See, Elzaan and I have just returned from a little vacation in South East Asia, well, South East Asia and Dubai…really it was only Singapore, Bali and Dubai. So yeah, we’ve just come back from those places.
Now while going through the hundreds of pictures we captured I realised 3 things. 1. Most of our funnest moments weren’t actually captured, which I guess is a good thing cause we were experiencing them rather than shooting them. 2. I have a lot to learn when it comes to taking pictures of anything that isnt a bow tie. 3. Elzaan has a much better eye than me – so much for my graphic design diploma and 16 years as an art director.
So the 3 points above have made it very hard to choose just what I wanted to share with you guys when it came to the Singapore sights. I mean, truth is, for the most part, if you want to see the sights you can hop on to google and it will spit out way better pics than anything I can take. So I’m sharing with you the stuff that we saw and thought, “oooo, thats cool”. It also feels like it gives a broader view than just shiny buildings and shiny buildings, though, truth be told, I couldn’t resist some shiny buildings.
Singapore’s story is both a long and short one and I’ll do my best to not make this a history lesson but you need some context in order to make sense of all these buildings above, because to me its the perfect encapsulation of this little City States history.
I’ll leave out the complicated Malay/Chinese occupation of the 13 century and move straight into its more modern colonial history, namely its occupation by the British (after fighting off the Portuguese and Dutch) and more importantly Sir Stamford Raffles who established it as a major shipping port along the route to China. Don’t get bored, this is interesting stuff I promise you. Anyway, the british eventually lost Singapore in the second world war to the Japanese only to regain it a couple years later. The place was a mess with high unemployment, slow economic growth, inadequate housing, decaying infrastructure, labor strikes and social unrest. Like I said, a mess.
Enter Lee Kuan Yew, the man to take Singapore into the future as it established independence in 1965. This was a man with a plan, opening its doors to foreign investment and skill, creating jobs, providing government housing for it’s citizens and of course paving the way for the modern financial and manufacturing hub it is today!
History lesson over, but at least now the melting pot of colonial buildings, Chinese temples, government housing and architecturally stunning skyscrapers all make sense, and its not just the buildings, its everywhere, its in the food it’s in the neighbourhoods it’s in the shopping malls. You really feel the eclectic past of this great city.
We ABSOLUTELY loved it! This was a stopover for us on the way to our beach holiday in Bali and it just completely took us by surprise. We were lucky enough to be hosted by a friend from home who happens to live in Singapore, and nothing better than a local expat to take your hand and show you what you need to see and boy did he show us.
Under the careful guidance and generosity of our friend Drew, we got to experience some of Singapore’s finest high and low end experiences. There are honestly too may highlights to mention, but these are the ones you must try:
Maison Ikkoku for incredible cocktails and the best oysters Ive ever eaten in my life. Simply tell the barman what base spirit you want and what flavour you feel like and they never disappoint, trust me, we had enough cocktails to make sure they weren’t just ‘getting lucky’ every time.
Long Beach Seafood at Dempsey Hill for the iconic Singaporean seafood dish of chilli crab. Bring wet wipes, you’re gonna need them, in fact, always carry wet wipes on you, there seems to be a general shortage of napkins in Singapore cause they’re pretty stingy with those things.
Brunch at the Fullerton hotel‘s Town Restaurant on the marina. Hands down the most opulent and indulgent thing I have ever done in my life. Save up, it aint cheap. Don’t eat breakfast, maybe run a marathon before, get there early (It starts at 1) and always, always start on the seafood. Maybe leave the wet wipes at home here, they’ll bring you as many napkins as you need.
Hainanese chicken rice (which kinda seems to be Singapore’s national dish) at Chin Chin on Purvis Road was amazing, don’t expect much in terms of decor and style, its a local eatery with amazing ambience and excellent food. Don’t forget your wet wipes.
Lastly, take some time to walk around Tiong Bahru, one of Singapore’s oldest and now coolest neighbourhoods filled with quirky coffee shops, eateries and shop houses selling all kinds of speciality goods. It’s a hipsters paradise.
