Singapore is a tiny island filled with loads of things to do. Entertainment is plentiful, the food is delicious and its people a whole mix of different ethnicities that have made the island their home. With much of its glamour and popularity in the travel world, it is also considered one of the most expensive cities to live in.
Singapore has always been a city in Asia that most travellers would tell you they have already visited. It’s a frequent transit city for many flights, it’s an all round friendly place, getting around is easy with the amazing transportation infrastructure that keeps to its schedule like clockwork and its multi-racial population has made dining in Singapore a colourful and flavourful experience.
So what makes living or visiting Singapore so interesting? Here are the top 4 things you could see and do in sunny Singapore!
1. Eating out
Finding a meal for as reasonable as S$3 is possible at the authentic Chinese Mix Rice that is easily available at most hawker centres or food courts located either in stand-alone shop lots or inside shopping malls.
A Mix Rice vendor would have close to at least 20 to 25 dishes to choose from with options like steamed pork meatballs, braised tofu, ginger beef, steamed fish and an array of vegetables.
When you find yourself lining up at a Mix Rice vendor, you will notice S$2.50 two vegetable combo, S$3.00 one meat and one vegetable combo or the S$3.50 one meat and two vegetable combo. All combinations come with rice and an optional chilli paste to spice things up.
The reason why Mix Rice is so popular is because it allows you to savour the many Chinese dishes in smaller portions instead of having to order bigger portions in a full frilled Chinese Restaurant that would definitely cost a lot more. The best place to try this would be in Chinatown at the Chinatown Complex located at 335 Smith Street.
The Indian Banana Leaf meal is another favourite on the island. Food is served on a banana leaf with rice being a staple here, once again, accompanied with 3 types of vegetarian dishes. You can then opt to choose from the many meat or seafood dishes on display which will be served to you at your table.
Prices of a banana meal can vary from restaurant to restaurant and it is important to check the pricing before choosing where to dine. A non-vegetarian banana leaf meal for two people could set you back about S$15.00 – S$20.00. For a delicious meal, try Apolo Restaurant on 54 Race Course Road.
2. Stroll down the streets of Chinatown and Little India
Moving around in Singapore is easy, especially with the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) in place. Experiencing the rich sights, sounds and smells of both Chinatown and Little India is simple with both being located on the same purple North-East MRT Line.
With an array of great buys in Chinatown, S$10 can go a long way. The vivid colours and fanciful trinkets are pretty hard to miss.
Chinese handicrafts, antiques, fashion items, home accessories and Chinese medicine are everywhere you look. Some shops do allow for your bargaining skills to seal a deal, others operate on a fixed price basis. Antique furniture is pretty popular and most visitors come with plans to furnish a home.
To get to Chinatown by MRT, exit at station NE4 and take Exit A into Pagoda Street.
Located to the east of the Singapore River, and stretching for miles on Serangoon Road, is Little India, which is home to many streets that branch out offering a truly vibrant atmosphere.
A one stop shop for Indian jewellery, handicrafts, silverware, silks, Indian clothing, bags and home furnishings is the Little India Arcade. A two level building dating back to the 1920s, here you will find that prices of items are not fixed and a bit of haggling skills are required.
The common respected rule for haggling is to ask for at least a 20% discount, and if you are lucky even a 30% discount is sometimes feasible. The Little India Arcade is located at 48 Serangoon Road.
The best time to visit would be on weekdays when even taking photographs would be much easier. There wouldn’t be any shoulder rubbing or squeezing your way through huge crowds of eager shoppers.
To get to Little India you should exit at MRT station NE7 and take Exit C that brings you to Tekka Centre, the start of a long road filled with everything and anything Indian on display.
3. Chill Out at the Esplanade
After a lot of walking, choose to spend a relaxing evening at the Esplanade. A waterfront location just north of the mouth of the Singapore River, the view and the skyline during sunset is just lovely and you can opt to sit by one of the many cafés and sip on some cappuccinos while the rays of the sun reflect of the Marina Bay Sands.
You can also take a slow walk along the Esplanade Bridge that brings you to the Theatres on the Bay one of the most photographed buildings in Singapore while just a little further down is the Singapore Flyer.
At a height of 541 feet, this giant observation wheel has 28 air-conditioned capsules and one whole rotation takes approximately 32 minutes travelling at a speed of 0.76 kilometres per hour.
Visitors can have an ideal bird’s eye view of the city, neighbouring Malaysia and some of the Indonesian isles as far as 45 kilometres away. Ticket costs for the standard Singapore Flight are S$29.50 for an adult and S$20.65 for a child below 12 years of age with children below 3 riding for free.
Should you choose to visit the Esplanade in the afternoon and have more time to spare, you can head on down to the Asian Civilization Museum. A first in the region, it’s a great opportunity to view the rich cultures that make up Singapore’s multi-ethnic society, and they have many on-going exhibitions throughout the year.
Getting to the Asian Civilization Museum is easy as it’s just a five minute walk from the Raffles Place MRT Station. Located at 1 Empress Place, the Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 7pm and 1pm to 7pm on Monday.
4. Visit the many temples in town
The first thing that most travelers do when they come to Singapore is to shop on Orchard Road. But apart from the shopping and nightlife, the city is filled with rich culture seen through its many temples and cultural spots in town.
Travelling to Singapore and not visiting The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, The Sri Veerama Kaliaman Temple and the Thian Hock Keng Temple will be such a waste. The architecture and intricacies on these structures are simple beautiful.
For a tranquil and serene experience drop by the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple that houses many relics, one of which is believed to be a tooth that belonged to Buddha. The temple’s architectural style is based on the Buddhist mandala integrated with the art culture of Buddhism from the Tang dynasty.
Welcoming you into the temple are three large red lacquered doors with the temple interiors glowing in a blend of gold, orange and yellow. The first thing you will notice on the ground floor is a chance to perform a lamp and flower offering while Buddhists gather on the 4th floor to meditate and pay reverence to the relic.
Located 288 South Bridge Road, the temple is open daily from 7am to 7pm. Photography is permitted on all floors except on the 4th floor. Admission is free.
The Sri Veerama Kaliaman Temple is intriguing with its colourful architecture and figurines of Gods and Goddesses. To experience what it is like during temple prayers called pooja’s, the best time to visit would be at 5.30am, 8am, 12noon, 4pm, 6.30pm or 9pm. Turn off your flash in a sign of respect to the patrons who are praying if you are going to take pictures.
While you walk around the temple you will find many vendors selling flowers and offerings for prayers with the most popular flower of choice being the Jasmine flower for it’s strong fragrant scent. The temple is located at 141 Serangoon Road.
Ancient beliefs and its location make the Thian Hock Keng Temple very unique. Considered the oldest and most important Hokkien temple in Singapore, this temple is an architectural wonder! Filled from floor to ceiling with elaborate wood carvings and stone sculptures, everything is put together and built without the use of a single nail.
Dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea called Ma Zu, it was visited by Chinese immigrants in the past to give thanks for their safe voyage across the South China Sea. Open on weekdays from 10am to 4pm, Thian Hock Keng is located at 158 Telok Ayer Street.
Text & Photography by Rosemarie John © All Rights Reserved
Rosemarie John is an independent Travel Journalist writing for airlines, newspapers, magazines and travel blogs. Her writings portray a kaleidoscope of all things travel related mixed with just the right dosage of history and culture. Photography is her passion and she makes every travel adventure a learning experience to capture vivid shots that compliments her articles.