I want to apologize that my Singapore post is so late. With the deadline for articles coming up at work and the fact I’ve had a cold I just haven’t had much of a chance to write it. Then, I was trying to write this post and it just wasn’t flowing, but then I decided I was going around it completely the wrong way. Instead of taking you through every step of every day, I’m instead breaking this post down into the top 7 must-see sites and experiences while in Singapore. This of course doesn’t mean that that’s all there is to see, but if you’re going these are 7 things you definitely shouldn’t miss.
I’ve been to Singapore twice now, one time a little over a year ago and the second time about a week ago, and the city never ceases to amaze me. What makes Singapore so awesome to me is the fact it’s a very wealthy country where the spoken language is English, but still has that Asian flair that I love. The language feels like home, but from delicious food to temples and awesome architecture, you know you’re somewhere far more exotic.
First thing’s first: getting around Singapore. Although there are taxis, you will probably never need them because the MRT (essentially the metro/subway, whatever you’d like to call it) is fantastic and goes pretty much around the whole city and country. It’s not super cheap, but if you’re visiting for a shorter period of time it can pay off to purchase one of the tourist passes because they give you unlimited travel over 48 or 72 hours. Be warned though, you need to pay a deposit on the card and only get the money back in cash–which is totally useless when you’re leaving the country. But still, you can always change it back to the currency you need and it’s great to be able to move freely without constantly worrying about the cost of every individual journey.
Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay is, by far, my favorite part of Singapore. It was opened in 2008 and has the famous Supertrees, among other sites like the Cloud Forest. The Supertrees are incredibly impressive, both because of their size and their colored lights, but also because of the purpose they serve. Each tree simulates the ecological functions of real trees and are hosts to exotic ferns, orchids, vines and other flora you would be unlikely to see without the aid of these amazing trees.
The Supertrees put on a light show called the Supertree Rhapsody every night at 7:45 and 8:45p.m. I took way too many photos and videos of this because it was so fun, but you can get a taste for what it’s like here.
You also get some pretty cool views from here as well, of Marina Bay Sands and of the Singapore Flyer, on the opposite side of the river.
There are lots of places to walk around and enjoy the gardens, but also some additional places you can pay to go into. There’s the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome, both which cost upwards of S$20, which personally we thought was pretty pricey, especially for two, so we opted not to go in. Although, I’m sure they’re really awesome, but when you can get all of these for free I almost wonder why bother.
Marina Bay Sands
Marina Bay Sands is the well-known hotel that looks like a ship on stilts, however, it also is the area around it which includes a great waterfront area and a shopping center. Just around the corner from Gardens by the Bay you can enjoy a stroll over in less than 10 minutes.
This area has light and water shows that can be a bit strange (they have faces projected into them, among other things like trees and flowers) and typically there’s live music as well. We enjoyed a free jazz concert while we were and sat on the steps eating frozen yogurt and enjoying the view of Downtown Singapore.
It stays lively pretty late, as things were still buzzing when we left around 11p.m. The shopping center has tons of high-end stores and restaurants, complete with a mini river and bridges on the bottom level and a waterfall the comes down through the ceiling.
Waterfront and Singapore Flyer
Across the bay is the waterfront where you could either walk across on the bridge or take the MRT. From here you get great views of Marina Bay Sands in full and Downtown Singapore. There’s a walkway along the water that’s pedestrian only, complete with benches and palm trees. It’s a lovely place to walk and there are tons of restaurants and bars to stop at, as well as dozens and dozens of stores and shopping centers.
You’re also on the same side as the Singapore Flyer here and it can be fun to go and see it up-close. If you want to actually go on it’s a bit pricey at S$33, but I’m sure you get great views. However, if you don’t want to spend the better part of S$50 to go on a glorified ferris wheel, then there are some yummy places to eat around there and it can still be a fun area to visit. We had some delicious chicken satay and it was incredibly cheap.
