This is a series of posts sharing what I liked best about the countries I have visited. Something particularly annoying might get a mention too. This will not be everything we did, just some of the memorable bits, and perhaps some useful tips. It will give you an insight as to what to expect when you visit.
Singapore Apr 2011/Jan 2013
Singapore was our first Asian destination (A stopover in Kuala Lumpur where we only saw the hotel doesn’t count!) and the first time we ever backpacked. On our first visit our kids were 13 and 11. You can just imagine the excitement as we got off the plane that first time. We were in Singapore for four days on that first trip, then we went to Malaysia for two weeks. On the next trip to Singapore we were there two nights on our way to Vietnam, and another night on the way back. Singapore is also the first stop on our upcoming trip.
We are animal people, and Singapore Zoo was well worth the visit. The enclosures are large and open and there is a great variety of animals to see. Although we didn’t take advantage of it, there are some great extra activities, such as breakfast with the orang-utans. We arrived as the zoo opened, and were there until it closed. After a short wait, we then went to the Night Safari too! While the Night Safari was also fantastic – perhaps even more so as it is a different perspective than most zoos – I don’t recommend doing both in one day. It was really exhausting, and lead to one of my most memorable travel mishaps, which you can read about here.
The most memorable activity was a food tour we did. It was with Tony Tan, and was around the Joo Chiat area. This is a traditional part of Singapore, where shophouses abound. It was more than a food tour though. We got a real rundown on Singaporean life, from how the locals live, to the chewing gum rumours and some more controversial “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll” topics. In between we tried close to 40 different foods. The tour went for around six hours, and because we were staying in the hostel run by Tony, we only had to pay a small amount for the tour to cover the cost of the food. This tour also created a great family memory. At the beginning we were asked if there were any foods we didn’t like. Bailey responded with “Asian food!” The details of the tour is on the Betel Box website.
Gardens by the Bay is also worth a visit. We went there on our second visit to Singapore. Our flight landed at about 6am after an overnight flight from Australia. We could drop our bags at our accommodation, but we couldn’t check in yet, so off we went to have a look at the giant trees. We spent the morning wandering around the area, climbing up into the treetops, and visiting the Cloud Forest. The heat and humidity had kicked in by the time we got to the Cloud Forest, and the relief we felt as soon as we stepped inside was fantastic! We went and stood right next to the big waterfall to cool ourselves down in the spray.
Shopping is a big thing in Singapore. I am not a shopper, but we do sometimes walk around the shopping areas window shopping. Orchard Road is a shoppers paradise. Side by side stand modern, gleaming shopping malls. There is every shop you can imagine, and even a few more that you didn’t! It was on Orchard Road that we first tried a fish spa. This is one of the most bizarre sensations as hundreds of tiny fish nibble at the skin on your feet. At first it tickles like crazy, and it took me a little while before I could leave my feet in the water. It’s supposed to leave your feet smooth and soft. I’m not sure that it made a huge difference, but it was a fun experience.
While I can’t fully recommend it because we only had about an hour to explore, I think Sentosa Island would be a great day or two out. We took the skylift across, and wandered around for an hour before rushing off to get on a flight. On Sentosa there are now many theme parks and activities that would appeal to any visitor. We just enjoyed looking around. The kids particularly liked finding the first ever Candylicious store we had seen. We had never seen that many M&Ms in one place before!
I can’t talk about my favourite things in Singapore without mentioning mangosteens! These fruit are probably my favourites, and it’s rare to get them in Australia. When I can get them, they are crazy expensive! So on landing in Singapore, I normally grab some at the first fruit and veg shop I see, and stuff my face with them for the next few days. Yum.
Every time we have been to Singapore we have stayed at the Betel Box backpackers hostel. Yes, this is a hostel, so therefore not the most luxurious of accommodation, but we do stay in the private room while we are there. What they lose in luxury is more than made up for by the atmosphere and the amazing staff. We have always felt welcomed, and enjoy interacting with other guests and the staff. We will again be staying there for the first night of our visit in April. The only reason we are moving is because one of my bucket list items is to swim in the infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands, so we are staying there for two nights to be able to do that. Fairly sure we will be back at Betel Box again afterwards.
The best way to get around in Singapore is the MRT. It will take you almost anywhere you need to go. If it doesn’t, there will be a bus to help out instead. At the airport it is easy to buy a transport card that you can continue to put more credit on throughout your stay. In the past we have just bought the same type of card the locals use, and then on leaving return it for a refund, but I can see that there is now a Singapore Tourist Pass available, offered unlimited travel for as little as $6.70SGD per day. That sounds like a bargain to me! There is a card deposit, but that will be refunded as you return it on leaving Singapore.
Singapore is in the tropics. It is therefore usually hot and steamy. There is also the likelihood of an afternoon shower. By afternoon shower, what I really mean is torrential downpour. We always manage to end up in a downpour at some stage on every holiday. In Singapore it was on our first day, and we were wandering around near Clarke Quay. The thunder and lightning rolled in, and the rain came down. There was so much water on the ground that it was ankle deep in places. The kids ended up walking with no shoes on because they only had one pair of closed in walking shoes with them each, and we didn’t want them to be soaked through. After that, thongs (flip-flops for the non-Australians) were an essential item in our day pack, so they could be put on when it rained!
Would I Go Back?
I’ve already given this away, but yes I would – and am – going back. We will be there for three days this time and there is no way I am going to cross everything I want to do off our list. Most of the time this trip will be spent hanging around by the infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands, but I would love to get to Haw Par Villa to see what could be a most disturbing theme park. It is easy to visit Singapore from Australia, as it’s an ideal transit location when travelling, well, almost anywhere. I anticipate many more visits in the future.
Want to read about later visits to Singapore? You might like these
Travel Diaries – Singapore
Haw Par Villa, Singapore’s First Theme Park
Travel Diaries – Singapore (Our 2nd gap year visit)
Travel Diaries – Singapore (Our 3rd gap year visit)
Things to do in Singapore on a Budget
Is Marina Bay Sands Worth It?
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.