One of my last adventures around Southeast Asia was in Singapore. With about a week left in my short trip around SEA, I was excited to make the most of my time in Singapore before heading back to Japan. Unfortunately, about three days in my Singapore trip, I got some food poisoning (I think) and had to rearrange my plans a little bit and take my last few days easier than I had planned. However, that means that the first three days were packed with some of the most fun things to do in Singapore.
I learned while researching things to do in Singapore that there aren’t any main cities in Singapore, the whole country is the main city. You could drive around the whole country in a day! I did not think it was that small. This way, public transportation was my main method of traveling, and it was convenient and easy to use. My second method of traveling was just plain walking! And since it was quite hot in early March, I had to spend many of my breaks in an air conditioned place. Good thing Singapore had plenty of air conditioned places to visit.
To the photo and description montage! On my way to visit the Singapore attraction I wanted to visit the most, Gardens by the Bay, I walked through Downtown Core, an area full of skyscrapers. It’s like New York but with palm trees!
On my way to Gardens by the Bay I snapped a picture of this building, if you look closely there are palm trees on EVERY floor. If this is an aesthetic, this would be mine.
More picturesque views on my way to Gardens by the Bay.
On the harbor towards Gardens by the Bay, I could see Marina Bay Sands, a hotel and shopping complex.
A picture of my walk thus far to Gardens by the Way…so many skyscrapers!
Inside The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. If you look towards the bottom, there is a “canal” that you can ride gondolas in. I could get a break from the humidity inside the The Shoppes, but the luxury stores did not seem budget traveler friendly.
Gardens by the Bay is an iconic Singapore attraction, and one of the best gardens I have visited in…my life? I found that there were so many parks and gardens to provide respite from the bustle of the city tourist spots. Gardens by the Bay feels like I’m in an alien world. After walking through the opulent Marina Bay Sands mall and hotel, I was thrust into a lush jungle with the stunning “supertrees” in the distance. There is a bridge that you allows to walk through the supertrees up close, but I believe that privilege was about 9 Singapore dollars, and I decided that walking underneath the bridge was good enough for me.
A look at the supertrees at Gardens by the Bay from afar. This is something that I would see in a fantasy movie…Avatar, anyone?
Looking up at the supertrees!
Continuing the theme of escaping the bustle of cities, next on my places to visit was the Singapore Botanic Gardens. I walked throughout almost the whole gardens, an adventure that lasted a good two hours. There is no park entrance fee, but there was a private orchid park that I used my old student ID to pay to get a ticket. That way I only had to pay 2 Singapore dollars! Anyways, the whole garden was beautiful and definitely a highlight in my whole trip in Singapore.
This lovely entrance to the botanic gardens!
An archway tunnel of leaves, in the private orchid garden, I believe.
Another stop on my Singapore trip was Chinatown, a historic district with humble beginnings and now a tourist hotspot. For example, places like Pagoda Street are full of souvenir shops, brightly colored buildings, and tourists—but the street used to be full of opium dens and slave traders, a much less promising beginning. The main streets of Chinatown are full of shopping centers and restaurants. One of these places is a hawker center, a huge food court serving all kinds of cheap meals. These hawker centers are full of people, locals and tourists alike, and the hawker center in Chinatown was the most full I had seen in all my time in Singapore.
Walking around Chinatown was fun, but it definitely felt like a tourist attraction. The hawker center was the only part that I felt like I was surrounded by locals. I am glad I got to see it, but it isn’t some place that I felt I could see authentic Singaporean culture. However, it was great to be able to experience Chinatown once, and to see the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. This temple was free to enter and I got to see devotees praying. There were several exhibitions on each floor depicting different Buddhist sculptures. My favorite thing to discover was the rooftop garden. It was a nice rest from the people and noises of Chinatown.
Statues of pigs in celebration of the Year of the Boar! It was a month after Lunar New Year, but this part of town was still decorated for the new year.
Walking through Pagoda Street!
