Justine Tyerman regains her shopping mojo in Singapore…
Singapore rekindled my interest in an activity I had long since abandoned – shopping. The scope, the variety and the bargains were so exciting, I was like a child in a toy store, wide-eyed at the choices around me. It was like shopping in Paris, Milan, Marrakesh and Istanbul all wrapped up in one wonderful experience.
Shopping in Singapore ‘a breeze’
The ease of zipping around the city on the bright red double-decker Hop-on-Hop-off bus complete with an informative commentary, and the super-efficient MRT underground system made shopping a breeze.
The bus was free as part of my Singapore Airlines Stopover package so there was no limit to where I could go – and no husband to frown at the growing number of bags hanging on my arm. I had a heady sense of freedom and a new skip in my step!
Waylaid at Vivo
I did a circuit of the city on the upper deck of the bus to orientate myself and then I hopped off at Vivo, the largest and most glittering shopping mall in Singapore. This was to be my first stop of many but I must confess I got waylaid there and all thoughts of going to Orchard Road, Sentosa Island and out to the botanical gardens were forgotten.
Vivo means ‘vivacity’ and I certainly discovered a new-found energy and glee shopping there. The convenience and fun of being able to find everything I wanted in one ultra-modern, bright, air-conditioned mall with the shops of my dreams brandishing 50-percent-off sale signs completely rejuvenated my retail therapy mojo.
Having made all the purchases I could carry, I boarded the Hop-on Hop-off at the door and returned to the hotel to dump my bags. I then took the bus to Kampong Glam and spent a few happy hours wandering around the enclave of little streets with shops selling carpets, textiles, lamps, jewellery, clothes and household wares.
Bartering with the cheerful, noisy shopkeepers in Arab Street reminded me of the markets in Turkey and Morocco. Such a colourful, vibrant, richly-multicultural neighbourhood. It was the opposite extreme to the glitzy shops at Vivo.
That’s Singapore though – every imaginable experience all in one city.
Highlights of the day
At dusk, I met my travel-mates for cool drinks and tapas at The Singapura Club in Haji Lane, a narrow alley full of outdoor bars, dining and entertainment, humming with people. Having all gone our separate ways for the day, our Innovative Travel tour party compared notes and highlights of the day.
The botanically-minded visited the Gardens by the Bay, a park spanning 101 hectares of reclaimed land in central Singapore with magnificent gardens enclosed in a pair of armadillo-shaped conservatories, the world’s highest indoor waterfall and a forest of surreal ‘super trees’ up to 50m high (see my review here. Link opens in new window).
Wildlife-aficionados were spoilt for choice at Singapore Zoo, voted the world’s best rainforest zoo; River Safari, Asia’s only river-themed wildlife park; Jurong Bird Park, Asia’s largest bird aviary; and Night Safari, the world’s first nocturnal wildlife park (see my according review here).
‘The State of Fun’
The fun-lovers caught the cable car to Sentosa Island, ‘the State of Fun’, a 500-hectare island resort, home to a dizzying array of themed attractions, world-renowned golf courses, a deep-water yachting marina, and South East Asia’s first Universal Studios theme park.
The serious shoppers worked their way along Orchard Road’s 2.2km of shops while the culture seekers meandered around the myriad of museums and art galleries in the city, and Chinatown and Little India where they joined heritage and history tours for free as part of our stopover package.
Some took to the sky in the Singapore Flyer, one of the world’s largest observation wheels, others had a gin-sling at the famous Raffles Hotel, and the lone gambler in our midst tried his luck at the Marina Bay Sands Casino – but he did not appear to be shouting drinks that night.
Easy, efficient and convenient
Everyone agreed how easy, efficient and convenient everything is in Singapore.
If the city needs an amenity or attraction, they just get on and build it. Like the highway from the airport to the city which doubles as an emergency runway once the planter pots along the median strip are removed, and the damming of a huge saltwater channel to create Marina Reservoir, a lake which serves as a huge fresh water supply and hosts aquatic activities.
Changi the World’s Best Airport for the 5th year
Next day, we headed for the airport, an experience which seldom ranks highly on any travellers’ lists of highlights.
But Changi Airport is in a league of its own. A five-star complex that has just won the World’s Best Airport for the fifth consecutive year, Changi is a small city. You could absolutely live there.
The facilities in all four terminals are mind-boggling. There are many themed gardens including cactus, orchid, sunflower, and water lily gardens plus the interactive Enchanted Garden where glass and mosaic sculptures come to life with sights and sounds triggered by motion.
Always keen to set records, Changi has the world’s tallest slide in an airport and the first butterfly garden in an airport, home to over 1,000 butterflies.
There’s a pond full of golden fish, waterfalls, a 24-hour free movie theatre, and multimedia entertainment centre not to mention hotels, cafes and shops galore including a heritage district featuring multi-coloured facades of old Peranakan houses.
The four terminals are connected by the super-efficient free Skytrain so if you have a few hours to spare between flights you can zoom around the vast complex service in no time… or just chill out with a cocktail at the rooftop swimming pool and jacuzzi.
SATS (Singapore Air Terminal) Premium Lounge
I was so intrigued by the airport facilities, I almost ran out of time to visit the SATS Premium Lounge for a shower, freshen-up and snack before boarding my flight home to Auckland. I had access to the lounge thanks to my Singapore Airlines Priority Pass.
The lounge is elegantly designed with an excellent variety of seating options where guests can dine, relax, snooze or work. The place was almost empty so it felt like my own private hotel.
Having circled the buffet several times to check out the mouth-watering array of food, I had a delicious laksa along with a chilled pinot gris. I knew what treats were in store for me on my Singapore Airlines flight home so I tried to exercise restraint.
The lounge is open 24 hours a day so it’s a perfect location to refresh and recharge before venturing off across the world. For those in need of some extra pampering, there are full-body massage chairs but they come with a warning – set an alarm before you even think of nestling down in the secluded, quiet, softly-lit alcove or you may find yourself stranded.
Not such a bad place to be marooned though….
Justine Tyerman travelled with Innovative Travel, a New Zealand-based boutique tour operator with 27 years’ experience offering travellers the opportunity to explore historically and culturally unique destinations worldwide that provide a challenge but with the security of a peace-of-mind 24/7 wrap-around service.
Ideal for solo travellers: Travel Companions’ Club.
Singapore Airlines has a code-share agreement with Swiss International Airlines (SWISS).
On the way to your destination, experience the sights and sounds of multicultural Singapore with a stay at Singapore Airlines’ selection of hotels, admission to over 15 tourist attractions, complimentary rides on the SIA Hop-on Bus and more. Visit www.singaporeair.com.
Among the top tourist attractions included free in the stopover package are Night Safari (see my review), Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park, Gardens by the Bay (see my review), Chinatown Heritage Centre, Malay Heritage Centre, Indian Heritage Centre, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, MINT Museum of Toys, National Gallery Singapore, National Museum of Singapore, National Orchid Garden, Singapore Cable Car from Faber Peak to Sentosa Island, Singapore Flyer, one of the world’s largest Giant Observation wheels, Singapore River Cruise, Original Singapore Walks in cultural and historical enclaves such as Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Gelam, and the SIA Hop-On Bus which is a great way to go shopping and see the city sights.
Singapore sports a plethora of great hotels. travelmemo.com’s editor-in-chief Walter reviewed the glamorous Le Méridien Singapore Sentosa and the stylish W Singapore Sentosa Cove. Very colourful, indeed!