Almost done with my sumptuous dinner of rice bowl with squid and chili sauce then suddenly I lost my appetite realizing that something is missing. I wasn’t able to get an entry to an MRT station first because the EZ link card is out of load; the second time was due to my failure to tap out from the previous station. We’re supposed to enter the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome but we came passed the admission hours. We wanted to explore all the zoos in Singapore but we ran out of time. In Melaka, Malaysia, we nearly lost our guided bus ride back to Singapore. These are just some of our misadventures during my first international travel. Can you tell whether or not our trip was a blast?
Disclaimer: All thoughts expressed in this blog are based on my own. Every traveler may differ in perspectives on things they experience at traveling.
If likened to an Olympic Game, my trip to Singapore and Malacca or Melaka would be a gold medal – both are the first foreign cities I’ve ever visited. What makes this international travel worth a penned memoir are my adventures and misadventures with my wander buddy April Christine aka Asa ni Quen?
Yes, it’s part an epic fail and part a successful one. Touring Singapore is more than just a mountain trek and visiting Melaka is likely an amazing race.
Note: I’ll be writing a separate, detailed blog for our Melaka tour (Read it here).
Quick Facts About Singapore
- Singapore is known worldwide as Southeast Asia’s melting pot.
- Its name was derived from Singapura – Lion City in Sanskrit – but no lions found in the island except at the zoos.
- Merlion – half mermaid, half lion structure – is its national mascot or icon.
- The lion city has a diverse population mainly of Chinese, Indians, and Malays.
- It is considered as one among three of the world’s surviving city-states.
- Singaporeans are fast walkers. Yes, I can attest to this especially at public places. They are busy bees doing their own respective day-to-day stuff.
- Durian is its national fruit.
- It is so passionate about toilets that its government made every November 19 as the World Toilet Day. You can even find free cold and hot water refill at some of its public toilets.
- Locals here are very honest and it’s contagious. I actually left my valuables at one of its mall’s toilets and they were returned to me just before heading out to our accommodation.
- Every 7th of November marks as the national tree planting day when everyone takes part for the activity.
Travel Must-Haves While in Singapore and Malaysia
Keep your connection with family and friends while you’re overseas.
In Singapore, you can rent a 4G Pocket Wifi at any rental booths at Changi Airport. The Wifi has a high-speed Internet connection and can connect 8 devices at once. This is a saver when you are traveling in two or with a group as you just have to split the cost.
Another option is the 4G Sim Card. Should you need to call someone, this can be a better choice as it comes with free 20-minute international calls. Lucky we because April’s brother (our host) lends us sim cards so we need not buy one.
Tip: It’s best to make a reservation of the pocket Wifi and/or buy sim card ahead since they are in high demand to tourist and would be less hassle on your part. Just pick it up at the airport upon arrival.
Note: There are kiosks anywhere at Changi airport for free Wifi for three hours while you are still claiming your pocket Wifi or sim card.
Both options are also available in Malacca. We bought a prepaid sim card at a bus stop in Johor, Malaysia at RM19 for 1G data.
Tip: The same sim card is actually cheaper in Malacca than at the bus stop so you know where best to buy then.
So, where to go, what to do and what to eat in Singapore?
Exploring the Futuristic City of Singapore
When you’re in Singapore, always have your feet ready for a walk, walk, and walk. Yes, you can hop a bus, ride a train, book a grab car, or take a metered taxi but you’re a tourist, right? You will get to see and get into the culture if you take a walk. It’s no kidding wanderers as you will be challenged for miles of walk under its hot, humid temperature and sometimes accompanied by intermittent rainfall. Also, prepare to sweat, a lot, given its kind of weather.
Tip: It’s appropriate to wear comfortable clothes and footwear for the hours of walk around and bring anything to cover yourself from the sun’s heat and rain.
