Singapore is one of my favourite cities in Asia because it has such a cultural mix from ends of Southeast countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, just to name a few are jumbled into Singapore, bringing unique culinary flavours to the world. This is my first post where I will take you to a city through my experience of food and non-food related, but with more focus on food of course!
One thing to note is that Singapore has a strong Western cultural influence, in terms of public space feel and people’s mannerisms. If you thinking of visiting Asia for the first time, I would recommend Singapore as a good starting place before delving into the heart of Asia, for example Thailand, where you could experience a culture shock and this could be the same for an Asian travelling to the West. Even so said, it will vary from person to person, always remember to keep an open mind when travelling to countries of foreign culture to your own.
Before we dive into my top ten things of Singapore, I am dedicating this post to a dear friend, Ms. Lin, who I have known over a decade is going to visit Singapore this weekend for her big birthday! Happy Birthday my friend and I hope that you have a fabulous time!
1. Tian Tian Chicken Rice Restaurant @ Maxwell Center – China Town
My previous post was on Hainanese chicken rice, which was one of the highlights of my trip. I recommend getting on this heavenly rice! White rice cooked in chicken broth with two sauces and, add-on extra bak-choi. You will soon realise there are many stalls that offer chicken rice, but do lookout for the longest trail of hungry Singaporeans that will lead you to Tian Tian. Trust me that my 45-minute queue was well worth the wait.
2. Toast Box
Have you ever heard of Kaya Jam? A jam made from coconuts that is wildly popular in Southeast Asia. Toast Box is a franchise that serves Singapore’s signature breakfast dish of kaya toast. A great start to the day includes 2 slices of white toast spread with kaya jam and a stick of butter served with soft boiled eggs to dip your toast in. It is claimed you cannot have this without complementing it with Nanyang Kopi (coffee) which is a selected blend of Robusta, Arabica and Liberica beans that associates the taste to how the Hainanese immigrants enjoyed their Kopi. Maybe you are not a coffee drinker (like myself) a great alternative is their Teh Tarik (pulled tea) which is one of my favourites!
3. SEA Aquarium - Sentosa Island
Sentosa Island is off the coast of Singapore’s main island and is easily accessible with various modes of public transport. The most popular attractions are Universal Studios and the SEA Aquarium. I didn’t go to Universal Studios as I was more interested in viewing the world’s largest aquarium (it was when I visited, until 2014 when Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Hengqin was completed). The journey is unique as you “submerge” into the ocean floor after a short video story and felt as though you are part of the ocean world itself. A visit to this aquarium can easily take up half a day and a treat to escape from the sweltering heat.
Tip: When you leave the island on the metro and it is close to closing time, the line to get onto the train is crazy. Thus, I recommend that you take the train going further into Sentosa and the tram will route back to Singapore with ease!
4. TWG Tea
Earlier in the post I mentioned about how I enjoy tea and TWG tea is worth a visit to explore their offerings. The tea brand is established in Singapore as it celebrates the year 1837 where the island became a trading post for teas. TWG sources tea worldwide to cater a broad range of flavours directly from tea-producing countries. There are a range of teas to buy from loose tea leaves, packaged blends, bagged tea leaves all the way to their haute couture collection. Furthermore, they sell tea accessories and gourmet delicacies to complement your experience of TWG and macarons! I personally enjoyed their tea infused macarons, which are not as sweet as your conventional macarons. TWG tea is definitely a great store to buy gifts for loved ones who enjoys a good cuppa tea.
5. Marina Bay Sands
Nobody can say they have visited Singapore if they have not explored the Marina Bay. Marina Bay Sands is located in central Singapore adjacent to the city’s CBD. The objective of this development is to encourage a mixed-use area of commercial, residential, hotel and entertainment; which has definitely been achieved! The promenade along the bay is unique to see the diverse city landscape of amazing architecture; Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Marina Bay Link Mall, ArtScience Museum, Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, just to mention a few providing a dynamic and vibrant public life.
A memorable pause was walking out of Marina Bay Sands Hotel towards the bay is their unique facade design of an ensemble of small light metal sheetings. On a windy day, lucky for me, the ensemble orchestrates a resonance of a gentle rainy day. Close your eyes and pause for 5 minutes and bask in the symphony of mother nature.
6. Gardens by the Bay
After exploring Marina Bay Sands, you will discover Gardens by the Bay that complements alongside Marina Bay Sands Hotel. If green landscapes and horticulture is your fancy, then a visit to Singapore’s national garden is a must! This is Singapore’s unique approach to entertain while educating visitors with plants that are seldom seen. This is combined with award winning landscape architecture exploring different themed areas of the garden. Some advice when visiting the garden, it is advised to visit early morning or late afternoon to avoid the tropical heat. Remember to carry extra water!
7. Crystal Jade Golden Palace – Ngee Ann City - Orchard Road
This restaurant was recommended by a friend who absolutely loves “shiao-long-bao” (traditional Shanghainese steamed pork soup dumpling), but unfortunately I did not get to try them because I lost track of time and missed the lunch run. However, I had a fabulous a la carte dinner and recommend the deep-fried prawn with wasabi dressing (still dreaming about it). Crystal Jade never fails to deliver as it is a Singaporean favourite, which has been awarded with one-michelin star!
8. Black Pepper Crab
I won’t recommend a specific restaurant, I believe you should ask a local Singaporean to recommend a local favourite, as they would know best! Fried black pepper crab and chilli crab are the two most popular way of serving the Singaporean dish. I personally prefer the black pepper crab as it is not as saucy and enhances the sweetness of the crab meat.
The famous merlion is within walking distance of Marina Bay, which is an icon in Singapore as a reminder where the city has thrived from a simple fishing village. Close to the Merlion landmark is the neo classical Fullerton Hotel that is now declared a National Monument. The hotel is fabulously located and has an amazing view of the bay from The Lighthouse Restaurant that serves Italian cuisine; take opportunity of their business lunch specials!
10. Subway access
The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is the easiest way to travel around Singapore as the stations are strategically located when visiting the tourist destinations and more importantly, air-conditioned! You are able to purchase single tickets at the station, but if you intend to use the subway and buses extensively, it would work out cheaper to purchase a tourist pass; these passes range from 1 day to 3 days. Visit the official website for more information http://thesingaporetouristpass.com.sg/ and if you lucky, there may be special deals to take advantage of!
The biggest tip I have for Singapore is to walk in the evenings, it’s much cooler and safe to explore the city. I have found little gems by exploring the area near my hotel, V Bencoolen, namely the Institute of Contemporary Arts, boardgames cafe and a dessert shop (Rochor Original Beancurd on the corner of Short Street and Selegie Road).
Let me know if there is anything I have left out and your experience. It will give me the opportunity to go back and explore your recommended adventure!