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Adventure Asia Destinations Lifestyle Singapore

Unique Accommodations in Singapore to Stay At

Why spend so much on accommodation when you’re going to be out for most of the day anyway?

We won’t be surprised if the above sentence is something that has crossed many a traveller’s mind. Indeed, many travellers look at their accommodation as just a place to stay, simply as a place to keep their belongings and spend the night. However, why not take it up a notch and turn your accommodation into part of the experience?

Look beyond the usual plain vanilla hotel rooms and take your pick from these unique accommodations to jazz up your stay – or a staycation for the locals! – the next time you’re in Singapore:

1. Ocean Suites, Equarius Hotel, Resorts World Sentosa

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There’s just something about the depths of the ocean that enthralls people of all ages. Fitted with a giant floor-to-ceiling panel that looks out into the world’s largest aquarium exhibit, the Ocean Suites Resorts World Sentosa offers you the chance to have this underwater wonderland all to yourself — even for just one night!

Lounge in bed and watch fishes of all colours, as well as giant manta rays and hammerhead sharks, swim lazily by. If you’d like, you can even convert the floor in front of the glass panel into a bathtub. Doing so is easy; just call the butler who will be at your beck and call 24/7. The suite also comes with a second floor, which comes equipped with a living area and a jacuzzi. 

2. Glamping

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A combination of the words ‘glamourous and ‘camping’ — glamping is a phenomenon that has taken the world by storm. Simply put, glamping is for those that love the outdoors, but not so much the actual process of camping. D.I.Y. tents, sleeping bags, and solid fuel are replaced with spacious tents that offer most of the usual creature comforts — actual beds, cushions, a minibar and more — all draped generously in twinkling fairy lights. Don’t worry about the heat, most tents come with huge fans and the ones from Glamping Society are even air-conditioned!

There are many glamping companies in Singapore — Glamping Society, GlampingCity, Wondrous Glampers, just to name a few — that will do all the setting up for you; all you have to do is to turn up and enjoy. Choose from queen-sized or single beds, an additional picnic set-up, a five-course dinner by candlelight, or even a movie screen with a speaker for your very own ‘Movie Under the Stars’ experience. 

3. Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong

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Travel back in time to the Singapore of yesteryear at Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong, a Peranakan-themed hotel nestled deep in the Joo Chiat heritage district. The murals in the rooms take centre stage, revolving around detailed depictions of Singapore’s streets and its hawkers. Everything is according to theme: a carrom board functions as a coffee table, with the bathroom decked out in intricate Peranakan tiles, complete with the basin sitting atop a sewing-machine base. 

Batik print from sarong kebayas and tiles adorn the wall behind the reception desk, complementing the ornate marble floor and a wall peppered with ventilation holes — a feature that’s characteristic of old Peranakan shophouses. Indulge in a languid swim in the infinity pool, which boasts unobstructed views of the area. Take your time to explore the surrounding district as well; Joo Chiat is the first designated Heritage Town in Singapore and is a treasure trove of colourful shophouses, street art, coffee shops, and more. 

4. Treetop Lofts

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Go back to nature at Resort World Sentosa’s Treetop Lofts, which offer some much-needed respite from the urban jungle of Singapore. There are only two of such lofts, each nestled 12 metres above ground within a lush forest canopy. Each loft has a bedroom, living room and bathroom — on top of a sprawling 90-square-metre outdoor terrace. Kick back with a steaming cup of tea, keep your eyes peeled for the surrounding wildlife, take a deep breath, and enjoy being in the midst of all that nature. The terrace also makes for a splendid sunset spot, complete with panoramic views of Sentosa and Mount Faber.

To top it all off, the ceilings of the loft measure at around 5 to 6 metres high, making you feel as if you’ve got your very own rustic palace in the sky. The Treetop Lofts are located a short distance away from the Equarius Hotel, but free buggy rides are available as and when you wish.

Indeed, a fun and quirky accommodation can make all the difference to your holiday. There’s bound to be something that’ll suit your fancy; other than the options above, how about The Pod Singapore, a boutique capsule hotel, or Hotel Re!, a retro-themed hotel?

This way, you can turn every bit of your holiday into an experience. And for the locals, what better way is there to escape reality than with a staycation that’s, may we say, rather extraordinary?

