Last year we spent three weeks visiting South East Asia, travelling through Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam. The trip was an opportunity to do things that would really push ourselves out of our ‘safe’ comfort zone and we did. We took river taxis around Bangkok, explored Hanoi on Vespas and toured Angkor Wat in a tuk tuk and yes that was adventurous for us! But the surprise of the trip was how we felt about Singapore.
On paper, Singapore is most like Japan out of the four countries; clean, safe with plenty of good restaurants and shops. We should have loved it and yet we had mixed feelings. After writing about it on our return, I came to the realisation, it was a lack of connection. We felt Singapore was too sterile and business like, which compared to the interactions we had in Cambodia and Vietnam particularly, left us feeling short changed. We were also on a budget which meant we were unable to enjoy what Singapore really had to offer which is an abundance of retail therapy and good food.
So… we decided to give it another go this year and attempt to explore the city the way it was designed.
On our last visit we hit the major tourist spots which we loved and would highly recommend. These included
- Gardens by the Bay
2. The National Museum
3. Sentosa Island
4. Universal Studios Singapore
So this time we wanted to explore the lesser known parts and spent most of our stay going on walks and eating good food. It is impressive the variety of cuisine available in Singapore and all pretty authentic because of the multicultural dynamic. We explored Lebanese and South American cuisine near Haji Lane, Chinese in China Town as well as Tapas in Clarke Key and guiltily a Pizza Express downtown ( in our defence, we don’t have one in Japan). All delicious and reasonably priced.
We spent a good time shopping too using this time to stock up on products we miss from home but we can’t get in Japan… including Superdry for Rob to get a new winter coat.
Interesting fact: You could be fooled (as we were) into thinking Superdry is a Japanese company when in fact it is not. Although many of the clothing pieces contain references to Tokyo or have Kanji printed on them, you will not find a Superdry store or a single stockist anywhere in Japan- even online. This is because the name ‘Superdry’ is actually a famous type of Japanese beer so it is banned due to legal problems with the branding.
Singapore is one of those cities that you can easily just walk around and never be too far away from an MRT station. The views from the water around Marina Bay offer great views:
And China Town has so much to see:
Haji Lane and the area surrounding it, including around Sultan Mosque, is my favourite part of Singapore. On weekends there is live music playing in the street whilst people sit out eating good food and enjoying the atmosphere. We ate a lot around this area and never noticed the amazing street art that covers the back street walls until our last day.
We considered booking a different hotel this trip instead of the Destination Singapore Beach Road Hotel that we stayed in last time but as it is located perfectly near to Haji Lane, we didn’t bother. If you are looking for a cheap stay in a great location then book this hotel. Link here. The nearest MRT station is Nicoll Highway which is only two stops from the Gardens by the Bay, only 10 stops from the airport on two different lines costing a mere $2.50 (SD) per person and only 8 stops to Harbour Front where you can connect to Sentosa. As I said, perfectly located.
On our last night we stayed at the Crown Plaza Airport Hotel as we had a 5am flight and decided to use this opportunity for one last tourist activity… to see the Jewel. We were lucky that we got to see it during the natural light and again in the evening when we went back for food. It is surrounded by shops and restaurants so there is plenty to keep you occupied.
When we return for food around 8:30pm, we arrived just in time for a light show in the dark. It was good and worth the 15mins watch.
So we gave Singapore a second go and the verdict? Honestly, it is an amazing layover stop. You could spend two or three nights here and it would be perfect to see all the highlights and leave happy but I wouldn’t stay much longer. It is not a holiday destination for me, it is a stop off on the way to another holiday destination. I will definitely be happy using it as a future layover but that is all I need it to be. We bought lots of goodies to bring home and I ate enough hummus to keep me happy for a year so it was still a trip worth taking.
If you have any questions about the locations in the photos, then please don’t hesitate to ask. We have some exciting plans for the up coming year so look out for those but for now.