UPDATED: MAY 2019
Singapore did not appeal to us as a destination that would be in our “first 20” countries as Japan is, or maybe even Thailand, which is also in South East Asia. The truth was, we thought that it was overrated, expensive, small, and boring.
But when we finally went in February 2018, totally unplanned, we were shocked to have these thoughts shattered.
If you are also thinking the same way, let these reasons below convince you to go. If you’re a fan of the city-state, then let us know what your favorite reasons for going (or going back) are.
1. FOOD HAVEN
You’ll often hear this travel advice for those leaving for Singapore to eat at hawker stalls for 2 reasons – it is inexpensive, and appetizing. Again, it fills the stomach without putting a hole in your pocket. There are so many hawkers (more formally known as food centers) in Singapore and here are the Best 10. Go through this list and include them in your itinerary if you can. Don’t worry if you haven’t ticked all of them off the list because in 3 days, we only got to eat at 2 of them.
It’s safe to eat at food centers, even as they evolved from street peddlers. Singapore has introduced a way to ensure that these hawkers are hygienic and followed health laws. The government has implemented a “Demerit System” which will deduct points from a hawker’s rating based on cleanliness, overall hygiene and housekeeping standards. These ratings are displayed prominently on their stalls, and is given annually by the governing body. So no, it’s not your usual “palengke” (wet market) food stalls as others first understood them to be. In fact, some of them are so good, they have earned Michelin stars, or were recommended by Anthony Bourdain and/or the master chef himself, Gordon Ramsay.
We enjoyed the roasted duck in Chinatown, Nasi Lemak in Kampong Glam cafe, the Kara Toast, Oyster Cake in Maxwell Food Center and a lot more.
Food in Singapore (which is a blend of Asian, English, American and Indian) unofficially ranks 3rd in our list (with Japanese and Indian cuisines on top).
2. UNIQUE BUILDING AND STRUCTURES
There are a lot of iconic landmarks in Singapore that even if you haven’t been there, you’ll know for sure you’re seeing photographs of the country.
Everyone’s favorite probably is Marina Bay Sands, but there’s more to the bay than just that. While the Merlion is the country’s poster boy, there are other buildings and structures that would pique your interest as you roam around.
As this was a relaxed trip and we didn’t cram everything in, we’ve seen a few but not most of the iconic buildings. In fact, now that I’m writing this, I am realizing how little we saw of Singapore. For lists of buildings you may want to see, especially if you’re into architecture and photography, here they are: Iconic Landmarks, Interesting Buildings, and Architectural Highlights. We haven’t seen these all, but we’re showing what we’ve seen so far, and what we want to see when we come back.
My favorite would have to be the ArtScience Musuem, which is shaped like a lotus flower floating on the bay.
3. ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS
Many of us think that Singapore is but a concrete jungle in the heart of South East Asia. What we fail to see is its efforts to educate its people the importance of trees, recycling, and waste water management, to name a few.
Their Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources have five goals: (1) Less Strain, More Gain (2) Less Me, More We (3) Less Waste, More Space (4) Less Today, More Tomorrow and (5) Less Footprint, More Opportunities which tackle environmental issues such as reducing carbon footprint, more green and blue spaces, better air quality and recycling.
They have anti-littering, jaywalking, spitting, and even “expelling mucus from the nose” laws. And yes, that popular gum-ban since 2004. Talk about discipline.
The Marina Bay also serves as a reservoir for the country, so they won’t have to import freshwater anymore from Malaysia like they used to. The Marina Barrage, a dam, was built to hold the ocean out and freshwater in and prevents flooding in low-lying areas. Plus the garden itself by the bay is not only home to expensive buildings like the Marina Bay Sands, it is also a huge recreational and entertainment area. You would see people jogging, families on picnics, kids flying kites, a dragon boat team rowing, watching the lights and sound show at night, or simply just marveling at the night lights.
The Supertrees are also not just there as an attraction. They have solar panels to light up the trees at night and some trees are integrated with Cooled Conservatories to serve as their exhaust receptacles.
Singapore, on top of all the glamorous cities known for its fashion-centric market, houses the second-largest Louis Vuitton building in the world, next to none other than the flagship store in Champs Elysees in Paris. The building sits close to the Marina Bay Sands.
Aside from the luxurious brands found inside Marina Bay Sands, there is a long list of other places for high-end shopping including Paragon Shopping Center and duty free shops at the Changi Airport.
For budget shopping, souvenirs and other trinkets, one can go to (1) Bugis Street, (2) Chinatown, (3) Mustafa Shopping Center – the only 24-hour shopping center in the country and (4) IMM Outlet Mall. We’ve only been to Bugis and Chinatown, and yet we already felt overwhelmed with things we want to buy. For a more comprehensive list for budget shopping, click here.
