A brief visit of Singapore
Singapore was not initially on our list of countries to visit, but since we were on our way to discover Malaysia and Indonesia, why not including Singapore on the way also? This doesn’t mean that Singapore is not worth of interest (on the contrary), but it means that… it is the jewel of South East Asia, and clearly more expensive than the rest of the region! This is why we ended up spending only two nights in Singapore. I can tell you, it was well worth it.
Arriving to Singapore from Malaysia is relatively easy. We were too late to catch a train (fully booked) so we opted for a bus (many, many options to choose from!). The border itself is well organized and the time spent there really depends on the number of people crossing at the same time as you. All in all it was very smooth for us.
As my previous experience in Singapore demonstrated (more precisely as my friend Emma proved me), it is much better to plan ahead of time any trip to Singapore in order to have a chance to have a decent and affordable accommodation! To give you an idea: a night in a dorm that you would pay between 2 to 10 USD almost anywhere in South-East Asia while in Singapore it costs around 20 to 50 USD! Yes we are talking about sleeping in a dorm!
Now you understand why Singapore was just a small stop-over on our trip. Here is how we enjoyed it with a relatively limited budget.
Wandering around the city
Singapore is an interesting city to explore. Due to the British history in the region, the architecture is very similar to the one we could find in Malaysia, except that it is all renovated and bright clean. There are pedestrian crossings (finally!) and also traffic lights for pedestrians, which makes it much easier to walk around the city!
Like in Malaysia, you can also find a Little India and a China Town. Temples and churches for all religions can be found throughout the city. The population of Singapore is highly diversified and it is visible in many aspects of the daily life, starting with the food.
Singapore and Malaysia are very similar on many points. They were actually merged into one state for a short period of time in the 60’s under the Federation of Malaysia. Many political and economical disagreements between both governments led to the creation of the independent Republic of Singapore in 1965.
Keeping an open eye
You would think that as a rich economical hub with penalties and fines for about anything*, Singapore would be just this alignment of clean streets and shiny buildings. Luckily for us, art is also an important part of the city life! From sculptures and street art, to incredible bars and funny shops, there are many things to explore. Also keep an eye open for the free shows!
* Examples of fines you can get exposed to in Singapore: littering, eating or selling chewing-gums, spitting, not flushing the toilets, feeding pigeons, jaywalking (unless there is no crossroad within 50 meters)… They make sure to have signs and posts everywhere for reminding of the excessive fines.
Admiring the skyline
The heart of the city is full of luxury hotels, businesses, big brands and residential skyscrapers. The skyline of the city is therefore quite impressive. The most recent buildings seems to compete with each other over the most original architecture, even though it stays relatively conventional. Three of the main emblematic landmarks of Singapore are famous because of their architecture:
- The luxury hotel Marina Bay Sand, with its rooftop structure shaped like a boat;
- The Supertree Grove in the Gardens by the Bay;
- The Esplanade, a performing arts center, nicknamed the Durian because of its shape;
Having a walk in the Gardens by the Bay
This gardens are located just behind the Marina Bay Sands. The “Gardens by the Bay” have been opened to public relatively recent, in 2011, and they offer free access to the park. The park is open daily from 5am to 2am.
Its most iconic construction is the Supertree Grove: vertical gardens shaped like giant trees. Other areas of the outdoor gardens include: the Heritage Gardens, the World of Plants and the Dragonfly and Kingfisher Lakes. In addition you could visit some of the greenhouses around like the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. Or you can just wander on the pleasant trails and find a spot for an afternoon nap like we did 🙂
Note: it seems like there is a free music and light show every evening but we didn’t stay for it.
Enjoying a free show at Marina Bay front
The view from the bay is first of all very nice, especially for sunset. You can walk along a nice promenade, enjoy the lily pond, have a sit and chill. Too hot? Get inside the luxury mall, enjoy the kids playing on the interactive floor or follow the gondolas navigating on the indoor river (!). Yes, you read that right, gondolas.
When the sun is gone, don’t take too long to find a spot to sit as it will get crowded. At 8pm, the show will start! Two beautiful acts where the light plays with the water while loud music will captivate you (or surprise you!). You missed it? No problem, second show is at 9pm! It was definitely a nice experience, and we would recommend it.
Entertaining yourself on Sentosa Island
Sentosa Island is basically a resort island near Singapore city. It is connected by subway but you can also get there by cable-car, by car or by foot. The cheapest way for now is “by foot”, which is free, but not for long since they will introduce a tax in 2019 🙂
What is to be found on Sentosa? We found huge resorts, big entertainment parks like Universal Studio and smaller activities like indoor skydiving or wave surfing. Of course you also have many restaurants around! Take a walk around the island, towards the beach (or take the shuttle if you are too tired/ lazy); they have some nice installations all around.
We came to Sentosa Island for one main reason: the S.E.A. Aquarium. It used to be the largest aquarium in the world (of course they built bigger since then…) so it is really impressive. They have a very rich and informative section on sharks which we really liked. The dolphin section is really lame (understand: sad) though. You can also pass through tunnels to cross the big aquarium tanks. But the heart of the aquarium is a giant tank that apparently contains about 50,000 living water species! The main window is as big as a theater screen, both impressive and fascinating!
Eating at a Michelin Star on a budget
As we said, Singapore is expensive and eating there can represent also a separate budget. Luckily they have cheap food courts everywhere! And Singapore is known to host the cheapest Michelin star restaurant: the street stall Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle’s with a chicken rice dish for S$ 2! (1.4 USD). With no surprise there is usually a very long line to get food there! But Singapore hosts another 28 (!) Michelin stars restaurants with a wide range of prices!
During our walks we passed in front of a Chinese restaurant that looked good. Since it was not busy we ended up trying the Chinese cuisine of Putien (one star Michelin !). We opted for the set menu consisting of (I highlighted our options):
- Braised Bamboo Shoot;
- PUTIEN Bian Rou Soup;
- Homemade Bean Curd;
- Steamed Yellow Croaker / with Chili;
- Choice of PUTIEN Lor Mee, Fried Heng Hwa Bee Hoon, PUTIEN Cabbage Rice;
- Choice of Lotus Seed with White Fungus Soup, Chilled Lemongrass Jelly with Fruits, Hot Yam Paste with Gingko Nuts;
- Chinese tea included.
For a total of S$ 42 +tax (32 USD) we enjoyed a very delicious lunch! Can’t beat that!
Arriving early at the airport
Singapore airport is one of those airports that makes you enjoy traveling … and we mean it. It is easily reachable by subway, it is easy to go around and it is beautiful, modern and well organized. Should I say more? All in all it is the kind of airport where you can arrive early with no regrets!