Every time I travel through Singapore I am disappointed. Compared to the surrounding countries Singapore is a bland wasteland of identical shopping malls and artificially created tourist attractions. It lacks the gritty cultural depth filling the cracks of its less prosperous neighbors. A bold statement? Indeed, but one backed up by countless uninspiring trips through the small city state. For the first time visitor to Asia, Singapore is a great stepping stone to getting acclimated to this diverse area of the world. But for the experienced Asia hand it can easily turn into an exercise of waiting for the water to boil as the seconds tick by and time stretches out.

You may be questioning why I even bothered to go back to Singapore at all. This time I was routed through Singapore to wait for a visa while on a work trip to Timor-Leste and then Sri Lanka. As you can see I have a bias for rougher countries, but I was determined to make the best of my work funded stopover. As a result I give you my short list to making Singapore an interesting place. If you’re looking for Singapore hotel accommodation then you’ll be happy there are some beautiful places to stay to make it all slightly more interesting.

Be Adventurous

Packed into a small minivan I exchanged uncomfortable looks with 10 other foreign tourists as we sped away from the train station and glided easily onto Singapore’s well oiled highway. The cute girl in the station helpfully offered advice on a free bus service to the Singapore Zoo. A few minutes later I was paying a complete stranger money for an entrance ticket to the Night Safari in exchange for a free ride. “You don’t have a sign on the van, man,” a young pseudo backpacker announced from the sidewalk. His mother looked uncomfortable. “You guys are getting ripped off,” he yelled as the door slammed shut and we sped away.

Mr. Ho and his business partner. If you see them at the train station you can trust them.

Maybe. But what a great story if everything went horribly, horrible wrong. The perks of being a travel writer. To my disappointment nothing happened except arriving safely at the zoo, ticket in hand. Mr. Ho and his young business partner are an unlikely pairing. He is tall, has salt and pepper hair and looks like he could be her father. They run the service 3 times a day, once in the afternoon and twice between 5:30 pm and 8:30 pm (one way only), and earn their money from buying tickets in bulk. It only takes 20 minutes and is faster than the public bus service. Give them a try if you are lucky enough to emerge from Ang Mo Kio station and they are parked outside.

 

The Night Safari is something special. Showcasing nocturnal animals that sleep during normal zoo daytime hours, the dense humid surrounding jungle pulls you right into the safari experience. Take a train or walk the various paths past tigers, rhinos, deer, flying squirrels and hundreds of others.

 

 

 

Without a flash it is hard to take nice pictures on the Safari.

Shop

Shopping at Bugis Street

I have grown to appreciate the shopping options in Singapore after living in some meager environments. However, skip the boring sameness of Orchard Street, where all you will find is high end shops carrying the same Louis Vuitton bags you can find back home. For something funkier hit the youth energized Bugis Street. Packed with hip handmade clothing stalls and accessories, this is where you can find bargains and maintain a bit of personal identity and style. Practice your negotiation skills, or just soak in the teaming market atmosphere as stall owners struggle to be noticed and shoppers hunt for the perfect Friday night outfit.

Cooling down with a little fun.

If you need a break from the mayhem, head across the street to Bugis Junction and relax by the fountain. If you’re feeling hot join the kids and frolic in the impeccably timed water dancing about.

 

Eat…drink and eat some more

Singapore is a gastronomic paradise to suit any budget. In a city that can quickly put pressure on your wallet from accommodation to shopping, food is the one area where you can splurge for cheap. Throughout the city, street stalls have been collected and thrown together into outside eateries offering Chinese, Indian, Singaporean (whatever that means) and general Southeast Asian fare. Or you can head down to the Muslim district and eat Murtabak Prata in one of the many shops.

 

Haji Lane

 

 

Haji Lane

A combined suggestion of shopping and eating, this funky lane in the Muslim district is unique and fun. Crowded with individual clothing boutiques and stylish cafes it offers arguably the most honest atmosphere in a city obsessed with conformity. It also offers beer and alcoholic drinks you can’t find on the other streets nearby.

 

 

 

 

Building Peeping

I’m no architect but even I can appreciate some of the aesthetics in the city. Put on your walking shoes and explore the city with your eyes glued up and you are sure to find some unique architectural wonders. And don’t forget to peep at night too, or else you could miss out on some amazing light shows.

 

Parkview Square

So there you have it, my guide to making Singapore an interesting place. You will notice the glaring omission of bars and clubs, of which there are plenty. If you are clubber (or an alcoholic), leave a comment below with your favorite haunts. I won’t be planning my next vacation to Singapore, but if I find myself there again I will at least have a few favorite activities to help take the edge off.

What do you like about Singapore? Prove me wrong and add your comments below.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

13 Responses to “How to make Singapore interesting”

  1. nerdskaNo Gravatar says:

    The exact reason why I find the need to get out. Singapore is too small….
    I like the fact that I have friends of all ethnicity n religion n we all get along really well… but Singapore is just too… small… It gets claustraphobic at times….

