The Must-Do’s of Singapore

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I took 600 photos over the course of 4.5 days. The reason I went with this one as the feature photo is because it truly embodies Singapore and highlights some of its key characteristics. No where else in the world will you find such lush and abundant greenery alongside endless waves of skyscrapers. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that their government invests in the health of the Earth and its citizens by making a point to plant so many trees. This is so unique to Singapore and definitely makes my heart flooded with warmth.

Anyway, I’ve broken down this post to have two sections—the top half is for if you have ~3 days to spend in Singapore and then full guide is for those who plan to spend 3-5 days there. Singapore is one of those destinations that people stop-by as a part of their Asia trip. I find that travelers underestimate how much there is to do there because it’s such a small country. Size matters but in some cases only! I was there for 5 days but felt like I could’ve stayed for longer. Good thing the flights over from Bali are short and cheap!

TIP: If you’re planning a SouthEast Asia trip or are an ex-pat living in Bali, I highly recommend going to Singapore for the Holidays. With the majority of people here being Hindu, there is virtually no Christmas spirit at all. This is weird to me since Christmas has always been a huge part of my life! I’m glad I was able to squeeze in some festivities during this month.

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One of the amazing photo opps offered at the Gardens

Gardens by the Bay
I didn’t realize how obsessed I was with the Gardens until I began to write about it. I felt like I had sooooo much to say so I made a separate post about it. Four words–YOU HAVE TO GO.

EAT ALL THE FOOD
Being in Singapore made me wish I had 8 stomachs. I highly recommend checking out some hawkers (think food court but 23490x more awesome)—it’s a great way to experience the culture, try a whole bunch of cuisines, reduce dining time, and save money without sacrificing quality. I ate from ~25 different stalls and I did not have a single bad meal.

TIP: bring napkins to eat at hawkers! Otherwise you’ll have to pay for them.

In case you didn’t already guess it, I wrote a separate post on all the foods you NEED to eat in Singapore.  Learn how to avoid getting scammed when dining out (it is 100% bound to happen to you if you don’t read this).

A general note about dining in Singapore—many hawker stands and restaurants focus on one specialty item.  I love this ideal since it means that if someone is ballsy enough to open up a shop that mainly serves one dish, theres a 99% chance that they are really freaking good at making it. Sort of like how in our economy, people specialize in what they’re good at.  This situation is great because it doesn’t leave space for vegans to complain about a steakhouse having bad salads.  Optionality is great but as a restaurant owner myself, there are certain foods that I’m not as passionate about serving on our menu. By not forcing establishments to serve foods that they’re not very into, we lower the chances of diners having disappointing meals and allow restaurant owners to enjoy their job more. Also, since the same key component items go into the dish, this means that inventory moves quickly.  If you order less popular food at a restaurant, who knows how long some of those ingredients have been sitting around for!

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Night swim w/ the skyscrapers

Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool
This spot is a must for all travel bloggers! It’s been on my bucket list forever. The infinity pool here is definitely one of the most iconic luxury travel photos and characteristics of Singapore. Pretty sure this is the only place in the world where you can snag a photo that makes it look like you’re swimming with skyscrapers. They used to allow non-guests to visit the pool but since that got out of hand, there is now staff monitoring the gate where every single guest has to tap in with their room card to enter the pool.

TIP: book the majority of your stay at an Air BNB and then book one night at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. That way you can still snag some great shots without breaking the bank. I stayed here on my last night since it was a Tuesday AKA the cheapest rate out of all the nights I was in Singapore. It was also a great way to end the trip with a bang! Cross check different websites (Kayak, Google, Marina Bay Sands, etc) because they have varying rates at different times. I recommend coming here at night right before closing so you can get solo photos. Make sure to use a tripod or camera with low aperture in order to do the scene justice. Same theory goes for getting a daytime photo—try to go as early as possible to avoid crowds unless you don’t mind them. Do beware though, the pool is not heated so the earlier and later you go, the colder it will be. Beauty is pain?

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Observing Singapore–the old and the new

Sentosa
This little gem is sort of like a mesh between Disney and the Bahamas. The best part is it is extremely easy to access from the center of Singapore! There is something here for everyone, free activities as well as luxurious ones. I highly recommend checking out: the Luge, Trick Eye Museum, and the Adventure Cove Waterpark.  Paying for the attractions individually can add up really quickly.  I recommend getting a package deal either in advance online or at one of the booths at Sentosa.

Spoiler alert: more in-depth article to come!!

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Hustle and Bustle of Chinatown

Chinatown
This is a great place to buy souvenirs–awesome selection and prices. I even bought a Nasi Lemak magnet here (I became absolutely obsessed with this dish while here)!!!!!!!!

Chinatown is spread out over a few blocks and is filled with tons of great restaurants and hawkers! I love the salted fish skin and beef jerky from Fragrance.  The Chinatown Complex Food Centre is located inside a shopping mall and is home to Hawker Chan, the famous Michelin rated food stall.

