In summary: worth a visit, but maybe just one visit. Maybe I’ll return one day to give it another chance.
Visiting the Marina Bay Sands (and Staying There, Rip My Wallet)
Where else in the world can you swim in a rooftop infinity pool 57 stories up? Though the pool is for guests only, the rest of the Marina Bay Sands is worth exploring even if you aren’t staying there. The hotel is a Singapore icon, and one of the most unique buildings I’ve seen. It’s an extravagant, opulent, rich-person paradise, complete with luxury shopping, a huge casino, and fine dining.
Expect to see cars worth more than your house parked outside, and socialites teetering around clutching Chanel and Hermès. For those of us not born into extravagant wealth, it’s an interesting glimpse into what may as well be an alien civilization. Like, how is this normal living for some people?
Staying at the Marina Bay Sands (!!!)
Because of my reckless disregard for my personal finances, I decided to book a couple of nights at the Sands to see what all the fuss was about. My personal philosophy is pay first, think later, which is a seriously terrible life philosophy (but hasn’t completely ruined me financially yet). In this case, it was the best decision ever. The Sands were one of the highlights of my trip.
The rooms are absolutely massive and luxurious, and the room service/minibar are SPOT ON. You’re also granted access to the exclusive rooftop infinity pool, which is ONE THOUSAND PERCENT worth it.
I barely took any pictures of my room, but it was insane. I booked one of the smallest and most basic rooms (a Deluxe King City View, ~$400 USD/night) and it was still the size of a modest studio apartment. The room had a spectacular view of the ArtScience museum and the harbor.
The room featured a huge, comfy bed, multiple armchairs and a work desk (lol, as if), the biggest most beautiful bathroom ever, and COMPLETELY unnecessary mechanical curtains. You press a button from your bed and the curtains close/open as you please. One day when I am rich, I will have these in my house.
The Rooftop Infinity Pool
I found the pool intimidating at first. It’s crowded and there’s a lot of people milling around looking cool and expensive. I almost considered turning around and going back to my room, but then I remembered how much I had paid for access to this dumb pool. Fuck if some Gucci-clad bro in heinous sunglasses was going to keep me from my hard-earned lounger.
Once I had committed to staking out the perfect spot, I pretty much didn’t leave. I spent a good 90% of my time at the Sands in or around the pool. The water is lovely, the view is absolutely magnificent, and you can grab a cocktail from the rooftop bars anytime! People ended up being way less pretentious than I expected, and I actually ended up making a few friends just chilling here solo.
Staying at the Marina Bay Sands:
- Booking: Click here
- Rates: from USD $391/night
- Infinity Pool access!!
- 10-25% off at many shops and restaurants located in the Shoppes
- Special offers like exclusive prix-fixe menus
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
In addition to being a hotel, the Marina Bay Sands is a massive shopping center. I mean massive. Like, four stories of designer shops (“Shoppes”, if you want to sound like a tool), celebrity restaurants, and a literal river, complete with gondola rides. Basically, I was in heaven.
I wandered around for an afternoon trying on designer shit and pretending I was considering buying it, ultimately settling on Sephora to quell my shopping urge without bankrupting myself. Marina Bay Sands guests enjoy 10-15% off at many of the shops here, which is a nice little perk.
Just in case you weren’t convinced that this is the most unnecessarily extravagant mall of all time, here’s this dramatic ass fountain.
Sands SkyPark Observation Deck
Although the famous infinity pool is for guests only, you can explore areas of the hotel without booking a room. All of the lower levels are accessible to non-guests – this includes the shops and casino. There’s also rooftop bar called Ce La Vi, which offers a spectacular city view. They charge a $20 SGD entry fee, which is applicable towards a drink or food.
You can also go up to the Sands SkyPark Observation Deck via Tower 3. It costs $23 SGD and has the exact same view, except your ticket is not redeemable towards a drink or food. So obviously my dumb ass went there. The view really is amazing – you can see the entire city.
Tips for visiting the Marina Bay Sands without booking a room:
- Visit Ce La Vi rooftop bar/restaurant – $20 admission fee redeemable towards food/drinks
- Visit the SkyPark Observation Deck – $23 admission, not redeemable towards anything
- There is no access to the Infinity Pool for non-guests, period 🙁 Access is via room key cards which need to be scanned in. You could try befriending someone who is staying there though – they give guests two key cards!
Visiting the ArtScience Museum
One of my first activities was visiting the ArtScience museum, a small modern gallery in a distinct lotus-inspired shape. The ArtScience Museum is (shockingly) a fusion of art and science, full of tech-inspired, futuristic works. The gallery features rotating exhibitions, so it won’t always house the same artwork, but I’m pretty sure a few of the pieces are there to stay.