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Adventure Destinations Lifestyle Switzerland

Stunning Mountain Excursions in Switzerland to Check Off Your Bucket List

Ask any traveller about Switzerland and they’d wax lyrical about the country’s gorgeous landscapes. Indeed, look in any direction and you’ll be greeted with towering snow-capped mountains, rolling lawns of green, and mystical valleys that look like they just fell straight out of a picture book.

There’s so much to do in the country, but one of the best ways to experience its nature would be to make your way to the top of its mountains. Here are five incredible mountain excursions to include in your itinerary:

1. Gornergrat – from Zermatt

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If you love chocolate, chances are that you’ve snacked on many Toblerone bars. How would you like to see the mountain depicted on its iconic yellow packaging in real life? Head to Zermatt for a trip up to Gornergrat, which offers some of the best views of the Matterhorn.

Take the first train to Riffelsee, where you can catch the sunrise and a beautiful reflection of the Matterhorn in a lake. From Riffelsee, continue up to the summit of Gornergrat for spectacular panoramic views. From the summit, you can either take the train or embark on a four-hour hike back down to Zermatt.

2. Mt. Titlis – from Engelberg

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The season of winter has this magical quality about it, an enigmatic promise of charm entangled in its flurries of snow. At Mt. Titlis, you won’t have to wait for long to experience the magic of winter — in fact, it’s a place that experiences snow all year round! 

Frolic in the snow, engage in snowball fights, take lots of pictures with walls of snow that’re taller than the average human, and even explore an enchanting glacier cave. Hop onto the Ice Flyer, and soar through the air to reach the Glacier Park, where you can try snow-tubing. Don’t forget to muster up your courage to make your way across the Cliff Walk, a 100-metre long suspension bridge with a see-through mesh flooring.

3. Mt. Pilatus – from Lucerne

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Getting up to Mt. Pilatus is half the fun! The route is called the ‘Circular Golden Round Trip’, which requires you to take a variety of transport options, such as a boat ride, cogwheel train ride and a bus. Besides soaking in the gorgeous views, there’s plenty to do at the summit of Mt. Pilatus — climb up a short flight of steps to a panoramic vantage point and tackle the Tomlishorn hike, which will take around one and a half hours to complete. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some wild alpine ibex — a species of wild goat that resides in the European Alps — along the way.

On your way down the mountain, stop at the Frakmuntegg station for the Frakgaudi Toboggan Run which, at a length of 1,350 metres, is the longest in Switzerland. In addition, you can also try a variety of high-element activities and the Dragon Glider, which allows you to glide — whilst suspended from a harness — through a lush forest canopy.

4. Grindelwald-First – from Grindelwald

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This is for all the adventure buffs out there — get your fill of adrenaline at Grindelwald-First, aptly named the ‘Top of Adventure’! Like Mt. Pilatus, getting up and down the mountain is all part of the fun. Take a cable car up to the summit of the mountain, then descend via various modes of transport. You can choose to fly down on a zipline or mountain glider, trundle down on a mountain cart or whizz along on a trotti-bike, which is a cross between a bicycle and a scooter. 

Don’t be so quick to leave the summit, however; make your legs go weak at the First Cliff Walk, a mesh bridge that hugs the side of the mountain and extends 45 metres out into the air. You can also choose to go on an easy one-hour hike to the tranquil Lake Bachalpsee. 

5. Jungfraujoch – from Kleine Scheidegg

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Known as the ‘Top of Europe’, Jungfraujoch is one mountain excursion that you simply can’t miss. Standing at 3,454 metres above sea level, Jungfraujoch offers a winter wonderland packed with plenty of activities and unbelievably scenic views to boot. 

Take the fastest lift in Switzerland up to the Sphinx Observatory to enjoy views of the Aletsch Glacier. If the weather is good, you can go on a hike across the glacier as well. Explore the depths of the Ice Palace, which is filled with numerous ice sculptures. Before you leave, don’t forget to get a commemorative ‘passport stamp’ of your trip, as well as pick up a couple of tasty souvenirs at the Lindt Swiss Chocolate Heaven!

The next time you’re in Switzerland, venture high up into the clouds and feel on top of the world with any of the above mountain excursions. They’re all easily accessible within an hour from major cities or towns — with the exception of Jungfraujoch, which will take around one and a half to two hours to reach from either Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald. 