You know how sometimes concerts in the Philippines cost more than concerts of the same band on the same tour in other countries? Take the Coldplay tickets last year as an example – it cost more to see the concert in General Admission here in the Philippines than it was in South Korea, and the VIP ticket here cost more than it did if you watched in US, Canada, Japan, Singapore, and many more.
Anyway, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, Harry Styles, Dua Lipa and more artists are coming to Singapore on the first half of 2018 – you might want to check them out.
Apart from the artists themselves, what’s also endearing to concert-goers are the venues in which they are held. Compared to standing in parking lots for hours here in the Philippines, or staying inside a stadium without a view, it is the opposite of watching concerts in Singapore.
For car enthusiasts, you can also head to Singapore every September for their 3-day Grand Prix F1 Race. The lowest ticker price is almost 6,000 php but early bird rates now show it could be as low as 4,800 at a single day pass at the Padang Grand Stand.
6. SOCIAL MEDIA
If budget is a problem but you are curating a powerful, popular Instagram gallery, then Singapore is also a good place. From the wall art in Kampong Glam, to the skyscrapers in the marina area, to the local delicacy that you can find almost anywhere, it will surely fill your social media accounts with glamorous shots – both filtered and unedited.
Haji Lane is said to be one of the most colorful, situated within Arab Street, but you go further out of the city center to see more less-exposed architectural highlights.
7. EFFICIENT TRAIN SYSTEM
Speaking of trains, according to CNN Travel, the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) ranks as third of the world’s most efficient train system, next to Hong Kong (1st) and Seoul (2nd). All the signs are in English so it’s not difficult to get around.
Mary and I only bought the EZ-link card and topped it up with $15 each for a 3-day trip around the country, and still ended up with about $5 more to spare before we headed out to Malaysia. The card is non-refundable but you can use up the fund in other groceries, pharmacies and convenience stores, as we did.
8. INTERNATIONAL HUB
Singapore is a hub for places that are generally unreachable from Manila, or should I say it’s cheaper if you start off from Singapore. FlyScoot flies to Athens, Honolulu and Berlin cheaper than any other airline flying from Singapore. Norwegian Airlines also flies the cheapest from Singapore to London (Gatwick). It is also a gateway to India and other South Asian destinations via AirAsia and FlyScoot, Australia via Jetstar and FlyScoot, and America and Europe as mentioned above.
If you’re lucky and you persevere on getting good rate in flying from Manila to Singapore, then you can make it a as a jump-off point to anywhere else. It does not have the best airport for nothing.
You can also cross the border to Malaysia, like we did, or get on a boat and head to Indonesia, or head to Beijing maybe for a Trans-Siberian journey to Russia and to the rest of Europe.
9. THE BEST AIRPORT IN THE WORLD
I’m sorry, where? Yup, the best airport in the world for 5 consecutive years according to Skytrax, is Singapore’s Changi. Truly a first-world nation in a third-world neighborhood, Singapore has yet again beaten Japan’s Haneda, Kansai, Narita and Nagoya airports.
It is also a worthwhile airport to be stuck in if you’re waiting for a connection flight, or if your flight got delayed. It is an airport that is also a destination in itself. It has its own gardens (Cactus Garden, Sunflower Garden, Orchid Garden), recreation rooms (play with Xbox, or Kinect), spa and swimming pool, free movie theaters, museums (Kinetic Rain, numerous art installations strewn everywhere) and sleeping areas. And nope, I haven’t even gone to the business lounges yet.
If you’re arriving in the early hours of the day or if you arrived too early for your outgoing flight, check out what you can do in the transit and public areas on their website.
10. MELTING POT OF DIFFERENT CULTURES
You can easily be mistaken as Thai or Malaysian in Singapore in the same way that some Singaporeans I mistook for Indians when I was trying to build rapport once. Everyone is well represented in Singapore, although we were very cautious about being a lesbian couple. It’s true that they do not recognize same-sex marriages and you can never be too careful. As always, researching before traveling is key.
Overall, it’s a joy to see different cultures and religions in one small city-state since Singapore’s primary ethnic backgrounds are Malay, Chinese, and Indian.
Here you will see a mosque and two blocks after you will see a Hindu temple, and then after a catholic church. Walk on and you’ll reach Chinatown and a Buddhist temple, and so on.
So, if you aren’t convinced to go to Singapore yet, we’re telling you, it’s a great loss. Watch out for the 3D2N SG Itinerary and Budget on our next blog. Feel free to share your thoughts about Singapore on the comments section below.
All photos shot with an iPhone6, GoPro Hero 7 and Sony a6000, and owned by us unless proper crediting is indicated.