Sitting at one degree north of the equator, the Republic of Singapore is the perfect destination for warm weather year-round. It’s for this reason that the small island nation makes the perfect host for Exercise Commando Sling. The four-week event pits the U.S. Air Force against the Singaporean Air Force in 1v1 Basic Fighter Maneuvers, or in layman’s terms, dogfighting. F-16s, F-15s, and F-5s twirl in numerous knife fights over the Riau Archipelago. Each event is an unchoreographed competitive exchange of knowledge and skill, that puts national and personal pride on the line. The high-G maneuvers continue until the jets run out of gas and are forced to return to the densely populated Southeast Asian city.
With a population of over five million and a size of only 280 square miles, Singapore was forced to grow upward. This is none more apparent than on final approach to Paya Lebar Airbase. Situated in the eastern side of the city, the straight-in approach to land takes you past downtown and eye-level with the famed Marina Bay Sands hotel that distinctively marks the eastern portion of the skyline. Each return to base offered a bird’s eye view of the city and helps identify the first places to tour once your feet are firmly on the ground.
Once out of the jet and onto the streets, the city offers countless sights. The absolute best way to take in the views is while relaxing in the warm waters of the infinity edge pool that graces the top of the Sands hotel. Across the Marina Bay from the rest of downtown, the hotel masquerading as a cruise ship offers unobstructed vistas of the skyline. Enjoy the tropical weather with a nighttime swim while techno-beats thump from Ce La Vie, an ultra-lounge on the north end of the rooftop.
After a dip in the cool waters, and a chilled cocktail, warm back up at the tables and slot machines that fill the world’s largest atrium casino. Finished in 2010, the structure adds modernity to an already state-of-the-art metropolis.
Take a venture to the east of the hotel and get lost in a bit of nature at the Gardens by the Bay. The waterfront park fills 250 acres of prime real estate in the central region of Singapore. Crowning the gardens are the supertrees that rise above the emerald of the plants. Circling through the metal structures is the OCBC Skyway. Pause for a moment on the airborne walkway and take in the view of downtown. Before leaving the gardens swing through the combination of the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. The Flower Dome is the largest glass greenhouse in the world and will immediately overwhelm your senses as the brilliant floral colors combine with their soft scent. Next door, the cloud forest offers a step into a world that rings similar to the hanging gardens of James Cameron’s epic Avatar. The best way to see all the sights is to buy one of the offered bundles from their website or at the park.
After taking in the greenery of the garden city, enjoy the famed waterways weaving through downtown. Follow the edge of Marina Bay toward the towering skyscrapers and stop for a cocktail at the old colonial Raffles hotel. Built in the early 1830s, the beach house transitioned to hotel in the 1870s and survived a Japanese occupation during World War II. An easy walk from Raffles, stop by Merlion park. The Merlion is the official mascot of Singapore and is featured in a prominent statue at the water’s edge. Showing the blend of lion and mermaid, the sculpture is a distinctive symbol of the small nation.
After the park, continue down the Singapore river shoreline to Boat Quay. What used to be a busy port, the quay has been transformed into a food and drink paradise. Awnings line the riverfront with tables and chairs filling the underneath. Each shop offering a different Asian or European delicacy paired with your choice of drink. In a nod to the British history of the city, the fish and chips is a must for any would be traveler.
Add another five minutes to your walk past Boat Quay, and you’ll find the regal Clarke Quay. In vibrant colors that make even the Vegas strip look tame, the neighborhood offers high-end shopping, restaurants, bars, and clubs. The area is all open air, but the city has giant umbrella shaped coverings that protect shoppers from the rain common near the equator. Take time to stroll the area but bring a full wallet if you plan on buying. Luckily, while the high-end shops of Singapore carry an equally high-end budget, some of the best food to be found in the nation come from small Hawker stands spread around the city.
Hawker Centres are a series of street food stalls and tables, developed by the Singapore government to better regulate the growing number of street food vendors. What resulted, is an incredible selection of foods at your fingertips. Choose from Southeast Asian delicacies and fantastic Indian imports, or instead find a cheap Tiger beer and relax in the warm night. Even with all the amazing selections, it would be a misstep to skip the famed Singapore Chili Crab. Eaten with your bare hands, this sweet and savory dish is best enjoyed with a napkin nearby. Bring an appetite, because the meal is filling, particularly if you add the delicious Mantou steamed buns on the side.
As night falls, the lights come alive in the Garden City. While there are many ways to take in the flickering vistas, one of the best is a ride on the Singapore Flyer. Finished in 2008, the observation wheel is perfectly situated across the Marina Bay to provide a picturesque view of downtown and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Buy a single ticket for one time around or book a personal capsule with a group of friends to enjoy for a longer time. Either way, bring a camera and take in the flashing lights of the metropolis.
While it’s impossible to capture all the city has to offer in a single blog, hopefully this gives a peek into the island nation that is famed around the world. The city itself can be seen as a stopover, but to truly enjoy what has become a pearl of Asia, a multi-day vacation is the best way to make the most out of your time. Night zoo’s, theme parks, and the beautiful Sentosa island are just a few of the other must-see stops.
Thanks for reading my account. Comment and let me know what incredible stops in Singapore I should add to the list. Also, Join my mailing list here to stay updated on travel and aviation updates. In the next adventure, we will be exploring another fantastic nation of Southeast Asia.