Beating the heat in Singapore: Cool things to do

I’m sure this post title and timing are raising a few eyebrows for readers experiencing winter right now. Beating the Heat in Singapore? Why would you want to do that? In January, most of us northerners are probably dreaming of, or planning on, visiting warm places to take the chill out of our bones. However, for me, when it comes to heat and humidity, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED Singapore, but I did not always love the weather. I wilt in the heat, and sometimes it makes me irrationally irritable. I am actually not a fan of air conditioning, either, but I sure was grateful for it in Singapore! 

Singapore’s indoor climates are controlled well, but when I travel I love to get outside and explore on foot. Though shopping is a legit way to keep cool, I did not want to spend all my time taking refuge in the malls. I spent as much time out of doors as I could, making strategic beer, food, and sightseeing stops. I addressed the beer already, and I’ll tackle the food next post. Here, I share some of my favorite Singapore attractions that were great for both cooling off and entertaining myself.

Naumi Rooftop Infinity Pool
Naumi’s rooftop infinity pool is a great place to beat the heat and admire the skyline

Naumi Hotel Pool

Though I don’t usually spend much time hanging out at hotels when traveling, I knew I’d need some sort of sanctuary in the midday heat. After shopping around a bit, I splurged and drained my Chase rewards account to book a room at Naumi. The boutique hotel has a rooftop infinity pool with a nice view of the city skyline. It’s also in a great location, right across the street from the famous Raffles Hotel and close to the city center. That made it easy to walk around in the morning, have some lunch, and come back to cool off before heading out again. I really liked the hotel in general, too. Though the rooms were small, they made clever use of the space, and the staff were super friendly and helpful.

Singapore's Chinatown Heritage Centre
Singapore’s Chinatown Heritage Centre is a great museum with fantastic air conditioning

Chinatown Heritage Centre

On my second day, the plan was to get up early, have a light breakfast and walk around a bit before it got too hot. I’m not sure I could have gotten up early enough for that. By 9 am, when I reached the Chinatown Heritage Centre as planned, I was already feeling pretty uncomfortable.  As I walked through the entrance, a blast of sweet, sweet air conditioning hit me. The clerk at the ticket desk chuckled at my obvious relief.

Not only was it deliciously cool inside, it was also a great little museum set in traditional, restored 1950’s shop houses. I like my museums in manageable portions. This one perfectly filled two hours while I waited to meet my food tour guide. The handheld multimedia guide was really helpful in decoding the items displayed and their significance in people’s daily lives.

Cloud Forest Singapore
The mercifully cool and misty envorinment of the Cloud Forest

Gardens by the Bay

After my beer stop at LeVeL 33, I took the 15 minute walk over to the Gardens by the Bay. I timed my visit so I could explore in daylight before catching the Supertrees’ “Garden Rhapsody” show at sunset. (In case you’re wondering what a Supertree is, it’s a multi-story vaguely tree-shaped structure that supports a vertical garden.) I had also hoped things would cool off after dark so I’d be able to walk around more comfortably. Wrong again!

By the time I got to the Gardens, I was once again uncomfortably hot and sticky. I barely stopped to look at the Supertrees; they could wait. Instead, I bought a ticket for the indoor exhibits at the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome.

If it sounds like I’m complaining a lot, well, I am… but I’m also trying to set up just how blessedly, amazingly, wonderfully, refreshingly cool the air inside the Cloud Forest was. It’s basically an indoor mini-mountain covered in tropical plants and flowers, ringed by a suspended walkway. An elevator takes you to the top and, as you wind your way down admiring the vegetation, a waterfall mercifully spritzes you. I’m not exaggerating when I say that my eyes welled up with tears of relief when I first felt the mist on my skin. Why hadn’t I gone there earlier??

After exploring the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome, I returned to the Supertree grove for the light show with an improved attitude. I do love that Singapore has deliberately designed its major attractions for both day and at night. The Gardens by the Bay are open until 2 am, and it is quite safe to stay that long, even by yourself.

Foot Massage

Usually foot massages are a late-night thing (I love that about Asia). However, after putting so many miles on my feet during my first two and a half days, I decided, “why wait?” So after lunch in Holland Village on day 3, I popped into the nearest reflexology place. Maybe that’s doing it wrong, but there was no wait, and it was a fantastic way to chill (literally) for a bit. Even though Chinese-style massages are a little… aggressive… I felt great afterward and was ready to take on the world by foot again. (You can thank me for not including a picture here.)

Singapore Night Safari
A leopard cat (not to be confused with an actual leopard) prowls at the Night Safari

Night Safari

Another one of Singapore’s nighttime-by-design attractions in the Night Safari, which opens just after the regular zoo closes. As far as zoos go, this one is a pretty interesting concept. You can see nocturnal animals when they’re actually supposed to be active. It’s fun to prowl around at night, trying to spot all of the critters. This is no easy task. Some are quite shy and well-camouflaged within their environments.

Fruit Bat Night Safari
The fruit bat is more interested in the fruit than it is in you

The Night Safari offers both a tram and a series of foot paths, which provide views of different animals. You need to do both if you want to see every one of the zoo’s residents. I opted out of the tram, as it costs extra and the lines were ridiculously long. This place is really popular. Though I went on a Sunday, booked my ticket online, and arrived early, I still had to wait for admission to the park. Taking my own route through the foot paths let me avoid the large groups of people that sometimes spooked the animals.

Singapore Sling Long Bar
Cool off with the Lion City’s signature cocktail, the Singapore Sling, at Long Bar

Long Bar

Being a bit of a stickler for authenticity, I was a little put off when I found out the famous Long Bar was no longer in its original location. In the early 1990s, it had been moved from the Raffles Hotel lobby to the attached shopping arcade (really?!). However, cliché as it sounds, it seemed silly to stay next door and not stop in for a Singapore Sling before heading out to the airport. Maybe it was the drink or the heat, but the back-and-forth swishing of the old-school leaf-shaped ceiling fan system was mesmerizing. Completely authentic or no, the bar really does transport you back in time with a glamorous-yet-relaxed colonial-era vibe. I’d definitely rather hang out there than the mall any day.

How Do You Stay Cool?

What are your favorite ways to beat the heat in Singapore or other tropical locations?

If you want more Singapore, read my posts on why I loved it, its craft beer scene, and its awesome food.

Need help planning a trip? Let’s talk! 

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