New Singapore will be one of the world’s finest, most liveable cities. Arts, theatres, museums, music and sports will flourish – Goh Chok Tong.
Singapore was a complete last minute add-on to what finished off my year of travels. To be honest, it was never even on my travel agenda whilst I was on the other side of the world, and let me tell you: that was a massive mistake.
Singapore is a country full of wonder, tall buildings, incredible food, a complete shopaholic’s destination, with an immense amount of culture too. I would return in a heartbeat, especially as there are things that I did not have the time nor the money to see and do, despite being there for a full five days which – as the locals say – is enough time to see the entire island.
Where to stay
The dream would be Marina Bay Sands Hotel, complete with infinity pool that is 57 levels above ground and a view of the iconic Gardens By The Bay. Rooms start around £290 per night for a Premier Room for two people.
Another incredible place – so I’ve heard – is Dorsett Hotel. This 4 star hotel is in the heart of the Chinese Quarter, surrounded by the nostalgic beginnings of Singapore, with rooms starting around £89 per night for two people.
Where I actually stayed was in a 16 bed dorm in Bunc Hostel in Little India. The location is great for getting around easily, and the hostel is pretty decent for backpackers with breakfast – coco pops, cornflakes and toast – included. Rooms start from £13 per person per night.
Platypus Kitchen is by far my favourite restaurant in Singapore, and it’s just across the road from the National Library. We wandered in there during lunch time, just in time for the lunch special. The food is to die for. I had potato and leek soup to start which is by far the best soup I have ever tasted. For main, I had a fiery chicken and tomato pasta, and I had a beautiful hot chocolate to finish. I paid $12.90 for a drink, soup and pasta which is around £7 – and for decent food that is a complete bargain!
Peach Garden Chinese Restaurant located in Gardens By The Bay houses an incredible piece of duck. The meat fell off the chopsticks – which I still can’t use – and melted in my mouth. The noodles were not that great, and I’m glad I didn’t have the optional soup that could have accompanied them. However, the prices were not that steep, so it’s a good place to stop for food if you can get past the lack of customer service by the staff.
Marché is a stone’s throw from the famous Raffles Hotel, right on the corner in front of the traffic lights; you can’t miss it. It has all kinds of food favourites on the menu such as pizza (the four cheese is amazing btw), grilled chicken, steak, salads and more. There are daily specials for around $18 a piece.
Clarke Quay is definitely a must visit for a buzzing vibe and a whole choice of fabulous food with a view of the river and live music in the distance. Visit after sundown for that magical feeling when you’re off out on holiday – you know what I mean? The actual restaurant we visited was Muchos, a Mexican restaurant with the hot spice to go with it. The food was great but we all ate at various times, and a tiny bowl of cheese cost $4 or $5.
The Arab Quarter was a place we stumbled across on our first night, and failed to return during the day time to see more of the vibrant colours and experience another bar or restaurant there. There were buskers in the street singing new Ed Sheeran music; a huge bustle of people drinking and laughing; late night stores still open, selling colourful merchandise. The place we ate at is called Berg’s Gourmet Burgers. The burgers are huge, nearly double the standard size. I had one called Miss Piggy as I am Miss Piggy at times. You have to pay $5 extra for chips and (amazing) lemonade, which you probably won’t eat as you are too full from the burger.
There are two dominating places to shop in Singapore: The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands and Orchard Road. I was in awe of both of them; I still am.
Incredible designer stores of high end luxury seemed like skyscrapers in comparison to the stores I have seen elsewhere. From the classics such as Chanel and Dior to massive fashion labels such as Bottega Veneta, Chloé and Prada adorning their own places. Luxury it seems is a massive staple in Singapore shopping, and I wouldn’t be surprised if men and women everywhere took empty suitcases just to go on a shopping spree.
Not only are there the stores for those with mega dollars in your bank accounts, unlike me, but there are plenty of Bershka, Pull & Bear and H&M stores to go round for the rest of us too, including a four storey one that I enjoyed spending some time in one evening. There is also a massive M&S on Orchard Road for us Brits to go to in need of some home TLC.
