Crazy Rich Singapore!

SINGAPORE

OVERVIEW

  • When: 30 July 2022 – 3 August 2022
  • Where (accommodations): Marina Bay Sands Singapore
  • Transportation: Flight from Boston to Singapore on Korean Air (layover in Seoul, South Korea). Grab app for ground transportation
  • Sights/attractions: Gardens By the Bay, Sri Mariamman Temple, Thian Hock Keng Temple, Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Merlion Park, St Andrew’s Cathedral, Fort Canning Park, Clark Quay, Kong Meng San Phor Kark see temple/monastery, Emerald Hill Road, Orchard Road, Selegie Arts Center, OCB Skyway, Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, Little India, Kampong Glam, Haji Lane, Sultan’s Mosque, Jewel Changi Airport, Spectra Light Show, Garden Rhapsody Light Show, Natureland Spa
  • Food/drinks:Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken (Maxwell Food Center), Long Bar at Raffles hotel, Haidilao at Clark Quay, Spago by Wolfgang Puck, Burger & Lobster Raffles Hotel, Newton Food Centre, Cafe Monochrome, Chye Seng Huat Hardware Cafe, The Coconut Club

Singapore was on the bucket list of places to visit for quite some time, but I won’t lie – the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” definitely amplified the desire to visit this country. Due to COVID-19 the borders were closed for nearly two years, so when they announced the opening, we jumped at the opportunity. We combined this trip with the neighboring country, Malaysia, which opened its borders for tourists around the same time, and it was an excellent duo. Four nights and three full days is what we allocated to see all of the major Singapore sights and it was barely enough. If we had more time, I’d say five days would be less rushed and probably ideal. Luckily Singapore is a walking city and places that are further out can be easily reached using Grab (a version of Uber in Asia), so we managed to see and do quite a lot in a limited amount of time.

Accomodations

There are A LOT of hotels in Singapore. Some more, some less pricey. Overall, it is a very expensive country (especially when you go to Malaysia afterwards and see the stark price differences). Initially we did not plan on staying at MBS (Marina Bay Sands Singapore), simply because of the steep cost (around $500 USD per night). We don’t spend that much time in a hotel while traveling, so it has to be really special to be worth this type of cost. And “the special” in this hotel is the largest infinity pool in the world, perched up on the three pillars, overlooking the city.

There is no other way to get into the pool or even near it, unless you are a guest staying at this hotel. There is a SkyPark Observation deck that is open for public, but that is not the pool. And of course, remember, Crazy Rich Asians- that movie is partially to blame why we ended up staying at this hotel πŸ™‚ .

Honest review of the place, because we always evaluate after. Hotel rooms as well as the service is not worth $500 USD per night. Not saying that because we are spoiled, but because we have stayed in many nice hotels that were not this pricey. The room (Deluxe King) had a nice view, but overall was extremely basic.

The staff did not always know English (though English is one of the main languages in Singapore) and sent us to the wrong directions/did not know the layout of the building. You would think that it would at least include breakfast? No, it did not. So all that being said, do we regret staying here? No, because the pool alone was worth it.

I watched the sunrise from it one morning and we spent every afternoon when we were not running around sightseeing in this pool/jacuzzi. We had dinner at the restaurant overlooking this pool. We got our money’s worth because it really is special. I also think that it forced us to relax and slow down in between all of the sights- it would be a shame to stay at the MBS and not actually spend any time to enjoy it.

So what did we do when we were not soaking up the sun lazying around? Here is our three day itinerary.

Sunday- Day 1

  • Gardens By the Bay
  • Sri Mariamman Temple
  • Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
  • Lunch at Maxwell Food Center (Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice stall)
  • Thian Hock Keng Temple
  • Merlion Park
  • Pool break
  • St Andrew’s Cathedral/Colonial district
  • Fort Canning Park
  • Clark Quay/Haidilao
  • Spectra Light and Laser show/Garden Rhapsody
  • Dinner at Spago by Wolfgang Puck

It seems like a lot, and it is, but a mix of walking, eating and relaxing at the pool made this first day in Singapore feel like vacation, and not only a rushed day of sightseeing.

Gardens By the Bay

A landmark of Singapore and right near our hotel, so we decided to see it first thing in the morning before it got crowded. We booked tickets online a few days in advance, so it was easy access with no waiting in line. We started with the Cloud Forest– gorgeous installation with a waterfall.

