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First time to SEA

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Good evening from England,

My partner and I will be making our first trip to SE Asia in May. We will be in Singapore for 7 days while he is presenting at a medical conference then we have up to another 7 days to explore the region. Return flights to London Heathrow and hotel in Singapore will be paid for but we will have a budget to stick to for the 'holiday' portion of this trip - I'd say mid range! A day or two at a beach would be nice but that is the most amount of time we'd probably like to spend relaxing, we would much rather explore the culture and sights of the region. We're mid to late 20's, enjoy exploring/nature/history/food and maybe a few chilled quieter bars but are not into the 'club' scene so buzzing night life isn't top of our list.

My questions are these:

1) What do you recommend to do in Singapore? As a couple we may have one or two full days to explore, the rest of the time will be evenings. I will have more time by myself during the day - what do you recommend to on my own and is Singapore easy to get around?

2) Where do you recommend we go from Singapore? We can travel on from here Friday 13th May midday. Our flights back to LHR are from Singapore, we would travel back no later than Friday 20th May.

I realise this is a very short period of time for such a wonderful area so it may be difficult to narrow down where to go but as we have no experience of this part of the world absolutely any recommendations/advice/travel tips are very welcome.

Thank you,
Naomi

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    How wonderful to have paid-for time in Singapore (one of the most expensive destinations in Asia) and a week to explore elsewhere!

    In Singapore, I recommend the Botanical Gardens the Museum of Asian Civilizations and food. Singapore is known for its food. The Singapore Tourist Board has the best resources: guidebooks, maps, all free!

    I'd suggest you choose one place to visit in your week after the conference. Here is my take on your options:

    1. Bali You might think of Bali as beaches, but don't go there for the beaches, go for the culture. Bali is unique: A Hindu island in a sea of Muslim Indonesia. If you want to spend a couple of days at a beach, fine, but spend most of your time near Ubud, the cultural center of Bali. Weather-wise, May is a good time to go. Accommodations are available in all price ranges from the over-the top expensive to dirt cheap. Note that you will want a place with air conditioning.

    2. If you are a bit more adventuresome, consider Java. You can visit Borobudur, Prambanam and other ancient temples as seen production of the Ramayana Ballet in an open air pavilion near Prambanam.

    3. You could opt for Angkor Wat in Cambodia instead. If this interests you, pick up a copy of Dawn Rooney's book, Angkor: A Guide to Cambodia's Wondrous temples to prepare for your visit. Silk Air has non-stop flights to/from Siem Reap.

    4. Malaysia has lots of options, from Sabah and Sarawak for wildlife to Georgetown Penang for culture and food.

    A picture can be worth thousands of words. Take a look at our SE Asia photos at www.marlandc.com to see what attracts you.

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    Hello Kathie,

    Thank you for your response. Yes we are very lucky indeed as this is a part of the world that felt very much beyond our means so we would really like to make the most of this opportunity to explore.

    Your suggestions are very helpful, we had not considered Java. Cambodia was somewhere we were interested in, as was Bali. We will do more research into these areas!

    Your photographs are fantastic, it looks like a very magical part of the world.

    Some short research on the internet suggests it will be extremely hot in May - is this right? We are not used to such heat coming from the North of England where it is usually cold and raining!!

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    Yes, no matter where (or when) you go it will be hot in this part of the world. Take a look at a map - Singapore is virtually on the equator! You will have to consider this as you plan how to spend your time - out early in the morning for sightseeing, back to your air conditioned accommodations before noon, wait to go back out until 4 pm or later. Drink lots of water, use sun screen, take breaks in air-conditioned places.

    Enjoy your trip!

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    As Kathie mentioned both Singapore and Bali are just about on the equator and it's steamy all year round. You will feel the heat less in Bali in the Ubud area, which is greener and a bit higher in elevation, and at the beach which is breezier. Avoid exposure, especially at the beach. Take a nap or have a spa treatment in the afternoon.

    Singapore because it's urban seems hotter, though it's widely air conditioned. Take it easy midday and don't underestimate the combined impact of jetlag and heat.

    AirAsia flights from Singapore to Bali are cheap and efficient. It's easy to book on line, but be aware that the lowest fares are non-cancellable and fees for date changes can negate the original savings.

    The weather will be fine in Bali in May and your dates miss the month's two holidays which is good.

    A few mid-range places that I'd recommend are
    The Colony and Alila in Seminyak (Petitenget beach)
    Uma Ubud and Alila in Ubud (inland)

    There are some wonderful sophisticated restaurants (Balinese, other Asian and Western) both in Seminyak and in Ubud. The most popular do fill up so make reservations before you go.
    I like LaLucciola, Sardine, Sarong, Bambu in Seminyak
    Hujan Locale, Spice in Ubud.