Have a trip to Singapore’s multi-culture in Bugis Street. Despite its historical background of being the area where transgender women gather, it is now reputable as a tourist spot mainly for heritage, art, and shopping. Here are some of your go-to destinations in this area:
Multi-Hued Haji Lane
You love photos – the dramatic poses, the instragrammable spots – Haji Lane is perfect. This fabled narrow street in the city is tucked in its Muslim quarter. Funky murals directly caught our attention while we were about to cross the street. Here are colorful shops selling goods of any kind. There are quirky cafes you can stop by before completing your stroll around the area.
If you’re a fashionista, there surely is something for you to mix and match. Your creativity will also be unleashed with lots of ideas this place can offer. You may even grab some souvenirs back home.
Some streets more after our leisurely walk at Haji Lane there lays the Masjid Sultan mosque. This is considered as one among the most significant mosques in the city. There are also cam-captivating buildings and structures nearby Muscat Street and the rest of the Arab Street or Kampong Glam.
Tip: Never miss the instagrammables of these areas, especially the murals. There are lots of them you can incorporate to your idyllic photo art.
Culture-Rich Chinatown Singapore
Aside from my eyes and feet, I always travel through my stomach. I may not be a big eater yet I’m still a foodie. If you are the same, the hawker center in Chinatown is one of the must-visit food hubs. You also have other options like restaurants and pop-up food shops along the streets.
Our feet headed us to one of the seats along the streets after hours of stroll. We’re still full so we only had tea, kopi-o (black coffee), and cendol (their version of our halo-halo in the Philippines). Yes, hot and cold at once and we’re just fine.
We roam around and saw these murals:
A little while, we take a tour around Chinatown for interesting finds of their culture. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is really gigantic. There seems to have a ritual at that time since there are food and stuff offered outside the temple. Thian Hock Keng Temple (Temple of Heavenly Happiness) is a colorful Taoist-Buddhist temple at the middle of Chinatown. Sri Mariamman Temple serves as the oldest shrine in the city and a famous worship place for Tamil Hindus.
The busy street market of Chinatown encapsulates tourists’ sounds and sights looking for souvenirs, food and other things sold in stalls. We bought some souvenirs as well since they are sold at lower prices here compared to the other areas around the city.
Chinatown is also a strategic area to stay with its budget hostels and hotels in close proximity to shopping malls, restaurants, and food stalls.
Modern Luxury at Marina Bay
You may wonder what future holds; well this part of Singapore will definitely blow your mind. This is where you will find the glass facades and spectacular architectural marvels. Most of the architectural icons of the city are set up here such as the appealing durian-shaped Esplanade and the soaring Marina Bay Sands. Here rest the most exciting spots and trendy dining experiences.
Gardens by The Bay
Experience living the community of avatars with the magnificent views from the Supertree Grove surrounded by lush gardens in this 101-hectare green space. Take a walk across to see the most of the area and go up to the OCBC Skywalk for an extraordinary experience closer to the supertrees. Wait until 7:45 in the evening to witness the Rhapsody light show or at 8:45 pm should you miss the first presentation.
Although we were not able to enter the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome, I will still feature it here. We have a misunderstanding of their closing hours as we thought they close at 9 pm yet the admission actually closes an hour earlier. Well, I had a sneak peek of them as well though.
Cloud Forest is a modern world of lush vegetation veiled in man-made mist. It has an artificial waterfall as well. They said, the greenhouse presents in themes and at the time of our visit, the majority of the displays I can see from the outside are from the Cactaceae family.
Like the Cloud Forest, Flower Dome is also a huge greenhouse of themed gardens. Some of the plants here are exotic from any part of the world. It is reputable as the world’s largest glass greenhouse with a wide variety of tropical flowers.
We were unable to enter both since we came there closed already.
Note: Both Cloud Forest and Flower Dome close at 9 pm but their admission is only until 8 pm.
Ride the Singapore Flyer for a 360-degree view of the whole city, which is integral to its skyline. See all of the city’s breathtaking landmarks in one ride like the Merlion Park (the merlion was under renovation during our visit), Sentosa Island, Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by The Bay, Clark Quay, and even some islands of Indonesia and Malaysia.