Beautiful plants, bridges in different levels- it was our favorite place from the Gardens By the Bay. The mist gets released periodically during certain times, so if you want to see it check the schedule. We made it to the 10am misting and the next one was scheduled for 12pm, which is quite a bit later.

Flower Dome was the second installation that we had tickets for. Cool looking giant cacti and the miniature scenes were my favorite here.

The last place we bought tickets for was Floral Fantasy– it was the smallest of the three and even though interesting, it was a bit less impressive.

Overall the Gardens and the Trees were excellent experience. Definitely one of the most picturesque places in Singapore.

Sri Mariamman Temple

The oldest Hindu temple in Singapore closes at noon and reopens at 6pm, so to make it there before lunch we took a Grab rather than walking. It was the best decision not only in terms of saving some time. The dress I wore looked nice for photos, but was possibly one of the worst outfits to wear in hot and humid weather. Do not make this mistake- long, synthetic fabric made me sweat and I was very uncomfortable the whole first half of the day (I guess fashion over comfort here). Back to the Sri Mariamman – it’s free to enter, you can give a donation if you wish.

Outside is being renovated, so you cannot see the intricate roof, but the inside is still worth a visit.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

This Buddhist Temple and Museum is only a couple minutes walk from the Sri Mariamman- they are both in the Chinatown district of Singapore.

This temple has a nice rooftop garden, so if you are visiting, don’t forget to go all the way to the top.

Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice

By now we’re hungry, so we made our way to the Maxwell Food Center for some lunch. As we stood in line for the famous Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken and Rice, we realized that they do not take credit card and we have no cash on us- it is our first day in Singapore. We left the line and went to look for the ATM (found it across the street in a near by market). We got the chicken and rice and it was OK, but the chicken was not warm, which I think made the meal not as tasty as it could have been.

Rice was amazing and so was the fresh juice from another hawker stall. Not sure if that particular place was worth the hype for the chicken though.

Thian Hock Keng Temple

Now that we have more energy, we can do some more sightseeing. Thian Hock Keng, is a temple built for the worship of Mazu, a Chinese sea goddess, located in Singapore. It is the oldest and most important temple of the Hokkien people in the country.

Merlion Park

On the way to Merlion Park we passed a quiet Boat Quay with the big bird statue representing peace.

Merlion statue- lion’s head and the fish body is one of the famous Singapore landmarks and should not be missed.

Our hotel is not too far walk away and we had a busy first half of the day, so after this park we decided that we need a break at the pool. We’ll continue sightseeing in a couple of hours.

Singapore Flyer and St. Andrew’s Cathedral

Once the sun was not as strong and we had energy again, we walked all the way to St Andrew’s Cathedral taking in Singapore sights along the way. We walked by Singapore Flyer (the Ferris wheel) , and passed our hotel from yet another angle- incredible, futuristic architecture all over this city.

The entrance to St Andrew’s Cathedral was closed up with construction, but we were able to see it from a distance.

Fort Canning Park

As if we’ve not done enough walking today, we continued on to the Fort Canning Park, up the stairs, to a pretty far side of it to a Tree Tunnel.

It’s not that much to it, but makes a pretty cool picture sitting on the edge of the railing and doing a photograph from below. Even though it was almost dusk, there was a line of people waiting to take that photo. And they were taking many pictures of multiple poses, so we lost the patience, snapped the photo when the ‘models’ were switching and left.

Clark Quay/Haidilao

We’re hungry again, so we headed to the charming area full of restaurants and bars- Clark Quay. It was lively and colorful, I feel like it would have been a fun place to come back to at night if we were not exhausted from all day activities.

Even though we had dinner booked later in the evening, we figured it won’t hurt to have a ‘snack’- delicious hot pot at Haidilao Clark Quay. It hit the spot!

Spectra Light and Laser show/Garden Rhapsody

As we were walking back, we stopped at the Merlion Park for a brief light and Laser show Spectra. Happening nightly this is a free show for everyone’s enjoyment.

Once we returned to our hotel and went up to our room, we realized that the Garden Rhapsody show is happening in a few minutes! We knew we’ll be going to see it from up close the next evening, but it was nice to also enjoy it from our balcony.

Spago by Wolfgang Puck

Last but not least on our first VERY full day in Singapore- dinner at the restaurant in our hotel, overlooking the infinity pool.

Spago by Wolfgang Puck was excellent (though pricey, just like most of the restaurants in Singapore).

