A sea of stunning skyscrapers soon banished my traditional ideas on architectural gems.
I have always been a big fan of elegant old buildings which have been lovingly restored and cared for. But I have to admit to being blown away by the sheer beauty of modern and sleek Singapore, an island with the same population as the whole of Scotland!
Man made by filling the sea with sand and soil and combining 64 smaller islands to create a big one, this is the world’s second costliest city and the most expensive in Asia.
But it’s fascinating and well worth the long-haul flight from the UK. With well thought out ideas to ensure that it is environmentally sound and a great place to live, it’s easy to see why it has such a laid-back atmosphere.
There are no screeches of sirens and people shouting in the streets. Singapore is a calm and safe place with lots of greenery to make up for the tall towers and with four official languages, it has a vibrant and diverse culture.
A visit to the exotic Gardens by the Bay shows you just how seriously the environment is taken. As you stand on the 128 metre OCBC aerial Skyway, suspended between two super trees, 22 metres above ground, all you can see is green, with the Singapore strait in front and full of passing container ships.
Created by the National Parks Board as a showcase of horticulture and garden artistry, it is a wonderful place to spend a few hours. You can stroll round three waterfront gardens and at night watch a brilliant light show for free.
Tickets are needed to look round the flower dome, the biggest glass greenhouse in the world which maintains a temperature of between 23˚ C to 25˚ C to keep flowers and plants from across the globe healthy.
Fans of the film Avatar can enjoy the misty cloud forest, full of aliens and blooms inspired by the hit movie. Close by is floral fantasy which is a nod to eccentric pieces of art made from flowers.
The gardens are shadowed by the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel, cleverly made up of three towers topped by a skypark observation deck which affords magnificent views of the city and the Formula One Grand Prix race circuit.
Dubbed the “Lion City” after a visiting Indonesian prince named the island after the animal he said to have seen, Singapore is also known as “instant Asia” because it shows visitors glimpses of cultures brought by immigrants.
It’s bright and its brash and its definitely controlled, with locals needing permission and charged eye watering amounts to buy and drive a car and there are strict rules and big fines for misuse of drugs and alcohol, as well as dropping chewing gum and litter.
But as a visitor this adds to a feeling of calm in a place which is buzzing with fun. To get the best out of a trip, it is best to stay central and the shopping district of Orchard Road has some of the best hotels.
The newly opened Pan Pacific, just off the main strip in Claymore Road, echoes Singapore’s sustainability values. With solar panel technology, an in-room filtered water system and a bio digester which transforms food waste into cleaning water, it is a green oasis.
With 23 storeys, housing 346 bedrooms, the hotel is divided into four terraces, a forest, beach, garden and cloud, which is best seen upwards from the lagoon swimming pool, where a huge mirror ceiling makes you think you are on a palm island.
Bedrooms by the pool have access to the water and are close to the hotel spa, where experienced staff are on hand to massage away the tensions.
There’s green shrubbery everywhere you look and complemented by wooden finishes, while club bedrooms have cool sitting areas with views of the city and access to a special lounge for VIP breakfasts and cocktail hours. Food with a Peruvian twist is served in the Mosella restaurant and the sweetest oysters and champagne in the Florette bar.
A great way of getting your bearings is via The Big Bus Tour, which offers 24 or 24 hours of sight-seeing and takes in all the landmarks and districts including the lively Little Italy and Chinatown, with ongoing commentary. You can use it to get to all the attractions including the Museum of Ice Cream, a pink filled building dedicated to the cool food and a great place to take selfies.
As well as designer shops, Orchard Road is home to Hilton’s largest hotel in Asia Pacific. With large airy modern rooms, the hotel is a haven for families with interconnecting rooms, special deals for attractions and plenty of activities to keep everyone happy. Sunday is the day to try out the magnificent Estate Brunch, where you can enjoy free flowing champagne as you sample the finest foods from around the world in an astonishing array of rooms packed with different cuisines, to see is to believe.
Across the road is the trendy Pullman Hotel, oozing with five-star luxury and big bedrooms and the slogan “our world is your playground”. With a colourful interior in its 326 rooms and a swimming pool complete with animal inflatables, it’s a great central spot and its Eden Restaurant serves up great cocktails and modern cuisine.
With so much to see and do, one of the best options is to enlist the expertise of Klook, the online booking service which can help with everything from tickets to transportation.
It’s a great way of getting discounts especially if you go for a day out at Sentosa Island, a former British military fortress, which is now home to hotels, beaches and fabulous attractions including the S.E.A. Aquarium, with more than 100,000 marine animals. The Mega Adventure Park allows you to fly along a zip wire above the forests and across the beach, while the 4D Adventureland is ready to engulf you in animated technology. Then there is Universal for rides and shops and the Sky Helix and Cable Car, which give fabulous views of the island and Mount Faber.
Technology is a must in Singapore and two great ambassadors are Yoshi and Yolanda, the robots who run the cool Yotel in Orchard Road.
They offer room service without human interaction and are just one of the great pulls of this funky hotel. Rooms are compact and the bathrooms have great views of the city, with the Komynuiti restaurant serving up tasty food.
Yoshi and Yolanda prove that embracing modern architecture and sustainability is a great way of enjoying a different look at our ever-changing world.
Singapore is a 13-hour flight from the UK via all the major airlines. For airport parking, lounges, and transfers, www.holidayextras.com can help, whilst plenty of tourist information is available by visiting: www.visitsingapore.com.
Rebecca Hay is an experienced travel writer and member of The British Guild of Travel Writers. Follow her adventures with her family on Twitter and Instagram @emojiadventurer and on Facebook via EmojiAdventurers2.