Future World Exhibition
This is the most famous exhibition, where everyone comes to take their Perfect Instagram Shot (idk how, since every photo I took was full of 800 people). Endless rows of LED lights dangle from the ceiling, surrounding the narrow walkway. The lights are programmed to dim, flicker, and change color as music plays, so you end up walking through a pulsating, twinkling wonderland of little stars.
I almost found it magical, but the throngs of tourists kind of ruined it for me. It was hard to appreciate it when there were people everywhere posing, tugging on the lights (?!!), and chatting in loud, irritating teenage voices. If I did it again I would go back during major off-hours, and definitely on a weekday.
By far the coolest exhibition is “Crows”. You’re led into a pitch-black room and instructed to either stand at the back or sit on the floor. Suddenly the room erupts into light — bird figures and rainbow lines dance and loop around the room dizzyingly quickly. I started out standing and had to sit down.
The room truly is an immersive experience – you lose all sight of where the actual ground is, where the walls are, where the ceiling is. All you notice is the light. It was really cool and I should have done it twice.
Just outside the Future World exhibition is a cool little courtyard. There were a few photographers gathered around snapping photos, so I decided to join them. I was glad I did because one of them recommended photographing the nearby Helix Bridge, where I headed next.
Tips for visiting the ArtScience Museum:
- Ticketing: Click here
- Hours: 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
- Admission: $28 for all exhibitions. If you are staying at the Marina Bay Sands it’s discounted to $21.
- Go on a week-day if possible, and as early as possible. Exhibitions get very crowded.
Strolling Along Helix Bridge
Just after exiting the ArtScience museum and heading left up the stairs you’ll find the coolest bridge ever. Helix Bridge is inspired by the DNA double-helix, and it’s beautiful. The whole thing is one big, undular spiderweb, peppered with little panels of grey or teal mesh and glass.
There are lookouts all along the bridge, which offer amazing views of the city and of the spectacular Marina Bay Sands. It looked like a popular spot for wedding photos. I saw three couples block off a section with a photographer over the course of my evening walk (Very Annoying, cant u people go be happy and in love somewhere else).
The Stupidest Landmark of All Time
After walking all the way across the bridge I came to one of the dumbest landmarks I have ever seen. This stupid fountain which is inexplicably half lion and half fish (??) has become supremely well-known, and literally the entire area was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists all taking the same “drinking from the fountain” photo.
I am obv too smart and enlightened for such pedestrian trompe l’oeils, so I opted to take this poorly framed shot instead. The fountain was cool, but I didn’t really get it, I was glad I saw it, but I also wouldn’t have minded not seeing it. Like, why is this a landmark. I give up.
The Best View of the Singapore Skyline
As I made my way back I discovered that the Marina Bay Sands and everything around it glow a deep shade of Barney purple at night, really amping up the whole we are a chic futuristic city thing. It was really beautiful, and I wish that I knew how to use my camera better so that I could have taken some better shots.
I was hoping the bridge would have cleared out a bit in the evening so I could get some better photos, but it seems to be one of those places that’s always packed with people. If you’re hoping for the perfect shot, sunrise is probably your best bet.
Exploring the Arab Quarter and Little India
Before I visited, I had no idea that Singapore had such a large Muslim population (about 15%)! The Arab Quarter definitely feels like one of Singapore’s cultural centers. It has some beautiful architecture, including the famous Sultan Mosque (pictured above). The entire area is perfect for strolling. It’s full of hole-in-the-wall restaurants and little shops selling Persian rugs, rich textiles, and beautiful jewelry.
This area has a very different feel than the rest of the city, and it was nice to break up all the Modern Stuff with something a little more traditional. It’s also about a 15-minute walk from Little India, where I headed next.
Flower Markets in Little India
One of my favorite parts about Little India was all the flower garlands! These decorations are an important part of Indian culture – they’re used for religious offerings, wedding celebrations, and to honor guests. There’s an entire street full of vendors here.
The garlands are all made with beautiful freshly picked flowers and the air smells exactly like a florist shop. The flowers are complete bee magnets, so the area is swarming. I risked my life loitering here, since I am deathly allergic to bees… The things we do for a good photo.
The House of Tan Teng Niah
This quirky local icon, the House of Tan Teng Niah, is just around the corner from the flower markets. The house once belonged to a Chinese businessman and has been preserved by the city as a landmark.
