Singapore in 96 Hours
Singapore stimulates the senses and can put you in overdrive quickly. It’s the Disney of Asia; a clean, orderly, entertaining city where you can spend as little or as much money as you want. We splurged a few places, saved in others, and had an absolute blast in our 96 hours, which included New Year’s Eve. We break down how to spend your time geographically so that you can get the most out of Singapore without wearing yourself out too much.
The Bus from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore
We arrived via bus from Kuala Lumpur (about S$12.) The advertised five-hour ride turned into seven, so by the time we got into Singapore, our legs wanted to stretch and our tummies wanted to eat. We staying at the Hilton Garden Inn Singapore (on Hilton points!) in Little India, a perfect place. Dropping our bags at the hotel, we scurried out to grab a bite at the local hawker stalls nearby. Vegan roti masala satisfied my growling tummy for just S$3, and I topped it with a mango lassi for S$2 from the stall next door. Off to bed we went to gear up for our first big day in Singapore. ($1USD to S$1.35)
The Oculus at Marina Bay Sands
Steve woke me with the birthday song–a fitting way to start my 56th trip around the sun. We mapped out our day. Wanting to end the day at the Super Trees for the 7:45 show, we worked backwards. Singapore is hot no matter what time of year you go, so we wanted to ease into the day and limit the amount of time we’d have walking in the heat. So after a good sweat workout in the hotel gym and a leisurely breakfast at the hotel buffet, we showered, shampooed, and shined. Then we headed to the Singapore subway.
Clean, cheap, and easy to use, the Singapore subway takes credit cards at the turn style. No need to buy tickets or get passes, we just tapped our cards and hopped on the train. The Downtown line quickly whisked us to the Marina Bay stop. Our first stop was the Bay’s mall to see the Oculus.
Surrounded by the world’s premium brands, the Oculus holds center court. Several times a day (we saw the 1:00 show), a torrent of water flushes from the sky in whirling movements, gushing to the ground with alternating patterns. This free water show dazzled us as we ate some truffle fries for $S10, but we had no idea how we’d giggle later at the other fantastic water shows in Singapore.
Experiencing the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest
After our water show, we went out to the Bay to get a beat on what New Year’s Eve would look like. There we discovered another water and light show that displays every night on the hour, starting at 8. We made a mental note to come back. In the meantime, we gathered info on the New Year’s Eve celebrations. A special bay cruise floated at 10:30 on New Years. We purchased tickets for S$80 pp. Otherwise, the nightly boat ride costs much less and is worth every penny.
With a plan made for New Years, we headed along the boardwalk toward the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome complexes. Thinking I just wanted to see the Cloud Forest, the ticket master convinced me that for just S$8 more, I could see both places. He also recommended we see the Flower Dome first and keep our Cloud Forest to the night time. This was great advice.
We headed to the Flower Dome. The cacti that looked like stones amazed me the most. The different regions of the world bloomed throughout the dome, and Christmas decorations shined into the last few days of the year. Ambling about the Flower Dome for about an hour, 4:00 struck time, and we found ourselves hungry once again.
The only restaurant anywhere close by was a Shack Shake. Thinking a burger from the Shack would set us back a good $20 a piece, we were pleasantly surprised by two things. One, the prices were quite reasonable, and two, they had a delicious vegan mushroom burger to boot! Two burgers and some truffle fries came in at S$25.
By now, it was 6 pm. We entered the short line into the Cloud Forest. A special Avatar Experience decorated the place, and at first, we were both quite skeptical. Neither of us had seen the first movie, so we thought the Avatar tie-ins would be irrelevant to us. Wow were we wrong! Not only were the plants and flora unbelievable throughout the entire Forest, the embedded Avatar experience had us turning ourselves into Avatars, flying dragons, and hunting for Avatar eggs. We enjoyed it so much, we ended up doing the entire Forest twice. When we got to the bottom, we promptly returned to the top to do the whole Cloud Forest again. And as dark settled, lights brightened throughout the Forest, highlighting some of the best of the Forest.
Where to Enjoy the Super Trees
The Cloud Forest took almost two hours, queuing us up perfectly to see the Super Trees. Around the corner from the Forest, we found the Visitor’s Center. Behind that, we discovered a secret bench that had the perfect view for the Super Tree light show. The Christmas music started and the Trees beamed with sparkling synchronized dances. In just a few short fifteen minutes, the show finished. Exhausted after clocking over 20000 steps on my birthday, we took the train back to our hotel and crashed for the night.
New Year’s Eve in Singapore
The next day, New Year’s Eve day, found us sleeping in again until almost 9:30. We scurried to breakfast, getting a chance to taste rose apples and more dragon fruit from the buffet. Knowing that we’d have another late night, we decided to lounge around the hotel enjoying the pool.
It was time for us to work our way downtown for the New Year Eve’s fireworks show. Again jumping on the super convenient subway, we arrived at the Downtown station. Singapore was alive! Bars pumped music out and drinks poured from every corner. We found ourselves some Mudslide shots (S$10) and walked around Clarke Quay, stumbling into the crazy Don Don Donkey, a Japanese Trader Joe’s on steroids. Soon, it was time for us to board our river cruise to the bay for the fireworks show.
