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Yasmine Gray’s Singapore Sojourn

Getaboutable's Yasmine Gray got a rare chance to relax on her trip to Singapore, thanks in large part to the city's accessibility for wheelchair users.

I’ve got the travel bug and a strong case of wanderlust that sees me always planning travel, whether real or imagined. I’ve travelled my whole life, including over the past 25 years when I’ve experienced growing mobility restrictions due to multiple sclerosis

Most of my travel has purpose – events with family and friends, business commitments or holidays with my son or partner. It’s not often that a spare week comes my way – in fact, it’s so rare that I can’t remember the last time – but late last year I had the chance. The biggest question was where to go. I was exhausted and needed a relaxing break. As a full-time power wheelchair user with daily personal-care needs, a major consideration was access and support requirements.

I decided an easy trip would mean good accessibility, an English-speaking country and a reasonable flight time from Australia. Singapore was the winner.

Creature Comforts

Singapore has a reputation for being the most accessible city in Asia. After my visit, I feel it’s possibly the most accessible city I’ve visited in the world. It was more than just the infrastructure with transport, almost every tourist attraction and the hotel being wheelchair-accessible. The attitude of locals – from hotel and tourist-attraction staff through to the general public – also impressed me.

From the moment we landed at the airport, the ease of getting off the plane, through customs and onto the MRT (train) was astounding. It gave me confidence that my hopes for an accessible and relaxing holiday in Singapore might come true. 

Exterior view of Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay
We found excellent accessible accommodation in Singapore, close to transport. Credit: IHG Hotels

We stayed at Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay, a medium-range hotel close to MRT stations on two different lines. Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay has six accessible rooms; it was one of the most accessible hotel stays I’ve had, and anything overlooked was easy to overcome, given I had a carer with me and the staff were so helpful. 

The room was well-designed with a sliding door to the bathroom, handrails and a roll-in shower with a bench. Circulation space was good within the room and I was happy to find the ironing board and iron were stored in a way I could access them on my own as a wheelchair user.

Staff were friendly and attentive, and I found easy access throughout the hotel. The outdoor lap pool on the roof has a ramp to its edge but sadly no hoist, only a ladder for access. 

Getting Around

Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay is closest to Clarke Quay (Northeast Line) and Fort Canning (Downtown Line) MRT stations. We mostly used the MRT for getting around during our stay, and although we had to allow extra time to find the accessible entry or exit at each MRT station, we soon found the patterns and became quite comfortable using it. We were able to access the carriages independently; the accessibility of the MRT was probably the single most welcoming feature of our visit. 

Wheelchair ramp to access Clarke Quay MRT station in Singapore
Once you know your way around, the MRT is a wonderful accessible way to see Singapore. Credit: Yasmine Gray

The relaxation of being able to be spontaneous in the planning and timing of our activities cannot be understated. As a wheelchair user, I was particularly pleased with the realisation that every tourist destination and attraction in Singapore was accessible to people with a variety of accessibility needs. Given my aim for the week was relaxation, I took my time in the mornings before going out to explore one or two sites, rather than powering through a tourist blitz seeing as much as I could. 

Exploring the sights of Singapore

We first visited Gardens by the Bay late in the afternoon and got caught in a tropical downpour. Luckily there was a way to get to the gardens underground from the Bayfront MRT station and there were undercover walkways around a small portion of the gardens. Our second visit was focused on the Supertrees, including going up to the treetop walkway, which was fully accessible

The Singapore Super Trees with walkway visible
The must-see Singapore Supertrees has a fully accessible tree-top walkway. Credit: Yasmine Gray

I’m not much of a shopper, but Marina Bay Sands and the shops between the MRT station and Marina Bay Sands are a shopper’s paradise. Being a foodie, I was more interested in the two restaurants we tried. We had dinner during our first visit at Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, which has windows out to Bayfront Avenue (wheelchair-accessible seating is available). We were amazed by the quality of the food and reasonable price, including a pineapple carpaccio dessert, which was an absolute standout.

For a special dinner to remember, I wanted to go to a restaurant at the top of Marina Bay Sands. We chose to eat at the LAVO Italian Restaurant & Rooftop Bar, making a reservation for just after sunset so we were permitted in the lift and had time to have a cocktail while watching the sunset at LAVO’s bar. Although LAVO has tables on split levels, both are wheelchair-accessible. We reserved a table on the same level as the outdoor terrace so that we could easily move between the two. LAVO’s food was good but pricey. Our dinner there was more about the experience of eating at the top of Marina Bay Sands after having a Singapore Sling cocktail on the terrace with a view of the sunset.

The Marina Bay Sands building against a cloudy sky with trees and bushes in the foreground
Dinner at LAVO Italian Restaurant, at the top of Marina Bay Sands, was a special treat in Singapore. Credit: Yasmine Gray

Being a nature-lover even more than a foodie, my absolute favourite part of Singapore, was my many rolls through various parts of the Southern Ridges, including Mount Faber Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park. The entire length (10km) of the Southern Ridges Walk is wheelchair-accessible. The path is well-signposted, with explanations of flora and fauna along the way. We had started by taking the cable car from HarbourFront to Faber Peak, and followed our noses to find Henderson Waves bridge. There’s also a section of raised walkway along a steep hillside, with one side having tree canopies at eye level.

I ran out of time to try the Singapore Flyer, the City Sightseeing Singapore Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour and the National Museum of Singapore, but my research tells me these are all accessible. 

First-time travellers to Singapore can visit with the confidence of knowing attractions and transport are accessible. Spontaneity is possible and the attitude of the local Singaporean people make this a city welcoming of people of all abilities. In fact, the ease of access meant that my week in Singapore was the closest I’ve had to a spontaneous travel experience since before developing mobility limitations.

Yasmine Gray is the founding director of GetAboutAble, an information-sharing platform empowering people with mobility, hearing, vision and other assistance needs to participate in travel and leisure activities. You can join the Getaboutable community on Facebook.

This story first appeared in Travel Without Limits. You can subscribe to the magazine here.

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