The building has become quite famous and is pretty popular on social media – I saw a lot of women forcing their boyfriends/husbands into Instagram photoshoots. But it’s with good reason – the house is awesome. It’s every bit as bright and weird as you would expect from the pictures, and seriously puts a smile on your face.
HDB Flats at Rochor Centre
In between Little India and the Arab Quarter are these awesome, colorful buildings. Apparently the city plans to tear them down to create a new expressway. Because just like in the movies, cities like to tear down fabulous local icons to make room for roads/Walmarts/etc. And unlike the movies, there is no plucky hero to save them from destruction 😐
It’s such a bummer, because they are such a cool part of the Singapore downtown. The buildings will be demolished as soon as this year, so if you want to see them get your ass to Singapore soon!
Wandering Around the Gardens By the Bay
Gardens by the Bay is home to two greenhouses (Cloud Forest and Flower Dome) and the outdoor Supertree Grove. Start your afternoon with the greenhouses because they look way better during daytime, whereas the Supertrees are best seen at night. I went to the Flower Dome after dark and it was so poorly lit and underwhelming I wished I hadn’t wasted my money.
Cloud Forest (above) was my favorite. The second you walk in, you can feel the difference in the air. It’s cool, crisp, and fresh, and you’re greeted with this awe-inspiring view. The (100% manmade) waterfall was truly magnificent, and staring up at it was the closest I’ve come to the childhood wonderment of Disneyland as an adult.
If you can time your visit just before dusk, do it! I caught Cloud Forest just as the sun was setting, when all the futuristic lights come on but it’s still bright outside. The result was this weird, alien-looking shot which I was very pleased with, as someone who has no idea how to use a camera.
Part of the Cloud Forest walk includes exploring the full interior of the structure, which is not a lush plant wonderland like you might expect. It’s actually wide-open space inside, complete with escalators and some mini exhibitions, including some cool geodes and salt formations!
I was particularly fascinated by the wall cutouts, which were filled with greenery and captured the light beautifully. I spent an awkwardly long period of time here trying/failing to get a shot without people, and glaring at all the tourists ruining my god damn photos.
The Supertree Grove was one of the main reasons I came to Singapore, and it was every bit as awe-inspiring as I expected. The Grove looks semi cool during the day, but it really comes to life at night. It’s like an alien planet and the trees are absolutely massive.
There’s a light show between 7:45PM-8:45PM every night that is a must-see. The trees change colors accompanied by music, and a huge crowd gathers around to watch, either from the ground or from the OCBC Skyway overhead.
It turned out to be a great spot for a solo traveler too. I got picked up by a hot British tourist here “asking for directions” (side note to all men: we know what ur doing, we know u aren’t lost, good effort tho). I ended up hanging out with him and his friend all night and finally getting a taste of the Singapore nightlife later!
You can view the SuperTrees from a slightly different vantage point, by taking a stroll along the OCBC Skyway overhead. For a mere $8 SGD, it’s totally worth it. The trees look so cool from this angle, and when you’re this close you get a chance to really appreciate the artistry and ingenuity that went into creating them.
You’re pretty high up, and though the bridge is extremely secure, it is a suspension bridge. Which means there’s going to be some movement, so be prepared for that if you’re scared of heights. I would say it’s worth it anyway. Where else in the world can you walk through a glowing alien forest 22 meters above ground?
Tips for Visiting the Gardens By the Bay:
- Hours: 9:00 am – 9:00 pm (last sales at 8 and last admissions at 8:30)
- Admission: Cloud Forest ($12SGD), Flower Dome ($12SGD), SuperTree Grove (FREE!), OCBC Skyway ($8SGD)
- Grab food afterwards at Satay by the Bay!
- If you have some extra $$ visit SuperTree by IndoChine, a bar/restaurant located on top of the tallest Supertree! $20 SGD entry fee applicable towards drinks. (It looked awesome, I regretted not going)
Singapore was a blast. I enjoyed every minute of my time there, but I still don’t think I’ll be back. I leave most places already looking forward to my next trip back, and I didn’t feel the same draw here. For me, I think one visit was enough, but maybe I’ll have a chance to change my mind one day. In the meantime, on to my next adventure 🙂
Nice post you got there, Jalel. I’ve been to Singapore a couple of times. What I like about the city is its cleaniness. Other than that, it’s just another typical city.
Thanks for reading Casey 🙂 Singapore really is super clean and orderly – maybe not everyone’s cup of tea lol, I like a little more excitement personally!
Sundaresan Sekar (@SundaresanSekar) says
Nicely written. Love the humor 🙂
Thank you!! I try my best to be entertaining, with varying degrees of success lol. Thanks so much for reading!