Turns out fast internet is hard to come by in Singapore/Myanmar/Hong Kong, which is why I’ve been MIA for a while. Now I’m back in SF and ready to give you guys the low down on what’s worth checking out. I’ll start with Singapore because I was there the longest- 3 weeks! Honestly, when I first got into Singapore, I didn’t feel like I was in Asia. It was so sterile and culture-less looking. I was proven wrong after some time and realized it’s just hidden. Walking around the streets of Chinatown or Little India you see bits of the Singaporean culture peeking out from the clean escalators and modern buildings. If you ever find yourself in the country of Singapore here are the things you MUST do:
ParkRoyal on Pickering – This is my favorite hotel I stayed at in Singapore. It even surpassed the Marina Bay Sands Hotel for me. It’s absolutely beautiful and where a room ranges from $200 to $300 USD per night, which is kind of pricey, but average compared to other hotels in Singapore. The building is covered in lavish flora and fauna and the rooms are clean and comfortable. Its steps away from the Charles Quay MRT station and a 5 min walk from Charles Quay.
Hotel 81 Heritage on Beach Road – If you’re on a tight budget check out Hotel 81. They have branches all across the city, but the Heritage branch location is the best place to check out Arab St and Haji Lane. It’s a 10 min walk to the MRT station and Bugis Junction. The rooms are clean ad comfortable but, they are small. My room didn’t have a window, but it didn’t bother me too much. It’s a great place if you’re looking for a place just to sleep and not a resort with the price ranging from $84 to $130 USD per night.
Marina Bay Sands Hotel – Now if you’re going for a luxurious resort type of vacation or just have a buttload of money, stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. It’s super pricey with rooms going for $300 to $800 USD a night. CRAZY! It’s like a mini Vegas, with a casino, multiple celebrity chef restaurants, and shopping mall attached to it. The MRT Bayfront station is directly underneath the hotel so you can get into the city easily. The infamous infinity pool is open only to hotel guests and makes the stay totally worth it. We booked a deluxe room and it was larger than my condo in SF! You can also visit the Gardens by the Bay from here.
AMOY – This was also one of the nicest hotels we stayed at. It’s hard to find because there is a very small sign and the entrance looks like a temple, not a hotel concierge. Just hop over the temple door and walk through to the hotel. It’s located inside old Chinese shop houses and has a nice “East meets West” feel to it. They also have a minibar full of drinks and snacks that are all free! At night the streets come to life with bars and restaurants right outside the door. It costs between $200 and $300 SGD per night to stay here.
ToastBox – I’ve never been to a country more obsessed with toast then Singapore. Seriously, they have multiple chain restaurants that specialize in toast and kopi (Singaporean coffee). Try their iced kopi with a slice of thick toast with peanut butter or laksa, a Singaporean noodle dish (non-veg). It’s the perfect snack to hold you over until your next meal.
Food Republic – If you’re looking for a variety of food, try Food Republic. It’s in most of the malls in Singapore and it looks like a bunch of street food carts on the road. They have carts that sell Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Thai, and just about any other Asian cuisine available.
Komala Vilas – Komala Vilas is located in Little India and serves up some authentic South Indian vegetarian food. Meals are served on giant banana leaves and cost less than $4.00 SGD per item! Rhut and I had a dosa for $4.00! The sambhar was amazing and the coconut chutney was delicious and cooling. It was a bit crowded and they seated us with another couple who got stuck with me and Rhut wolfing down a dosa like animals in front of them. But hey, no shame in our game.
NamNam Noodle Bar – I’ve had banh mi in SF, but the banh mi at NamNam was life changing. I got the lemongrass tofu banh mi and life hasn’t been the same since. It was SO good- tangy, spicy, sweet, just everything good in the world. The bread was nice and crusty and the tofu was delicious. Also for $5 bucks, you can’t go wrong. Rhut and I got one to share and after we were done we contemplated getting another one.
