I can’t believe I was in Singapore in May and only getting to this post now. I’m so sorry for taking so long *blush* So, let me tell you what I loved about Singapore, and will add in any tips that I might have.
The first thing you need to know, in case you didn’t is that Singapore is an island city-state just off Southern Malaysia. It used to be a British Crown Colony, so still has some of that British heritage but also has become a melting pot of cultures. This makes it a very interesting city to visit as you have the main CBD that has the feeling of London, you have China Town and Little India…which I’m guessing are self explanatory. So, you can just imagine the variety of food, shopping and things to see.
As, I mentioned, we were there in May, and I can tell you humid is not a word that can be used to describe the weather…it was worse, it was a sweat drenched experience. I have never experienced humidity like that, and people still wear suits and walk to work…I looked like a drowned rat after being outside less than 30 mins! But, it’s worth braving the humidity to experience the city. The thing I probably enjoyed the most was the choice of foods, you can pretty much find any type of food imaginable.
Anyway, enough about the food (for now) and more about what I think are the best things to do & see while in Singapore.
A trip to Singapore wouldn’t be complete without seeing their iconic statue of a Merlion. It is a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish. It is said that the head represents Singapore original name Singapura, meaning lion city in Malay and the body symbolises Singapore’s humble beginnings as a fishing village, when it was called Temasek, meaning ‘sea town’ in Old Javanese.
And, to be honest, you really can’t miss this statue, when you are in Merlion Park, as it’s over 8m tall and if the height doesn’t give it away, the millions of tourists crowding it, definitely will. While there, be sure to look out for the statue that has become known as Merlion’s cub, it is behind the Merlion statue in the park.
River Cruise from Marina Bay
This was actually recommended by friends that had been there the week before we arrived, and I am so glad we took their advice. The cruise lasts about 40 minutes and costs about S$25 and is done in a traditional Singapore boat called a Bumboat. One of the ticket offices can be found at the Merlion Park Jetty, which is just up from the Merlion statue.
The cruise is well worth the money and also the time. It was a lot of fun, and we got to see the beautiful modern buildings of Singapore from a different perspective. The other thing that we really enjoyed was the presentation on Singapore’s history…it was so interesting.
Just a little FYI, in case its relevant to you…the cruise is children friendly, as there were a few couples with the kids ranging in age.
Marina Bay Sands Hotel
The view from the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel is definitely worth a visit. However, I recommend you do what we did and go to the CÉ LA VI Skybar at Sands Skypark Hotel Lobby, Tower 3. You have to pay an entrance of S$20, which is given to you as a voucher to use towards a drink in the bar. Keep in mind though, that if you only want a cool drink, they will not give you any change even if your drink was only S$8, you forfeit the remaining S$12. So, it’s probably better to use it towards a cocktail or a more expensive drink. The other thing to be aware of, the prices in the menu do not include VAT or service, so the cocktails turn out being way more expensive than you originally think…just don’t want you to die of shock like we did when we paid. Having said that, the view really is incredible, it gives you a panoramic view of the city and Gardens by the Bay.
Visit Little India & Chinatown
To be honest, we didn’t spend much time in Little India as it was quite a walk from where we were staying. Though, what I can tell you is, I have never seen so many gold jewellery shops on one street in my life. I just couldn’t believe it, they are all next to each other and selling similar pieces. I have no idea how they survive. And, the other thing is the temples there are beautiful. We went to the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple and the detail on the outside and the inside of the temple is just exquisite.
When it comes to Chinatown, I know a bit more as we went there more often as it was just 1km from our hotel. I really loved the Chinatown Food Street, as there were so many food options. I could have eaten there every night and never eaten the same thing twice. Also, their market was so awesome to walk around, as you could get lost looking at all the things for sale, there was literally everything you could think of there: clothes, shoes, fragrances, paintings, ceramics, trinkets, souvenirs, just to name a few things. While in Chinatown, I would also recommend visiting The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, it is not a very old temple but a very impressive one having comprehensive exhibits on Buddhist art & history. It really is beautiful and the best part is it is free to enter. Just keep in mind that you need to have your shoulders and knees covered, or they will ask that you wear a wrap that they will provide.
I found this fantastic article on Etiquette for Visiting Buddhist Temples, it is worth a read, if you are not sure what you should and shouldn’t wear and do when visiting a temple.
Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay is a big, colourful and futurist looking park that is located in the bay area. The two main attractions of the park is the Supertree Grove and Greenhouses.
The Supertree Grove is quite something to see and experience. They are huge metal structured trees that not only look futuristic but have their exterior covered by a number of different plant species making them huge upright gardens. If you look a good view, then I recommend paying to go on the impressive skywalk over the gardens, which is 25m up and is made-up of 3 trees connected together. So the walkway is not very long and there is nothing to see except the beautiful view.