However, in Switzerland, every bit of the journey counts as part of the experience — and you’re definitely in for the adventure of a lifetime!

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Adventure Destinations Europe Lifestyle

Hello, Adventure: 5 Unique Things to Do in Iceland

Stepping into the landscapes of Iceland feels like tumbling headfirst into a rabbit hole — onto another planet altogether. Boasting otherworldly scenery filled with ethereal formations, Iceland is a destination fit for the history books. 

And in a country as incredible as this, Iceland is naturally bursting with unique activities for travellers seeking a generous dose of adventure. Check these off your bucket list the next time you’re in the country:

1. Snorkel between 2 tectonic plates

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Thingvellir National Park is one of the stops on the popular Golden Circle route, which can easily be covered on a day trip from Reykjavik. Nestled within the park is ‘Silfra’, a rift created between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates in 1789. This fissure measures 600 by 200 metres, creating a passage that’s wide enough for divers and snorkelers to pass through.

That’s right, here’s your chance to actually dive or snorkel between two tectonic plates! Silfra is filled with water from the Langjokull glacier, which is said to be some of the clearest water in the world. This allows for underwater visibility of up to 100 metres, with water temperatures remaining between a comfortable two to four degrees celsius all year round. 

2. Hike across a massive glacier

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Did you know that more than 10% of Iceland is covered by glaciers? A glacier forms when multiple layers of snow are compressed to form colossal blocks of ice — in a process that takes thousands of years. 

Strap on a pair of crampons, arm yourself with an ice axe, and make your way across sprawling blue fields and deep crevasses. If you wish, you can even sample some of the clear glacial water found in chasms along the surface of the ice. Don’t worry, this water is completely safe for consumption! Complete your adventure by venturing into the depths of an ice cave; however, do note that Ice Cave season only starts at the beginning of winter (start of November).

3. Walk amongst icebergs at the Diamond Beach

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In Iceland, diamonds are everyone’s best friend. And the country’s home to some of the best diamonds around — which come in the form of countless chunks of ice that sparkle in the sunlight! These ice pieces break off from a nearby glacier and land in the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, before floating out to sea and washing ashore at the Breioamerkursandur Black Beach. 

The beach is dotted with numerous wedges of ice in all shapes and sizes, colloquially earning it the nickname of the ‘Diamond Beach’. Take your time to wander amongst the pieces of ice and even clamber onto some huge ones — at your own risk! — for the photo opportunity of a lifetime. If you’d like, you can even head across the road to the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, where you can take a boat ride around the lagoon.

4. Watch a geyser erupt 40 metres into the air

E-lyn Tham

Spanning an area of 3 square kilometres, the Geysir Geothermal Area is a fascinating hive of activity. Wander around and feast your eyes on numerous steaming pools and bubbling fumaroles, complete with jets of steam and a cloud of mist that envelops the area. 

Keep your eyes peeled for the Strokkur Geyser, which erupts in intervals of 10 minutes or so. When this happens, a large volume of water is thrown up into the air, reaching a staggering height of 40 metres! Do take caution not to stand too close, however; the temperature of the water ranges between 80 to 100 degrees celsius.

5. Explore an 8,000-year-old lava tube

E-lyn Tham

Conduct your very own ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ at Vatnshellir Cave, which inspired Jules Verne’s 1864 novel of the same name! Located within Snaefellsjokull National Park, the 8,000 year-old-Vatnshellir Cave invites visitors to explore its depths — a whopping 35 metres underground.

Arm yourself with a helmet and headlight, and follow your guide as he enthralls you with tales and information about the various lava formations. Spot all types of stalactites or stalagmites and, at one point of the tour, even experience what it’s like to be enveloped in sheer darkness. The tour does require clambering up and down a couple of metal staircases; a certain level of fitness is hence required for this experience. 

Other than the above, there’s plenty in Iceland to entice visitors of all ages — ride a horse through lava fields, pamper yourself by soaking in a geothermal lagoon, walk behind thundering waterfalls, and even go on a thrilling Northern Lights chase. 

The list goes on and on; all you need is a hunger for adventure, as well as the willingness to put yourself outside your comfort zone, and you’ll be all set!