There’s also the Chinatown Heritage Centre where you get to time travel back 60+ years ago to see how people used to live.  They’ve re-made the 8×8 homes, offices, cafes, and more with extreme detail and precision. You’ll learn about the history of how and why Chinatown got started here.

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Enjoying the riverboat tour on the Singapore River

Clarke Quay
We came here twice. Once was during the day to attend a boat tour and then at night to party. There are also some dining options here, including Tongkang, where the meals are actually enjoyed on classic riverboat. Other than that, there wasn’t much to do in this area during the day.

The boat tour was ~$30 for a 45 minute ride down the river.  This said tour was a bit underwhelming.  There was a video playing in the boat that gave you some fun facts about Singapore but you could only hear it when you were inside the boat–but why would you want to be there if you could be outside seeing the city?! My favorite part of the tour was when we got towards Downtown.  It was pretty astonishing seeing the vast contrast between the shiny skyscrapers and the more historical establishments of Singapore.  Other than that, I wouldn’t really recommend this boat tour.  There are better ways to explore and learn about the city.  This is a good option if you are looking to do something low-key or are traveling with infants and elders

The night time is when Clarke Quay truly comes to life.  Alcohol is extremely expensive here. The best deal we found was $40 for 5 beers. Cocktails are easily $15-20 even at the most average of bars! If you’re into clubbing and electronic music, definitely check out Zouk, a world famous award winning club!! Pregame at Red Tail next door where they have Asian Fusion bites and beer pong (could it even get better than that?); an $80 tab, which is not a lot for this area, gets you free admission into Capital or Zouk.

TIP: those two clubs are actually connected. We were able to sneak back and forth between them easily—there’s a sign near their bathrooms that show you where to go. It was super straight forward and easy to do. Also, be sure to pregame before heading out to save some money. Be intentional about buying alcohol though, sales are cut-off at 10:30 PM and avoid purchasing at 7-11 because they are notoriously expensive ($80 for Johnny Walker Red Label)!! Guess who was in line ready to pay for a handle at 10:30 -____-

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Little India, Singapore

Little India
I’ve never been to India but I imagine this to be a good resemblance of the actual country between the charming architecture with the hustle and bustle.  The streets can be overwhelmingly busy.  If you are in the area, be sure to eat at their hawker (prepare to eat with your hands!!).  Besides that, there isn’t much to do here but I still recommend swinging by just to experience the vibe.

While there, my friends and I couldn’t help but to notice that it was very literally 99% men in Little India.  The dramatically disproportionate ratio actually made clubs look heavenly.  I have to admit there were certain times where I felt uncomfortable despite having come here with fives guys who would’ve protected me.  I also noticed that there was a really long line outside of Western Union that wrapped around the block.  Having interacted with hundreds of immigrants staff throughout my life working with my family, I knew it could only mean one thing.  It was Sunday the 17th which meant everyone had just gotten paid; both those who received their paycheck on Sundays and also those who got them in the middle of the month. Everyone was funneling their hard earned money back home to feed their family in India.

I later shared my Little India observations with my friend who lives in Singapore and he mentioned that the government makes a conscious effort to keep the Indian population in the city at a minimal.  By allowing men to work here and keeping women out, the chances of Indian reproduction in the country is significantly reduced.  Hearing this made me feel a little uncomfortable but it certainly made sense now why it was harder to spot a woman than Waldo.

TIP: Eating at the Tekka Centre is a must if you like Indian food or are in the area! There was a large variety of food and drinks to choose from. This hawker center is the only place where people would approach us at our table to lure us to their stalls.  They were pretty persistent and aggressive about it.  It definitely was annoying sometimes but I 105% respect their hustle. Be prepared to use your hands and definitely don’t forget to buy or bring napkins!  There is nothing worse than reaching for one only to realize you weren’t given any and then having to dig through your pockets or purse with curry soaked fingers to shell out change.

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Our feast at the Tekka Centre

Botanic Gardens
The Singapore Botanic Gardens, not to be confused with the Gardens by the Bay, is a tropical garden located next to Orchard Road. It’s one of three gardens recognized on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Hope you enjoyed reading my suggestions! That’s it for my Singapore tips unless you’re planning a trip to China. If so, read on!

TIP: I was in Singapore for 5 days because I randomly needed to make a business trip over to China. I set aside a few hours over the course of two days to apply for a China visa. It was relatively easy to obtain but you have to make sure to read all the instructions carefully; with a hefty fee, I was able to apply and receive one in less than 24 hours. The visa application center is in Downtown and they have all the resources you need right there in order to apply (passport photo booth, photocopy machines for your passport and immigration slip, and printers for airline and hotel confirmation). The process was a lot easier and seamless than I imagined and all the stuff were surprisingly friendly!

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