Quick tips for Singapore: There aren’t many vegetarian options there, many times we ended up eating pizza, pasta or Indian food. Also at most restaurants the tip is already calculated onto your bill as a service fee. In addition, you pay for your meals at the counter after you’re done eating. Don’t look like an idiot like me and wait for your check at your table. Other food places worth mentioning are BreadTalk, Claire Loves, and Artistry Cafe.
Things to Do:
Singapore Museum of Art – The Singapore Art Museum was my favorite of all the museums in Singapore. I took their free 2pm guided tour and the art exhibits were very unique. They had one artist who made animal skeletons out of his skin. Gross but definitely made people talk. Another artist created a small city from pencil lead since buildings all start from a pencil drawing. My favorite exhibit was called Not Against Interpretation: Untitled. It’s a bunch of untitled art pieces were people can take a piece of paper and write what think would be a good title for the piece. The art here made people talk and I ended up making a friend at the museum while talking about Singapore and the various art pieces around us!
National Museum of Singapore – This is museum is more for the history nut. They have daily free guided tours at 11am. They have really interesting exhibits on Singaporean food, films, and lifestyle in general. The history portion was really well done and I learned a lot more about how Singapore came to be the country it is today.
Malls: When in Singapore, you have to go to the malls, because 90% of Singapore is literally shopping malls. Check out VivoCity, Suntec, Raffles City, and the other hundreds of malls. Also- they are all connected underground through the MRT system. I spent most of my time people watching in the malls and by people watching I mean watching 16-year-old girls buy Chanel purses and imagining all the ways I could spend that money better. Ha- JK, the Chanel bag is totally worth it 🙂
Gardens by the Bay – One of the largest parks in Singapore, the Gardens by the Bay is a great place to walk and relax. The gardens themselves are free to the public, but the large greenhouses cost $28 SGD to get into both of the greenhouses. I think the greenhouses are worth the cost and were informative.
Night Safari – The night safari is a must. You can grab one of their shuttles from the city to the night safari for $6 SGD. You take a tram ride around the safari and see tons of animals at night in the dark. I’ve never been to a zoo with so many active animals! Also there are 4 trails you can take around the zoo to see more animals! My favorite was the fishing cats trail where you can watch small cats fish for food!
Arab St and Haji Lane – Near the Bugis MRT stop walk around Arab Street and Haji lane to check out some cute local shops and restaurants. The place comes to life at night with bars nearby. You can buy beautiful fabric, jewelry and modern clothing around the area for a decent price.
Singapore Botanic Gardens –Grab some snacks and have a picnic at the gardens. Take the MRT line to Botanic Gardens and follow the signs to the Orchid Gardens. I recommend checking out the gardens towards the end of the day when it’s not too hot otherwise you will hate your life. Because I did. The gardens are really beautiful and full of small secret nooks and picnic areas. If it was wasn’t so hot when I went I probably would have grabbed a book and laid on the grass.
Chinatown and Little India – Venture over to Chinatown and Little India to get the feeling of the hustle and bustle you expect out of any Asian country. In the evening, at the Buddhist Tooth Relic Temple, they have line dancing! It is also another great place to sit, enjoy some ice cream and people watch.
Some other tips:
– It’s HOT and humid in Singapore pack night cloths, however, everyplace has their air conditioning set to arctic so bring some sort of shawl or sweater around with you.
– Don’t be afraid of the subway (MRT), it’s very cheap ( $1.30-$2.30 per ride). Take advantage of it.
– It rains just about everyday in the afternoon- bring an umbrella. It isn’t just a light sprinkle, its more like thunderstorm and monsoon type of rain.
– Stay hydrated, because it’s so hot, you sweat a lot and you end up getting dehydrated. I felt myself going down the dehydration path and had to carry around water bottles everywhere. Luckily almost every hotel gives you two free water bottles. They also give you toothbrushes!