Duration: 9 days
Expenses: AUD$558 OR AUD$60/day
I’ve always said to myself, one day I’ll stopover in Singapore. Being from Australia, it’s quite common to fly through Singapore enroute to Asia or Europe, but every time I’d chosen not to because the trip was about the destination. Finally, I stopped over and Singapore showed me it was a fun, interesting and beautiful destination in it’s own right.
I actually ended up stranded in Singapore in a way after leaving Hong Kong, forced to abandon old plans and make new ones. But the good news was that by knowing no one there I could focus on what to do next and a friend I’d met during the spring in Japan was arriving in a few days.
So for the first few days I planned, I tried whatever food I could find and I moved beds multiple times in Little India to avoid bed bugs. Seriously, bed bugs! I thought Singapore was a clean city, but I moved between 3 rooms in the Mitraa Hostel and each time my roommates were feasted on, but luckily I got away unscathed. I even took one to the lobby to prove to the manager there were bed bugs and he made excuses like oh that must have been brought from another hostel because it’s well fed and oh I’ve never seen those before, but we did a precautionary fumigation recently. A terrible liar.
So after the my 2nd and last prepaid night I legged it and went to Footprints Hostel on the opposite corner of Little India. I’m not sure if it was the last minute bookings I made or just weekday rates because it was SNG$12-14 a weeknight and SNG$17-22 on the weekend for 10-bed dorms (well below the posted SNG$27 rate). It’s clean, has great staff, is very close to the city centre (to walk or taxi) and is popular so book ahead if you can.
So what to do in Singapore? Well I ended up writing so much I’ve broken it into this post on things to do and I’ve made a separate post for what to eat.
Riverside is a lively night spot where the night life is squeezed into the old heritage buildings on a couple of narrow streets along the Singapore River.
Despite the name of this post the Singapore Sling is not my favourite cocktail in the world, but you could certainly get one at Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall. A schmick Kopi Tiam style cocktail bar upstairs above a convenience store.
Bartenders will listen to your tastes and make cocktails to suit. At the very least, they know how to sound like their know their shit, but I think they do.
Hire a cruiser bike
I’d always wanted to ride a fat bike after struggling to stay afloat on sand and snow on my mountain bike back home, but at the Bike Hut near Clarke Quay you can hire them for SNG$15/hr, SNG$35 for 3hrs or SNG$65/day. Fat bikes in Australia retail in the thousands and yet you can get one in Singapore from $600-800.
The guys there were super friendly and extremely helpful. They have roadies, fixies, mountain bikes, fat bikes – just name it. I took a fat bike for an hour around Marina Bay. I wanted to ride to Coney Island to see the mad cow, but they told me it wasn’t possible in the 3hrs before closing. In fact, they told me it wouldn’t even be possible to ride around Marina Bay in 1hr, but I think they were looking at it through Asian-oriented fitness lens… For the record I am half Asian, but clearly not the half that goes “hiking” in high heels or goes to “climb” a mountain only to be carried by a team of porters.
It must have been about 16km after discounting all the milage spent doubling back trying to find a way when the path ran out (?). This actually happened to me multiple times when walking about the city too… I don’t think Singapore have fully thought through their cycle paths or pedestrian walkways because everything is non-sensical and often involves great detours. It was an awesome ride around the city, but it’s clearly a business city first, then a recreational city as an afterthought.
Marina Bay Sands and Marina Bay Gardens
One night I walked to Marina Bay for some night photography, but only after walking across a bridge to find the walk way ended in…a jungle (?)…so I bush bashed, found a road again at the back of a hotel and then found myself at Marina Bay Sands. Only to be stuck again and unable to reach the waterside path below me. In the end I had to walk through the hotel (a massive and stunning example of human engineering), out the other side of the hotel, round to the street, up a public elevator and to a sky bridge to that actually went through the hotel anyway and then through to Marina Bay Gardens. Go figure.