MONDAY- Day 2

  • Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery
  • Shopping on the Orchard Road
  • Emerald Hill Road
  • Selegie Arts Centre
  • Long Bar and Burger & Lobster- Raffles Hotel
  • Jewel at Changi airport
  • Pool break at MBS
  • Supertrees Light show on OCB Skyway
  • Dinner at Newton Food Center

A little less intense second day, but still lots of activities, because there is so much to see and do and so little time πŸ™‚ ! We started the day with a drive to the furthest point today- Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery.

Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery

When the taxi driver picked us up, he was a bit surprised of the destination- he said this place is not very popular with tourists and a lot of locals go there once a year to remember their loved ones that passed away. He told us right away that we won’t be able to get a taxi/Grab easily from there to go back to the city center, so we agreed that he will wait for us with a meter running while we quickly check it out.

We were very glad we did not get discouraged by the driver’s remarks and went to see this place. It was one of the most beautiful, peaceful and calm temples we have visited in Singapore. It is in fact the largest Buddhist temple in the country.

The driver was right-there were no tourists, but nobody was bothered by us either, so we were able to walk around and take it all in. We spent about half an hour there and were glad to find our taxi driver still waiting for us to bring us back to the city (it’s around 20-30 min drive).

Orchard Road

Shoppers paradise- mall after mall is on this big street and we just wanted to see it, not to do much of the actual shopping. Singapore is expensive and only the start of our trip, we’ll shop in Malaysia, but still wanted to see what this road is all about.

We noticed that Mall culture is pretty big both in Singapore and Malaysia, but I wonder if that has to do with weather- it is really hard to spend much time outdoors with the high heat and humidity. Malls for sure provide some entertainment, lots of food options and a reprieve from the heat.

Emerald Hill Road

Just off the Orchard Road you will find this little charming street full of colorful houses. There are some bars/restaurants and shops, but we stopped by to just see the architecture and because we were already nearby.

Selegie Arts Centre

On the way to this center we got caught in a torrential downpour. It came seemingly out of nowhere and after waiting under the awning for a bit, we decided that it might continue to rain for the rest of the day, so we bought umbrellas at 7/11 and got back on the road. Of course the rain ended soon after : ) .

There was no particular need to go there, but I wanted to see the colorful looking house and the area around had interesting buildings/cool giant monkey sculpture.

Raffles Hotel

It was approaching lunch time and the Long Bar was recommended by us from someone that has visited Singapore, so we made our way there. Well, there was no food at the actual bar, but I did have their famous Singapore Slinger cocktail (at a whooping $37) and some peanuts. This cocktail was invented here in 1913 by Ngiam Tong Boon, the bartender at Raffles Hotel. I have to say, expensive as it was, it was delicious (and strong!).

Another unique feature in this bar is that after eating the peanuts, you are encouraged to sweep the shells on the floor. Now that felt super weird and inappropriate, given the fact that Singapore is so clean and strict about trash- you can’t even buy gum in this country! However, peanut shells on the floor are OK and people do it as an old tradition. It comes from the times when the floor was wooden and it somehow helped to clear the dust. Does not make much sense to me, but it was fun just sweeping it off the bar (and then I wanted to clean it up, definitely not used to this type of mess πŸ™‚ ). Overall it was good experience, so if you are in Singapore stop by!

We were seriously hungry by now, so went to a Burger & Lobster, right at the Raffles hotel. I had low expectations coming from Boston and used to the good lobster, but surprise surprise- lobster roll was excellent and so was the local beer!

Jewel at Changi airport

We arrived to Singapore at midnight and our flight to leave was early in the morning, so we didn’t have any other way to experience the famous Jewel without making a special trip back to the airport. It doesn’t open until 10am and closes at 10pm (those were the hours during our visit). The largest indoor waterfall in the world, The Rain Vortex, is what I most wanted to see, but there is so much more at this nature-themed entertainment and retail complex that is connected to the airport!

40 meters (130 feet) this waterfall is spanning across several levels and no photo can do it justice. It was worth going back to the airport for this alone. But since we were already there, we enjoyed a few other Jewel’s attractions- mirror maze, flower sculptures and walking on the Sky Nets.

There were even bouncing nets, but we figured we can leave that to the kids, we wanted to go back and enjoy our pool instead πŸ™‚ . Hands down, Jewel is the coolest airport attraction we’ve ever been to. Who knew airports could be this much fun!

