Let's travel to: Singapore
Singapore is definitely not your ordinary city (trust me, you’ll see why once you read further). While not much bigger than the size of Toronto, this urban, multi-cultural city-state has something to offer regardless of whichever angle you look at it: from being one of the world’s largest financial and economic hubs, to being one of the world’s cleanest cities and a haven for foodies and fashionistas alike – Singapore does not disappoint its tourists.
USEFUL INFORMATION/INTERESTING FACTS:
- The four main languages in Singapore comprise of English, Malay, Chinese, and Tamil. For the most part, almost everyone can speak English (or “Singlish”, as they call it”), so you won’t have to worry about any language barriers.
- Two words: Hot and humid. One of the best things about Singapore is that it feels like summer all year round, with the temperature almost never falling below 20 degrees. The downside, however, is that there is a considerable amount of rainfall (especially during monsoon season), but the showers don’t tend to last too long. They’re harsh storms, but quick. That being said, 1) bring an umbrella, and 2) don’t bring your nicest clothes because it’s just way too hot and they’ll get ruined. Less is more.
- Singapore’s transportation system – the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) – is highly efficient and covers most of the city. Buy yourself an E-Z Link card and load it up for cheaper fares. No food or drink on the MRT train. Also keep in mind that the MRT’s last trains run until 1:30am the latest, which means that if you’re having a night out, you’re going to have to take a taxi home. Unfortunately, Singapore taxis have a peak hour surcharge of 25% of the meter fare after 6pm… so you’ll have to choose between paying a higher fare or partying until 6am to catch the MRT when it opens.
- You may or may not have heard that chewing gum is illegal in Singapore. Well, that’s not entirely true. The act of chewing gum itself is permitted, but SELLING gum is illegal. And, if you’re chewing gum, DO NOT spit it out anywhere except in a garbage bin – because that’s also illegal. Oh, and don’t spit on the ground either, because that’s also illegal.
- On that note, another key thing to keep in mind is don’t be a litterbug. Now, I don’t mean to discourage you with all these bizarre and strict rules in Singapore, but they are precisely the reason why you’ll be able to enjoy a safe and clean environment where you won’t see a single piece of litter on the floor. Singaporean authorities strictly enforce the law that prohibits littering. If you’re caught littering, you will end up getting fined and possibly even caned (which applies to males only).
WHAT TO DO:
- Take a walk along the Marina Bay Sands waterfront – day or night – and enjoy the incredible architecture, the Merlion fountain, and an overall amazing view (great photo opportunities!).
- Visit the beautiful Raffles Hotel and drink a “Singapore Sling”: a rite of passage for tourists. Warning: Don’t go if you’re allergic to peanuts because the entire floor is covered with peanut shells; for some reason they give you peanuts to snack on, which you can then dispose on the ground!
- Despite all the high-rise buildings and sky scrapers, the city still have a very “green” feel to it, and thus the city’s parks are worth a mention. Particularly, the Singapore Botanic Gardens is home to thousands of species of plants, which you probably will never see at home!
- Continuing on with the “green” theme, check out the Gardens by the Bay or “Supertrees”, which are man-made trees that will make you feel like you’ve stepped out of a scene in Avatar. It’s pretty epic, so you’ll just have to see it for yourself. While near Gardens by the Bay, visit both the conservatory Cloud Forest and Flower Dome for more botanical gardens (it sounds boring but you’ll be amazed by the beauty of it all and gain a new appreciation for nature (hopefully)!)
- Sentosa Island: Take a day-trip to Sentosa Island for a small beach getaway, bet your luck at the Casino, visit the largest sea aquarium in the world, or check out Universal Studios if you want to feel like a kid again. Plenty of options to choose from here.
Where to eat:
Singapore is a foodie’s paradise, as you’ll find a diverse range of cultural dishes and flavours.
- While it’s nice to eat out at restaurants, you must visit a Hawker center if you’re in Singapore. They’re affordable, the quality of the food is good, and they offer a wide variety so you can experiment with different dishes. Maxwell Road Hawker Centre, near the business district, is one of the most famous ones thanks to visits by celebrities such as Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay. A local friend told me that the key to finding the best food is to order from the stalls with the longest line-ups (or queue, as they say in Singapore).
- Local dishes to try: Hainanese Chicken Rice (main dish); Satay; Laksa; Chilli Crab
Where to shop:
- Orchard Road is the 5th Avenue equivalent in Singapore where you’ll find an entire strip full of high-end, luxury brands. Visit the beautiful and flashy ION Orchard Mall and Paragon Mall where you’ll see familiar Western brands and be able to find everything you need.
- Bugis Junction: A great budget shopping option where you’ll find affordable and fashionable clothing, accessories, and everything in between.
- Haji Lane: Lots of cute little shops where you can find art, antiques, textiles, and interesting trinkets. I guess you could say this is the “hipster” part of Singapore.
While Singaporeans are generally known to be diligent and hard-working, they sure love to party. Not only do they like to party, but they like to do it in style. Since “face” – meaning reputation and prestige – is an important value in Singaporean society, you’ll find that the nightlife can be quite lavish and flashy with the rooftop parties and impeccably dressed crowds. Like Vegas, Singapore is another place where your gender alone becomes the sole basis that determines the price you pay to go out: Wednesdays are Ladies night where women are often treated with free entry and complimentary drink tickets (varies depending on where you go). Here were some of my favourite places that you must check out:
- Ku De Ta Club Lounge: If, like most of us, you can’t afford to blow $400+ a night for a room in the Marina Bay Sands to swim in the famous Infinity Pool, then Ku De Ta is the closest you’ll get to the infinity pool. This bar/lounge is located at the top of MBS right beside the infinity pool, and it will afford you one of the best views in the city. Although the lounge itself is usually crowded and full of expats/tourists, I’ve always had a great time!
- Clarke Quay: Better known as tourist central for Singapore, every foreigner/exchange student/expat/tourist needs visit this place as its surrounded by lots of great (overpriced, of course) bars and restaurants where you’ll have an epic night. Lots of places have Happy Hour before 6pm where they’ll have awesome drink specials, such as buy one get one free. Now, the highlight of Clarke Quay is the communal bridge, where everyone hangs out and drinks cheap beer from 7/11! If you’re travelling alone, this is the place to meet people.
- Sentosa Island: Tanjong Beach Club (TBC) AKA The Ibiza of Singapore! – need I say more? Sundays are the big party nights here.
- Zouk: Regarded as one of the top 10 clubs in the world, famous DJs often play at Zouk as it is Singapore’s biggest club. No doubt you’ll have a crazy good time.
- Pangea: Located in the basement of the Marina Bay Sands shopping mall, Pangea is a great spot for a more mature and sophisticated crowd. You’ll find a good crowd, good music, and good vibes all around.
- Swissotel: Every last Thursday of the month, the Stamford has a Helipad party from 8pm-10pm. Yes, it’s on a rooftop where helicopters land and the view is pretty damn amazing.
List written by: Cathy Quach
An extremely open-minded and easy-going young professional with a great zest for life and adventure. I had the privilege of studying abroad in Singapore in 2013, which allowed me to explore much of Southeast Asia; since then, I’ve been consumed by wanderlust and aim to travel whenever the opportunity presents itself. I love learning and experiencing just about everything and anything.