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Adventure Asia Lifestyle

Ready, Set, Temple Run: 5 Must-Visit Temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Most travellers visit Siem Reap for one purpose, and one purpose only; and that is to visit the magnificent Angkor Wat. However, did you know that Angkor Wat is just one out of more than 50 temples in the entire Angkor complex? 

Sprawling over 400 square kilometres, the Angkor Archaeological Park is an enchanting labyrinth of temples, each more intricate than the next. It’s easy to feel intimidated when planning a trip but for a start, here are some must-visit temples: 

Angkor Wat

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Angkor Wat is a temple of grandeur, and easily the most famous of the lot. Start your day early by heading to the small lake in front of Angkor Wat for a magnificent view of the sunrise, complete with a mesmerising reflection of the temple in the waters. 

Angkor Wat is the world’s largest religious monument, and is even pictured on the country’s national flag. Built in the 12th century, Angkor Wat is a stone palace filled with bas-relief galleries, stone chambers, towers and courtyards — all of which are connected by a maze of staircases. Every visit to the temple is inexplicably laced with mystery and intrigue; choose to explore the temple by yourself or with a guide, who will regale you with tales about the history of the temple.

Ta Phrom

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At first glance, the area of Ta Prohm seems to be a messy tangle of overgrown tree roots, vines and ferns. However, look closely and you’ll discover a temple swallowed by the forces of nature, where its ruins have trees growing out of its walls, and roots snaking across every available surface. 

Exploring Ta Prohm feels like the start of an intrepid adventure; and rightly so, with the temple once acting as the filming location of the famous Hollywood movie, ‘Tomb Raider’. The temple dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries, where it fell into disarray after the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 15th century. There’s a curious symbiotic relationship between the temple and the trees — the trees are the very thing that caused the temple’s walls to collapse; yet, today they’re the only thing holding the ruins together!

Bayon

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Known as the temple with many faces, Bayon boasts a total of 216 stone faces that depict the image of Avalokiteshvara, Cambodia’s most revered king. Each stone face measures a height of 4 metres, and faces a particular cardinal direction. They all have the same expression; with their eyes closed and mouth curved up in a serene smile — which is said to be symbolic of the achievement of inner peace or the state of Nirvana. 

Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, Bayon is also decorated with multiple ornate bas-reliefs that can be found all around the temple. These illustrate everyday life back in 12th-century Cambodia, as well as the construction process of the temple. 

Do note that a visitor pass is required to visit the Angkor complex. A 1-, 3- and 7-day pass costs USD37 (~SGD50), USD62 (~SGD83) and USD72 (~SGD97) respectively. All 3 of the above temples can be visited on the same day; either rent an e-bike to explore them at your own leisure or choose to hire a tuk-tuk driver, who will bring you to each temple and patiently wait as you explore.

If you have the time, you can also venture out of Siem Reap on a day trip to the Prasat Thom and Beng Melea temples.

Prasat Thom

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Prasat Thom is a sight to behold; boasting a formidable seven-storey pyramid that rises majestically out of the forest. The pyramid is found within the ancient city of Koh Ker, which previously functioned as the capital of the Khmer Empire between 928 and 944 AD. The area of Koh Ker is peppered with more than 180 sanctuaries and smaller temples, of which about 40 are open to the public today. 

If you wish, you can even climb a narrow staircase to the top of Prasat Thom for a panoramic view of the area. 

Beng Melea

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Known as the less-touristy sister of Ta Prohm in the Angkor complex, Beng Melea is perhaps one of nature’s best-kept secrets. Gloriously overrun by the forces of nature, Beng Melea is a 12th-century maze of dark chambers and hushed walkways. 

Enclosed by a large moat, visitors should be prepared to clamber through narrow holes in the walls, scamper over giant pieces of sandstone, as well as skip over masses of roots and rubble. A wooden sidewalk is also available if you prefer, but where’s the fun in that?

A ticket is required for entry into both Prasat Thom and Beng Melea, which costs USD10 (~SGD13) and USD5 (~SGD7) respectively. 

The trick to discovering the beauty of Siem Reap’s temples is just to take it slow. Wake up early for the sunrise at Angkor Wat, return to your hotel for a siesta or swim (Siem Reap can get very hot around mid-day!), and have a leisurely lunch before returning to explore the other temples.