    Singapore's a breeze to get around. The MTR is easy and taxis are cheap. I'd concur with the Botanic Gardens and Museum of Asian Civilizations. I also like the Night Safari and Bird Park.

    Asian food is terrific in Singapore, but if you're in the mood for western I'd recommend the Moosehead Kitchen and Burnt Ends.

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    Warm Friday morning greetings from our lovely home of Singapore to you, naomi; glad you will be spending time in SIN. Love living in Singapore for family, work, residence; hope your stay is enjoyable and productive.

    One SIN suggestion is the relatively new National Gallery Singapore. We were guests at a memorable evening reception and tour around the time of her grand opening events. Toured again this past weekend with some cousins visiting from Scotland; great venue.

    Concur with the suggestion of Bali; so special. First visited with my parents and siblings years (decades) ago; will be returning in a few hours for a wedding and Valentine's Day celebration with the loved one. Then, back home to SIN for the always interesting Singapore Air Show with family, friends, colleagues and clients.

    Any aviation suggestions (particularly with my primary business / leisure travel carrier, Singapore Airlines), honoured to assist.

    Enjoy, naomi. Early and warm weekend (and Valentine) wishes to you and all from Singapore,

    robert


    ... Singapore Airlines, You're a Great Way to Fly ...

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    Hi Naomi

    Sounds like a great trip. Singapore is one of our favourite destinations. You will find it very easy to get around. The MRT is easy to navigate and if you need to catch a taxi it is cheap.

    A couple of suggestions for Singapore:
    - Singapore Zoo - the night safari is simply amazing and IMO the zoo is one of the best I've been too. They also have a river safari at the zoo now, which we will be trying out later this year. It's about 30mins from the city and easy to catch a taxi
    - Sentosa Island is great to explore. You can chill out on their "beaches" or check out the Fort Siloso for a bit of history. You can walk across the boardwalk to get to the island or the cable car will give you a great view of Singapore.
    - Bumbooat ride up the river.
    - Gardens by the Bay are very pretty and if your ok with heights the walking platform is great.
    - For great views over Marina Bay visit Level 33 for a drink and a bite to eat on the balcony. At 8pm every night they have a light show which is great to watch while sipping a cocktail.
    - If you want to splurge on dinner one night our favourite restaurant is Forlino (Italian) which is right next to the Merlion. Chinatown is great for cheap eats and there is a night market there too.
    - Clarke Quay is also worth a visit, but is pricey. It's nice to just wander along at night with an icecream.

    If you would like a beach holiday afterwards, I would also suggest Bali. The temperature is similar to Singapore but it's much more relaxing. It's only 2.5hrs from Singapore so not too far.

    We prefer to stay in Nusa Dua (secure community) rather than the busier Kuta/Seminyak areas. The Marriott Courtyard is a great mid range hotel. Depending on your budget the Sheraton Laguna or Westin are right on the beach.

    Ubud is where you will get the feel the real Bali though. I have never stayed there but have done day trips and it's very traditional and serene. However it's not near a beach.

    My other suggestion would be Phuket. It's less than 2 hours from Singapore. Personally hubby and I prefer Phuket to Bali (though Bali has improved its facilities and cleanliness in the past few years). We stayed at La Flora Patong Beach, which is a lovey boutique hotel on the beach. You're right in the middle of things but it's actually very quiet once you enter the hotel premises. From here you can visit a few of the surround islands such as Phi Phi island.

    I think you will have a great time! Happy planning.

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    Hi! Noting that you only have a couple of full days to explore with your partner, you may wish to take note of when you choose to visit certain places. rellie2 has some great recommendations.

    1. Gardens by the Bay (Day)
    - It's best to visit this in the daytime imo. I've been to the conservatories (Flower Doe & Cloud Dome) during both day and night; but it's close to impossible to see the plants by night as the conservatories are barely lit.

    2. Clarke Quay (Night)
    - It's known for its nightlife so definitely reserved for the night. If you do happen to be there in the daytime, you could walk further down to Robertson Quay where there are a few cafes.

    To explore the culture/history, I'd recommend:

    3. Chinatown (Day/Night)
    - Walking down the streets of Chinatown by day or night hardly differ; but day time may be preferred if you'd like to visit the Buddhist and Hindu temples along that stretch. I personally find that these temples being in close proximity to one another reflects our mixed culture quite well. I highly recommend heading to the hawker centre (near Temple Street) in Chinatown and skipping restaurants to immerse in the culture completely. There are tens of hawker stalls, featuring all kinds of cuisine, serving at an affordable price. Hawker centres (or coffee shops) are a quintessential part of Singapore.

