Sometimes, you just need a break from reality. A chance to forget your worries and immerse yourself in a new place. So was it the most responsible move to book a trip when I was out of work and my future uncertain? Nope. Do I regret it? Yes, so much. Just kidding. Obviously! Travel is awesome. So when my friend found a great deal for flights from LA to Singapore I said “let’s do it!” Adrenaline rushing, we booked our flights to Singapore. Eeek. We’re going to Singapore!!
So… where is Singapore? Asia, right? What country is it in? Oh, it is a country? And a city? It’s called a city-state? Interesting. Turns out it’s an island too! This was all news to me. The only thing I really knew about Singapore was that they don’t allow gum chewing there. And to me, that’s a dream come true. The sound of gum chewing makes my skin crawl and my brain want to explode. I’ve wanted to slap strangers on the bus for popping bubbles. It’s called misophonia, and it’s real people. If it was made up, why would it be on WebMD?
But I digress; let’s talk about this cool city (country, island) that I was so fortunate to visit. I found out a few days before the trip AKA looked at the flight info for the first time, that the flight was close to 18 hours. While I became a bit panicky and quickly tried to score as many pills as I could to knock me out on the plane, I had nothing to worry about. It was fine! The flight attendants distract you with food (food-like items, can’t really tell what you’re actually eating) and drinks, and when the lights went out, it was bedtime. Also, being on a long plane ride allows you to watch all of those Oscar award winning films that you really don’t want to see, but feel like you should because you work in the industry. Or is that just me? “Call Me By Your Name” and “The Shape of Water”? Quick review: Meh. So don’t let the long flight intimidate you. It’s worth it!
We had five full days in Singapore and I agree with the locals we spoke to, that’s enough time to really get in a ton and see the highlights of the country. Their public transportation system is awesome. It’s super clean, cheap, and just like Visa, takes you everywhere you want to be. This is a picture of Stand-Up Stacey.
She’s part of the MRT (their subway system) ads that were throughout the stations that I could not get enough of. There’s Bag Down Benny, Give Way Glenda, Move In Martin, and Hush Hush Hannah. That’s right. These people are polite like no American would ever be. People give their seats up, they don’t push, and they don’t talk to their friends on speaker phone on a train full of people. I love Singaporeans!
If you’re active, or a New Yorker at heart who craves walking, you’ll love Singapore. You can totally walk everywhere. Get your Fitbits out ladies, you’re going to crush your daily steps! But be warned, it’s hot and sticky. So like a young Dyana at summer camp, prepare to spend all day in the sun, and become one with your sweat. I feared the weather because my not-so-trusty iPhone weather app had the thunderstorm image for every single day we were there, but it only stormed on and off for one day. Oh, and there was the one time we heard thunder so loud it literally made me jump and scream “We’re under attack!” You don’t get a lot of that out here in Los Angeles.
What To Do
Walking and just exploring were a big part of this trip. Singapore is so diverse. There’s Chinatown, Little India, and Arab Street. It was recommended to visit all, and my favorite of the three was Arab Street. At first, we didn’t understand why we were told to go there. There’s a mosque… if that’s your thing. Then, we turned the corner and found a bunch of adorable boutiques amongst bright, neon-colored buildings. And it’s amazing that while we were so far from home, there were relics that made walking around Singapore feel comfortable. Like a Gloria Jean’s Coffee amongst the colorful streets.
And look, I found the pink wall of Singapore!
It also helps that everyone there speaks English. And they have Uber. Maybe being in a completely foreign culture is fun for some people, but if it’s an option, I prefer understanding the menus at restaurants and the locals when they talk.
Check out the Marina Bay Sands. This hotel is known for having the largest infinity pool in the world. From below, it looks like a boat being held up by three large towers. But from the top… that view. Whoa. Get your selfie sticks ready. You can only visit the pool if you stay at the hotel, so we splurged and spent one night there. There is an observation deck if you’re not a hotel guest, but being in that pool is worth it. Did I mention it’s so hot out?
Surrounding the Marina Bay Sands is Gardens by the Bay. These are beautiful grounds that contain tree-like structures called the Supertree Grove. It’s worth going at sunset, and then, staying for the laser show. Singapore is really into those. There is also one that I watched on the water outside of the Marina Bay Sands. For a country that has people scared shitless to do drugs, they interestingly are so into stoner-like light shows.
There are two domes that are part of the gardens: the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome. Both of them create artificial environments so that species that grow in the rainforest and in other parts of the world can live here. I’m a sucker for a good waterfall, so I preferred the Cloud Forest, but it’s worth checking out both if you like pretty things. And selfies. So many selfies. (None of which I’ll share here because I cannot figure out how to take a half-decent one.)
For more beauty, visit Singapore Botanic Gardens. It felt like their version of Central Park. There were people jogging, old Asian women doing tai chi, and tourists like us, sweating our asses off wondering how people exercise in this heat. There’s a nice cafe, Halia, in the gardens, that we had a lovely brunch at. Lovely. That’s how I’d describe it all. You have to pay a few bucks to see the National Orchid Garden, but it’s worth it if you’re there. I don’t have a ton of patience to take a great picture, but again, this place has potential. If you’re looking for a unique venue for engagement photos, may I suggest this garden? Sometimes you need to travel to get the perfect photo.