The gardens are epic and it’s no surprise because in the topics shit just grows. It’s very modern, colourful at night and very crowded, but do check it out. The park seems to have been designed by the city planning team too so never expect to be able to get where you want to even if you can see it less than 10m away through the foliage.
For a little more than the standard (expensive) drink prices in Singapore (SNG$18) you can check out the Super Tree Bar’s view. It’s a lifeless tourist trap, but if you’re in good company go and enjoy the vantage point which seems much better than waiting an hour in line for the Sky Walkway. The Singapore skyline sure is stunning and made me think about how these things must evolve. What was it like before Marina Bay Sands or the Singapore Flyer Wheel?
This was easily my favourite area of Singapore. My two best nights in Singapore were hands down the nights at Going Om in Haji Ln. Awesome live music by Iris Judotter and the Jukeleles. Brilliant atmosphere and amazing singing, enjoyed on little stools in the laneway under the night sky. To make things better on the second night I scored a few free drinks and even some cheesecake from the friendly bar staff.
By day you can check out the outdoor cider bar and appreciate the DJ at the Blu Jaz Cafe. You can also see some of Singapore’s alternative side with graffiti and hipster shops in abundance.
We (I mostly) enjoyed ice cream on donuts at a place on the corner of Bali Ln and North Bridge Rd for SNG$8 ea.
There’s also (the perhaps a little bit un-politically correctly named) Arab Ln just next door to Haji which I’m sure you can guess the theme of. The whole area used to be big for shisha until around 2015 when the government phased it out – probably because they couldn’t tax it.
I ended up going back to Going Om, had a good chat with one of the bartender’s, Uven, and got our picture stuck up on the wall (definitely have to go find it again next time).
The Seedy Underbelly
Even a clean cut, gum free city like Singapore still has a seedy side. The death penalty is a thing, but yet it’s still okay to traffic women into rather sad Thai Disco bars in the Orchard Rd area. As a bit of an experience and an eye opener I found myself at one feeling a little weird and uncomfortable.
Girls who aren’t necessarily Thai (because authorities are cracking down on it somewhat), parade around on stage and guys pay crazy amounts of money for some conversation and attention. Looking sad and unwanted is seemingly part of the job description and I can’t imagine it’s a particularly fulfilling job.
They do have some entertaining live music and cheap watered down beers at least! Whisky with green tea was definitely my favourite drink of the night.
There’s a heap of great stuff between Lasalle and Bras Basah.
Lasalle itself is interesting and you can check out what the students are up to with little shops displaying their projects.
Nearby at the House of Photography we checked out their exhibition on Steidl who is a master and preserver of photos in the printed form. The guy loves print, specifically photo books and had generously donated hundreds of books to create a mini library that you can browse for hours.
Upstairs there was also a space explaining all the print processes and techniques. I didn’t realise that a) selecting a typefond was so important and b) that back in the day books existed with pages and pages of fonts for you to pick and order all the character stamps for printing machines.
The Dog Cafe
If you like dogs and wished all the cats in the Cat Cafe would turn into miniature pooch equivalents, then Singapore has the place for you! You won’t find Leonbergers or Labradors here, but if it’s cute and can be miniaturised they have it here.
I feel a bit bad for some of the dogs who will probably have health issues later in life due to all their warped breeding, but the dogs are well cared for and the general rule is to respect the dogs – so that’s nice. Super cute cuddly times can be had, but perhaps go earlier in the day when the dogs are less tired and overstimulated.
Again much like Hong Kong, there is a butt load more to do and this only scratches the surface of it. You can do outdoor laser tag, hit up the theme parks of Sentosa (So Expensive and Nothing TO See Actually) Island, eat more food or go to Malacca in Malaysia.
In all seriousness though, I thoroughly enjoyed Singapore and I would go back again. I make a lot of fun of Singapore here in jest and just to create some humour in the read. Maybe I could even live there if there was so form of portable personal A/C.