Monday, January 23, 2012

1MB Travels: Singapore: River (cruise) + Sky(park) Adventure

As is our M.O., when on vacation my family typically decides what we want to do, when we arrive - we pick a neighborhood and then let the day take us where it may (with the exception of most of our meals, of course!). On our second day in Singapore this holiday, we decided to take a stroll around a popular tourist area, Clarke Quay - which lead to a fantabulous all-day adventure on the river as well as soaring 57 stories above the city!

Clarke Quay is essentially a strip of restaurants and bars right on the Singapore riverfront (reminiscent of Hong Kong's Stanley in terms of a generally expat / tourist crowd that is laid back and in casual wear) - you can find eateries and bars that are right in line with Singapore's mix of primarily Indian, Malaysian, Chinese and European transplants. And then some American staples and important exports, like Hooters (heavy sarcasm intended) but with local waitresses.
While the loudly colored 3-story buildings housing these eateries and bars may look obnoxious - I could imagine this being a fun and convenient place for college kids or young adults travelling with family - and staying at any of the hotels within walking distance - who want to slip out at night in a safe environment.

Not being a young adult, but yes travelling with my parents - we brisked past the pubs towards the mall and supermarket at the end of the riverfront walk to stock up on drinks (another reason that makes Clarke Quay a convenient place to stay).

Somewhere along the way, we ran across a kiosk selling day cruises down the river - sort of like the Bateau Mouche in Paris, which offers a great way to see key sights in the city in a relaxed, short ride for just $15SG per person. My mom ingeniously also discovered that for $3SG more (so total of $18SG = ~$14US pp), you can use the cruise like a water taxi for 24 hours - with unlimited hopping on/off at popular stops should you wish to take a closer look on foot.

I loved the Bateau Mouche in Paris - and was excited about the concept of the HiPPO cruise being similar for the Singapore River.

There were sights both along the right and left banks of the river, and we passed another riverfront tourist hangout called Boat Quay, another collection of al fresco restaurants and bars...

...and Singapore's iconic symbol, the Merlion
And a building that looks like a cross between an armadillo and a spaceship - that turned out to be the Esplanade Theaters by the Bay.

Lots of skyscrapers, then the famous Singapore Flyer (a giant ferris wheel that affords 360 views of the city) in the distance, and the lotus-shaped Art and Science Museum
Then for the grand finale - the most breath-taking structure of all, and looks like some modern day Noah's Ark post flood - stranded atop three skyscrapers - Skypark.

Apparently Skypark is not some national monument, but the brainchild of some marketing genius behind the Marina Bay Sands Hotel & Casino (which occupy the three towers below the 'ark'). You can pretty much see this structure from anywhere in the city, and it draws people in like some invisible beacon, or moths to a flame.
According to Marina Bay Sands, Skypark stretches longer than the Eiffel tower laid sideways, or 4.5 jumbo jets, and the gravity-defying cantilever is one of the largest of its kind in the world.

For gamboholics' visitors' convenience, not only is it easy to get to Marina Bay Sands by MRT (Singapore's subway system), taxi or bus, it's also super accessible by boat - there is a dock built right across the street from Skypark, and HiPPO cruises makes its last stop and drop there.
Skypark is thankfully open to the public, not just hotel/casino guests - for an admission fee of $20SG=~$16US per adult.

The view from the top is spectacular - especially to see the fleets of ships 'taking a break' near harbor in the South China Sea.
Folks lucky enough to be able to afford to stay at Marina Bay Sands can also enjoy their rooftop infinity pool, with the spectacular views.

After checking out the view, us pleibes made our way back down to ground level to check out The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands (and enjoy the air conditioning in the mall - temperatures were in the 70s in late December and everyone was in shorts/dresses and flip flops - can't imagine how hot it would be in the summer!)