Marina Bay Sands
Trivia: Marina Bay Sands boasts to have one of the fastest elevators in the world with its elevator that can take you to its 57th floor in less than a minute without quirky movements except for a jet-lag feeling.
This highly interactive skyscraper lets you enter in a futuristic world of science, magic, metaphor, and art with its state-of-the-art digital installations. The structure caters everything you may need as it includes shops, museums, restaurants, entertainment centers, hotel, and casino. You can have a leisurely ride in a Chinese wooden boat along the Canal.
Experience the luxury of staying at Marina Bay Sands hotel room and you’ll have free access to its expansive infinity pool. Relax at the largest rooftop pool with the awe-inspiring skyline of Singapore as your backdrop.
Spectra (Light and Water Show)
Unable to enter the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome, we headed to the Esplanade, particularly at the Event Plaza, to watch Spectra. This is a free-to-public waterfront performance of fountain jets and laser lights with lively music.
FUNtastic Sentosa Island
Man-made Sentosa Island was specifically designed and built for recreation with its many attractions. The island is located on the southern coast of Singapore. It’s connected to the city by cable car, monorail, pedestrian boardwalk, and road.
If live shows, Hollywood movie-sets, and themed rides are what you’re up to, never miss a visit to this massive complex. Spend one whole day here to make the most of your admission ticket.
Adventure Cove Waterpark Singapore
Located at Resorts World Sentosa, the waterpark is fit for thrill-seekers with its slides and fun rides. There are also other water-based activities for those who are not fond of giant funnels and huge tunnels.
Skyline Luge & Skyride
Skyline Luge is a non-motorized carrier traversing down a hill from Imbiah Lookout ending at Siloso Beach. The cable-driven Skyride is not only an attraction but also transportation with views of Singapore.
Sentosa also boasts many restaurants complementing its many attractions alongside the fruition of its high-end hotels. Check-out the Malaysian Food Street for a variety of menus from different cuisines at affordable prices. Among others are Trapizza, The Cliff, Blue, and Lotus. There are also fast foods for undecided eats.
Amazing Marine Life at S.E.A. Aquarium
See and have an up-close and personal encounter with about 800 species of marine life in their respective habitats at this huge aquarium and resort. Here you will be able to see some of the world’s endangered species. They have different shows at specific schedules.
There is also an area where you can touch some of the marine animals.
Wings of Time
End your day at Sentosa with a spectacular open sea night show – the Wings of Time. This Award Winning Night Show will mesmerize you with its multi-sensory presentation of friendship outlining the history and diverse culture of Singapore.
World’s Best Rainforest Singapore Zoo
The initial plan was to explore the Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari but we ended up half-wandering Singapore Zoo. Too many flora and fauna to pay attention to yet our little feet are screaming for a rest. One whole day of experiencing the rainforest environment would definitely be not enough. Below are some of the ones I was excited to see. It’s also our last day in Singapore and we only have a few hours to fly back to Cebu.
Apart from these animals are rare plants grown here:
Tip: Have something to yourself from sun and rain and plenty of water for your leisurely wildlife adventure around the zoo. Keep yourself hydrated throughout the tour. Also, be mindful of the wild animals you may encounter anywhere inside the zoo.
What and Where to Eat in Singapore
As I’ve said earlier, I may not be a huge eater but I’m a foodie because I also travel with my stomach. So, it’s nearly impossible not to venture for what’s local in this city of the yummiest and almost chili-based food in Asia. Although we haven’t tried all of them, we ate some that really made me wanna come back to explore more about their cuisine. Here are some of the dishes and delicacies we’ve tried:
Hokkien Prawn Mee
This dish features a mixture of rice noodles and fried egg noodles savored with a rich prawn stock that comes with prawns, squid, fish care and fried pork fat. We tried this at Malaysian Food Street in Sentosa.
