(Welcome Camille Gladstone to the blog, she will be sharing her recent adventures here over the next few weeks. To find out more about Camille, check the author page)
(Downtown Core, Singapore).
The one I knew about Singapore before I went there was that it was a “very clean” country and had made many odd things illegal such as chewing gum and feeding pigeons. However, in my short five day experience in Singapore, the country was not as tidy and proper as many people claim it to be. There was often trash in the back alleys and the smell of Durian (it’s a gross fruit, look it up) filled the streets (even though it is supposedly “illegal” there). The city makes up for its flaws with it’s beautiful street art and great food; it is truly a multicultural country where you can have many different experiences all within close proximity to one another. Singapore is a country for backpackers and elegant travelers alike.
One important thing to note is that in comparison with other South East Asian countries, is that Singapore is expensive, especially if you plan on doing all of the known tourist attractions. I was in Singapore for New Years 2017, so I understand that prices may have been inflated but it was important to budget day to day because money was easily spent there.
Sam and I were hoping to go to the iconic Marina Bay Sands infinity pool and have a romantic afternoon, but sadly it is restricted to hotel guests. We considered renting a “basic” room for one night at the Marina Bay Sands; until we discovered that a “basic” room ranges anywhere from $445.00-$480.00 CAD per night! Needless to say, this was not in our budget. We did however take a lovely $20.00 boat tour around the city and captured a nice photo of us with the Marina Bay Sands in the background which was well worth the price.
(River Cruise Tour, Singapore).
(Middle Road Street Art, Singapore).
Singapore has an interesting history and it is beautifully displayed in the streets. I knew little of the history of Singapore prior to coming here, and what I learned blew me away. As mentioned previously, Sam and I took an afternoon boat tour around the city and it was accompanied by an audio history lesson in which we learned many new and interesting facts. Such as the history of the ico
nic Merlion (the half lion half fish statue). The fish body represents Singapore's origin as a fishing village when it was called Temasek, which means "sea town" in Javanese. The lion head represents Singapore's original name—Singapura—meaning "lion city" or "kota singa".
((Marina Bay, Singapore). Notice the butterfly flying perfectly in the photo?!).
As a budget traveler, some tourist attractions that I found to be worthwhile included Chinatown and walking the Marina Bay. We chose to watch the fireworks on New Year’s Eve on the Marina Bay and I can sum it up as NOT WORTH IT. The area was packed with locals and tourists and the fireworks lasted a total of three minutes. We met many tourists that came from Indonesia, Korea and the Philippines for Singapore New Years. Within the days leading up to New Years getting a table at a restaurant was often a wait and the city felt like it was bursting at the seams. I do anticipate though that other times of the year would be much less hectic.
(Marina Bay New Year’s fireworks, Singapore).
Now for some great things about the beautiful city of Singapore!
If you’re looking for an authentic Singaporean delight you must visit Toastbox! There are about 70 locations spread throughout Singapore and there is one in the airport, so you can’t miss it. At Toastbox the menu is limited but delicious; most people order the original Kaya and Kopi (coffee and toast with a delicious coconut spread). Stick to ordering this every breakfast or afternoon you are in Singapore and you will be happy, I promise.
(Toastbox [Photograph found in Facebook Photos, Toastbox Singapore, Singapore]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/toastboxsingapore/photos/a.575709799143214.1073741831.183710975009767/575709849143209/?type=3&theater (Originally photographed 2013, September 30)
I would go back to Singapore just to have another morning kaya and kopi at Toastbox.
Sam and I love to explore craft breweries while travelling. We love good beer. We went to a local marketplace that happened to be selling a few craft beers, the beers were decent and we sat down for a while with the brewers talking about the craft beer culture in Singapore. They noted that the craft beer scene in Singapore is on the rise and many more young people were coming to appreciate a local brew. We spent an evening out at Brewerkz, a local brewery, and were delighted by both their tasty food selection and unique craft beers.
And, of course, when in Singapore you must have a Singapore Sling! I am not a big fan of mixed drinks, but I will admit to enjoying myself a few Singapore Slings. If you can not make it to Singapore, it is easy to make this recipe yourself though!
