It was a very long day traveling from New Zealand via Australia to Singapore and we arrived in the big Asian city tired and hungry. After a big bowl of delicious noodle soup we went straight to bed to be ready to explore the city the next day.
We had been to Singapore once before but were nevertheless excited to discover the city anew. It’s a great place to spend a few days and indulge in the mix of cultures, the food, and the amazing architecture.
The center of small picturesque Kampong Glam, the Arab quarter, is the big Masjid Sultan mosque. The street leading to the mosque is full of coffee shops, restaurants, and shops selling souvenirs. It’s a good place to buy beautiful scarves and textiles, but be careful: Vendors try to sell you “antique” textiles but they’re probably just made to look old.
The mosque is well worth a visit and Kampong Glam is a wonderful place to wander around, admire the small shops, the old houses, and the fantastic murals and graffiti. Just don’t expect to find anything to eat before 11 am. Anywhere in Singapore.
There’s a big Indian population in Singapore and it’s best visible in Little India, just a short walk from Kampong Glam. Here, there are tandoori and buriani restaurants, gold shops, and colorful temples and houses. It shows very well that Singapore is much more than glitzy skyscrapers and modern buildings.
Gardens by the Bay
A relatively new addition to the city’s landscape, Gardens by the Bay is now one of Singapore’s main attractions. And for good reason! The park is just as beautiful by day, when you can go for a stroll on a boardwalk along a river or enjoy the light breeze on a bench as it is by night when the “giant trees” shine in the dark. The huge structures, which with the time should be completely overgrown by plants, look amazing when they glow purple at night.
The old colonial style warehouses along the Singapore River have, probably without exception, been turned into restaurants. Together with Clarke Quay, they’re one of the main places to go out in Singapore.
If you’re not hungry or thirsty however, it’s still a pleasant place for a stroll along the river. Or you can board a cruise here, which is great way to see the city from a different perspective.
Singapore has a good subway network and public transport is very cheap. Taxis are inexpensive as well. This, plus huge taxes on cars, helps keep the number of private cars down. However, because they’re so expensive, cars are a status symbol and more and more people buy cars. The city center however, is still almost car-free.
If you plan on taking the MRT, the subway, to get around, it’s best to buy a card which you can charge with as much credit as you need or think you’ll need. Fares are much cheaper with a card and you can give it back once you don’t need it anymore and get a refund of your credit. But: only three days after you last charged it. So if you just spend two or three days in Singapore, forget about the refund. But it’s valid for seven years, the lady at the counter told us with a friendly smile. Yeah, well, we might return within the next seven years. We just mustn’t forget to bring the cards.
Although the MRT is great, the best way to discover the city is, as always, on foot. However, be prepared to walk a lot. And to get blisters, even in your favorite shoes.
Lots to do and see in Singapore
Singapore is a great place to spend a few days. There’s so much to do and see, you won’t get bored. You can walk for hours, visit museums, eat lots of good food, go shopping in the countless malls, visit small islands, watch the nightly light show at Marina Bay, and if you’ve done all that, there are still more beautiful colonial buildings and amazing modern architecture to discover. Or funny mirror balls.
Singapore is green and pleasant and it’s clean. It’s not that everything shines or the police would just be waiting for you to drop something and fine you. It’s just clean. Normal. There’s nothing artificial about it, as some people think. It’s like a city should look like (or any place, for that matter). But unfortunately, it’s (still?) the only city in Asia that looks like that.