I had bittersweet emotions leaving Cambodia because I truly fell in love with the country. Twelve days wasn’t enough time. I felt like I barely touched the surface. There was plenty more to see, but I also felt this pull to see as much of southeast Asia as possible. It’s part of why after my days in Cambodia, I was ready for my next stop on my southeast Asia backpacking adventure, the city-state of Singapore.
Singapore is unlike any other city I’ve experienced, and that includes cities in the States and Europe. There was plenty to eat and drink and several tourist attractions to see, but the culture is what threw me.
The culture was a mix between west and east, between business style from New York City to the food and religion of the Middle East. Influences can be seen and felt from neighboring southeast Asia countries, European cities, and American businesses.
You can travel from Chinatown to Little India in a day. You can experience wealthy lifestyle to street food on the same street. If you blink, you’d be lost in the mist of the skyscraper buildings.
Besides it being one of the wealthiest S.E. Asia countries, it’s also one of the cleanest and most efficient. Singapore’s public transportation alone is better than what I’ve seen in the States. It was so easy to get around the city, from the buses to the transit lines, wandering Singapore was a breeze.
Places to Stay in Singapore
Accommodations in Singapore are more expensive than any other S.E. Asia country. Hotels, specifically Marina Bay Sands, can cost the average traveler anywhere from 200-800 USD depending on the room. Even hostels can range anywhere from 11USD up to 50USD, depending on the neighborhood and room selection. It’s not really a budget friendly city, like most of S.E. Asia.
Now, I will say this, if I wasn’t a solo backpacker on a budget, I would have 1000% stayed at the Marina Bay Sands Resort for the amenities of the infinity pool over looking the skyline.
Selecting which neighborhood to stay is difficult as there are 8 main areas each with a different vibe.
- Orchard Road
- Colonial / Historic District
- Marina Bay
- The Quays – Clarke, Robertson & Boat
- Bugis & Kampong Glam
- Little India
- Sentosa Island
I have had friends stay in several areas when they visited, plus a good friend, Sammy, who lived in Singapore for 3 years. They each had their own recommendations on which neighborhood and place to stay. I ultimately used the reviews off Hostelworld to select my accommodation; The InnCrowd Hostel, located in Little India.
I chose an 8-bed dorm, which had really nice beds and a large back area for bags. I was blessed with a fairly quiet room, which was much needed. When I left Cambodia, I was starting to come down with the flu. My first day in Singapore was as a rest day and wasn’t mad about it.
I really loved the vibe of this hostel, social with food options in close proximity. Plus, it was located right near one of the transit lines for getting around was a breeze.
Gardens by the Bay
One of the top tourist attractions in Singapore is the Gardens by the Bay. This attraction offers a wide range of things to see and do.
There are two conservatories to visit, the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome. It costs S$28 for both attractions. I highly recommend a visit to these gardens at least once in your lifetime.
The Cloud Forest is a temperament controlled building with plants, ferns, and flowers from topical regions. And, inside the dome, is the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, standing at 30 meters. There is a Treetop Walk (skywalk), which takes you to different temperament forests, while teaching you about the various fauna.
The Flower Dome is the world’s largest glass greenhouse and home to countless plants and flowers from the Mediterranean region. In total, there are plants and flower showcased in the Flower Dome from five continents, with one main display that changes throughout the year.
Outside the domes, you will see the Supertree Grove and OCBC Skyway. They stand from 25-50 meters high made from concert, metal, and living plants. Each Supertree has four parts: the core, the trunk, panels, and the canopy. They are truly mesmerizing, looking from the ground up. Plus, it can be enjoyed during the day and at night, which offers a light and music show.
Between two Supertrees lies the OCBC Skyway which sits 22 meters about the ground and offers an impressive view of Singapore. If you’re obsessed with views and skylines like me, then pay the S$8 extra to take a stroll. The views are pretty spectacular. I don’t regret this splurge at all.
Basically, from a variety of restaurants to floral and fauna galore, Gardens of the Bay mustn’t be missed.
Marina Bay Sands SkyPark Observation Deck
For the best view of Gardens by the Bay, I suggest heading to the top of Marina Bay Sands. You do not have to be a guest in the hotel to be able to achieve the beautiful view of Singapore. There is a Sands SkyPark Observation Deck that’s open from 9:30-10pm weekdays, until 11pm on the weekends. It’s 57 stories up and offers a birds-eye view of Gardens by the Bay and a panoramic view of the Singapore skyline.
