Giving Singapore a Second Chance

I first visited Singapore a couple of years when doing a visa run from Bali which was part of a larger 4 month journey around southeast Asia. I guess the purpose of the visit had something to do with how I felt during my short stay in Singapore — that of a destination that I was simply there to transit through and not to explore with any great effort.

I left Singapore at that time thinking that it was the only non-Asian country in southeast Asia and far too expensive for a cheap-arse like me. I really didn’t like it.

Singaporean Kids
Singaporean Kids

When looking for flights to Indonesia for my current jaunt, I checked all the usual points of entry such as Bali, Jakarta, via Malaysia…and also Singapore. It just so happened that I got a really good deal on a ticket to Singapore from Melbourne — $200 for an 8 hour flight. So rather than skip straight through Singapore as my first instinct told me to do, I decided to hang around a little bit longer to do some walking, some eating and some animal watching. It turned out to be a fantastic experience helped by an Indophile friend I met on my first night, Judith.

Walking

I love walking. I especially like walking when I’m in a new place so that I can get my bearings and feel at ease. It’s also the best way, in my view, to get a feel for a place and to discover hidden treats. It’s often too easy to whip out a copy of the Lonely Planet and make a beeline to a restaurant or activity thereby passing all the cool stuff in between — like creepy alleys, culinary delights and my favourite — banal local life.

The Esplanade (Durian) Singapore
The Esplanade (Durian) Singapore

Around the harbour area there are some really cool things to see on the architectural front. My favourite is probably what is referred to as the ‘durian’. It’s real name is the Esplanade and it regularly hosts world class performing artists in its concert hall and theatre. Other buildings I loved were the Marina Bay Sands which charges $20 to get to the top op unless you are sneaky like me in which case you can as if you are staying there and use the internal elevators.

Eating

Singapore has always been known as a great food destination, but I never saw it on my first journey. This time I was determined to crack the nut that is the hawker centres where I’d read it was possible to get a good feed for under $3 which is good value in anyone’s language. Judith and I hit up the Old Airport Rd food hall for starters and it delievered the goods. I got myself a laksa with a massive dollop of sambal balancing precariously on the side. Needless to say I needed hardly any of it as it was spicy enough for me.

Laksa with Sambal
Laksa with Sambal

I also got around to a few hawker centres near Little India and they all dished up lovely food. The mainstays of most of these joints was chicken rice, prawn mee and miscellaneous crazy Chinese stuff that didn’t take my fancy. It truly is possible to eat great food on the cheap in Singapore.

Singapore Zoo

Apart from walking around aimlessly, was there anything else I did? Why yes there was, as the sub-heading might suggest. Judith and I headed off to the Singapore Zoo. Being a fan of giving local transport a go, I indicated to Judith that I had the directions to the zoo all sorted out. After the first bus told us to get off in the middle of nowhere, we looked for a cab. Apparently there is some weird ‘no pickup’ rule in Singapore (one of about a billion rules that you can’t be expected to get a handle on) and we walked around a little like zombies (sans drool) until we managed to get to a bus stop (perhaps the same one that we were dumped off at). We jumped on another bus, jumped off it again just up the road and changed to the zoo bus. All in all, a silly decision by me to do public transport. For a few dollars more, it would have been better to get a direct tourist bus or even a cab.

Hamadryas Baboon at Singapore Zoo
Hamadryas Baboon at Singapore Zoo

The zoo itself is incredible. It’s easily the best zoo I have ever been to although that’s not really saying a whole lot since I’ve not been to that many. Top on my list of wishes was to see a mandrill. I did indeed see a couple of mandrills and that made my day. I think the mandrills, 80 hamadryas baboons and the jaguars were my faves. I think it’d be pretty easy to spend a full day there, but we breezed through quite quickly as Judith had a plane to Indonesia to catch. The next time I visit Singapore I wouldn’t mind doing a night safari which apparently goes from next door.

So all in all my visit to Singapore was a successful one. I stayed at the Inncrowd in Little India which truth be told was a little disappointing for the $15 price tag. 10 bed dorms, no decent spot to put your bag and a breakfast not worth bothering with. Free WiFi was nice, but who needs that nowadays anyway?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Singapore. Ever been? Want to go?

13 thoughts on “Giving Singapore a Second Chance

  1. I would really love to go to Singapore – I’ve transited through Changi several times but never made it outside! I lovelovelove South East Asian cities and want to see whether I’ll love Singapore, too! Next year, I think.

    1. Yeah, I like many SE Asian cities as well and Singapore has a sort of SE Asian feel about it. But it also has many of the modern things that makes us in the West feel comfortable such as health department inspections of hawker stalls etc. It’s a great mix.

  2. I absolutely love Singapore – one of my favorite places in the world! The MRT is brilliant and I can’t get over how clean it is there… and don’t even get me started on the food!

    Glad to see you gave it a second chance.

    1. Yeah, the MRT is good as are the buses. It’s just difficult to know where the buses go, although the iphone helps with that because singapore public transport is integrated into google maps.

      Food yes… good…

  3. I like Singapore! Too bad I never get to the zoo. And I didn’t find local food that I like also. So thanks for the review. I might go to Little India the next time I go to Singapore:)

    1. Yeah, there are plenty of hawker centres close to Little India that have good local food. I think in the tourist areas of Singapore the food is mediocre… Much like everywhere really!

  4. After 2 visit, i can say i love singapore! ;D
    Great public transport, decent food (you should try maxwell hawker center, near Lau Pa Sat), and for me there are many entertainment places ( do check yoursingapore.com or Sistic for any interesting event). I’m visiting Singapore pretty regularly and i can say tourist knew the place better than the local people. Seriously, i have a bunch of Singaporean friend who never visited museum there or even watch play at Esplanade. They can be a very boring people sometimes.. -___-“

    1. Yeah, I’m a fan of the food also. I had plenty of good meals there at quite good prices. I like that whole Esplanade area and the building itself is fantastic!

      1. Yups, Singapore might not have beautiful sceneries like Indonesia but they built amazing buildings and non-sceneries theme park. ;))

  5. It’s funny how vastly your opinion on a place can change when you get to experience it from a different angle.

    I always thought Sydney wasn’t for me after I’d visited it during my college years, but can’t imagine living (long term) anywhere else now that it’s my home.

    1. Yeah, I think one of the problems sometimes is attitude. If you’re feeling cynical, you can hate a place that absolutely everyone else loves. It happened to me in Burma — everyone loves Bagan, but I didn’t like it. I should probably return and give it another go.

    1. Good stuff. I mainly walked around a lot and I still enjoyed it. But if you get a chance, the zoo is definitely worth a look. You can spin through it in a few hours if time is tight too.

      Just looked at your planned trip to UK overland. That is the exact trip I dream of doing, but it will be difficult! Any idea how you’re going to get out of Australia? I was thinking that the best way is to get a boat from Darwin to East Timor. Papua would be a bit of a problem, I reckon.

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