Words || Kacey Martin
When we arrived in Singapore, there was an overwhelming sense of efficiency and order. The streets were free from litter and gum and the MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) was pragmatic and punctual. Despite Singapore’s obvious differences, there was something about it that reminded me of home and I was immediately comfortable with my surroundings. You immediately feel safe and open to exploration.
Singapore is different and foreign, yet also strangely familiar. It is incredibly modern, but you need only turn your head to find a rich sense of tradition. It brings together diverse ethnic and cultural identities, who appear – at least from an outsider’s perspective – to co-exist and mingle peacefully. When we think about the term ‘East meets West’, Singapore should come to mind.
Any helpful tips for exploring Singapore?
- You can drink alcohol without going bankrupt – If you tell people you’re travelling to Singapore, it is almost guaranteed that someone will bring up how ridiculous alcohol prices are (and they can be). If you really want to drink, try buying alcohol in Singapore’s duty-free; the high prices are due to a ‘sin-tax’ which duty-free disregards. Alternatively, head down to 7/11 – we bought a litre of beer for $7. It’s not necessarily cheap, but it’s doable.
- Uber is your friend – Uber, and other ride-sharing apps like Grab, are a great way to get around. They are even more affordable in Singapore than in Australia. They are particularly valuable if you’re travelling with others and may even end up being cheaper than if you’d all paid for a ride on the MRT.
- Be aware of the rules – Singapore is big on maintaining public order and defying that order can result in hefty repercussions. It should go as a general travelling rule to avoid littering, pubic rowdiness, etc. out of basic respect, but you’ll want to be extra conscious of the rules, such as those around smoking in public spaces.
What were your favourite experiences?
I really enjoyed Marina Bay Sands as it is just full of things to do. The Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay is quite stunning; I love exploring gardens in general, but it was also particularly interesting to experience the artificially created climate. If you’re on a budget (and also if you aren’t), the Gardens by the Bay light show is worth attending; you can lay back, chill out and just enjoy. If you stay at the Marina Bay Sands hotel, you can get access to the famous Infinity Pool. If you’ve got the money, the splurge is well worth it. Even as I was dying from traveller’s sickness, I couldn’t help but feel perfectly content as I swam around above Singapore’s skyline.
Did you find any sights or activities down the road less travelled?
Take the time to walk aimlessly through Singapore’s cultural centres: Little India, Chinatown and the Arab Quarter. The Arab Quarter is particularly quaint with lots of interesting shops and restaurants. We happened upon a perfume boutique that had a library of scents, and even bigger selection of gorgeous perfume bottles (you got to choose your scent and the perfume bottle). There was also lots of street art to seek out.
Our arrival also happened to concur with the beginning of Singapore Art Week. We took advantage of this public event by visiting a small local gallery and checking out one of its installations. It was an interactive conceptual work that explored our cultures ironically unhealthy obsession with health.
The weirdest thing to happen to you on the trip?
A friend and I walked down Geylang Street (in the red light district) in search of a cold and affordable beer. We found, what appeared to be a club of some kind, which was plastered in alcohol adverts. “Ah, just what we’re looking for!” we thought. When my friend opened the door we were surprised to see a group of pretty women lined up for picking; a lone man stood and deliberated over who he wanted most. “Nope. It’s a brothel.” We backed away awkwardly, disappointed that we still hadn’t found a beer but also quite amused.
What was the budget like?
Prices in Singapore seemed to be slightly cheaper than Sydney prices. It isn’t a cheap destination, however, it can be done on a budget. There are a lot of boutique hotels that are affordable and pretty snazzy. Good food and transport are more affordable than in Sydney. Tourist activities, Sentosa, and pretty much anything around Marina Bay Sands, will have hiked up prices.
#Foodbucketlist: Best eats?
One of the best things about Singapore is its food. As a city with so much diversity, it is easy to find a broad range of cuisines that are cooked well. We were told to try frog leg soup in Geylang, and while it wasn’t to my tastes, my travel partner loved it (so definitely give it a shot). Make sure to check out the hawker centres, they’re quite affordable. You’ll be overwhelmed with options so I recommend going to a stall that looks popular with locals. If you’ve got the cash, definitely check out the dining options at Marina Bay Sands; it’s packed with renowned (but expensive) culinary experiences. I had a delicious Mars Bar slice that was adorned with silver! #TreatYourself
Describe Singapore in 3 words.
Modern. Diverse. Happening.
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