Imagine the United States, only more hip, efficient, clean and with better food. You are imagining Singapore, a utopia. Prompt driverless trains dominate the public transit system, tap water is drinkable, and trash cans can be found every 20 feet. Not only is toilet paper provided in most restrooms, but it can also be flushed down the toilet. J walking is nonexistent. Chewing gum is illegal and littering will cost you at least S$1,000 ($800 USD). Nick and I did not see any homeless, we did not see any garbage and there was no pollution. Our ONLY complaint was the long queues entering and exiting immigration.
Singapore is a wealthy country and after 3 days, Nick and I never fully adjusted to the U.S.- like prices. The society seemed a little racist, as all of the manual labor was done by individuals from India or Bangladesh, however overall the people were kind and it was easy to navigate as English is the national language. Nick and I filled our time between meals with activities, although the main focus in Singapore is eating at hawker stalls (open air food courts), which seemed to be located in every neighborhood.
Unfortunately, our travel day from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore took longer than expected. Thus, Nick spent the majority of his birthday on trains. However, he did get a nice Western breakfast and blew out a match at midnight in downtown Singapore after eating some Indian food and drinking a cold brew. Happy 25th Nick Loeb!
Nick and I spent our first morning wandering around the free botanic gardens, visiting the medicine and fragrance gardens. The 183-acre garden was a perfect place to take in some manicured greenery and escape the high rises.
Next, we headed to Chinatown where we ate at 1 of Singapore’s 2 Michelin star awarded harked stalls. We waited for about 30 minutes to enjoy Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle. My tofu was delicious and Nick thoroughly enjoyed his first Michelin star meal that was the cheapest Michelin star meal ever awarded. After, we visited the 5 storey Buddhist temple that holds Buddha’s tooth relic (although it seems to be more symbolic than an actual tooth). We wandered through the museum, which reinstalled our knowledge of Buddha’s life and the life of the future Buddha, Maitreya. Although interesting, because Nick and I have spent so much time in Theravada Buddhist temples, I think we may have enjoyed lunch more.
Next, we headed to Level33, a super highbrow craft brewery on the 33rd floor of a business building. We sat outside and enjoyed the view of the marina and watched ships come and go. We definitely felt a little out of place as our conversation and look, differed greatly from the group sitting next to us of 35 year olds that were discussing their sorority and fraternity groups in college. We made our way to Maxwell Hawker court. This was my favorite meal in Singapore and I had delicious congee with fresh spring onion, fried onion and handmade tofu. For desert I had lychee, almond Jell-O on shaved ice, which my mom always made for my birthdays. She told me it was a Chinese thing, but I don’t think I ever believed her until this moment.
After dinner we watched a free concert and left just in time to watch the marina bay light show. The bay-front building lit up and shot lasers across the city. The manicured skyline reflected in the water. From the bay we walked to Gardens of the Bay where we laid on the cement ground with others and watched 100 foot tall man made trees covered in moss light up to music. Although cheesy, the same kind of cheesy as Disney firework shows, it was still a highlight as the music was great and lights were tasteful.
The next day, Nick and I hiked 8 miles at MacRichie Reservoir. We were looking forward to walking across the sky bridge, a bridge that is raised above the canopy, however it was unfortunately closed on Mondays. We still got a great view of the city from a viewing tower. After, we took the train to an island off the coast of Singapore called Sentosa, which was full of man made beaches, universal studios and an aquarium. While advertised as the largest aquarium in the world, Nick and I decided to splurge and go. Although further research proved it did not even make a list of top 10 largest aquariums it was still well done. Excluding 2 dolphins, we thought they did a good job with the animals that they had in captivity. They had jellyfish, many types of fish, stingrays, hammer head sharks, etc. We left Sentosa, and went to a young hip food truck scene with live music. I ordered durian creme brulee while Nick enjoyed a craft beer among 100 options.
The next morning before we left Singapore we visited the Colonial district and Arab street. The process to get to the airport was the easiest thus far. We walked 500 feet from our hostel to a subway stop, took the subway to the airport terminal and machines checked us in, scanned, weighed and took out luggage. We returned to Bangkok for a night before our next flight to Kolkata, India!
Anyone looking to travel and get a taste of Asia without the chaos, I’d highly recommend Singapore!
– Lau pa sat- Modern and hip hawker stall center with hundreds of options
– Lavender food square- try the wonton noodles
– Zam Zam- famous for it’s murtabak, they make a great vegi version