I’d really wanted to go to Little India when we were in Singapore the first time but we didn’t make it, so I was really excited to be going this time around. We had some amazing, authentic Indian food (beware: it’s incredibly spicy) and saw some of the temples. The main one is the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple (try saying that three times fast) and it’s really intricate and impressive, despite it’s smaller size.
As long as you take off your shoes you can go inside for free, but when I was there it was heaving with locals and I didn’t want to offend anyone if by chance there was something actually going on so I ended up not going in. Perhaps next time!
Little India has a surplus of jewelry. It’s everywhere. Nearly every storefront is another jewelry store, and of course it’s all at affordable prices. Unlike other places in Asia, the people here don’t try and drag you into their stores and more or less you’re left alone to look at the stuff without being pressured into buying something or defending your need to not purchase something to someone.
There are other temples throughout Singapore and the other most notable one is Sri Mariamman, which is near Chinatown instead.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
I’m a huge fan of botanic gardens everywhere I go, and like most places the one in Singapore is free. There are a few gardens inside that you need to pay for, such as the Orchid Garden, but the gardens are huge and you could easily spend an entire day there without spending any money and probably not even see the whole thing. I was super excited to discover there was a little family of turtles in one of the lakes and proceeded to spend the next 15 minutes taking photos of them. I won’t bore you with them though.
We ended up going to the gardens on the day that we left so we didn’t have too much time to explore the whole thing, but what we did see was awesome. Despite the fact it was a weekend, it was still really quiet and it’s somewhere I’d have loved to have a picnic. What I love so much about the botanic gardens here, and in any city in a foreign country, is the fact the flora are so exotic to me. There are so many flowers and plants and trees that we don’t have anywhere I’ve lived before and some of these you’d never find in a city center, so it’s really cool to see them all in one place.
Kranji War Memorial
This was one of the things we saw on our first Singapore trip and didn’t make it out to a second time this time around since it’s so far up in the north on the border with Malaysia. It’s important to remember though that although Singapore is a whole country, it’s still really small and going to the other side can still be accessed by the MRT and it really isn’t that far.
The Kranji War Memorial is dedicated to the people who died defending Singapore and Malaya (now Malaysia) against the Japanese in World War II. It’s dedicated to men and women from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK, Sri Lanka, India and the Netherlands who gave their lives to help them and it’s a very beautiful, serene area that has a strong impact on you emotionally.
Nearly 4,500 people are buried here, with close to 1,000 totally unidentified. There are also 12 columns that list 24,000 names of allies and servicemen who’s bodies were never found. Seeing these 24,000 names spread out across such a magnitude of space really helps visualize how many lives were lost during such a terrible time.
Although it’s not necessarily a cheerful place to go, it’s definitely a sight worth seeing and don’t underestimate the impact it will have on you. Coming from Washington, D.C. I’ve seen tons of memorials over my lifetime, but few have affected me the way this one did. I think the fact it’s in such a beautiful, secluded, hilly area plays a part as well. When you think of all the lives lost and destruction caused, but then the final resting place being such a place of beauty–it’s very moving.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a trip to Singapore if you didn’t do any shopping. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a city with so many shopping centers. The first time we went, it felt like we couldn’t get anywhere without walking through shopping center after another shopping center. It started to feel kind of ridiculous. Therefore, live a little and go experience the many many many shops that Singapore has to offer.
Singapore isn’t a cheap place, so sometimes shopping can be quite expensive, but you don’t need to buy anything to experience the world of retail. Sometimes it’s fun to just walk through these incredibly expansive malls and just be shocked by the sheer size of them. Some of the most notable shopping centers are VivoCity on the waterfront, Heartland Mall and Paragon Shopping Centre.
To learn more about where to stay, getting around and what you should expect to pay, be sure to check out this super helpful post over at Creative Travel Guide.
Singapore is an awesome city with so much to offer and you could go multiple times and probably not see everything this tiny little country has to offer.