    And the places u mentioned…. yup. those are the fav. haunts. even for locals. Not many places to go…

    Why not drop by one of the older housing estates say on a Sunday, walk through the wet markets.
    Older housing estates like Marsiling, Toa Payoh, Bedok, Clementi….

    Or If you happen to be in Singapore when a festival is around, be sure to visit the night markets “Pasar Malam”…..
    Muslim Fasting Month – head to Geylang Serai Bazaar
    before Chinese New Year – Head to chinatown
    before Deepavali – Head to Little India

    I started travelling 2 yrs ago, n since then, I maxed out all my annual leave, n I travelled to China, Japan, Seoul, Indonesia and Malaysia…

    Sometimes wished I had the courage to live “on the go” as you do.

    But on another note.. I’m gonna backpack S.Korea for 17 days soon… weee~

  2. Mark BensonNo Gravatar says:

    The lovely Singapore is home to almost whatever a traveller desires for, ranging from exotic resorts to delicious food. Go for a flight to Singapore and indulge into this heavenly Asian destination to feel utter luxury.

  3. The highlights of my past Singapore trips were the Zoo, Botanic gardens, Sentosa (it was greener few years ago), the food was pretty good, too. I like Kampong Glam and Little India and some of the buildings such as the Gateway, Parkview Square, Suntec City, The Esplanade and the Flyer. I only want to see the Marina Bay sands, it’s probably the most awesome building in Singapore. Besides food, Singapore is also good for clubbing, you should try that. The thing is just, it tends to get boring after a while. And it’s definitely too small as a country. I prefer Malaysia over Singapore any time (money is gone in the Lion city pretty fast…), but I’d always use Singapore’s airport for trips to East Asia and stay there few days.
    My Kafkaesque life´s recent [type] ..Slovenian reactions to Peter Bossmans election

  4. The tasty and spicy foods is one of the things that make Singapore adventure a memorable one also with the clean atmosphere with that great man-made recreational destinations.

  5. Great post – Bugis street looks like lots of fun :)

  6. NikNo Gravatar says:

    Hiya Todd! Great article, and one that I agree with in general, although what you listed was plenty enough to keep Singapore interesting to me. Sure enough, it ain’t got no beaches to boast about like Bali or Maldives, but when I do go to Singapore (which is quite often) the things I love has got more to do with security, cleanliness and ease of transport…

    My fave part about Singapore is without a doubt, the food (well my girlfriend is there as well, but don’t tell her that!). The Katong area is a great place for dinner. Joo Chiat is just nearby, and I would sometime head towards East Coast Park after the meal to just wind down. Cycling on the coast is enjoyable, and something that I appreciate being able to do, and then at the end of ECP there’s a hawker center that serves some of my fave food, a great way to end the night (explains those extra kgs I always pack after a Singapore trip!)

    Junko’s point is a valid one. I look forward to moving to Singapore in future because that’s where I want to start a family.. :) safety is a primary concern.. but true, it doesn’t make for a good story :p

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Nik,

      Thanks for sharing your ideas on Singapore. Yes, I can understand liking rules, security and cleanliness. Every time I leave the rough countries I am living in the highlight is that fact people know and follow traffic rules. And of course you are right, the food is amazing and it helps pack on the pounds if you are not careful.

  7. JunkoNo Gravatar says:

    I liked living in Singapore as a mother of a 2 year old. Daycare fee was inexpensive (a bit less than half of what we are paying now in Cambridge), most condominiums have a playground and a swimming pool, it is completely safe to walk around, you can drink tap water etc.
    Louis Vuitton is expensive, but shop assistants even at such expensive shops are nice and friendly. In face, I paid about 100 USD to get my Hermes watch repaired in Singapore although I was told it would cost around 700 USD in Japan.
    I agree, Orchard is not a great place for shopping, but I also liked Bugis a lot. Have you been to Mustafa Center? It’s a big (and cluttered) shopping center near Little India where you can buy anything from Banana leaves to computers.
    Of course, I didn’t like everything about the country, but it’s a good destination at least for a family with small kids.
    Sorry for my loooooooong comment.

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Junko,

      Thanks for the long comment! Of course I don’t have kids so my perspective on countries are a bit different. I like them rough and teaming with possible stories of thing going wrong. Point taken on the kids front. Hope you are all adjusting to the cold weather in Boston.

  8. Bali VillaNo Gravatar says:

    What I really like about Singapore is their clean environment and the great tourist destinations for family like their zoo and man-made attractions.

  9. I’ll print this and bring it along next time I go to Singapore..only spent a day or two there with my friend. I think you pretty capture its spirit

Leave a Reply

(required)

(required)

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge
© 2006-2010 Todd's Wanderings Suffusion WordPress theme by Sayontan Sinha