Originally published March 2020 – updated and expanded June 8
International travel is in full swing again in Singapore – that vibrant small republic with one main island and 63 satellite islands! It’s a great stop-over for many, but also an excellent holiday destination in itself.
Many Aussies are heading there, so I’m reposting a second update to the story I originally published early last year, with some of my tips for visiting Singapore.
All fully vaccinated (WHO approved vaccines) travellers from around the world are now being accepted in Singapore, without any need for testing or quarantine.
One of my sons has just returned from a week’s holiday there, and found Singapore as wonderful as it’s always been. He was triple vaccinated, wore masks when appropriate, and exercised caution as still urged by the Australian government. He had a great Singaporean holiday, and returned to Australia in good health.
“Mask wearing required everywhere, but no real hinderance. I wasn’t required to show any certificates or apps for entry anywhere. Everything open. No obvious capacity restrictions in place as far as I could tell,” he reported.
I’ve added some of his Singapore travel photos taken last month, credited as 2022 photos. The rest were taken by me on trips in 2017 and 2019.
Don’t let anyone tell you Singapore has lost its heart with ultra modernisation. Singapore’s soul is still there. You just have to shift your butt out of those high rise Western hotels, resorts and shops and look for it! (Although the high rise my son stayed in last month had a fabulous view!)
I first visited Singapore as a 19 year old in the early 1970’s when it was a regular flight stopover en route to Britain. As a young islander from the Australian State of Tasmania, I was very raw when it came to travel. Melbourne was the big smoke to me back then. Hadn’t even ventured as far as Sydney!
So Singapore overwhelmed and delighted me – fulfilling my dreams of an exotic and exciting city. It’s safe to say that I was so enthralled with Singapore that it put me on the path to my many subsequent travel adventures. It was my first travel destination love.
On that trip, and a subsequent trip a few years later, I stayed in Orchard Road, searching out China Town, Bugis street and many of the other famous Singaporean attractions of the ’70’s. Singapore back then was very hip (still is)!
I have a photo of myself on the balcony of my hotel in the ’70’s with a beehive hairdo and wearing a fringed leather waistcoat over a roll neck jumper, complimented with fringed leather skirt and boots. I thought I was very cool. Oh dear! The young can deceive themselves!
A lot has changed since then. It’s still a fabulous city, but many people who knew it in the distant past feel Singapore has lost its old charm. I disagree. Singapore has an intoxicating blend of old and new, and the spirit of old Singapore is well and truely alive. Be prepared to explore, to seek out. Singapore stays true to its innovative spirit.
I’m not suggesting you ignore the ‘new’ Singapore. Drink in and enjoy the modern architectural delights of Singapore such as the amazing Marina Bay Sands hotel. During the last two years of the pandemic, many Singapore hotels have used the time to renovate and upgrade. Several new luxury hotels also opened last year, including The Clan, Duxton Reserve and Oasia Resort Sentosa.
One of my favourites, the historical 1800’s Raffles Hotel, began a major renovation in 2017, completing it in late 2019. Raffles presents a taste of the new and the old Singapore.
Famous people such as Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham, Noel Coward and Charlie Chaplin have stayed here. Unfortunately, the guest list hasn’t included me (waiting for my Lotto win). But I have visited, enjoying its famous High Tea one afternoon in 2017, shortly before the hotel closed for its renovation project.
I’m not sure what was in the tea, or if I was simply overloaded and unbalanced with the hotel’s delicious cakes and boutique sandwiches. But an hour after leaving, I tripped over air and broke my shoulder bone!
“Tripped over air”. Isn’t that a delicious phrase. Not an original of mine, unfortunately. I heard it on the radio the other day and thought it perfectly described my Singapore fall.
There was this tiny step on the pavement. So tiny that it barely qualified as a step. And, self absorbed in taking photos as I walked, I failed to notice the change in terrain under my feet, and thus “tripped over air”!
My camera, hung over my shoulder, swung down ahead of me towards the pavement as I tumbled, and like any good camera parent, I instinctively hugged it in a protective embrace. Result – the camera was saved. My left shoulder took the pavement impact and fractured.
The perils of travel. I didn’t immediately realise the extent of my injury, presuming I had badly strained a muscle in my upper arm. I was in terrible pain, but we had a flight to Japan early the next morning. So subconsciously, I didn’t want to explore the possibility of an injury that might hinder that.
