We’d always regarded Singapore a bit like Dubai – a place to see if we happened to be passing through, but not somewhere to go off it’s own merit. That being said, we’ve had a number of friends who really enjoyed it, and with that in mind, we thought it was a good place to start our mainland SE Asia adventure. The flight itself from Indonesia (Labuan Bajo to Singapore via Bali) was a decent price, but we fully expected to arrive in Singapore and drop a ton of money in the 2 days we’d be there. Although there were parts of Singapore that were expensive, we were pleasantly surprised by how cheap it was overall.
We’ve been finding that booking.com has been giving us the best and cheapest options for accommodation and it’s usually our first port of call before we book anything else. Singapore was no different, except that we did find the overall price of accommodation here was higher than what we’ve been paying throughout the rest of SE Asia.
Side note – I thought I’d bagged us a bargain on AirB&B and was all ready to book it when Rich realised that it was actually just across the border in Malaysia (hence the great price), despite it being listed as Singapore. After looking a bit more, we realised that there were a number of properties on AirB&B that did this, so look out for that!
Now, here’s why I think we found Singapore a lot less expensive then people had lead us to believe – we tend to prioritise cost over convince and comfort, and we don’t mind putting in some serious miles walking around a place to see the sites, and this can make a huge difference. Before you shout at me – I know there are a lot of you that do the exact same thing as us and will know exactly what I’m talking about. I also don’t judge those of you who do the opposite, as we’ve been known to do the same on occasion as well, and it’s great! Singapore is a great example of just how much booking accommodation out of the main area can make a huge savings, although there are places that you will find this makes minimal difference. Two nights at one of the cheapest options set us back about $90 AUD, and it took us a good hour to walk to the marina and gardens area of Singapore. Prices rose drastically from there the closer to the centre you get, the most expensive (as of right now) only setting you back $2246 AUD.
We opted to go for a private room with A/C (I get real cranky when I’m too hot to sleep – something about growing up with parents who make you sleep at sub zero temperatures in the middle of winter to save money 😂 ), otherwise it would have been even cheaper, but I have no regrets. The area that we were in was out of the main “tourist trap” area, which meant the food on the streets around us was local, cheap, and so good. And the iced milk tea – I want it all the time. Essentially, the food in the more local places was less expensive, although we did find some decently priced food stalls closer to the centre on our wander.
Our flight got in at 2 am on a Monday, which meant we also had to book a place with 24 hour check in. Once we landed, it was easy enough to connect to the free airport Wi-Fi and order a Grab (Asia’s answer to Uber) to take us to our hotel. After checking in, we crashed for a few hours before we were up and ready to explore Singapore.
It was, admittedly, a slow start due to our late night, but we managed to find a little cafe down the road that sold the aforementioned iced milk tea, as well as a pretty traditional Singapore breakfast – Kaya toast with half-boiled eggs. Kaya toast is a spread of sugar, coconut milk and eggs, pandan, and margarine or butter between two pieces of of toast, which you dip in half-boiled eggs (similar to really soft boiled eggs with no shell), which has been drizzled with a sweet, thick soya sauce. We were skeptical at first, but, although not something I would want to eat every single day, for our two mornings in Singapore it was great.
Once we’d had our fill, we started to make our way towards the marina and gardens, via Little India. As our phones don’t work without being connected to wifi, we tend to plot out a general route in our minds and then completely disregard it to go where ever looks interesting whilst we’re walking. Singapore was definitely the kind of city that was easy to do this, as there are so many cool side streets, back alleyways, and hidden markets that aren’t huge tourist areas, so our walk to the marina and gardens ended up being a whole afternoon of just wandering around.
Aside from the Marina Sands Hotel and the Gardens by the Bay, Singapore doesn’t actually have a whole lot of stuff to do. It does have a Universal Studios; however, I couldn’t convince Rich to go, so we were stuck with just everything else. There are a few museums and galleries you can go to, but overall, Singapore can very easily been seen in a day, and, as we were leaving the next day to head to Malaysia, we decided to do just that.
We wandered over towards Little India first, which is an area that was predominantly filled with Indian immigrants and still retains much of that culture today. Diwali was celebrated not long before we arrived, and the streets still have a very festive feel to them. Not far from Little India is Little China, where (you guessed it!), most of the Chinese historically settled. Little China has a lot of street markets and stalls, and you can spend a while getting lost in the streets and talking yourself out of buying everything.
A bit by accident, we ended up in Bugis Junction, a massive shopping mall that is more like a maze. Seriously, it took us ages to find an exit once we were done. They had a great mix of well known brands and stores, as well as local and independent ones, so we spent an hour walking around buying knickknacks and gifts. At this point, hunger started to overrule my need to spend money on things, and we headed out of the mall (eventually) and found a local food vendor just across the road. Being next to a massive mall, I assumed that we’d have limited options for cheap food, but I was wrong. There were streets full of options, and after wandering around for a while we decided to just go for the next one we saw. It was great.
Chicken Rice is a pretty simple, but tasty, local dish consisting of rice cooked in chicken stock, with (usually) boiled chicken and a really tasty sauce. They also have a similar pork version, and so we ordered both to share and were not disappointing. For something that it relatively basic with not many ingredients, it tastes amazing. From there, we meandered over to the marina to see the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
That funny looking white building in front is the ArtScience museum, and it was designed to look like a lotus flower. I was expecting the museum to be a bit more like the science museums I’ve seen in London and Calgary – where you walk through various exhibits and interactive bits – but it only has 2 galleries, both of which you have to pay separately to get into. So although we went into the building, we decided we didn’t want to pay and pretty quickly headed back out again. It was getting late in the afternoon by this point, and we knew we wanted to come back once it was dark to see the area lit up at night, so after walking through the hotel to catch a glimpse of the gardens during the day, we headed back to the hotel and to get dinner.
We found a place near our hotel that did a bit of a tasting platter with various local dishes and got that to share. It was nice being able to try loads of different things, rather than just one dish at a time, and we were able to suss out which dishes we liked the best for future.
After we were finished stuffing our faces, it was back to the Gardens by the Bay to check them out at night. Although they looked neat during the day, at night when they’re all lit up is when they really stand out.
The next morning we got up and took the train to Haw Par Villa, which is a ‘theme park’ that contains statues and giant dioramas depicting scenes from Chinese mythology, folklore, legends, history, and of various aspects of Confucianism. It was neat, and great because it’s free to get in (minus the $5 we spent on the train getting there); however, after about 25 minutes of wandering around (the park is pretty big), we were a bit bored and done as there was nothing to connect the stories for us. It’s kind of neat if you’ve got a few hours to kill, but not worth it if you’re running out of time. It was raining when we went, which is fine, but it meant we ended up only taking 2 pictures!
All in all, Singapore was better then expected, and we spent a lot less money there then we thought we were going to. Would I recommend it as a place to go for a week’s holiday? No, probably not, but if you’re in the general area or in need of a layover, it’s an easy city to spend 48 hours in.