SINGAPORE: A LAYOVER CHALLENGE
January 1, 1970
The plane landed at 8 o’clock in the evening on a Tuesday. Bags in hand and 18 hours to spare, every traveler who has had a long layover will ask themselves this question: What now?
CHANGI TO THE CITY
From the Changi International Airport, Singapore’s central where you can see every iconic landmark this sovereign state has to offer is a mere 30-40 minutes depending on where you stop. As for me, I opted to stay at The Pod Boutique Hostel due to its geographical convenience. Considering that I don’t really have much time to go around, I thought it was best to stay in a hostel that has all the comforts of a boutique hotel (sans seclusion of course) but still is in close proximity to what I wanted to see. Not only was the hostel clean, modern, safe, and supplied everything I needed for a quick solo stay, it was near the MRT stations that opened up the entire city in an easy minutes travel.
I decided to venture some more that brought me to the Millenia Walk to find something to eat and what Singapore’s nightlife might be like. As luck would have it, I arrived when they were taking the last order but a band was still playing. I took the opportunity to order the Singapore Sling- the gin-based cocktail that originated in this country at the Long Bar in Raffles Hotel. Hey, I am a tourist afterall. I called it a night after I finished my burger and coming back to the hostel was a breeze considering there weren’t a lot of people out and about during week night. Well lit streets and twinkling skyscrapers, the view from the any spot you choose in the city. I closed my eyes and understood why Singapore draws so many people from all over the world.
HOW TO SEE THE LANDMARKS MINUS THE HORDES OF TOURISTS
I’m a sucker for catching the sunrise so the best and cheapest way to see so many landmarks is by running or walking to get there. The first train departs at 5:30 AM and I alighted at the Nicoll Highway MRT, a few minutes -walk from the hostel, and got off at the Promenade station. It’s a 5-minute walk to the Singapore Flyer and that’s where I started my run. This was my first time in Singapore but even so I did not get lost. Once you see the Singapore Flyer just follow the road and you’ll see from the distance across the river the Super Trees of the Gardens by the Bay. Worried that it will just be you? I ran on my own during my trip but there were plenty of expats and locals that do their morning exercises in the trail. A few minutes more and I reached the iconic Merlion statue which luckily is in front of the Marina Bay Sands. That’s 3 birds with 1 stone and the only thing I paid for was the MRT ride. How’s that for wise wandering?
LAST FEW HOURS AND LAST FEW SIGHTS
I decided to take a different route and got off at the Bugis MRT which was also near the hostel. I took the time roam around the hip and artsy neighbourhood- Haji Lane and Arab Street which was a stone’s throw away from where I was staying. I have to say that walking around and seeing the murals without the many people that usually are present later in the day made me appreciate the district more. It was quaint but full of character with heaps of restaurants and cafes that I so wished I could have dined in had I had more time.
PROS, CONS, AND WHAT IFS
My time was up and as I rode the train to the airport I thought to myself that I saw so much in so little time that I wanted to come back before I had even left. Sure I didn’t get to see the many gardens or other architectural wonders there but at least I saw the icons that the world knows most about. Singapore is just as beautiful and amazing in the morning as it would have been at night. As a solo female traveler, I did not feel unsafe wandering around on my own at night or even early in the morning. The place was spotless and the public transportation was seamless. Here are a few tips in case you find yourself stuck in a long layover at the Lion City:
– Trains are the best way to travel. Once you get to the arrivals, there are heaps of stalls selling pre-loaded train cards that are easy to use and reload. The trains are very spacious and clean so you have plenty for you and your luggage. It’s quick, fast, cheap, and you’ll avoid traffic.
– Best you wear sneakers or comfortable shoes because Changi airport is huge and you’ll have plenty of stairs to climb up and down when you get to the train stops. Seems like a minor detail but when you’re pulling a heavy luggage up a flight of stairs, you’ll thank your lucky stars you packed your heels and wore your flats instead.
– Wear cool and light clothing. Singapore even in the morning was pretty humid even for me. So while taking your tours and walks, keep it to minimum and stay away from layers.
– If you have a short layover, you can waste away your time around the Changi airport. This massive airport has game rooms, endless shops and café options, gardens with beautiful floral arrangements, and even a pool! You’ll stay connected online with your loved ones as they have free high-speed WiFi and charging stations all throughout the terminals. I was lucky enough to have seen one of their fun promotional installments for Star Wars as they had life-sized Storm Troopers and a First Order Tie Fighter on display.
– If you go to Singapore with more time in the morning than at night, here are a few places you might like to visit: Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Botanical Gardens, or Sentosa Island.
Love it or hate it, layovers can be fun. I’m one who prefers having layovers especially in countries which are a bit expensive so I can see it little by little without shelling out for another ticket. It’s all a matter of perspective. Layovers: 2 countries. 1 ticket. Sounds like a superb deal to me!