The Best Transit Lounge: Singapore
With no offense intended to the fine country that she is, Singapore is not known as a grippingly exciting travel destination. Instead, Singapore is a great place for an extended layover. With connections to Thailand, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and many other exotic locations, the neat, tidy and air-conditioned Singapore may be the best transit lounge in the world.
If walking under mangrove trees and spying out the beautiful birds of the region sounds like just what your cramped, coach-seat legs need, make a stop at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Plan on two to five hours to explore the shady catwalks and hide behind the blinds to observe the tropical beauties of nature. This reserve, Singapore’s first and only protected wetland, is open from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.
The Singapore Botanic Garden is another option for those who need to re-connect with the outdoors after the long hours of recycled air during their flight. With a breathtaking display of plant life and luxuriously ample number of orchids to gaze on, these gardens put life back into the jet-weary. The Botanic Garden is open from 5 a.m. to midnight daily and the Orchid Garden within, from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
For the history buff, Robertson Quay is the restored old Singapore of days gone by. Here you can walk among the shops and restaurants that line the sea front and feel the presence of the past. There is a laid back feel to the area and a stroll among the art houses, dining options and wine bars makes a pleasant evening.
The famous Orchard Road houses the exclusive, high-end shops that lure many daily. Tangs, the showpiece of this area, is what some people call Nordstrom PLUS! Holland Village, with more affordable prices and a casual feel, is another shopping area where the insiders do their purchasing. Holland Village, as well as the bazaars on Arab Street and in Little India, offers local ambience where you will find exotic textiles and other items not seen in the fine department stores of Orchard Road.
If music or theatre would revive you, check ahead about what will be on at Singapore’s world-class concert hall, The Esplanade. An evening out for seafood, followed by a quality performance in this stunning setting may be just what you need. Your hotel will be able to recommend their favorite seafood restaurants and your taxi driver knows where the Concert Hall is.
Perhaps one of the most ironic little treats about a day in Singapore is High Tea in the historic Tiffin Room at the Raffles Hotel. “Ironic” because having a luscious tea in fine British style on a small tropical island in Asia seems like a contrast too strong to ignore. Colonized by the British in the 19th Century, Singapore retains this taste of Her Majesty even today. Crisp white lines and friendly staff welcome you to indulge in treats that complement the taste of the steaming tea. High Tea is served from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended but not required. For a more casual, but also lovely, afternoon tea, The Empire Cafe at the Raffles Hotel offers tea from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Call 6331-1612; or email ; www.raffleshotel.com
Singapore is small enough that every taxi driver will know how to find each destination you mention and taxis are safe and reasonably priced. The metro line, MRT, is also safe, clean and convenient. If time is too short for an overnight stay, go straight to an information booth inside Changi International Airport to discover many of the short jaunts into the city, including the free bus tour that you can take without even going through customs.