The mall was also built to entertain/impress - with a faux 'river' running through the heart and gondolas for rent (yeah it's kind of like the Venetian, Las Vegas). With high tourist traffic due to the hotel and casino - there are many international brands at this mall, even when it comes to eateries. Oh yes, this is where Nancy Silverton's Mozza has its Singapore outpost. We didn't try it as we have one in LA, and we'd rather focus on things from, or that you can only get in Singapore.
We stumbled across just such a find in one wing of the mall - a cafe which sat on a boat-inspired structure, suspended above the 'river'.

This was a branch of the Singaporean teahouse chain TWG, which treats tea as an art form.

The concept is steeped in the history of and celebrates Singapore as a former trading post for tea, spices and gourmet goods. Unfortunately the letters stand for something that isn't as exotic - The Wellness Group - the corporation that runs the business.

But we had fun immersing ourselves in a menu so large that the teas alone literally merited a book. Actually, two books - one that was an index of I think over 200 types of tea, and one that had descriptions of these teas that you had to cross reference if you wanted to know what they were.

The tea menu did end up a bit overwhelming - so we simply asked the waiter for recommendations. I went with a Fruit Mountain Tea milkshake - made with a black tea with "golden asian fruits" ($11SG ~$9US), SO good but pricey, while my parents went for classic hot teas: Genmaicha and Dragon Well.

They also have a great menu of salads, sandwiches and desserts which feature their teas as ingredients - we started with a Seared Foie Gras Salad ($29SG ~$23US) with housemade pan-seared foie gras served on tender spinach shoot salad, caramalized apples and carrots drizzled with Chocolate tea infused vinagrette.

Then my dad got a Mango Crumble ($12SG ~$9US) a delicious tart with mango wedges, light coconut cream infused with Vanilla Bourbon tea, topped with crunchy crumble biscuit, and scoop of Alfonso tea ice cream (black tea blended with rare mango). Every spoonful of this was pure heaven with fragrant tea interplaying with fresh, tart mango flavors.

My mom got a Bourbon Island Crepe ($14SG ~$11US) with mango marmalade tossed in light caramel sauce infused with Vanilla Bourbon tea and flavored with coconut, lime and vanilla.

I took the liberty of dipping my fork into both their plates, plus a Grand Wedding Tea macaron with passionfruit & coconut ($2SG ~$1.50US).

The teas, food and space are all lovely though some items were pricey - this was the most delicious and relaxing afternoon tea we've ever had in the middle of a mall (or perhaps any cafe).

After catching a cab to dinner at Boon Tong Kee, a restaurant recommended by my uncle - also a foodie! :) - we dragged ourselves back onto the HiPPO boat for one last ride, to capture the nighttime experience and views.

I don't know if it's just a case of - almost everything in the city always looks better at night - but we LOVED Singapore from a riverboat after dark.
Especially Skypark, which turns into some vessel from outerspace at night - with its crazy looking lights and laser show.

Clarke Quay also looks beautiful, lit up at night (apparently you can also dine al fresco on the two traditional looking ships near the center of the photo)

All in all, a spectacular day with lots of great memories and 'Kodak' (or shall I say Instagram? Sadly people don't use film/prints photos anymore) moments, for relatively little money - loved it!

[For more photos from our Singapore trip, check out my album on Facebook]

Clarke Quay
Ph: +65 6337-3292

HiPPO River Cruises
Clarke Quay, Singapore (kiosk next to Hooters)
Ph: +65 6338-6877


Bayfront Avenue, 10 | Marina Bay Sands HotelSingapore 018956Singapore


TWG Tea on the Bridge
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
2 Bayfront Ave., Singapore 018972 Canal Level B2-89
Ph: +65 6535 1837



  1. easy to get to Marina Bay Sands by MRT (Singapore's subway system), taxi or bus, it's also super accessible by boat - there is a dock built right across the street from Skypark, and HiPPO cruises makes its last stop and drop there.

    -- walking from mrt station is more fun also.

  2. Clark Quay's surroundings reminds me of Europe. It has a touch of European designs and ambiance especially if you walk around before sunset. Great place for taking pictures especially at the bridge.



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