While a few months have already passed since my trip to the island of Singapore, I’m hoping to come back soon to do some more exploring. I don’t know if this is a common quality amongst people of warmer nations (and if there’s any research to back my claim up), but Singaporeans just seem to be a lot friendlier and more patient than the people back home. (Not to say people from NJ aren’t friendly!)
Anyway, I was amazed by the greenery of Singapore, as well as the lengths this city-state has gone to integrate nature into its infrastructure. The city’s urban planners have done a tremendous job of preserving Singapore’s beauty, while paving the way for innovative and imaginative urban developments.
My friend from Singapore, who I met while studying abroad in 2014, would often tell me about the cultural melting pot that is this incredible city and how it’s an exciting place to live. That’s why, when the time came to visit family in Korea, my mom and I decided to stop by Singapore on the way.
While I’m usually pretty lazy about recording videos, this time, I tried my best to document our stay and even edit a vlog to accompany this blog post (which I’ll upload to my new-ish Youtube channel). If you plan on visiting Singapore, I hope you enjoy this post and that it inspires you to add some of the spots I’ve visited to your own Singapore itinerary!
I’m definitely not much of a shopping-lover, but even I had fun exploring Orchard Road—hopping from one giant mall to the next.
Planning on getting a lot of shopping done in Singapore? You might want to dedicate a whole day to exploring the malls at Orchard Road. (And be ready to walk.) I ended up visiting Plaza Singapura, Orchard Central, 313@Somerset, Ngee Ann City, and ION Orchard.
If you only have time for one mall on this shopping street, I’d personally recommend visiting ION Orchard (which is not technically on Orchard Road), as it offers a good mix of high-end shops and mid-range shops, as well as the popular TWG Tea shop / restaurant.
Memorable spots: Top floor food court at 313@Somerset, Charles & Keith (a popular Singaporean retail shop – IMO, kind of like the Zara of Singapore – only for shoes and bags), TWG Tea & basement food court basement of Ion Orchard.
Each of the three quays mentioned above are memorable in their own ways.
Robertson Quay, for instance, is a quieter riverside area where you can ride your bike and/or take a stroll along the river in peace. Clarke Quay and Boat Quay are a bit more night-life-y and popular amongst tourists and young professionals.
In the mood for bar-hopping? Then Clarke Quay is definitely a must. Some of things you can do there aside from getting drinks, is visit Clarke Quay Mall or dine at Jumbo Seafood Restaurant to try some chili crab or black pepper crab. Apparently there are several Jumbo Seafood locations throughout the city, but according to my foodie friend from Singapore, Clarke Quay’s has the best ambience.
From Clarke Quay, you could even hop on the Singapore River Cruise, which takes you all the way to Marina Bay. If you don’t mind walking, then take a leisurely stroll from Clarke Quay to Boat Quay and make your way over to One Fullerton and take some photos by the Merlion Statue! You’ll get stunning views of the bay and will be able to catch the Marina Bay Sands Light Show in the evening.
Your trip to Singapore wouldn’t be complete without a silly unoriginal (or maybe original) photo by the Merlion Statue, now would it? Head over to Merlion Park during the day for a clear photo with the statue and come back at night (Singapore’s not that big so it’s worth making another trip to this area) to take in the views of Marina Bay.
As mentioned, be sure to catch the Marina Bay Sands Water and Light Show while you’re there. Across the river from Merlion Park, you get the perfect view of Marina Bay Sands. The 15-minute show runs twice every day, one at 8pm and the other at 9:30pm.
While I didn’t get a chance to go inside the Esplanade or enjoy a ride on the Singapore Flyer (which is one beautifully built ferris wheel), I was still able to sit outside the Esplanade and enjoy the view of the bay at nighttime. If you’re looking for a peaceful and relaxing area of Singapore, this is one of them.
