The Best of Singapore- for One Day or One Month
April 20, 2019
by Surbhi Grover
A city/country island in South East Asia, Singapore is one of the most popular tourist destinations these days. Some people like to visit this place for a week; some like the idea of settling here. So what makes this country irresistible?
Singapore was one of the first international destinations that I flew to, as an operating crew. Based out of Bangalore, we used to fly one sector to Singapore, stay there for 48 hours, get paid by the company to explore the city, and fly back one sector. It was a vacation flight. I must have done around 5-6 such layovers and every time I went there, I explored some new corner. I had always been an introvert. During my school and college days, I would never have imagined that I’d be comfortable roaming around alone in a foreign land, let alone enjoy it! Being a pilot does come with it’s pros and cons. Not always you have someone to tag along with. But spending two full days locked in a hotel room sounds kind of a waste of such a nice pattern. Every time I saw SIN on my roster, I would pack the shortest of shorts and the coolest of tops, and of course, my most comfortable walking shoes. Because I believe that a city is best explored on foot, with a map (Google maps will also do).
We get accommodation at Crowne Plaza, which is right at the airport. We just finish immigration and walk to the hotel. After taking a nap for a few hours, I generally have a heavy breakfast and take the elevator down one floor, to the metro station.
Commuting within Singapore is Super Easy!
Singapore is very well connected by public transport. You can go from one corner to the other within an hour and a half max, by either metro or bus. Both are very cheap compared to the fare one might have to pay for cabs, and work on the travel card, which you may purchase from the MRT station. If you don’t mind a little extra exercise, one may also pick up a bike from one of the many stops (using apps like Obike, Mobike etc) and drop it off at another location. It’s pretty simple and the conveniently constructed bike routes make for a beautiful ride. One can ride from one end of the famous East Coast Park, to the other while enjoying the most scenic views.
Must-See for the Typical Tourist
For the first few times, I did go to the conventional touristy places. Passes for the Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari, River Safari, Gardens by the Bay, can all be purchased online, or at the counter. If you’re travelling with kids, visiting these parks may take a day each and may get tiring. The light and sound show at Gardens by the Bay shouldn’t be missed. You may want to relax later at Clarke Quay and listen to some live music, while enjoying some fresh seafood.
After you get down at Marina Bay Sands, the world-renowned hotel, you may want to spend some time browsing through shops before the temperature cools down and you can step out. You might want to buy a ticket for the rooftop bar here, for watching the sunset later.
One has to take a walk along the Esplanade. This open-air theatre offers a variety of live shows almost every evening. The schedule can be found online and entry is free. You can enjoy the famous coconut ice cream while listening to some great music or watching an enticing dance performance. Further down, you come to the official mascot of Singapore, the Merlion. It may take some effort to get the postcard-perfect picture because of the number of tourists, but it’s worth a shot.
Once you’ve had a coffee at the Starbucks here and bought a few souvenirs, you can walk to Bugis for some street shopping. Little India is another 5 minutes walk away and offers a variety of restaurants for you to try. You may also want to take the MRT to China Town to get the taste of the diversity of cultures that Singapore has to offer.
Sentosa is one of the most famous islands, which is part of Singapore. It has four different metro stations, each of which has day-long activities for all age groups. You can also commute to Sentosa by road, or by the cable car. Tickets for the cable car need to be purchased at least a day prior. From enjoying the various rides at Universal Studios and watching the parade in the evening, to trying out sky-dive and bungee jumping at the next station, Sentosa cannot be covered in one day. You’d also not want to miss the amazing water park here. The last station, Siloso Beach, offers a variety of shacks and cafes for the older age group to chill at.
The Singapore flyer is another to-do list item to check off if you’re here for the first time. The light and water show can be enjoyed from the flyer too, in case your timing is awesome.
Hidden Gems in Singapore for the Not-so-Touristy
Instead of going to Marina Bay Sands, one can go to Raffles and watch the sunset from 1- Altitude, a rooftop bar which offers a 360 degree view of the city. When I first went to Singapore, it was Diwali and for a North Indian, it is a big deal to be away from home on such an auspicious day. I had treated myself to a nice 9-course meal at Stellar, which is a level below. After dinner, you can also go to the club for some nice live music in case you’re there for the weekend.
For those who can afford LA-type shopping, Orchard Road has an amazing number of branded shops. For someone like me, I prefer the quaint murals and graffiti of Haji Lane for some nice shopping. There is a brilliant bikini shop there, which I love visiting just to be told I look hot.
For those who like to visit the untouched corners, Singapore offers a lot of areas where one can hike, with proper maps and guidance. One time I took a ferry and visited an island north of the city, Pulao Ubin. I rented a bicycle and rode around the trail, crossing wetlands and discovering bird species. There is also Macritchie Reservoir if you really want to check your fitness quotient. You can hike in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the Fort Canning Park, or just attend a bootcamp at the Botanical Gardens.
Going on a Food Trail!
I love food. But I am a vegetarian. Usually in south east Asian countries, it is very difficult to find pure veg food. That isn’t the case in Singapore. I ate at Joie, treated myself to another 3-course meal and it was super delicious. Those were the days when I was following Masterchef and I had proper satisfaction with the presentation of the food.
The White Rabbit is another such restaurant, which has a set menu. The brilliant thing about this restaurant is that the building it is in, used to be a church. It is spacious, with high ceilings and colored glass windows. For street food, I’d recommend Little India, China Town and of course, Clarke Quay.
One need-to-know fact about Singaporean food is their seasonal fruit, the durian might be tasty to eat, I have never tried, but isn’t allowed in public transport. Why? Because it stinks.
The people in Singapore are really nice and helpful. The weather is sometimes too hot to bear. But the bustling nightlife and the 24-hour open Mustafa Shopping Centre, really make this tiny country a must-visit. I wouldn’t know a lot about the hostels here because I have always visited the city on official duty technically, but my friends who’ve been here on solo trips, say there are plenty. You should definitely go on a pub-hopping tour if you want to make some crazy memories with strangers. Happy SINning!