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple was quite beautiful and part of Chinatown. It feels much bigger inside and has a garden on the top floor.
I mentioned the hawker centers earlier, and I got to visit and pass by several of them in my short time in Singapore. I ate at the hawker centers in Tiong Bahru Market and Golden Mile Food Centre, and passed by the Newton Food Center, Telok Ayer Market, and Chinatown Food Street. The first two that I ate at were not so crowded and had a lot of different Singaporean dishes to try. There was a lot of Chinese and Indian influence in many of the Singaporean staples, much like in Malaysia. The hawker center in Chinatown I passed by was too crowed and I felt too anxious to try it on my own, while the other two were closed and I did not get to see those hawker centers in their full glory. Although online it says that these places are open, they were not always open!
As shown in the pictures below, I tried the char siew (pronouned shuu) rice, which is roast pork with rice, and it was good enough for me to eat twice! The dishes at these hawker centers range from $2-$3 Singaporean dollars, which is about $1.5-$2 US dollars. It’s an incredibly affordable place to eat, and so locals and tourists alike eat there often. In the second photo, I took a pretty low quality picture of my Singaporean carrot cake. The carrot cake is actually not made with carrot, but is actually made with radish! Along with flour and water, this stir fried “cake” dish is a nice little treat to enjoy at the hawker center. The one I bought tasted like peanuts, and so it has my seal of approval!
The hawker centers are full of small restaurants that seem to be family owned, and they provide trays and utensils to eat. After you finish eating, you place your tray of dishes and utensils at a cleaning station. It was a place that locals and tourists all could go to.
The Singaporean carrot cake is kind of blurry but this picture is also a good view of the liveliness of the hawker centres.
There were a lot of Indian restaurants near where I stayed and I enjoyed this spicy lamb dish with rice and rice crackers.
Some of my favorite sights that I passed by were quite random and I don’t remember exactly where I was but I snapped pictures of them. Since Singapore is a small place and the sights I wanted to visit were within walking distance, I encountered some special places while I was strolling the city.
A very pretty church I saw on one of my walks through Singapore. I’ve learned that crosses without the body of Jesus are some kind Christian denominations. Usually crosses with the body of Christ are Catholic, which I was more familiar with. I always find it interesting to see churches in places where Christianity isn’t the dominant religion.
A pretty white bridge called the Anderson Bridge on the way to see the Merlion.
A view of the Esplanade Bridge with the Theatres on the Bay, a durian-shaped theater, is part of the Marina Bay skyline and on the way to the Merlion.
The Merlion is a half-fish, half-lion fountain that overlooks the waters of the Esplanade Bridge. When I went there in March, however, the real Merlion statue was under construction and all I got to see was this smaller, less impressive version.
Some of the skyscrapers I got to see during my walks around downtown Singapore, near the Marina Bay Sands.
My trip through Singapore was interrupted by food poisoning from a dish I ate a hawker centre. I had no problems with food from the hawker centres before, but for some reason the one duck dish I ate did me in. There were other places I intended to go to while in Singapore, like Sentosa Island, a manmade island with beaches, museums, and amusement parks, like Universal Studios. I managed to make it to Orchard Road, a shopping district that reminded me of Tokyo.
Singapore felt like a mini-metropolis with its skyscrapers and sprawling shopping districts. The subway and bus system made it very accessible to reach different places throughout the country. Some places projected cultural immersion like Chinatown, where the souvenir shops and streets like Pagoda Street, felt culturally different but were full of tourists. I felt like the Chinatown hawker center across the street had more locals than the historical Pagoda Street.
If I were to go back to Singapore I would do more research on the history and popularity of Singapore. I know it used to be part of Malaysia, and I could see many similarities between the two countries. It just seems to be a popular destination for tourists because of places like Gardens By the Bay and Sentosa Island. It has been further popularized by various artistic mediums like Crazy Rich Asians (which was actually filmed in Malaysia but takes place in Singapore) and travel videos on YouTube. And lastly, I would try my best to not get food poisoning again!