For decades, I’d never been able to muster up any excitement to travel to #SouthEastAsia. When the option to visit a cousin who’d moved to Singapore came up, and I asked a few people about it, the overall consensus seemed to be, ‘It’s known for its Financial district and it’s too sterile and boring. You’ll think so too.’ I went anyway and maybe it was the lower expectation I had, but my first time there was a blast! I’ve been to Singapore three times in all since then, and each time has been more wonderful than the last. Here are some of my best memories and recommendations from each trip:
First trip: 2009
- We posed for photos by the Merlion with a grand backdrop of the 1928 Neo-classical style Fullerton Hotel in the background.
- We also had a night-time river ride down Singapore river and back. The financial district was all lit up like London’s Canary Wharf and made for a garish nightscape along the river. But some might think otherwise and really love it.
- If you like theme parks, visit Sentosa island. We loved the Aquarium!
- We had our first experience of Korean BBQ at Red Pig restaurant on Amoy street which, unfortunately, is now closed down. It was so much fun watching the chef grill our meats on the hot grill at our table itself. Great recommendation, glad you took us there Pinaki B 🙂
- We visited the National Museum, where audio guides were included in the price of our ticket. The museum was deceptively larger than we realized, but also very interesting as it described the development of Singapore from pre-historic origins right through colonial times and into modern Singapore. The displays are vibrant and informative and the audio guide is quite comprehensive about each object it describes.
- We went to Raffles hotel to sample its famous signature drink, ‘The Singapore Sling’, at The Writer’s Bar and the manager kindly offered to take our photograph. He even directed us to the inner room where framed writings of Rudyard Kipling, Noel Coward and Somerset Maugham are hanging on the wall. They were early customers at Raffles when it was just a bungalow with guest rooms started by a couple of Armenian brothers who were hoteliers and businessmen.
- We sampled some mall food courts, which served cheap but tasty, quality eats from across South East Asia
- We shopped for souvenirs in China Town and had relaxing cups of chai in Little India, after devouring Fish Head curry, one of Singapore’s signature dishes.
- Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade is great for night-time walks and the Esplanade had lots of night-time entertainment options in its ticketed arena – it’s a lovely place to catch a show if that’s your thing.
Second trip: 2015
- Marina Bay Sands hotel and a handful of cafes in their retail space with a skylight lightening things up – that feel of being outdoors even though its grey and overcast outside.
- My first sight of Singapore’s latest tourist attraction, Gardens by the Bay, with the zany, metallic flowers reaching into the sky. Quite stunning! It’s the first view you get if walking from Marina Bay Sands hotel on the walkway towards the flowers and you can get some gorgeous pics of the flowers from the height where you are! Thanks to Patty B for taking me there 😀
- The Asian Civilisations museum had some eye-opening displays that I just loved and if I’d had time, I would have visited the Peranakan museum too
- Changi Prison and museum was three bus rides away from where my cousin lived, but it was a lovely day out for us both as we walked around the small, free museum with displays about the history of what happened in the little village outside the city, and how people coped when the prison was set up by the Japanese to incarcerate WWII Prisoners of War. There isn’t much else around the area, so plan for lunch or a snack in the museum’s restaurant to keep you going.
- Sri Mariamman temple and the Buddha Tooth Relic temple – I loved them both and took lots of photographs of the stunning visual details and architecture. Both located in Chinatown area.
- Had amazing seafood at a popular restaurant (the name of which I can’t recall) while in search of chilli crab but had to settle for chilli crayfish instead, which was just as good I think. Kudos to locals Ronnie and Gloria for knowing we’d have a great time here!
- La Pau Sat is one of my favourite spaces in the city, especially when the lunch crowd arrives. Great for people-watching, especially those not glued to their phones. There’s a system of leaving your stuff on the table to ‘book’ seats and going in search of the stall (from over 100) that serves what you want to eat. I couldn’t believe that people were happily leaving their valuables behind to book their seats. When I asked someone about it, they said that no one would dare steal here. Hmmmm. This system wouldn’t work in any place I’ve been to in India.
- Had my first Coldstone Creamery icecream ever – knarly concept. Thanks for the intro, Lisa A!
- Loved the Singapore Art Museum – they were having an open exhibition of contemporary art by local students and artists and it was pretty interesting innovative stuff including installations and sculpture.
Third trip: 2016
- Din Tai Fung has the best dim sum and noodle-soups around and because it’s a chain, you can find one across the city, and probably even abroad as its starting to go global. And if you have the chance, book a table at Paradise Dynasty restaurant. Try the soupy dimsum, which is a specialty there. Thanks for taking me ther, Bobby K!
- I went nuts buying poetry books from local poets at Kinokuniya here. The Japanese bookstore is one of the best brands to be exported across Asia. My first Kinokuniya encounter was in Dubai mall and Singapore has a couple of stores in different malls. They’re great for a sheer variety of books but also for local reads. Very pricey though!
My next trip?
Next time, I’ll visit some of the independent bookstores, more independent cafes, the Chinese Heritage center, see Little India again, visit the Botanic gardens and the Peranakan museum. I’m not sure what it is about the city, but the cultural heritage is so rich and the city has made great strides in putting it on display so that visitors can learn and enjoy the variety, encouraging open spaces as creative hubs so that contemporary modern mixes well with the old. It’s an interesting city with inarguably lots to see and something for everyone. It’s the kind of place I wouldn’t mind staying for a year. Yup, that should give me enough time to really get into the feel of the place and explore it properly.