Singapore on a budget
January 1, 1970
Singapore is one of the most modern and safest places to go in Asia. When arriving at Changi airport, you can already see it is very modern, organized and efficient. I was stunned to see that their MRT, Singapore’s subway system, does not use any driver. Everything is automatic. And there are signs on the floor where people wait in line for the subway. One of the best things about Singapore is that you never wait too long in any line, not even for the Immigration and Customs line. The subway system is very efficient and the train always arrives on time. Singapore is notorious for being very expensive and one of the reasons why people do not stay for more than one or two days. However, I stayed there for a week and after a couple of days I discovered more and more places that were either free or very cheap. I will share some of the places you can visit when you are on a tight budget. There are cheap Hawker centers (food courts) for eating, my favorite was Maxwell Food Centre in Chinatown. Great food, fresh fruit and all at a cheap price. The Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice is amazing, you must try it!
A walk through the Botanic Garden
One of the best things you can visit for free is the Botanic Garden. You can take the MRT there and alight at the Botanic Gardens stop. But if you take the MRT you walk for quite some time until you get to the entrance of the park. It’s better to get a bus, which is really cheap, and alight at Napier/Holland Road where you can take the Tanglin Gate entrance. It’s impressive from the very beginning and you can already hear “jungle sounds”. The Gardens are really lovely. The lush rainforest, exotic plants and wild monitor lizards around the park make you feel away from the busy streets of the city center of Singapore. You are in the middle of nature. There is a place called Frangipani Grove which is one of the nicest places in the park, there are frangipani trees, garden swings and a gazebo. The rainforest area is one of the oldest, original rainforest there were in Singapore. There is a nice boardwalk through the rainforest, so you don’t get lost.
Exploring Singapore’s cultural diversity: Chinatown and Little India
Singapore stands out as a melting pot of cultures. That is probably the thing I liked most about Singapore. You can walk through Chinatown or Little India and feel like you are actually in China or India. These places are so authentic and definitely worth a visit. The city is full of Buddhist temples, Hindu temples and Mosques. On South Bridge Road in Chinatown you can see all three of them and attend the religious ceremonies. You can visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and get a cheap meal in the basement. The main hall is truly majestic, it is best to visit during one of the ceremonies for an extraordinary Buddhist experience. The rooftop is very nice. There are 10,000 small Buddha statues on the wall and a prayer wheel in the middle. This was the most impressive and beautiful Buddhist temple that I have ever visited.
Trip to Sentosa
If you have a long layover (more than two days) or you are spending your holidays in Singapore, Sentosa Island is definitely worth a visit. It is quite easy to get there and the best part is that you can go there for free. There three cheapest ways to get there are by train, by bus or on foot. If you want to take the train it cost about 4 SGD for a return ticket. You only pay for the way to Sentosa, the way back is for free. So if you prefer, you can take the lovely boardwalk until Sentosa and take the train back for free. The Sentosa Boardwalk is a must, you can use the travelator to get to the island more quickly or walk at your own rhythm and take in the breathtaking scenery and the rainforest alongside the Boardwalk as you stand or walk on the travelator.
The Southernmost Point in Continental Asia
Palawan Beach is one of the nearest beaches to the Central Bus Station in Sentosa, it’s only walking distance from the big Merlion statue. The way to the beach from the Merlion statue reminded me of Barcelona and its famous Park Güell. There were many colorful tiles and fountains with an added exotic touch of orchid flowers on the way. Take the Suspension Bridge to the little island where you can find the Southernmost Point of Continental Asia. You can take a picture with the sign like most people did. There are two lookout towers on the island. You have a great view of Sentosa from there and you can even spot some parts of Indonesia far away in the distance.
Bring your own food! There are some Malaysian street food stands nearby Universal Studios. It was very crowded and people seemed to enjoy the food, but I did not try it. In the Universal Studios area there are many cafés such as Hard Rock Café, American brand stores like Hershey (the American chocolate bars), some restaurants, for example, Italian or Seafood restaurants, but they are quite expensive. Although there is a 7-eleven on Palawan Beach, but it’s slightly more expensive than the ones in Singapore. I would rather recommend bringing your own food from a supermarket in Singapore. There are many supermarkets (Cold Storage, Giant…) in the VivoCity Mall, where the Boardwalk begins and where you can take the train shuttle to Sentosa Island. The buses that go to Sentosa are behind the mall.
Fort Siloso and the Jungle Trail
Go to Fort Siloso Skywalk, a high concrete bridge above the tree tops. You can see Indonesia and the small islands that belong to Singapore from there. Remember not to wear a hat on the skywalk, it is quite windy up there. At its 110 m of height, you get a great 360 view of the island. From the base of Fort Siloso, you can either go to Siloso Beach, it’s quite nice if you are looking for a nice and quiet beach to relax, or you can take the Jungle Trail like I did. The Jungle Trail is amazing because you feel you are in the middle of the jungle. You are surrounded by beautiful plants and even wild animals! There are warning signs that there are monkeys in the jungle. I did not see any monkeys, but I could hear one as I was walking through the jungle.
This was my experience of Singapore. It was very green and modern. I definitely enjoyed staying in this wonderful city.