1/2 oz grenadine syrup
1 oz gin
sweet and sour mix
1/2 oz cherry brandy
Pour grenadine into the bottom of a collins glass, and fill with ice. Add gin, and almost-fill with equal parts of sweet and sour and chilled soda. Top with cherry brandy, and serve unstirred, garnished with a cherry.
Read more: Singapore Sling recipe http://www.drinksmixer.com/drink526.html#ixzz4nJ7Isgj
(Nanjya Monjya Restaurant, Singapore).
Now, the important things to note when travelling to Singapore:
Visa & Mastercard:
Rarely accepted, carry cash (but not too much). Even restaurants that promote Visa or Mastercard often do not, they just say this to lure you to eat there then force you to take out cash and pay them extra for the hassle (yes, we had this happen).
In the urban city centre English is largely spoken. Singapore has four official languages; English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil while the symbolic national language is Malay. While walking around Singapore you will hear many different languages and see many vibrant cultures; since English is the main language of business though the majority of citizens speak it at least at the conversational level. I tried to learn some Malay while here and in Malaysia, but it is a difficult language to follow, read and understand. Many popular restaurants play Malay artists though, listening to the music is wonderful even if you can not understand it.
Airbnb is my best friend. However, during my short stay in Singapore we stayed at a hotel. We spent four nights at The Fragrance Hotel, which is normally $62.00 per night CAD, but during New Years it bumped up to $245.00 per night. The hotel was basic, the room had no windows and often felt damp from the humidity. The hotel had a perfect location though, which was something we valued; it was in the centre of the city and in close walking distance to many attractions. Next time I adventure out to Singapore I do plan to find an Airbnb though, it just did not work out this time due to us planning our Singapore trip late and the inflation caused by New Years.
My boyfriend and I each carried a 70L hiking backpack and a small day backpack (carry on size). Having a suitcase travelling through Singapore would have worked well, but if you plan on going to another country beyond Singapore I highly recommend a hiking backpack because it will be easy to carry around as often times taxis/ Ubers do not deliver you directly to hotels.
Singapore has Uber! We used Uber to and from the airport and around the city a few times, it was easy and convenient. Singapore also has excellent public transit; very clean, well priced and most often on time. Being the small city that it is though, if you have the time to walk between locations I highly recommend it as it is easy and allows you to take in the city art.
We came into Singapore from Kuala Lumpur and left to Penang after. It may seem odd to have Singapore in the middle of travels between two Malaysian cities, but flying in Asia is simple so it made sense at the time. We wanted to be in Singapore for New Years, so we flexed our travel plans around this. Travelling in Asia can be easy, or a nightmare depending on what you choose to do with the time and resources you have. There were many night buses and ferries that would go between Singapore and Malaysia, but we chose to fly because flights were short and affordable. We also dreaded going through customs, as in many South East Asian countries customs at land borders can be unsafe and travelers are often scammed in this process so we thought it to be safer and more reliable we'd just travel via air.
We flew into Singapore from Kuala Lumpur with Air Asia, and out to Penang with Tiger Air. Both airlines were fine, nothing special. Air Asia often has delays but we were lucky on this flight to fly direct and early in the morning. Singapore airport is small but busy, just as a majority of airports in Asia are. It is easy to fly most anywhere in Southeast Asia from Singapore, they have many airlines and direct flights.
Going through customs in Singapore was dreadful, but as it often is anywhere. We stood in line for at least two hours to get into the country and felt as though our fingerprints were scanned at every corner. Again, travelling during the busy rush between Christmas and New Year's likely made this a more stressful experience than the norm, but be prepared to sign many documents and give many fingerprints to get into Singapore.
(Marina Bay, Singapore).
As spring turns to summer and I start counting down to Portugal, we've got some more exciting stories coming up.
My high school chum Camille Gladstone is in Valencia, Spain right now. She's another travelling teacher, but she goes to the warmer and more urban places than we tend to go to. She's been to Thailand, Singapore, Peru, NYC, Spain and more. She's got a hunky boyfriend who's a pharmacist for the Canadian military and they travel around the world together like a couple of good looking fools.
She's an excellent writer and amazing photographer with some fantastic stories to share as a regular writer for the blog, starting soon.