What to do
There is plenty to see and do during your stay in Singapore, but I’ve narrowed it down to my personal favourites:
Drink a Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel. It is on every single tourist’s to do list when they visit Singapore, and it should be at the top of that list. The Singapore Sling is a famous cocktail which was invented at Raffles Hotel in 1915. Since then, over a century ago, it has blossomed into this historic factor and tourist trade that rakes people in from across the globe. I feel like it is the entire experience of it: the drink itself is amazing which, considering I’m not a gin drinker myself – scandalous I know – was a surprise. Plus, it tastes like juice, thus making it pretty lethal, especially at $31 a go. Walking into the Bar & Billiard Room was another experience; there is original furniture in there from 1894 Parliament House which was donated in the early 1900s, or so the plaque says before you walk in. One last thing: dress up from the usual flip flop-shorts ensemble as it’ll give the more mature customers something less to stare at if and when they see young people enter such a prestigious building.
Take in the view from Sands Skypark Observation Deck. For an extra special experience, go at night time to see the city in complete darkness apart from tiny spotted lights. It was a little pricey for simply going up to Floor 56 of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, especially after 9pm at night which is the time we arrived there; the Observation Deck closes at 10pm. The price for an adult is $23. Nevertheless, it is completely worth seeing a near 360 degree view of Singapore itself, especially the CBD. It is a view I definitely won’t be forgetting any time soon.
Visit Sentosa Island. Nicknamed the Island of Fun, it certainly lives up to it. Sentosa Island is the home of Universal Studios – a place I sadly didn’t get to visit, although that gives me an excuse to go back – as well as a manmade beach and a mini waterpark. There is also an indoor skydiving centre! In retrospect, I wish I had spent more time there as it is bigger than what I had expected, with lots to do.
Buy sweets from Candyland. Another place of extreme interest, particularly from the little kid inside of all of us, is Candyland. I have never seen a sweet shop so big, complete with around 30-50 various pick-n-mix within the store, an ice cream counter, a Magnum tower and more. It is a ten year old’s heaven, and a sweet lover’s paradise.
Hop on and off the City Sightseeing Bus. This was probably the best decision we made in Singapore. There is no other way to explore a new city after all. Complete with an account of Singapore’s history ringing through our red headphones, we got to see a lot of the city in just one bus ride, on an open top bus. There were plenty of stops throughout each district and for a price of $49 for 48 hours, you can’t go wrong. 24 hours was $43!
What to see
Gardens By The Bay. This garden of magic is absolutely a must-see. It is mesmerising and beautiful, especially in the dark. The iconic Supertrees literally can’t be missed and at night they form part of a light show which changes in colour throughout the evening until the park closes at 10pm. The Supertrees are only the beginning: various pieces of art make the gardens their home, over forty in fact, such as Planet – a huge bronze baby – created by Marc Quinn in the eye of his baby son, alongside Simba, Guardian Lions, Dragonfly Riders and much more. Plus, there are Heritage Gardens and conservatories to explore too.
National Library. As a huge bookworm, I had to visit the library. The building itself is huge and extremely modern. Inside, it is a bit of a whirlwind, but the children’s section is by far the most interesting. It is the world’s first green library whereby there is recycled plastic bottles on the ceiling and eco-building materials are used to create this magical space for children. Whilst I was there, there was a mini exhibition on Shakespeare too.
Botanic Gardens. Technically, I didn’t visit the second largest tropical garden (within city limits) in the world, second only to Rio de Janero. I really wish I had as I know I adore Botanic Gardens. It has 600,000 specimens in the library archives, some of which are from the sixteenth century. I missed it during my trip, so I’m telling you not to. Make it a priority.
Other things I would have loved to do: The Singapore Flyer; Walk along the tree tops; Go to East Coast Park.
Have you been to Singapore? What are your favourite places to see and eat? Have I missed anything vital in a guide to Singapore? Let me know!
Love, Faye xo