We spent our last day at Sentosa, which is Singapore’s island resort getaway. It screams tourist with Universal Studios there and tons of beach activities at ridiculous prices that you can book. But, further down on the island, there are beautiful resorts. We visited the pool at Capella Hotel until we got kicked out. (Hey, it was worth a shot.) Piece of advice, hop in the pool right away; that way it’s harder for them to ask for your room number! After that, we went over to Tanjong Beach Club. As long as you spent $50 dollars–Singaporean that is, which is even less in US dollars–you can get a daybed to hang on for as long as you’d like. No bottle service required! It was a small beach but a very relaxing way to spend our last day. Sure, I could sit on a beach in LA, but I could not wade in the most perfect temperate water, like I did in Sentosa.
Good Eats & Drinks
You don’t have to spend a ton to eat well here. All over Singapore they have Hawker centers, which are essentially Asian food courts. I love good food (I know that’s a weird thing to say, like who doesn’t, but a good meal thrills me) and when I found out the world’s cheapest Michelin Star meal was in a Hawker center–the Chinatown Complex to be exact–I had to have it. We waited in line for about 20 minutes to try Hawker Chan’s famous chicken and rice. I’ll be honest… I didn’t really get the hype. The chicken was moist and the rice was… rice. But for less than $2, it was a meal. That I had. And then, I had again at the Maxwell Hawker Center, because I heard the Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice was recommended. Fool me once… My advice, eat what sounds good to you. We ate some dumplings at all the hawker centers which hit the spot. (In addition to these two, we went to the Tiong Bahru Hawker market.) Some Singaporean classic dishes that were recommended were carrot cake (don’t be fooled, this isn’t cake nor does it contain carrots), laska (spicy soup that I weirdly tried in the airport lounge and was blown away by!), chili crab (I’m into it), kway teo (essentially lo-mein), and kaya toast (coconut spread with toast… not my jam). Hot tip: if you’re going to try Hawker Chan, get some watermelon juice from the stand across from it while you wait.
There are so many nice restaurants in Singapore so it was hard to choose where to have our “splurge” meals. My favorite was a restaurant called Candlenut. (And yes, it too has a Michelin Star.) It is a Peranakan restaurant which if you don’t know what that is, it’s okay, neither do it. It was definitely some branch of Asian cuisine, and there were a ton of interesting dishes. I had a chicken curry dish that reminded me of a Mexican mole. It was pretty delicious and definitely did not photograph well so you’ll just have to imagine it. My travel companion unfortunately didn’t like spicy food so we didn’t try many of the dishes that had a kick to them on the menu. They have an ah-ma-kase (a set menu with a ton of dishes to try) to which if I ever returned, I’d go for it! The area the restaurant was in, Dempsey Hill, was beyond cute. It reminded me of a plaza in the Hamptons and I could tell this is where the fancy folks hung out.
Also in Dempsey Hill was the adorable P.S. Cafe. The breakfast was pretty good and the ambiance was great. The all glass windows made us feel like we were in the middle of a lush tropical forest. We went back a second time for dessert, and their cake didn’t disappoint!
The best breakfast I had was at a place called Common Man Coffee Roasters. It wasn’t Asian food but dear god, it was delicious. We split the pancakes as a breakfast-appi (ah, the joys of vacation eating) and I had a plate called the veggie wonderland and call me John Mayer, cause I was singing it. Your breakfast is a wonderland.
Singapore seems to be on the forefront of the bar scene. Which hasn’t been my scene since I was using a fake ID to get in, but we went for it. It probably helped that it was a Monday night, because both bars were fun and super low key.
Operation Dagger is a bar where they make their own alcohol so when you pick a drink, you have no idea what you’re getting. Check out this menu.
Like what does it even mean?! I had the Hot & Cold and it was literally hot & cold and so full of flavor. Also, the area that this bar is in has a ton of really quaint looking restaurants, on cobblestone streets. It’s definitely worth exploring.
The other bar we visited was called Tippling Club and how great is this–they give you a bag of gummy bears when you arrive, you eat all of them (or not, but I did) and then you pick which drink you liked based off of the gummy bear that is the corresponding flavor. Do you know how excited I was to have gummy bears? I usually only allow myself to have gummies as vitamins.
Where to Stay
If you’re FAF (Fancy As Fuck) I’d recommend these hotels. Or really, if you’re just someone who has job and is willing to spend a bit to live your best life.
Marina Bay Sands
That pool is everything!! It’s a giant hotel, similar to one you’d find in Vegas. There is a MRT station in the complex, which makes for very convenient travel.
There are two of these: the Fullerton Hotel and the Fullerton Bay Hotel. Both looked gorgeous and were in a great location.
This was under construction, so we didn’t get to check it out, but it came highly recommended. And apparently, they invented the Singapore Sling, so… that’s something.
Otherwise, there were a ton of affordable options when we were searching for a place. We stayed at the Novotel in Clarke Quay and it was fine. I wasn’t creeped out to sleep in the sheets, and the bathroom was clean, so for a place to spend the night, it worked. And I left my water bottle in the lobby and they shockingly found it and brought it up to me so bonus points for that! The location reminded me of a place college kids would hang, because there was a plaza with a ton of restaurants and bars outside of the hotel.
Overall, if you are a person who finds exploring a new city exciting, and likes a bit of familiarity, check Singapore out. And maybe lump it into a bigger trip if you have the time. Bali, Malaysia, and Thailand are all nearby. And I hear you’re even allowed to chew gum in those other countries, if that’s your thing.