Ice Kacang or Ice Beans
This mountain of shaved ice in a bowl is top with attap chee (palm seed), red bean, grass jelly, chendol, agar agar jelly, or other ingredients you may want to include. It is then drizzled with condensed or evaporated milk with Sarsi syrup and red rose syrup for a multi-colored effect. We ordered two varieties of it at Chinatown’s hawker center.
Roti Prata is a cross-cultural dish with Indian origin, a Malay name and normally eaten by the Chinese. It’s a pancake based in fried flour that comes with eggs, onions, cheese, mushroom, or even strawberries and chocolates to the batter. We actually had a taste of it at Imperial Heritage Hotel in Melaka.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
The celebrated and every tourist’s must-try Hainanese Chicken Rice tops among the Singaporean dishes. A plater of this dish includes chicken stock-cooked rice, steeped chicken, garlic and red chilli sauce, sweet dark soy sauce, chopped ginger and pandan leaves (occasionally). However, I wasn’t able to try it since I’m allergic to chicken and I don’t want to spoil my limited vacation there.
Curry Puff is a local snack of baked pie filled with chicken, egg, potato, and curry gravy. They say that other variants have fillings like otak (grilled fish cake), sardines, yam, or durian. We had this at a bus stop in route to Melaka.
Also called roupu or rougan, bakkwa is a popular pasalubong as it can be preserved for weeks making it still goodie when you’re back home. It is actually a Chinese meat jerky with combined flavors from soy sauce, fermented tofu, five spice powder, and oyster sauce. You can choose for its chili variant if you’re into spicy foods. It’s best to buy this at their local store for cheaper and sometimes discounted price in Chinatown.
Southeast Asia’s King of Fruits, durian, is also the national fruit of Singapore. In fact, The Esplanade is modeled after this fruit. You can find a lot of it in Chinatown. You can smell its strong fragrance whether you like it or not.
1 Dollar Ice Cream
While walking around Chinatown, I came across the famous S$1 ice cream bar sandwich usually manned by the uncles and aunties in the country. It comes with different flavors and you can choose either bread or wafer for the sandwich. With the hot and humid weather of the city, you just can’t resist taking a bar yourself. What’s new? It’s no longer S$1 but S$1.20.
Are you one of those who turns crazy about the many flavors of Coke’s Fanta? You must have missed taking a bottle of it then. Well, Singapore has a bunch of its anywhere. But, you have to be mindful because its price varies depending on where you’re buying it. We bought 2 cans inside S.E.A. Aquarium at S$4 dollar each, while it only costs S$2 each at a vending machine inside Singapore Zoo.
Visiting the world’s renowned most expensive city in 5 days is actually not enough if you really want to explore every tourist spot of it. Yes, most of the stuff here is expensive but that doesn’t mean your trip would not be as enjoyable with lesser budget. You can always cut down your expenses here with research and your creativity. Despite any planned specific places to go, our visit here is worth another visit in some other time.
Day 1: City Area
- Bugis (Haji Lane, Masjid Sultan mosque, Muscat Street, Arab Street or Kampong Glam)
- Gardens by The Bay (Supertree Grove, Cloud Forest, Flower Dome, Marina Bay Sands, Esplanade)
- Spectra (Light and Water Show) at the Event Plaza of Marina Bay
Day 2 and 3: Melaka, Malaysia (details at a separate blog)
Day 4: Sentosa Island
- Sentosa Boardwalk
- Universal Studios
- E.A. Aquarium
- Sentosa Merlion
- Siloso Beach for the Wings of Time show
Day 5: Singapore Zoo
4,900 – Airfare Cebu-Singapore (roundtrip)
1,400 – S.E.A. Aquarium
500 – Singapore Zoo
4000 – Other expenses (food, transportation, souvenirs)
Total = 10,800
I would like to extend my heart-felt gratitude to Asa ni Quen? and our hosts her brother Art Cuadra, his wife Daniee, their son Ford, and Rizza for making this trip a success and real adventure.
Also watch the vlogs of Asa ni Quen? for our this trip:
*Some Photos Credit to Asa ni Quen? and her brother.