One day in Singapore
If there is a country that is perfectly suited to spend a 12-hour layover during an intercontinental flight, it has to be Singapore! That's not to say that you couldn't spend more time there, but given its size and convenience of transport, you could get a good feel for the place in a day. And if you have a close friend living there that could act as a perfect guide, there is no reason not to add this to your stop-over itinerary immediately.
I was lucky enough to meet all my close friends and family in 2022, given the privilege of remote work. I was on my way to India to celebrate my best friend's 40th birthday in December and I wanted to take this opportunity to stop in Singapore and meet another close friend and get a taste of this country. We were scheduled at arrive at 8 am and depart at 8 pm from the Changi airport, giving us 12 hours in Singapore. We met our friend around 9 am at the Arrivals lounge and left their house around 6 pm in the evening, giving us 9 hours to spend in the city. As you can imagine, we had a packed itinerary to cover as much as possible. My friend lives close to the airport, so we decided to freshen up at their house and have some breakfast before heading out for the day. Our initial plan was to meet at the airport and start exploring right away, but I am grateful that my friend convinced me otherwise. It was not only super refreshing to take a shower after an 18-hour flight and landing in super humid Singapore, but also drinking filter coffee in their ocean view balcony was heavenly. In fact, looking back, it became my favorite memory in Singapore :) That view reminded me so much of Mumbai, which is not only my favorite city in the world but also where my friend A and I met and spent some beautiful time together.
Our first stop was at the 'Gardens by the Bay', which is probably the most popular tourist attraction in Singapore. It is a large nature park that is divided into several themed gardens with different tickets for each, but given the limited amount of time we have, we purchased tickets for 'Flower Dome' and 'Cloud Dome'. Compared to the US, everything in Singapore is compact given its tiny size, and it took us about 1.5 hours to tour both of them at a leisurely pace.
We then met our friends outside the Art & Science Museum and walked to the Singapore's most iconic and luxury hotel - Marina Bay Sands, to see what the hype is all about. We bought the tickets and went up to the Skypark Observation Deck and actually loved the view from above. Though we didn't get to see their famous rooftop infinity pool (that is reserved for guests only), we loved the view of Singapore's skyline and 'Gardens by the Bay' from the rooftop.
We then took the train to 'Chinatown' and had lunch at a local eatery. We walked around the area and decided to give the notoriously smelly fruit 'Durian' a try. It was an experience! I took a few bites of the fruit and am still not sure why anyone would eat it...Well, there are all kinds of people in this world :D
We then visited 'Buddha Tooth Relic Temple' located in the Chinatown. It was beautiful and peaceful with intricate designs inside.
We then headed to 'Orchid Road' - the upscale shopping destination of Singapore, filled with shopping malls, restaurants, bookshops, bars, bakeries and several retail outlets selling everything under the sun. It had a good commercial vibe and we stopped by a popular bakery - 'Tiong Bahru'. Their chocolate tart was heavenly.
We then got back to our friend's place and decided to take a stroll in the East Coast Park along the beach. It provided a glimpse into the lifestyle of Singaporeans - picnics, volleyball with friends, running/cycling and fine dining, all along the man-made beach. It was nice to see all the places where my friends hang out, so I can connect more when she tells me about what she is doing.
Singapore is a super organized and clean country built with efficiency and convenience in mind. I am sure it is a great place to live and raise kids but it is just not for me. I have only spent a few hours there and haven't even experienced their nightlife, but I couldn't really connect to the place nor find the inspiration I generally look for. I am probably judging it unfairly, but it felt too clinical and I am not sure where its heart is. May be I need another trip :)