Find a bench, take a deep breath, and let Singapore sweep you off your feet. I hear that you can catch free performances here every day at the outdoor arena of the Esplanade. And according to the website, once a month on a Sunday, the Esplanade offers everyone the opportunity to enjoy a free concert inside its Concert Hall. Don’t miss out on this event!
If you like Orchard Road, then you’ll love The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, a massive luxury shopping mall connected to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. If Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and all of those other brand names call to you, then again, you’ll have a blast here.
Even if you don’t enjoy shopping, Marina Bay Sands is worth visiting at least once. There are tons of restaurants and attractions here, including the Marina Bay Sands Whirlpool and an indoor gondola not unlike that of the Venetian in Las Vegas.
Singapore does not play when it comes to food. Naturally, the cultural diversity of Singapore lends itself to a variety of cuisines. I feel as though you need to live here to get the full foodie experience. Nevertheless, here are some of the places we were able to visit:
You must stop by this popular chain to get your filling of Kaya toast! Kaya jam is sold pretty much everywhere in Singapore (e.g. Mustafa Centre), but I decided to purchase some of Ya Kun Kaya’s signature Kaya jam as a souvenir for myself as well as for friends back home in the States.
Every video and blog post I had read suggested that I try the chili crab, a staple cuisine of Singapore. Even though my Singaporean friend told me that she and other people don’t normally eat chili crab unless a friend from another country visits, I was still excited to give it a try. Because I was with my mom, we knew we couldn’t finish both the Chili Crab AND Black Pepper Crab. So we ended up just ordering chili crab and vegetable fried rice to complement the main dish.
I had really wanted to try the chili crab at Jumbo Seafood, but it just so happened that Red House Seafood was closer to our hotel and had much less of a wait.
Tip: If you want guaranteed seating at Jumbo Seafood, try calling in and reserving a table a few days ahead of time once you’re in Singapore.
Other chili crab restaurants that I’d heard good things about: Jumbo Seafood and Long Beach @ Dempsey
My friend took me to this trendy bar after getting off from work. We decided to share the Spicy King Prawn Aglio Olio and Double Chocolate Blackout Cake which was heavy (see above), but definitely worth it! While Raffles Bar was closed down for renovation when I was in Singapore, I was able to try the Singapore Sling at P.S. Cafe. Despite its name, P.S. Cafe is actually a bar/restaurant. I’d suggest coming here for the modern ambience and, if you’re lucky, outdoor seating for a beautiful view of the city.
So many choices here and at such affordable prices! Because the top floor of Tiong Bahru Market is an open-air food court, it can get pretty hot inside even with the installation of several giants fans. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my meal even amidst the heat. We tried the chicken curry from Tiong Bahru Hainanese Curry Rice and the char kway teow from Tiong Bahru Fried Kway Teow.
Other stalls I wish I’d visited: Ru Yi Vegetarian Stall, Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice, Fried Sotong Prawn Mee
A quirky cafe located in the Tiong Bahru neighborhood. If you have lunch at Tiong Bahru Market, I’d suggest stopping by Plain Vanilla Bakery for cupcakes. I was under the impression that this is a popular bakery amongst the younger crowd. A glass door divides the bakery from its cozy seating area where several university students and tourists were chatting over coffee and tea.
This iconic food court/hawker centre offers a variety of local delicacies from Hainanese chicken to Indian Curry. I saw a ton of people here who seemed to be on business and quite a few tourists as well. Like Tiong Bahru, you will have a ton of food options to choose from inside and outside the food court. My mom and I decided to head to the outdoor area of the restaurant to try the satay from Stall 7 & 8. Quite a few people recommended this vendor, including my foodie friend from Singapore.
The seating area is quite crowded at night (which is when we went) and hectic, but definitely an exciting experience for a first-timer like myself. At Stall 7 & 8 we ordered the most basic set which included beef skewers, prawn skewers, and veggie skewers. I’d highly recommend the beef skewers, even though everything tasted good overall.
