Friday, 27 July 2012

My Tourist Year so far

Walking around Gardens by the Bay on Tuesday evening, Denise and I realised that we've done loads of Singapore's major tourist attractions this year. Normally this would work out very expensive, but there are advantages of having a friend in the civil service who can occasionally get passes and tickets for the Zoo, the Flyer, the Gardens...
So, in not particular, but roughly chronological, order, here's a quick rundown of some of the things we've done:

Sentosa Beaches

Actually, we did the Sentosa beaches twice, once the day we got engaged, and once when Jon Lee came to visit. They're manmade, and there is something a bit artificial about them, but they are attractive nonetheless, and for someone whose only visit to the 'English Riviera' was in a torrentially raining October half term, any beach with palm trees is exotic...


Sentosa Cable Car

Unfortunately none of my photos from this came out at all well, it being night. We rode the cable car out to Sentosa before I proposed on the beach, and I think it's worth doing once. The cars are much smaller than on the Singapore Flyer, only large enough for a max of four people, I think. In a way this was nicer though, because you felt less isolated from the view. A view which is worth seeing, by the way.

Universal Studios

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my three locations so far have centred around Sentosa Island. The biggest attraction there is Universal Studios. In the first part of the year we were both students and so could go on a weekday during term time. It makes a big difference. We had been before, but Battlestar Galactica was shut, Transformers hadn't opened yet, and we didn't know about half the non-ride attractions. We definitely got more out of the second visit, riding each half of Battlestar Galactica 6 times (my first coaster with inversions), Transformers about 3 times (best use of 3D I've seen, combined with the physical movement, but works best when other people are there screaming), the Mummy a couple of times (tamer than BG, but has a much scarier atmosphere to compensate), watched the Waterworld show (it's quite an impressive live stunt show) and various sundry other things. Worth looking up what times things happen before you go to make the most of it. Universal is one of the most expensive attractions here, but on a non-busy day, you can really get your money's worth.

Marina Barrage

Not strictly a tourist destination I guess, the Marina Barrage is a barrier that controls access of seawater into the marina, and is controlled by a large pump building - which has a grass roof that makes a great location for picnics, and offers a spectacular view of the Marina Bay area.

Harry Potter Exhibition

Not really any photos from this, we weren't allowed to take them inside. The exhibition was on at the Art Science Museum next to MBS, and contained just about all the movie props I could think of, in mockups of the movie sets, it was pretty cool. If you're into Harry Potter of course. Some behind the scenes material might have been nice, but as a props collection, it was pretty comprehensive. I'd love to see the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings ones though.


Back in March, we watched the musical Wicked, performed at the Grand Theater at Marina Bay Sands. I love the mall at MBS. I'd never actually shop there, it's all Prada and Armani and all that, but it makes for a very shiny, posh-looking mall, and it's nicely designed. I'm easily impressed by shiny buildings, and funky architecture, I like Orchard Road for the same reason (for English readers, read Oxford Street). The show was great, and despite being on the very back row, it was completely audible and the view was unobstructed. You couldn't see facial detail, but I think you'd have to pay a lot more for a noticeably better seat.

Sentosa Attractions

Sentosa Island also has some other activities, of which we sampled some. Desperados is a 3D attraction where you sit on saddles and use a gun to shoot bandits on the screen. The 3D seemed slightly blurred, but it was quite fun to do once. The Extreme Log Ride was a '4D' ride where you sit in a pod and watch a 3D screen - in this case imagining that you are a log going through an implausibly risky log flume in the jungle. It was quite good, but having also experienced the excellent Transformers ride recently, which is similar, it felt less impressive. The Luge and Skyride were fun though, the Skyride is a ski-lift that takes you from the bottom of the hill high above the trees to the top, where you can then get on the Luge (which is kinda like a toboggan that you can steer and brake) and go back down. You could get up to a good speed on the Luge (fast enough to crash, as Denise discovered...), and it would be fun to do that one again.

Singapore Flyer

The Flyer is distinguished amongst ferris wheels as being the tallest in the world (slightly bigger than the London Eye). It is essentially a clone of the London Eye concept, and the view of the city and Marina Bay area from the top is great, I'd say sunset into dark is the best time to go, as the city lights are really rather nice. It's not as high as the Skypark on the top of MBS, but in some ways is better, as you have a 360 degree view, and the view include MBS. I have to say, they have done a brilliant job with the Marina Bay area, it is definitely a nice place to be.

Zoo and Night Safari

Singapore Zoo is great, cheap to get in even if you don't have a friend with a pass, and it has nearly all the animals you would expect. Definitely worth going if you're here. Just expect to sweat a lot. The Night Safari is also great, with a fun show and the tour is good. If you want photos, make sure you had a good camera though, as you can't use your flash.

East Coast Park Cycling

I haven't cycled in a long time, but East Coast Park is a really nice spot. It's a strip of land by the sea that has been landscaped and laid with a road that you can rent bikes and ride along. Apart from several wobbly moments, this was a really nice way to spend an afternoon, it was a sunny day, but the trees provided loads of shade.

Gardens by the Bay

Only recently opened, the Gardens fill a patch next to MBS to help complete the Marina Bay area. Similar to the Eden Project in the UK it has two domes of non-native environment plants as well as a large outdoor garden and a short walkway suspended from artificial supertrees that give you a view of the Gardens and the general area. Like many places in Singapore, this place works well both in the day and night. My recommendation would be: outside during daylight, also the Flower Dome during daylight (it's not well enough lit at nigh), then as the sun is going down, go into the Cloud Forest Dome and wander round there until dark, enjoy the lighting and views of the city, then try the OCBC Skyway, which offers a spectacular panorama of the whole area. People have said some negative things about the Gardens, possibly about the cost of entering the domes, we got free tickets so didn't have to worry about that :P It's very tidy and sanitized for Singapore, but it really is a lovely spot. Just don't pay $20SGD for chicken rice, I've had the stuff from Mandarin Orchard and I'm afraid that you can't tell that much difference. It's chicken and rice after all.

So there you have it, not a bad collection for 7 months. One day I'll save up for a better camera than Instagram and go round them again. There really are some beautiful spots in Singapore, and some really cool architecture.


  1. I remember that October half term on the English Riviera! The steam train ride was good!
    I am looking forward to seeing all these places when we eventually come to visit you :)

  2. Even Universal Studios? There are some nice places to go, and I think we've tried nearly all of them now. There are some places I haven't been, but I think I've been to a lot of the best known tourist attractions now.