The cleanest city, state that I have ever traveled to. The island is made up of a diverse range of cultures. Malays, Indian, Chinese and Peranakan people. Malay is the national language spoken, but people here also are fluent in English and Mandarin. They have extremely low unemployment rates, affordable housing, low crime and a very low population of homeless people. There are basic do’s and don’ts when it comes to the Singapore law such as No Gum Chewing or selling it (will land you a $100,000 fine or 2 years in jail), spitting, littering, jaywalking, connecting to someone else WIFI, etc.
It was quite a journey to get here. We left our house on Wednesday at 4:15 am and arrived in Singapore Thanksgiving night at 8:00 pm. Prior to our flight, I tried to figure out how we could beat or at least not be super affected by jet lag since it was a 24-hour trip. We decided that the best route would be to stay up on the first flight and sleep as much as we could on the second flight. We planned to sleep more towards the first half of the flight so by the time we were in Singapore we were tired and ready for bed. As we arrived late in the evening on Thanksgiving, we settled into our hotel and went to sleep to get ready for a long day of sightseeing.
WHAT TO DO IN SINGAPORE
If you saw the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” then this area would be familiar to you. It’s a public park along the bay. We didn’t get to spend a ton of time here because it was pouring out. We apparently went to Singapore in Monsoon season, whoops! Gardens by the bay are supposed to be even more incredible at night! These egg-shaped items that stand in the water, when they are touched at night they change colors.
Which is located right next to Gardens by the Bay is a lush nature park. This place absolutely blew me away. I was in awe of the incredible landscape. You can take a stroll on the elevated walkway or learn about plants that are slowly disappearing from our planet. The pictures speak for themselves!
Another location that was in “Crazy Rich Asians”. It has an incredible rooftop pool overlooking the bay. We wanted to stay here but booked way too late and the price had skyrocketed to $500 a night. We ended up walking through the hotel, having a drink and a small bite to eat. It was the most expensive snack we ever had. After spending an hour at the hotel, we were so glad we didn’t stay there. There was a crazy amount of people. Not only is it a hotel, but a casino, tons of restaurants and a nightclub. If you are looking for a hotel to relax at this is definitely not for you.
Can you say, designer? Floor after floor filled with designer shops. The most incredible part of this mall was a floating Louis Vuitton store. We spent time here mainly for the air conditioning and also a lot of looking but not buying. The people-watching is fascinating for me and I like to get inspiration from all the Singaporean fashion.
Also, TWG a high-quality luxury retailer. They were all over Singapore, they even had one in our hotel!
Haji Lane is in a neighborhood they call Kampong Glam, it is the Muslim Quarter of Singapore. There was a mix of shops and cafes, but one of my favorite parts were all of the fabric stores. If you like textiles, this is a great place to start.
There is a spot called Selfie Café I wanted to go to but they weren’t open. Instead of Latte art, they take a picture of your face and print that on your coffee!
TIP: Go here after 11 am. Most of the Shops when we arrived at 10 am were closed. One store had a sign that really made me laugh, “Open between 11-12 sometimes we open at 10” haha.
We spent most of our time in this area. Whether we were walking around exploring, eating or going out at night. We popped into some little shops and visited the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple right in the center of Chinatown.
Another shopping destination that the locals used to shop at, now filled with a bunch of tourists. Wild Honey where we went to breakfast one morning is located here so we explored a bit. We found a dive bar called No.5 on Emerald Hill the cutest little street filled with restored shophouses. One of our Grab drivers told us that there are 70-80 shopping malls in Singapore, that’s wild!
I would have loved to stay at this iconic hotel, but the cost per room wasn’t quite in our budget. We made a plan to go here and try the famous drink in Singapore, a Singapore Sling. After looking at the ingredients list I didn’t think it was for me. Instead, we just explored the beautiful grounds a bit, but if you a Singapore Sling kind of gal or gent you should most definitely go here for the experience!
While the city is pretty chill during the day, they have a crazy nightlife. Clubbing is not really our cup of tea, but we did enjoy a lot of bars. Below are some recommendations. If you like Whiskey then you definitely need to try the first two.
The younger brother of the next bar. A Japanese whiskey bar located in Chinatown. Rhys had his first high ball here and really enjoyed it. The interior was dark and moody, with beautiful big leather chairs.
This whiskey spot was swanky. As of 2018, it was 32nd out of Asia’s 50 Best Bars list. With our size group, we were able to go up to the private room. The owner took care of us as well as the adorable wait staff. The boys drank lots of Whiskey, I sipped on a 7n7 and even after all the food we had at dinner we continued eating. We had these incredible wagyu beef and pork sandwiches.