I had only tried Din Tai Fung once in Los Angeles but had been dying to go back. To my delight, I saw that there was a Din Tai Fung inside the Marina Bay Sands mall. Eager to satisfy my cravings, I put my name down and waited in line, which moved surprisingly quickly. My mom had never been to Din Tai Fung so I’m glad I was able to introduce her to this popular institution.
Lime Restaurant is located inside Parkroyal on Pickering Hotel, which is where stayed for our last two nights in Singapore. Luckily for us, we were able to enjoy the free continental breakfast. Although we didn’t order any room service or eat at the restaurant during after-hours, we could tell from the quality of food that the positive reviews were warranted. Personally, I was a fan of Lime Restaurant’s pastry and desserts section, which includes the matcha green tea fondue machine pictured above.
To be honest, the food at Coastes tasted pretty average, but I’d say it’s worth grabbing a table for the view of Siloso Beach. My mom and I decided to eat lunch here after riding the go-karts at Skyline Luge. Conveniently enough, Coastes is located right by the luge exit at the bottom of the mountain. You can choose from a wide selection of American dishes, from pizza to pasta and familiar salads.
**I know I barely scratched the surface, so here’s a list of other restaurants I wanted try: Bah Kut Teh at Song Fa, Makansutra Gluttons Bay, chicken donburi at Wafuken, Killiney Kopitiam, Kwong Satay, Satay by the Bay, mud crab at Crab Party!, curry laksa at Katong Laksa, tau hua at QQ Soyabean or Rochor Original Beancurd, Hainanese chicken rice at Wee Nam Kee or Ming Kee, roti prata at Mr. & Mrs. Mohgan’s Super Crispy Roti Prata, Redhill Food Centre, Ice Kacang at Annie’s Peanut, Chwee Kueh at Ghim Moh Chwee Kueh, Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice, Egg waffle at Hvala Waffle Bar
Sentosa is a man-made island resort located just south of the main island in Singapore. A full day or even a half-day trip should suffice! Though if you have kids, I’d suggest staying in Sentosa for two or three days so that you can visit Universal Studios, the Skyline Luge, and all of the beaches.
When we arrived in Sentosa, we first headed over to the Merlion Statue (the biggest one in Singapore). then up to Imbiah Lookout where we purchased tickets for the go-kart ride and ski-lift at Skyline Luge. Afterwards we headed to Coastes for lunch and walked along the shore on Siloso Beach and Palawan Beach. At Palawan Beach, you can walk across the Suspension Bridge to a separate lookout point. The Suspension Bridge is a beautiful spot for photos and, not to mention, Asia’s closest point to the equator.
While you’re in Singapore, definitely head out east to explore the culturally rich neighborhoods of Joo Chiat and Katong. If you’re looking to find your next instagram-worthy spot, look no further than the colorful Peranakan Houses of Koon Seng Road in Joo Chiat. The Joo Chiat neighborhood is home to numerous Peranakan shops, trendy cafes, and traditional mom-and-pop restaurants. Not only is this a popular spot for the instagrammers, but it’s also a historically significant site (which I wish I had looked into more while I was there).
Not dealing well with the heat? Stop by Birds of Paradise and sample an eclectic selection of ice cream flavors, including White Chrysanthemum and Strawberry Basil. On the way there, you’ll most lkiely pass by the Red House at Katong, which should immediately stand out due to its color (see below).
While my mom and I did visit Chin Mee Chin Confectionary, many of the pastries were sold out by the time we got there. If I could go back, however, I’d definitely wait in the long line to have my filling of traditional kaya toast and egg tarts.
Because it was more hot than usual that day, we decided to take a break inside the air-conditioned 112 Katong, a mall located on the corner of East Coast Road and Joo Chiat Road. Again, I wish I could have done more while I was in Joo Chiat and Katong district—perhaps visit the nearby temple and the Eurasian Heritage Centre. And of course, visit the famous 328 Katong Laksa.
