We weren’t supposed to go to Singapore after the Maldives.
Before we left for the Maldives, Brennan and I had talked about all the credit card rewards we had that were expiring at the end of the year and realized we had several nights in hotels left that we didn’t have a plan for yet. The best place to use these was in Southeast Asia. So, instead of flying to Bucharest, Romania like we originally intended, we got on a red eye flight from Male, Maldives to Singapore (with a quick layover in Kuala Lumpur).
We booked a hotel in the Little India area of Singapore. While this is a little farther out of the main tourist areas, Singapore is such a geographically small city that it was very easy to get everywhere we needed to go. We had an amazing cab driver from the airport who narrated our entire drive and gave us lots of tips about things to try and places to visit while we were in town.
We arrived to our hotel and were able to get to our room right away. We both really wanted to go to sleep, but knew it would be better to stay awake and keep a more regular schedule. We went and walked around the neighborhood, as well as heading to a mall so I could get a raincoat.
After awhile, we were struggling to stay awake, even while shopping. We found a coffee shop and had a delicious brunch of coffee and kaya toast. We headed back to the hotel and rested for a couple hours before heading downtown. On our way downtown, we stopped at our first hawker’s center.
Hawker’s centers are open air food courts that have a huge variety of stalls. They are very Singaporean and open though all hours of the day. We were a little unsure of what to order first, so we went with chicken satay. The skewered chicken is roasted over a flame and you are given peanut sauce to dip it in. They all came with cucumbers and onions too. It was an excellent introduction to Singaporean food culture.
On our way to the metro to go downtown, we wandered into this store. We thought there was a metro inside, but it turned out there was just about everything else in there, but no metro. This store was the most jam packed retail environment I’ve ever been in. It felt like an Amazon warehouse had exploded into a department store. One floor was selling jewelry, another had a grocery store, another had rows of appliances. It felt very foreign to us, but was certainly interesting. Sometimes wandering around leads to finding interesting places.
We took the metro to the downtown area. The metro is so easy to navigate; everything is in English, there is a lot of clear signage, and you are able to use contactless payment to get in.
Once we got out of the station, we were in Gardens by the Bay. This area was developed for Singapore’s 50th anniversary of being a country and is a spectacular, free outdoor area to walk around. There are many different areas with water features, a variety of flowers, and sculptures. One thing the area is particularly known for is the SuperTrees. These gigantic sculptures have observation decks and there is a light and music show each evening. We were able to see it after walking around for awhile, then head down toward the water in front of Marina Bay Sands. This huge, famous hotel is shaped like a surfboard on top of 3 towers. Right in front of the hotel is the Marina Bay, the man made lake that most of downtown Singapore borders. There is also a very fancy mall and casino attached to the hotel.
There is a water show in front of Marina Bay Sands each night. We were able to catch most of this show after we walked out of Gardens by the Bay. These huge stores “floating” on the lake are both off to either side of the water and light display.
We ended up spending a lot more time here than either of us was expecting. My computer cord had died while we were in the Maldives, so we had to go to the Apple store. We bought the wrong cord, so we had to return it the next day and I had to bring in my computer (where they let me know it had problems and was basically dead). So, as much as it was annoying to need to go back and forth to the Apple store so many times, it was in a great location and there was a lot that was very interesting to see around here.
One thing we didn’t realize when we booked our hotel in Little India was that we would be there the weekend before Diwali. This holiday is a celebration of light and is very important in Indian culture. We were able to see the lights, decorations, and street markets. It was also very, very busy in the evenings all around the hotel.
On Friday, we went on a walking tour through downtown Singapore. This small country has a ton of unique skyscrapers, as well as a lot of covered space because of the tropical/rainy conditions they experience for a lot of the year.
We stopped in the Fullerton Hotel and they had this beautiful rangoli displayed in the lobby. The Fullerton is in the building that used to house the post office, so there is a lot of history there. We also saw the koi fish, which are highly prized and just missed the attendant feeding them.
The merlion is the symbol of Singapore-half fish, half lion. This spitting merlion is opposite the Marina Bay Sands across the lake.
We left the tour early to go get something to eat-it was 4PM and we hadn’t eaten anything all day!
We found another hawker’s center and walked around trying to decide what to order. Brennan got chicken, noodles, and fried egg and I tried a noodle dish too. I also had bubble milk tea!
We walked around the canals, past the building with the multicolored windows. There was so much to look at everywhere we went.
Later that night, we walked back to the Marina Bay Sands mall and found the Water Oculus (a fountain that rain water drains through into the pool in the mall), canal/boat ride in the mall, and watched the whole water show out front again. There is no lack of visually interesting things to see everywhere you go in Singapore!
We ended the night at another hawker’s center with chicken rice and more chicken satay, as well as a honey lime sparkling drink. This food is very affordable (less than $10USD) and delicious.
On Saturday, we chose to go back to Gardens by the Bay and visit the indoor parts of the gardens. On the way, we saw these hanging vines that were so interesting to me. It looked like something out of Jurassic Park.
One of the buildings at Gardens by the Bay is called “Cloud Forest”. The plants inside are all native plants you would find on top of a mountain, up in the clouds. The building is cool and damp and you make your way up to the top and walk down. In addition to lots of greenery, there are water features, including this huge waterfall as you walk in. They were about to open a new exhibit, promoting the new Avatar movie and we were able to see parts of the installation going on throughout the planters.
The other indoor part of Gardens by the Bay is called “Flower Dome” and it holds an incredible number of flowering plants. Everywhere we looked was bursting with color. The building was divided into sections for the different continents and the native plants that are found in those areas of the world. It was beautiful! I could have taken so many pictures. I also really liked how they incorporated statues and art into the gardens.
Brennan wanted to see the casino at Marina Bay Sands the previous day, but we could not get in because we didn’t have our passports. Singapore has many strict laws (no chewing gum, death penalty for drug trafficking, etc) and this casino was similarly strict. We had to have our passports checked by 3 separate people in order to even walk in the casino. But, once we were inside, it was huge! There were so many table games and tons of people gambling at tables with $200 minimums. There were games we had never heard of before, rows of slot machines, and people walking around everywhere. We did play one game of roulette, but walked out with $10 less than we walked in with.
The next day, our time in Singapore was over. We headed to the airport on Sunday morning. Singapore is well known for having the best airport in the world. When we arrived and checked into the Priority Pass lounge, we saw another example of why it is the best. This entire wall had this decoration to look like row houses, with a projection show in the blue and purple sections. It had an accompanying soundtrack and played every 15 or so minutes. This was the corner of the airport-there was hardly anyone over here, but it was still detailed and engaging. This show is completely free and just one of the many things there is to do at the airport.
Singapore won us over quickly with the culture, food, and comfortable environment everywhere we went. I felt very safe, most things were very affordable, and we ate so much good food. I thought we would love it, but Singapore jumped up the list of places we would like to go back to visit again. It was a great stop to start our time in Southeast Asia this fall!
We're Brennan & Megan
Since June 2022, we have been traveling to learn more about ourselves and the world around us.