Singapore is well known as a major transport hub connecting destinations across South East Asia and beyond. But this clean, green westernized oasis marooned bizarrely in the middle of chaotic South East Asia is much more than just a place to refuel.
Known as the ‘Garden State’ on account of its extensive green spaces, beautiful parks and gardens, this wealthy country also boasts some of the most impressive night-time skylines on the planet, is home to a world-famous zoo and is the birthplace of a must-try eponymous cocktail. However many travellers are just passing through and fail to see its potential beyond a transport hub.
We travelled to Singapore twice and fell in love with this high tech, high rise city crammed with shiny skyscrapers, refreshing greenery and an orderliness that is so at odds with the rest of South East Asia.
Whether you’ve got 8 hours, 24 hours or more between flights, here’s how to make the most of an airport stopover in Singapore.
From deserted beaches and bustling cities to historic temples and lush green jungle, South East Asia has it all and then some. We spent two months travelling around this fascinating region. Here are our South East Asian highlights in pictures.
My teeth chatter as we lurch over another pothole and my ill-fitting helmet slips down over my eyes for the 14th time, but I don’t care because we’re riding through the most spectacular tree lined avenue, the sun flashing through the leaf canopy like strobe lights. When we top the crest of the hill the sea stretches out twinkling before us, framing a perfect crescent of white sand. We oooh and aaah as we have done on every hilltop and around every corner so far that day.
There are no shortage of beautiful beaches in the Philippines. There are long ones, pink ones, hidden ones, deserted ones, rugged wave battered ones and sugary white ones. There are beaches full of colourful kitesurfers and beaches for cocktail swilling backpackers. The choice is mind boggling. The only trouble you might have is deciding which beautiful beach to sink your toes into.
Having spent a month in the Philippines travelling to as many of the islands as we could manage, we found lots of stunning beaches, all unique in their own special way. Here’s our pick of the best. See full post
Wearing traditional conical hats and colourful clothing, the rice pickers laugh and chat cheerfully amongst themselves as they go about their work, pausing every so often to answer their mobile phones. The scene perfectly epitomizes Vietnam’s extremes of old and new. From the colourful tribespeople in the northern mountains to the tech savvy teenagers on motorbikes, jostling for position in six indistinguishable lanes of traffic in Ho Chi Minh City. Go to full post
Laos took us by surprise. From the moment we set foot outside the airplane at the most picturesque airport I’ve ever seen we were bewitched. We were expecting lush jungle and a charming French colonial vibe but weren’t prepared for Laos’ raw, unspoilt beauty. Outside the main tourist spots the land of a million elephants is still relatively undeveloped compared to its neighbours, making it a traveller’s dream destination.
“Seung seung” I say. Slowly the elephant lifts her front leg and waits patiently. Her huge brown eye looks steadily into mine. I can’t quite believe it but my elephant is giving me a leg up! These beautiful, intelligent animals can learn up to 150 voice commands. The mahout nodded and reached for my hand. Placing my foot on the elephants leg I was hoisted onto her bare neck, her skin warm and spongy against mine. We move slowly and deliberately, gently rocking from side to side as she lumbers through the jungle.
The countryside in northern Vietnam is mind-bogglingly beautiful. Shimmering green rice terraces, rustic little villages, soaring peaks shrouded in curling mist. Chances are these are the images that drew you to travel in Vietnam in the first place. There’s just one small problem…the gateway to this stunning landscape is Sapa, a soulless tourist trap riddled with pushy street vendors where huge hotel blocks are going up at lightening pace. Crowds of selfie stick wielding tourists pour in by the bus load and jostle for position despite the uninspiring streetscape while horns blare incessantly in competition with the local traders for your attention. You buy from me! You buy! Read more
Grey clouds gather above Sihanoukville harbour. We’re told it will be a rocky ride by our captain as we board a wooden boat that has seen better days. As the harbour disappears behind us, beers are passed round and the soundtrack from Titanic blares from the on-board speaker. “It’s the captain’s favourite” one of the crew tells us between bouts of laughter, as we lurch violently from side to side. That was the start of the most hilarious and terrifying boat ride we’ve ever experienced.
Our eyes met across the dusty red road. Neither of us moved. It was a sunset stand off. Man versus beast, or rather cow versus girl. But I was in his territory here, deep in the Cambodian countryside surrounded by vivid green rice paddies. So with a conciliatory nod I skirted around him and continued on towards the crimson horizon.