    4. Lau Pa Sat (Night)
    - Lau Pa Sat is also a hawker centre/food complex located in the heart of CBD. I suggest heading there for dinner one night as you enjoy satay (meat on stick) on a closed off road there. It's the closest you can get to "street food" in a fine city like Singapore. You can also order more food from the various stalls in the complex itself.

    For exploration in the daytime by yourself, there are a few "hipster" areas that are quieter than the hustle and bustle of shopping malls and are littered with many cafes:

    5. Duxton Road/Hill (Day)
    - It's home to many cafes and other joints like Korean barbeque. Perhaps this could be planned together with Chinatown as Chinatown is just a short walk away.

    6. Robertson Quay (Day)
    - Brunch in the day along Robertson Quay and drinks in the night along Clarke Quay.

    7. Yong Siak Street (Day)
    - Yong Siak Street is a stretch in one of the mature housing estates in Singapore and a short distance away from Tiong Bahru MRT. You can see upclose how some of the homes are like. There are some cafes and a bookstore. Unfortunately there aren't places of interest within walking distance; the closest I can think of is a bus ride to Chinatown.

    Nature-wise, I think a hike in Macritchie Reservoir would fit the bill. It takes about 2-3h to complete one trail, featuring a treetop walk and is free of charge. Do check the weather beforehand or bring an umbrella along as tropical Singapore can be quite temperamental!

    Hope you have a great time in Singapore!

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    We were there for 5 days beginning on Feb. 19 and then cruised for 11 days. I loved Singapore and would move there IF we won the lotto. As Kathie said Gardens by the bay is great and for eye popping stores try strolling on Orchard Road. We loved China town but were not impressed with Little India.
    Splurge on dinner at the 57th floor restaurant at Marina Bay Sands. The view at night is amazing.
    Clarke Quay opens at 1800 and it's the club and bar scene so decide for yourself about this.
    You can go to Raffles too to try a Singa sling where it was invented at the Long Bar but it's outdoors meaning HOT and its 31 SD. We were there yesterday as we had one day post cruise but it was around 95F, too hot to drink outside for us.
    You may want to consider Sentosa which is a theme park and is full of restaurants and shops and had Univ. Studios and a cool cable car ride.
    No trip should miss the iconic Merlion.
    You will find cabs cheap and the MRT easy to use.
    Best of all are how warm and friendly and safe the people are. We experienced by far the best level of customer service we have ever seen.
    Yesterday I went shopping for some new shirts and I had three people waiting on me and fussing over me and it was just really nice to experience.
    Enjoy your time there.
    As for a side trip we liked Saigon The best by far and compare to Singapore especially it's quite budget friendly and you still get a very good level of service and the people are very very friendly too. There is a lot to see and do there and if you do go I know a great tour guide that we used to be excellent for you as he was for us and so many others as his reviews are outstanding.
    You can also try Bangkok which is terrific two and nearby Bangkok is a place called Pattaya which has an unbelievably beautiful all wooden temple called the Sanctuary of Truth. It was well worth seeing and in addition Thailand is also very friendly on ones budget.

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    Hi, there!

    A Singapore resident here. I second Chinatown and Gardens by the Bay. In fact, Gardens by the Bay is located at Marina Bay, home to many Singapore landmarks such as the Merlion, Marina Bay Sands hotel, Singapore Flyer, and more.

    I'd recommend taking a stroll with your partner in the evening (starting at about 7pm) from the Merlion and slowly work your way to Gardens by the Bay. The sun sets at around 7:30pm every day so this way you'll get to see the the bay transforms from day to night in a more forgiving weather.

    Chinatown is for the crowds, the food, the souvenir shopping, and overall camaraderie that are less pretentious than Orchard Rd.

    Orchard is not a must (IMHO) but if you do have time to spare, it's worth checking out. Orchard Rd is always busy no matter the time of the year and you can really feel the energy.

    All of the above are easily reached by public transport. If you are not used to walking, these three alone will tire you out like nobody's business.

    For your other 7 days, I second Bali. It's got something for everyone. You've made it all the way to this side of the world, I'd say Bali is your best bet. Not saying that other places are not worth it but seeing that you've got only limited time to spend, Bali is IMHO where you can get the most value.

    Have you ever considered Bintan? It's an Indonesian island about an hour by ferry from Singapore. It's still somewhat under the radar so it's less crowded and perfect for chilling out at the hotel or by the beach for a day or two. It doesn't offer much activities so for some people it could be quite boring. You can check out my Bintan trip here in case you're interested:

    http://rushbijoux.blogspot.sg/2013/03/travel-report-bintan.html

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    I can understand how Bintan can be a fine break for someone who lives in Singapore or nearby, but for those of us to are flying from the other side of the world - not so much. I know several people who spent a few days there and had nothing good to say about it. They went to Bali before or after and/or to Thailand. Thailand and Bali are much better choices than Bintan.

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