Unfortunately, as stated above, not a picture of any of these things, but here are some other fun touristy stuff!
Of course, we also filled our days with all the touristy things, you kinda have to I guess – to get the best of both worlds. I’ll tell you what I thought was worth doing and what I wish I had skipped, but remember its just my opinion.
The Hop On Hop Off Bus tour is always a good idea in any new city you visit, it gives you a good sense of where everything is and helps you orientate yourself for the rest of your stay. We took a two day tour because there were 3 different lines, but quickly realised it was far too long and one day is more than enough to cover all the major sights.
The Gardens by the bay, is definitely worth a stop, but this I guess depends what your propensity for looking at plants and flowers is. Mine isn’t incredibly high, I mean it’s interesting and stuff, but meh! Drew told us to only visit one of the 2 twin conservatories (Cloud Gate) as it’s the most impressive, and he was right, it is pretty impressive (pictured above) but really it’s just a giant greenhouse. Same applies for the botanical gardens, if you like plants and flowers then you’re in for one heck of a crazy time! We didn’t manage the Orchid gardens as we were running out of time and started getting green fever! Singapore for the most part is incredibly green so you’ll definitely be constantly exposed to the local flora, its one of the things we loved most about the place. Ironically!
China town is definitely worth a stop, just to walk around looking at all the fun stuff, grab a beer and a bite from one of the street food carts and definitely pop into the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, the entrance is free and the museum is packed wall to wall and ceiling to ceiling with the most magnificent shrines!
I’m not sure Little India is quite as interesting. The most interesting part for us was walking into a dodgy backpackers and having 2 pear ciders in their courtyard next to the washing machines! Maybe we had a bad experience, but the people were rude and the place was just a little too unkept for what we had become used to.
Orchard road is also worth a walk, but really, it is what it is, one massive shopping strip filled with multiple multi storey malls. You’ll never get through all of it, hell you wont even get through a quarter, there’s just too much! Great if you can afford to shop but a little depressing when all you do is browse! Damn budget travellers!
The last of the big tourist treats was Singapore’s very own Universal Studios, having been lucky enough to visit Universal Studios in Orlando, I cant help but feel a little disappointed by this place, its a little too kiddy focused. Elzaan and I were both ready to get into the danger zone or the thrill zone, or any kind of zone that made us laugh with nervousness. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen often enough, You basically have Revenge of the Mummy and Battlestar Galactica to sink your teeth into and for both those rides we queued for well over an hour…in 40 deg heat. We thought going on a Monday was a good idea and that we would smash the entire place 3 times over but it wasn’t the case, the lines for rides got longer as the day went on and by the time we reached the thrill rides the wait was over 2 hours. They do offer a ‘fast pass’ allowing you to stand in the express queue once on every ride but by the time we decided to buy one, it had doubled in price. Theme parks are generally expensive, but I believe the excitement often outweighs the cost, this one just didn’t.
That’s about it for the touristy attractions, but before I finish up I thought I would leave you with some tips and nuggets of information worth knowing. Singapore is expensive, I mean it’s crazy expensive, traveling from the third world to the first is tricky and you really need to budget for it – a beer is gonna cost you about $10 and coffee in the region of $5 (thats generally my scale for measuring costs). The truth is, you cant go half way around the world only to count your pennies when you get there, so give yourself a daily budget and decide in advance where you’re going to splurge, then suck it up and get on with it. The good news is, there is also lots of value to be had, taxis are cheap and i mean really cheap, they’re subsidised by the government and all the drivers are local and honest so you’ll never get taken for a ride, well, other than your destination of course ( LOL alert) ! The subway or MRT is even cheaper and can take you pretty much anywhere you need to go, get a card, load it with about $10 and you’re set! Last bit of advice, get yourself a Singtel tourist sim card, it’s incredible value with a massive amount of blindingly fast data as well as local and international calls and messages.
That’s it folks, thats my view on Singapore, its an incredible place! I loved it! I loved it so much I want to move there, and thats never happened before so its a good sign!
Okay. Stay fancy!
PS: If any of the facts or historical details above are incorrect, I have no doubt you will find their corrections in the comments section below 🙂