We weren’t sure what to expect going in to Singapore. On one hand, we had heard how it was just like a western city full of skyscrapers and fancy restaurants. On the other hand, we were still in southeast Asia.. it had to have some influences from its surroundings, right?
Overall, we are glad we visited Singapore. We think we might have enjoyed it better had we visited it sooner (“Another Chinatown?” “This Little India isn’t as good as Penang’s.” #spoiledtravelers). Daily expenses (lodging, food, etc.) were significantly more expensive than everywhere else we’ve been and we didn’t feel it had enough of a pro to outweigh this con. I mean, stoplights are only worth so much to us. Who needs safety measures when you can’t find delicious street food for under $1? I likely would have enjoyed the city more if we were there under different circumstances (see: if we had jobs and were able to go to some of the swanky restaurants and hotels).
High level. Bus.
Detailed. Bus from Melaka Sentral bus terminal to some random bus terminal in Singapore. Since the Singapore metro is pretty good, no matter where the bus terminates (as long as it doesn’t terminate at The Woodlands) you stand a good chance of being within walking distance of a metro stop. This was a month ago so I’m forgetting the details, but as far as bus transportation in SE Asia is concerned it was easy. Cost = $12.50 USD.
One note – you have to get off the bus twice when you cross into Singapore. Process as follows: get off bus in Johor Bahru (last stop in Malaysia), get stamped out of Malaysia, get back on the bus, drive across the border to Singapore, get off the bus, get stamped into Singapore, get back on the bus, resume your journey.
Green Kiwi Backpackers Hostel.
- The Good. The hostel promised to receive our new debit card for us (see: Great Ringgit Crisis of 2016), and it worked without any problems! The person behind the counter handed the FedEx package to us when we checked in. Such relief! Breakfast was also quite good with toast (surprise, surprise) but a ton of toppings including peanut butter, butter, jam, kaya, and chocolate. It also included fruit (oranges, watermelon, AND dragon fruit!) and your choice of tea or coffee. And the coffee was made from an actual espresso maker which made Sam quite happy.
- The Bad. Not enough space in the common areas to support all of the bedrooms. There were a few times where we had no where to set it in the common areas because there were too many people. There were also not enough showers and toilets to support everyone which leads to…
- The Ugly. Dozens of middle-aged Chinese women overcrowding the bathroom morning and night.
Mall Food Center. We ate at a food center in a mall for many of our meals. It’s not like a mall food court in the US, so don’t start judging. It’s basically a bunch of hawker stands (I think we’ve defined this before, but hawker stands are synonymous with street food vendors or similar to food trucks in the states, just a much smaller stand for a lot cheaper). And the food court was filled with locals. I don’t think we saw any other tourists. Always a good sign.
Ice Cream in Bread. This is a thing in Singapore. Picture an ice cream sandwich. Remove the cookie outsides. Put ice cream block in a slice of bread and wrap the bread around it like you would for a poor man’s hotdog bun. Eat. The only clarification needed is that it isn’t white bread. It’s a pink, slightly sweet bread. And it tastes better than you think it would.
Indian Lunch Set. We tried a recommended restaurant from Trip Advisor. This can be a risky move, since usually these restaurants have become quite touristy which can lead to food not being as authentic and/or food being more expensive. We found the food to be more expensive, but we were overall happy with the experience. We ordered a lunch set and received two large plates (each) with more dishes of things than we knew what to do with (or we could eat). We also received multiple things to dip into all of the dishes. I could only eat about half of my food, but it was neat to be able to try so many different foods and compare them with each other.
Arab Street and Sultan Mosque. The Arab part of town is a small section of the city filled with textile shops and a few mosques. The largest of these is the Sultan Mosque. Sam and I are always interested to learn about different religions, so it was interesting to go into the mosque and read some of the information panels they had.
China Town and Maxwell Hawker Center. Another city, another China Town. It was fine. Kind of a same ‘ol type of thing. The Maxwell Hawker Center was close by, which is a food court with various hawker stands. It is somewhat touristy, but still cheap and delicious eats.
Little India. Ditto China Town. It was cool, but similar to other Little Indias. Spices and henna tattoos and delicious food. I still enjoyed it. I prefer Little India over China Town.
Central Business District (CBD) and the Quays. Oh, and the Merlion. This may have been my favorite part of Singapore, just because we haven’t seen a huge CBD for awhile. It was cool to see the high skyline in the middle of Southeast Asia. The Quays are little areas along the river full of bars and restaurants. Nice little touristy spots for a drink or a meal. Then there is the Merlion. I don’t get it. The Merlion is a water-spouting lion fish (fish body, lion head) that is just in front of the CBD. See the picture below. I think it was invented by a tourism committee at some point. And you thought no one did drugs in Singapore…
- Park Network. This was a network of paved paths that seemed to go all over the city. Easy to run on and to connect for a very long run. We saw several other runners on the day we ran on this trail. Strava data here.
- MacRitchie Reservoir. One of my favorite parts of Singapore! The MacRitchie Reservoir is a ways out of the city (we had to take a few different metro lines then run a half a mile), but it is a great dirt trail system. I think we did around 6 miles (3 out and back), but you could have easily done more. The dirt trail was well maintained, and it was easy to forget you were in the hustle and bustle of a big city. I loved it. Strava data here.
Traffic Signals. I didn’t realize how much I missed these.
Drinkable Water from the Tap. I definitely realized I missed this.
Easy Running Paths. As mentioned above, there were various good options for running. Two thumbs up on the running front.
Singapore Sling. Apparently there was an alcoholic drink invented in Singapore. I was gung ho on trying it, but then I learned that the genuine Singapore Sling is served at a fancy-pants hotel and costs $25. $25!!! That’s half of our daily budget. Maybe under different travel circumstances, but not this time Singapore.
Price Surge. Prices are significantly more expensive than what we were used to. We could still find some hawker stands, but many things seemed to be a step up in price. For example, two hostel beds were around $35 USD! We usually pay about half that for a hostel bed (or a private room, in some places).
Rules and Fines. You always hear about the crazy rules and fines in Singapore. Well, they aren’t lying. When we got our passports stamped, the entry ticket said something about drug trafficking being subject to a penalty of death. Wow, welcome to Singapore. Then, we began noticing signs all over the city about things that weren’t allowed and what the fine would be if you did these things. Most were reasonable things that you would see in most cities. Some surprised me (no eating or drinking on the subway? how are you supposed to have your morning coffee on the walk to work?). Some were awesome (no durian allowed in the park! good riddance!). Although there seemed to be some harsh penalties, we didn’t see any being enforced. I was expecting squads to emerge from the woodwork and slam someone to the ground for someone trying to slip a durian into the subway, but I didn’t spot any durian poachers or police enforcers. So, maybe the system works. The city was very clean (and durian free!).