A visit to a chemist confirmed that Singapore has the most glorious array of effective heat patches I have ever seen. I downed a lot of panadol and even a little traditional Chinese medication, proceeding with my holiday as planned and not finally consulting a Doctor until my return to Australia three weeks later.
Along the way, I even managed a short cycling adventure in Japan that I had booked before leaving Australia. I am a nervous and wobbly cyclist at the best of times, but with one painful fractured arm that was somewhat useless, the cycle ride shows that I am either one determined traveller or simply doggedly stupid.
My injured arm took well over a year to recover, including a visit to the operating theatre when it morphed into a frozen arm.
This has not put me off visiting Singapore again, and I’m especially looking forward to returning to the Raffles for a peek at the hotel since its renovations. My son visited the remodelled Raffles last month and says the hotel now offers a selection of afternoon teas in the Grand Foyer. He enjoyed a ’sicily afternoon tea’, available through to the end of August this year. And, of course, he sampled the Raffles’ famous Singapore sling cocktail!
I love both the modern and old faces of Singapore, a delicious multi cultural cocktail mix with a fascinating history.
And to discover Singapore’s wonderful old character, turn away from the main tourist places and search for treasures less known! It’s a matter of doing your research before you leave home. Or having a good local personal guide.
2017 AND A HISTORICAL LOW RISE HOTEL NEAR ORCHARD ROAD
On my 2017 Singapore visit, I looked for a hotel that had some of that famous old Singaporean character and history. I didn’t want to stay in a modern high-rise hotel. I found what I was looking for at the historical Goodwood Park hotel, close to Orchard Road. It’s a building that goes back to 1900 when it was the Teutonia Club for the expatriate German community.
The hotel changed hands in 1918 and was renamed Goodwood Hall after the famous English racecourse. By 1922, it had become a restaurant entertainment centre. In that year, the legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova performed there.
By 1929, it had become the Goodwood Park hotel, and by the end of the 1930’s, it was one of the best known hotels in Singapore attracting guests such as the Duke of Windsor and future King of England when he was still the Prince of Wales.
During WW2, the hotel was converted to a residence for high ranking Japanese soldiers. After the War, it was home to the British War Crimes Court before returning to hotel service. More trivia. It was the first hotel with a swimming pool in Singapore.
You can’t get too much ‘old Singapore’ than that! It’s expensive – but not in the realm of other ‘old’ hotels like the Raffles or the 1920’s built Fullerton, especially if you look out for a good deal! I got one dealing directly with the hotel, but it’s also worth checking other booking sites.
They do a High tea here if you can’t afford the one at the Raffles!
2019 and KATONG
In 2019 I returned, still on a quest to explore more of ‘old’ Singapore. No broken arm this time!
I headed to the ‘suburbs’ in the eastern part of Singapore, settling in at an upmarket hotel in the heart of the historical Katong district. Katong was home to the Peranakans (Chinese or Straits born Chinese), and popular with Eurasians. It was home to the wealthy elite in the late 19th century through to the mid 20th century. Today it offers a mix of cultures, wonderful preserved old buildings, and narrow lanes to wander where you’ll find traditional Peranakan crafts and cuisine.
The area is famous for its Katong Laksa (coconut curry rice noodles). I didn’t actually get to try the Laksa – I believe it’s quite spicy – but I did enjoy some great food there.
I enjoyed roaming the streets of Katong where you discover some of the oldest shops in Singapore, soak up the beautify of the old buildings and immerse yourself in a great community atmosphere. A taste of Singaporean history and culture worth seeking out.
Katong is only a 15 minute drive from the central city, and about the same distance to Changi Airport.
HOPE YOU ENJOY SOME OF MY OTHER KATONG PHOTOS BELOW
A good guide to the current Covid situation for travellers to Singapore can be found on the Changi airport site:
Don’t forget that if you are spending time in Singapore, there are some excellent tourist passes available. You’ll find the latest information about them at the site below:
Also SEE MY OTHER SINGAPORE STORY .. DEMPSEY HILL – SINGAPORE .. published March 2021
I would like one day to visit Singapore. The garden looks beautiful. Thank you for this virtual visit 🙂.
My dad came from Cumbria, so I’m finding your blog interesting. I visited in the 1970’s.
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