Tickets vary in price depending on the offer or package you select. You can purchase online for an adult ticket at SGD 25, an adult ticket + frozen Singapore Sling (alcoholic) beverage at SGD 32, or an adult ticket + dessert or adult ticket + beer at SGD 35, if you plan ahead. But, if you’re like me and don’t plan ahead, don’t worry. You can purchase on sight at the Observation Deck, but the prices are about SGD 1 more expensive.
Before I arrived to Singapore, I reached out to my friend, Sammy. She lived in Singapore for 3 years, and I knew she’d be a good resource for “Things to Do” and “Places to Eat.” She sent me back this long text message and I used it as my guide to Singapore.
In her text message, she wrote about the Singapore Flyer, which is a large Ferris wheel (think London Eye). It’s location is pretty near to the Gardens by the Bay, so doable to combine the two in a day. I passed on taking a ride, mostly because of budget, but it gave the skyline a pretty unique feature. I’ve heard sunset is the best time to take a joy ride!
A few other attractions she told me about included the zoo, the botanical garden, check out Orchard shopping area, taking a river cruise at Marina Bay, or check out Matrichie, the main reservoir.
One place of interest that she mention was to head to Sentosa Island. Sentosa Island is very close to the mainland and easily accessible by metro or taxi. There are several beaches, Palawan, Siloso, or Tanjong Beach, which you could easily spend the day. You could even visit Universal Studios or head to the Adventure Cove Waterpark. Unfortunately, I just didn’t have enough time (or budget) to be able to visit Sentosa Island, but I would include it in your itinerary if you have the time.
Another option for an island adventure is taking a ferry to Paula Ubin. Paula Ubin is located right along the Singapore/Malaysia border. It is more nature based and provides option for biking or mountain biking, or just walking around if that’s more your style. One thing she mentioned, bring water and don’t trust the monkeys.
Haw Par Villa
One place I ventured too off my friend’s “Things to Do” list was a park called Haw Par Villa. It’s a free park easily accessible by metro, located pretty close to the National University of Singapore. Haw Par Villa is a park designed around Chinese legends and religious mythology. It’s a compilation of large statues and dioramas and has an area that tells the story of the Ten Courts of Hell, called Hell’s Museum. Hell’s Museum is designated to the Chinese mythology Diyu and shows details about the torture or punishment one receives for various sins/crimes.
Not going to lie, when I say it was a little gory and freaky, but also pretty unique. It was free and not a bad place to spend an hour or two learning.
Eating in Singapore
Eating in Singapore is very easy with loads of different options. From Indian food to American/Western food, you will not go hungry.
Sammy recommended I go eat local food at places called hawkers. But not just any hawker, she told me to check out the oldest and first hawker stale located at 18 Raffles Quay. It was literally smack in the center of downtown Singapore. There were skyscrapers all around and then this one story building. Hawkers are food stales built together in a pentagon shape. They have plenty of local food like chicken and rice, fish, and fried kway teow. Plus other cuisines like Japanese, Indonesian satay, and Malaysian burritos called popiah.
In Little India, where I was staying, I ate several meals. I ate a variety of curries, kebabs, a dish of chicken tikka masala, and more than my fair share of naan bread, and none of it disappointed.
The food was extraordinarily delicious. To be honest, I haven’t really had any unappetizing food while living in southeast Asia, and Singapore was no exception.
Nerding Out in Singapore
I’m not going to lie to you when I say I did a pretty American thing in Singapore. No, I did not go eat at McDonald’s or any type of American restaurant. What I did was…I went to CENTRAL PERK CAFE.
Yes, exactly like in TV show, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Central Perk Cafe is a designed fairly close to the one in the show. I’m a HUGE F.R.I.E.N.D.S. fan and when Sammy told me about this cafe, I knew it was going to be a MUST see. They offer a variety of foods, drinks and coffee around each of the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. characters, including the big orange couch and a huge TV screen playing episodes. Their jokes will never get old. I loved being able to nerd out, sit on the orange couch and drink my coffee, just like in the show.
I was sad leaving Singapore, because there was more I wanted to see and do. But my school break was already halfway over and Singapore was not budget friendly. It was time to venture to my next country and slow down to enjoy a personalized experience with a family friend in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.