The best part of the Greenhouses is that they are cool, which really helps when its 35℃ and like 90% humidity. It was incredibly hot the day we went, so we were so grateful for the cool of the Cloud Forest & Flower Dome. The cloud forest has a man-made mountain in it, which is covered in plants that thrive in tropical highlands, so you can just imagine the beautiful orchids in the Cloud Forest. The Flower Dome, is like going on a journey of the world, as it is filled with plants from a number of different countries, such as South Africa, Spain, Greece, Australia, to name a few. It is also the greenhouse where they put on flowers shows as certain times of the year and we were lucky to be there during the Tulip Festival. As you may or ma not know, I love to photograph tulips and I just love them in general. So, I was in my element…it was like being back in the Netherlands.
Some extra’s if you have time:
Unfortunately we couldn’t go here as they were renovating it, I was very sad about that as my mom mentioned that it is quite spectacular…I guess I will have to go back one day to see it. Most people go to Raffles Hotel for the bar experience, as it is the place that invented the Singapore Sling cocktail, so you are guaranteed to get the best one in town, as they have had about 100 years of experience making it.
Orchard Road – The Shopping Street
Even if you are not a shop till you drop kind of person, it’s still incredible to see this 2km stretch of road that is crammed with shops, malls, restaurants and art galleries. It is also, crammed with people shopping. It was an eye opener, as there is something for every taste and budget there. It’s hard to really explain the magnitude of the street. But if you are looking for something, you are bound to find it there.
Some other general questions & answers from my experience:
How long should you spend in Singapore?
For me, this is how long is a piece of string, we were there for 3 full days and saw everything we wanted to and didn’t leave feeling like we hadn’t experienced the city. But, I have friends who spent 5 days there and also felt that was a good amount of time. I guess, it all depends on what you want to do and what you want to see.
Is Singapore expensive?
It’s not a cheap city, the exchange rate was about R10 to S$1 (Singapore Dollar), which did make it easy to work out the cost of everything. Some things such as alcohol & accommodation are very expensive but if you eat the local food in the local food markets, then it’s not expensive. However, in general, Singapore is relatively expensive as it is a cosmopolitan city and I am get to go to a cosmopolitan city that is dirt cheap for us South Africans.
How do you get around Singapore? Is it safe to walk?
There is good public transport in Singapore, the buses are fantastic. Having said that, we didn’t use a bus, we mainly walked or caught a taxi. The taxi’s were not too badly priced provided you don’t get hit with a surcharge. So keep this in mind, if you get a taxi during peak times, then there is about a 25% surcharge. There is also a surcharge if you do not get a taxi from a designated taxi place, such as outside malls or hotels. So think twice before hailing one down from the side of the road, it might be better to walk to the nearest hotel.
We found it safe to walk around both during the day and at night. Obviously, being South African we were aware of our surroundings, but I certainly didn’t feel unsafe.
Food Tips – where to eat
You know I couldn’t leave food out of this post! My life and holidays tend to revolve around food and where to eat. So, Singapore was no different.
There are a number of very fancy expensive Michelin Star restaurants in Singapore, we went to JAAN, which holds 1 Michelin Star and is on the 70th floor of the Swissôtel, The Stamford. The food & service was incredible but the view was breath-taking, as you look over Marina Bay. We were incredibly lucky to get a window facing table, so we could enjoy the view while we ate. The view is such a selling point that you sit next to each other and eat, so that you can both enjoy the view…I guess that way there is no fighting 🙂
Satay by the Bay, is a food market that obviously specialises in satay and it is located in the Gardens by the Bay. There are a number of food stalls to choose from, the prices are pretty standard. So, was around, find one that looks good, order and then sit down at the communal tables & chairs. We had chicken satay, from one of the food stalls on the left as you walk into Satay on the Bay… and it was divine!
Another fantastic food market is Makansutra Gluttons Bay…and here you have to try Cereal Prawns. They are the most delicious creation, deep-fried prawns are covered in a sweet buttery cereal like crumb…there is no other way to eat them than to eat the entire prawn…shell and all. They are so crispy and the cereal crumb so delicious, you will not even notice you are eating the shell. And for dessert, we had deep-friend banana with coconut jam…which was also out this world good…as all fried food should be!
Are you a dim sum fan? Then you must go to Yum Cha in Chinatown, they have some of the best dim sum. You can find the restaurant on goggle maps. And you won’t regret visiting them. Their menu does have english, so you will have an idea of what you are ordering. We ordered a selection of dim sum and other fried goodie. I especially enjoyed the fried carrot cake (just incase you don’t know what it is – carrot cake has no carrot, at least not of the orange ones we know. Instead, the main ingredients are rice flour and white radish, which is also known as white carrot – thus the name carrot cake).
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