Back to Nam!

Finally after more than a decade I am finally back in the country that started it all – Vietnam!

Way back in 2008 I went on my first ever Asian adventure to Cambodia and South Vietnam and I have always wanted to come back and explore the north of the country.

And finally here I am! Husband in tow we have landed in Hanoi, the bustling Northern city that will act as our base for exploring this beautiful country.

We’re based in the frantic Old Quarter in the Queen Light Hotel,

The Old Quarter is a place of street sellers, a million mopeds and more chaos and colour than you can shake a stick at.

But we’re only there a night before we’re heading off for our first trip. A three night tour of Ha Long Bay and Tam Coc. So watch this space!

Marina Bay Sands

Another of Singapore’s iconic sights is the Marina Bay Sands hotel. Its imposing presence dominates the city’s skyline.

It forms part of the Marina Bay Resort which, when it opened in 2010, was billed as the world’s most expensive standalone casino property valued at S$8 billion.

The resort includes the 2,561-room hotel, a 120,000-square-metre convention-exhibition centre, the Marina Bay Sands mall, a museum, two large theatres, restaurants, two floating Crystal Pavilions, art-science exhibits and the world’s largest atrium casino with 500 tables and 1,600 slot machines.

The complex is topped by a 340-metre-long SkyPark that can hold 3,900 people and has a 150m infinity swimming pool, set on top of the world’s largest public cantilevered platform.

The rooftop SkyPark is only available to hotel guests, but us plebs can pay a small fee to take a very fast lift to the viewing platform at the top of the hotel.. and what a view!

You can enjoy panoramic views out across the harbour as well as get a bird’s eye view of the Gardens by the Bay too.

Time it right and you can watch dusk turn into darkness and enjoy the Singapore skyline start to twinkly with 1000s of lights.

What a stunning view! And a fitting end to our whistlestop tour of this fascinating country. Next we’re onwards to our main destination – Vietnam!

Singapore snippets

Before we scale the heady heights of the Marina Bay Sands hotel, we take another turn around the Gardens by the Bay.

We also mooch around the harbour area and enjoy some majestic architecture!

The lotus shaped building below is the ArtScience Museum.The ten ‘fingers’ contain gallery spaces with skylights.

The husband serves as a handy photo prop for architecture and the latest in a line up of barbie dolls.

Then it’s back to the amazing Garden by the Bay for another gawk at the super trees.

Enjoy some grainy footage of the amazing gardens and the exotic gardens.

From every angle there’s amazing vistas of the incredible gardens. This is my particular favourite.

Come walk with us amongst the super trees!! It really is an amazing spectacle.

Check out the goofy grin – Singapore is amazing!

Awesome Orchids

As well as a wealth of stunning architecture Singapore also has a fantastic green heart full of exotic, beautiful orchids.

The National Orchid Garden showcases over 1000 species and 2000 hybrids of orchids in a wide range of colours and patterns.

The gardens started an orchid breeding programme in 1928 and the results of these extensive experiments equal a wonderful display.

The National Orchid Garden is set within the larger Singapore Botanical Gardens which are free to visit.

The orchid section is $5 for adults. Well worth a wander around.

The orchids are arranged in colours. Cream and yellow orchids stand for spring and pink and red orchids for summer.

White orchids form part of the winter display, and purple and red orchids grace the autumn section.

Whether you’re a green fingered garden enthusiast or just enjoy pretty flowers, the orchid garden offers an oasis of calm in the high octane city.

The orchids are arranged in colours. Cream and yellow orchids stand for spring and pink and red orchids for summer.

White orchids form part of the winter display, and purple and red orchids grace the autumn section.

There’s three hectares of lush planting to explore, from a misted garden to a much needed cool house that provides an escape from the city mugginess.

Light and sound

As evening falls on the Super Tree Grove, it starts to light up in preparation for the free light and sound show that happens every evening.

The daily Garden Rhapsody light and sound show kicks off at at 7.45pm and 8.45pm.

Arrive early to nab a good spot as it gets very busy with everyone wanting to watch.

As darkness falls the super trees begin to strut their funky stuff to the sounds of 80s disco!

The show varies and you’ll get different music depending on when you visit.

The photos really do not do justice to the exhilarating show that has us all captivated. And it’s FREE!

The city skyline is wonderful at night, especially with the slightly stormy sky that occasionally provided its own light show with flashes of lightening!

But there’s not just one free light show in Singapore, oh no. There is also an amazing (deafening) show at the harbour. Called Spectra, and if you time it right, you can catch both in one night.

It’s incredible. Check out some clips below.

As the 15-minute outdoor show unfolds before your eyes in a four-part story, immerse yourself in the beautiful symphony of dancing fountain jets, colourful visual projections, advanced lasers, and lava and mist effects — all led by an orchestral soundtrack.

Gardens by the Bay

One of the most iconic sights of Singapore is a relatively recent addition – The Gardens by the Bay.

In January 2006, an international master plan design competition was launched to seek design ideas for Gardens by the Bay.

It had more than 70 entries submitted from over 24 countries, including 35 from Singapore.

Work started on the gardens in 2007 and opened to the public in 2011.

There are 12 main sections to the gardens including the East Bay, floral pavilions and the most recognisable part – the Super Tree Grove!

It’s also a great place to survey another of Singapore’s iconic sights – the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

We’ll be heading up the top of that later for some panoramic views over the harbour.

Measuring between 25 and 50 metres tall, Gardens by the Bay’s Supertrees are designed with large canopies that provide shade in the day and come alive with an exhilarating display of lights and sounds at night.

Join the crowds standing and staring at these iconic giants and stroll along the 22-metre-high OCBC Skyway.

Sadly the weather was not good enough for the skyway to open so we couldn’t walk up there due to violent, sudden rainstorms!!

There are 18 Supertrees in Gardens by the Bay and 12 of them can be found at the Supertree Grove.

The tallest one measures up to 16 storeys in height and there is also a restaurant at the top of one of them.

This free attraction has to be on your Singapore itinerary. It’s an incredible engineering feat and the gardens could easily take up at least two days of your trip.

Over 158,000 plants made up of more than 700 species and varieties of bromeliads, orchids, ferns and tropical flowering climbers have been planted on the 18 Supertrees.

The Supertrees have different planting schemes in various colours ranging from warm tones like reds, browns, orange and yellows, to cooler hues like silver and pink.

As evening starts to close in, the trees start to light up – heralding the much anticipated light and sound show that takes place each evening. There will be LOTS of pictures of that . . . .

Buddha tooth relics

We’re still pootling around Chinatown, heading for the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. But naturally get distracted on-route by plenty of colourful sights.

From incredible street art like the traditional theatre scene above to the many stalls selling the very pungent durian fruit – an acquired taste that has been compared from anything from vomit to dog doo-doo in smell!!

Naturally my eyes are drawn to the myriad of bright coloured souvenirs . .

The hubby is not quite as enamoured by yet more lucky Chinese silk knots and tassels – but managed to raise a smile next to this very jolly buddha.

There’s also more traditional items on sale from beautiful Chinese writing, brushes and ink to delicate fans and piles of rice cakes.

Also some poor little flying lizards have become a street snack . . .

But finally we arrive at our destination. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.

Built in 2007, the temple gets its name from what the Buddhists regard as the left canine tooth of Buddha, which has been recovered from his funeral pyre in Kushinagar, India and displayed on the temple’s grounds.

On the first floor you’ll find a huge prayer hall that is surrounded by hundreds of little Buddhas.

If you arrive at meal time you’ll be lucky enough to be able to partake in a free vegetarian meal too!!