Take your time to soak in the full splendour of the ruins — there’s really nothing like it!

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Adventure Asia Destinations Lifestyle Singapore

Popular Hiking Trails in Singapore

It’s easy to think of Singapore as a glittering metropolis, a city filled to the brim with gleaming skyscrapers and bustling air-conditioned malls. However, despite its conspicuous lack of mountains — with the 164-metre high Bukit Timah Hill being its sole claim of fame — Singapore turns out to be a city with more than just a few surprises up its sleeve!

Yes, it may be modern; and yes, it may be all shiny and new, but contrary to popular perception, there are actually plenty of opportunities to enjoy the wonders of nature right here in our little red dot. And what better therapy is there than to bask in the sunlight and breathe in all that fresh air? 

Here are a couple of top hiking hotspots in Singapore that are suitable for all ages:

Green Corridor

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Previously functioning as a railway track, the Green Corridor has since been transformed into a scenic hiking trail. The route acts as a connector of sorts for multiple green spaces, such as Clementi Woodlands, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, and the Kranji/Mandai Mangrove and Mudflats. 

The entire trail is 24-kilometres long, allowing you to take your time to appreciate the lush flora and fauna — with lots of scenic views to boot! — along the way.

How to get there: 7-minute walk from Hillview Station, with the starting point located next to the Rail Mall.

Southern Ridges

Yuan, Flickr Creative Commons

Stretching over a length of 10 kilometres, the Southern Ridges’ Marang trail starts at Mount Faber Park and weaves through Telok Blangah Hill Park, Hort Park, Kent Ridge Park, and Labrador Nature Park. 

Look out for the Forest Walk and Canopy Walk, two elevated walkways that take you through a secondary forest canopy; the Sembcorp Forest of Giants, home to 600 giant trees that tower up to a height of 80 metres; as well as the iconic Henderson Waves Bridge, which is Singapore’s highest pedestrian bridge. 

How to get there: 6-minute walk from Harbourfront Station, with the starting point located at the Seah IM carpark.

Macritchie Reservoir Park

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Boasting trails that range from 3 to 11 kilometres in length, Macritchie Reservoir Park has something for everyone. You’ll encounter all sorts of terrains here — take your pick from easy boardwalks, muddy routes, and rocky paths that snake through the trees. See you can spot any of the park’s teeming wildlife, such as long-tailed macaque monkeys, flying lemurs, and pangolins along the way!

One of the highlights is the HSBC Treetop Walk, which is the cherry on top of a long, rewarding hike through the park. The 250-metre long free-standing suspension bridge reaches a height of 25 metres — seven storeys high! — at its highest point, and offers stunning bird’s eye views. It’s best reached via a 1.5 to 2-hour hike from the Venus Drive Carpark or, if you’re feeling ambitious, a 3.5 to 4-hour hike from Lornie Walk. 

How to get there: 14-minute walk from Caldecott Station; or take buses 52, 132, 163, 166, 167, 855 and 980 to Venus Drive for the Treetop Walk.

Pulau Ubin

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Enjoy a nostalgic blast to the past at Pulau Ubin, an island home to one of Singapore’s last surviving kampongs. Experience the rustic charm of little villages, wild greenery, and perhaps, even a wild boar or two!

Hike along the boardwalks of Chek Jawa Wetlands, which can be reached via a 40-minute hike from the jetty. The Wetlands boasts six different ecosystems, which are best seen at low tide. In addition, don’t underestimate the short but gruelling 15-minute hike up Puaka Hill, where you’ll be able to enjoy spectacular views of the Granite Quarry. 

How to get there: 15-minute bumboat ride from Changi Ferry Point Terminal.

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

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Bukit Timah Hill is Singapore’s highest natural hill, with the 1.4 kilometres journey to the top requiring about 40 minutes to complete. Be prepared for a good workout; the trail is a steep incline most of the way, topped off with a flight of uneven stairs just before the summit. 

The nature reserve itself contains approximately 40% of Singapore’s flora and fauna, and comprises one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems. The hill has a historical significance to it as well, as it was once used as part of the British military’s defence against the Japanese Army in World War II.

How to get there: 10-minute walk from Beauty World Station.

Lace up your hiking shoes and cancel any weekend plans — there’s really no better time to get out there and start enjoying the great outdoors!