If you want to knock everything out in one day, visit the Gardens by the Bay after checking out Marina Bay Sands. Take the overpass from the top floor of Marina Bay all the way to an escalator that conveniently leads to the Gardens by the Bay. Whether or not you like plants, the Gardens by the Bay should definitely make the top of your list. The Gardens easily exceeded my expectations and remains one of the highlights of my short trip to Singapore.
Once you’re there, be sure to check out the Flower Dome, Cloud Forest, and Garden Rhapsody Light and Sounds Show at the Supertree Grove. I purchased my tickets ahead of time for about $16.89 on Klook.com, a travel app that sells tickets at a discounted price. The original ticket price per non-resident adult is $28 (for both Flower Dome + Cloud Forest). Although I didn’t get to purchase tickets for the OCBC Skyway, I probably would if I get the chance to visit again.
Another highlight of my trip was our visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. We happened to be there during the annual Tulipmania event, so we got to see a ton of flowers in full bloom at the Orchid Garden located inside the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Entry to the Orchid Garden is $5 and admission into the Gardens encompassing it is free. Even if you decide not to visit the Orchid Garden, I highly suggest taking a stroll through the park and checking out the different gardens within.
If you’re not looking to explore the outskirts of downtown Singapore and catch the sunset outside the city, stop by the Helix Bridge, a modern architectural delight. Although my mom and I missed the sunset, we still had fun taking photos by this beautiful bridge overlooking the bay.
The Helix Bridge is easily accessible by foot and located a 2-minute walk from Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Take a few photos at the bridge and then head over to the mall to shop or grab a bite to eat.
Kampong Glam is an ethnically diverse area of Singapore that is home to the Sultan Mosque. You’ll find a tons of Middle Eastern restaurants here, as well as several boutique shops. Mustafa Centre, a huge 24-hour shopping complex is about a 15-minute walk from the mosque. Before you go buy souvenirs at Mustafa Centre, consider trying Zam Zam’s murtabak (a popular Arab dish) on the way there.
While I didn’t get to explore Chinatown that much, I enjoyed a nice stroll through the section of China Town by Upper Hokien Road (a 5-minute walk from Parkroyal on Pickering).
My mom and decided to split our short stay in Singapore at two different hotels, to get the best bang for our buck. The first three nights were spent at the Four Points by Sheraton Singapore and the last two at Parkroyal on Pickering.
The Four Points by Sheraton is a great budget- to mid-range hotel located in a quieter less hectic section of downtown Singapore. Right behind the hotel, you’ll find a bridge that overlooks Robertson Quay. There are a ton of trendy restaurants and cafes located in this pocket of the riverside area. It seemed to be a popular spot for coworkers to grab dinner after work.
Tip: If you’re a member of the SPG Guest Loyalty Program, check to see how many points you have accumulated. We redeemed a combination of points and cash for our 3-night stay at the Four Points by Sheraton (SPG Category 4 Hotel).
Located across from Hong Lim Park, Parkroyal on Pickering is a modern, eco-friendly hotel that offers an infinity pool on the fifth floor, delicious breakfast buffet, and a green path around the outside of the hotel pool. There’s a free shuttle service that will take you from the hotel to Marina Bay Sands and (I believe) a few other popular spots. From the helpful staff to the beautiful interiors and to the comfy rooms, I had no trouble relaxing here. It’s a great-value hotel, considering its central location (about 3 minutes from Clarke Quay and Chinatown) and proximity to the MRT.
If you have a layover at Incheon (Terminal 2) en route to Singapore, check out…
Priority Pass holders via Chase Ultimate Rewards can access these lounges for free.
If you get to Changi Airport (Terminal 4), be sure to check out the Blossom Lounge! They serve laksa here, so don’t miss out.
(A.k.a. Places I didn’t have time to check out.)
*It’s amazing how much there is to do in this small city-state, because even after fitting in so much, I still wanted to explore more. In particular, I wish I had visited a few museums and gotten to try more of the local cuisine. If you get a chance to check out some of the places that I didn’t get to see, please let me know what you thought of them! 🙂