Another speakeasy type of bar. Right, when you walk into a little corridor to your left sits a palm reader. You can continue on through the fabric drapes to the bar. They started in New York and in 2017 expanded to their Singapore location! Thought the drinks were a little overpriced, but that was not uncommon for most places in Singapore.
An Ernest Hemingway Bar. There isn’t a sign on the door, so be sure to look up for a small pineapple light. Push hard through the door and you’ve found it! They have a great list of cocktails; old school hip hop tunes played in the background and they served these dried noodle-like chips with your drinks.
Where to Eat
So good we ate here twice. Rhys had the chicken curry both times and I had Kaya Toast. Kaya Toast is a traditional Singaporean breakfast. Smothered between two pieces of bread is butter and a coconut jam, served with a side of soft-boiled eggs you can dip your toast into. There are a ton of locations as this is a chain. Wherever you eat breakfast, if they have Kaya Toast on the menu you MUST get it.
This spot is located in one of the many malls in the Orchard area. We went to the one in Mandrian Galley. It can is a little confusing to get to, but once you find it the food will be worth the journey. I read a lot of reviews prior that something as simple as their scrambled eggs was a must eat. I ordered them and they, in fact, were creamy and delicious.
Hawker Centers are essentially an open-air food court, with a large number of food stalls to choose from. They say to look out for the stalls with the longest lines because those are the most popular amongst the locals. Prior to going our trip, we watched an Anthony Bourdain special on a stall called Tian Tian Chicken Rice. I guess everyone else that visited the Maxwell Food Centre in Chinatown also had the same idea we did. We waited almost 30 minutes for what was supposed to be the best chicken and rice in Singapore. It doesn’t look like much but it was delicious and the chicken was boiled perfectly. Our meal was $5.00.
TIP: Make this a must-do when you go to Singapore, don’t just eat at the hotel restaurants! This really gives you a taste of what local food and life are like.
Another location in Chinatown where we had dinner. This was one of my favorite meals for a couple of reasons. Rhys has a friend Fred whom he grew up with that lives in Singapore. Fred and his wife Veronica thought long and hard to where they wanted to take us for dinner one night. There we sat at the table with Americans, an Ecuadorean and Singaporeans. We all grew up differently. We have all been affected by different cultures. We all have different stereotypes or generalizations. Yet here we were across the world, enjoying incredible Chinese cuisine and conversation with our new friends.
A brewery located in Chinatown. We split a few small items. Salt and Vinegar Fries, Pate and Chicken wings. Rhys had a Gin and Tonic that was on the draft he actually really liked. The Mac and Cheese were also recommended to us, but we didn’t get to try.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at the Swissotel in Singapore which was pretty centrally located. There are a lot of hotels you can choose from, but some can get quite expensive. The rates pretty average at the Swissotel especially compared to home. The Swissotel is part of our blogging family as Stacy and I have built a good relationship with them in Chicago, so we were excited to have a little piece of home with us in Singapore.
Tips for Singapore:
- Make sure to pack sunscreen and a hat. Singapore is extremely hot. Also, pack loose clothing. I wore maxi or sundresses the whole time.
- Shopping is huge in Singapore; I would save some room in your suitcase if you want to do some retail therapy.
- Download Grab. This is the taxi service as they don’t use Uber here.
- You can use the water to brush your teeth, but I would only drink bottled water.
- If you plan to visit any temples make sure to wear modest clothes. I had a long sundress on the day we went, but my shoulders were showing so I borrowed a scarf from the temple.
- We tried to get SIM cards, but our phones aren’t unlocked aka jailbroke so we relied on WiFi everywhere we went. The only time we need to use it was if we wanted to look up something or to get a Grab. We planned most of our day at our hotel prior to leaving. If your phone is unlocked, SIM cards are only like $10 so it’s worth it to get one.
- Download Google maps offline. If you don’t have WiFi you can still look at the maps in case you get lost walking around.
While we were only there for two days, I couldn’t recommend going here enough. It was a great way to dip our toe in southeast Asia and to get ready for the next part of our trip. Even the Singapore airport was pristine, I couldn’t get over the cleanliness and advanced technology. We left Singapore and were headed on a three-hour flight to Hanoi, Vietnam. We flew the Spirit Airlines of Southeast Asia, called VietJet. If you pack extremely light and your five feet tall then this airline is for you. The flight itself was good, but there is very little legroom and no-frills.
TIP: I would pay extra to sit in the exit row if you can. When we checked in, they gave one look at Rhys and they gave him a seat behind the exit row with extra legroom ha-ha.
I can’t wait to share the rest of our trip with you! Now off to explore Hanoi and Ha Long Bay in Vietnam!
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