Wow, holy moly! Singapore puts on quite a show for New Year’s. The fireworks started at 10:30 and continued non stop until 11:50. Then everything went quiet. Thousands of drones buzzed in, and we gawked at a drone show of spirals, circles, and multi-colored spheres. Then the drones repositioned themselves into a clock where we all counted down, visually, the last 15 seconds of 2022. As the clock struck 12:00, the sky exploded again with fireworks, a laser show, and lights decorated the skyscrapers all around. What a night.
Singapore Botanic Gardens Are a Must
After such a wonderful New Year’s Eve, we slept in again on our third day. By mid day, Singapore called us out again. We had heard about the expansive botanic gardens, so we jumped the subway again and landed at the gardens promptly. Large and spectacular, we meandered the gardens, stumbling upon a monitor lizard strolling by.
Signs encouraged us to visit the Center for Ethnobotany where we learned about the attempts to commercialize underrepresented fruits and vegetables such as bread fruit and its cousin, jack fruit. We bypassed the Orchid Garden due to its costs of S$15 per person, but enjoyed the plethora of orchids outside of the entry. By 3 pm, we were melting in the Singapore heat and streamed into the food court to cool off. Surprisingly, the S$15 fire roasted pizza delighted us as full of flavor and interesting Asian mushrooms.
An Airport in a Mall
We were headed back to our hotel, but then realized we had overlooked the airport. Since we had arrived by bus and would also leave by bus, we figured we couldn’t miss the airport. We redirected ourselves to the subway again, rolling in the airport a few minutes later. Strangely, not many people on the subway had luggage. When we alighted into the terminal, it was strangely quiet. We followed the signs to the Jewel, the famous water attraction at the airport, passing so many people without luggage!
We finally realized why no one had luggage. Everyone was coming to the mall, eh, airport! A mall built around an airport sucked us in. We squished our way through the crowds, arriving at the center piece of the airport, the Jewel. Towering five stores and surrounded by an indoor jungle, the freefalling water thundered from the ceiling into a pit. The 8:00 light show illuminated onto the column of water, entrancing us for another 15-minute light show. We hustled up and down the different floors to see the Jewel from all her precious angles, adoring every sight.
Perhaps the World’s Best Dessert
In the basement, we stumbled into what might be the most perfect dessert ever made at Ice Lab. Take a two-inch thick piece of bread that is like Challah in the middle and Sourdough crust on the outside, toast it, top it with a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of matcha ice cream, add two dallops of whipped cream, and drizzle chocolate sauce. My belated birthday cake, shared between the two of us, finished of our night wonderfully.
A Walking Tour of Little India
On our last day, we found ourselves sleeping in again, rushing to the last few minutes of our breakfast buffet. Knowing it’d be hot again in the afternoon, we decided to check out GPSMyCity for some ideas of where to enjoy Singapore by foot. We found a tour of Little India and headed out. Stopping by a 300 foot tall Buddha at a Buddhist temple, we then dropped into a Hindu temple, and finished at a Confucius temple. Each varied; smelling all the different scents and seeing the bright colors among them enticed us. In between the temples, we enjoyed the fabulous street art in Little India highlighting the culture of Indian life.
Meandering in China Town! A Michelin Star!
After a nap back at the hotel, we made our way downtown for one last time. On New Year’s Eve, we had missed the famous Marina Bay Sands light show. We pointed our GPS to the merlion, the famous landmark on the bay, but stumbled into China Town. With the Year of the Rabbit New Year’s celebration launching, we meandered through all the stalls and enjoyed all the red and gold knickknacks flooding out. As we zigged and zagged, we came across the famous Fortune Court, the world’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurant. We couldn’t resist, and popped in to find the last two-top table left. The Fragrant Eggplant had to be the best dish we’d had in Asia, dripping with flavor and steaming over a delectable jasmine rice.
Full again, we ambled over to the 9:00 Marina Bay Sands light show. Although all the guide books say you should be somewhere near the Louis Vuitton building to watch the show, those guide books are wrong. We sat ourselves on the steps at the merlion for a much better experience.
And Finally, the Marina Bay Sands Light Show!
At 9:00, the fountains started. Then the lights shined on, followed by the Marina Bay Sands buildings lighting up in synchronicity with the fountains and their lights. Then the lasers streamed in. Next up the entire ArtScience museum reflected a light show on its lotus petals. From the merlion, we could see each element of the entertainment, a light spectacle brightening up over 1K of distance across the bay. Having the long view from the merlion enchanted us.
As we made it back to our hotel, we realized we hadn’t had a famous Singapore Sling. We dropped into a bar near the hotel and slurped one up for S$12.
How Much Does 5 Days 4 Nights Cost in Signapore?
The next morning, we jumped in the bus and headed back to Kuala Lumpur. We realized the secret to Singapore–it’s a city of water features and light shows. Each major attraction has one, the other, or both, and all you have to do is figure out their schedules in order to have a fantastic time in Singapore. So what did a 96 hour stay in Singapore cost us?
Hilton Garden Inn (free)
Transportation in Singapore S$12
Entertainment (Cloud Forest, Flower Dome, NYE River Cruise) S$280 for two