Supertrees Light Show on OCB Skyway

Also called Garden Rhapsody this is a nightly show that happens in the Garden Grove and is not to be missed. You need tickets to walk on the OCB Skyway and it’s open during the day up until 9pm (last entry is at 8.30 pm). We were told that it’s much nicer in the evening, so we timed it up with the light show.

Even if you don’t do the Skywalk, the ‘trees’ look so much more impressive lit up than during the day. We wanted to be on the Skywalk when the music/light show was happening, so we got in line at 8pm and were entering the Skywalk right at 8.30, when the last entry was allowed. There is a person up top who actually makes you move forward and keeps ushering people, so that they exit sooner (you get 15 minutes on the Skywalk). But because we were the last group, we were able to stay all the way through the show which started at 8.45pm and ended right before 9pm. It really is a quite magical.

And now, one more place from the “Crazy Rich Asians”-dinner at the Newton Food Center!

Newton Food Center

We knew this trip will involve a lot of eating and this was the place we were looking forward to trying. Not a fancy restaurant, but the good, local food from a hawker stand. Indian, Malaysian, Chinese- there was variety of options and they were all so delicious!

We could not find any dessert, so we walked up to the Indian food vendor and asked if he had ‘those sweet balls’ πŸ™‚ . Sure enough, the guy makes us a plate of Gulab Jamun! It was totally not on his menu, because even the neighboring stall vendor was surprised to know there was a dessert option right next to him. Great place to try various dishes and it’s open late too!

TUESDAY- Day 3

  • Sunrise at the MBS pool
  • Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple/Little India
  • Cafe Monochrome
  • Chye Seng Huat Hardware Cafe
  • Sultan Mosque/Kampong Glam/Haji Lane
  • Lunch at Coconut Club
  • Natureland Spa

Our last and most relaxed (also the worst weather) day in Singapore. I think the rain that started in the afternoon was God’s sent, because it forced us to slow down and see less, but ‘be present’ more in some ways. There is always the next thing to do and another place to see, so it’s easy to burn out (as ridiculous as it sounds) during vacation. I am the master of packing the schedule to the brim, but you can’t fight with Mother Nature and walking in the heavy rain is no fun, so we got a lazy afternoon as a treat instead.

Sunrise at the MBS pool

This was not a planned activity and I was the only participant – Sean would sleep half a day if I didn’t wake him up πŸ™‚ . I did not get him up for the sunrise, but I was for sure not all alone. I expected the pool/rooftop to be a lot less busy before 7 in the morning, but I guess I was not the only one that had this idea.

It was worth it though. Even with some cloud cover, the sunrise was spectacular. And the pool was definitely not as busy as it was during the day. I try to catch a sunrise and a sunset in every country we go, especially if there is a view, and this was definitely not the worst one πŸ™‚ .

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple/Little India

Once I was able to get Sean out of bed, we grabbed some pastries and coffee at the hotel cafe and took a Grab to the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Little India part of Singapore. One of the oldest Hindu temples in Singapore, this place was busy with worshipers. I felt slightly like an intruder taking photos, but it’s so unique, that I could not resist.

The area in the Little India is charming, with colorful houses, so we walked around for a bit.

And for more photos we ventured into Cafe Monochrome.

Cafe Monochrome

It is definitely a cool concept and the place was basically empty when we came. I always wanted to visit this type of cafe, so it it was pretty exciting.

It’s a fun place for photos, but not for the actual coffee to be honest. I ordered an iced coffee, it took them 20 minutes to make it (place had maybe 4 other people besides us) and it tasted terrible. So we decided that it’s not worth having breakfast here and after taking a bunch of photos moved on to the other cafe that we wanted to try.

Chye Seng Huat Hardware Cafe

Located in the former hardware store, this place was not as picturesque, but still very charming and the food was delicious!

Now that is a proper breakfast (and an actually good coffee!).

Sultan Mosque/Kampong Glam

Dark clouds started to gather, but it wasn’t raining yet and we have another neighborhood to explore. Kampong Glam is a Singapore’s Muslim Quarter and a lively area with shops, restaurants and of course Sultan Mosque. It’s closed from 12-2pm, so we just made it before noon.

It’s a beautiful place of worship, I am glad we made it on time to see it. Kampong Glam was super cute- we stopped for some Turkish tea and desserts, passed the Arab street and went on a little shopping spree on Haji Lane.

Haji Lane is a colorful street lined with boutiques and restaurants. Fun little area to explore!

The Coconut Club

We had no plans for lunch and almost went back to the hotel, but then basically stumbled upon The Coconut Club right before the rain started. Reviews were great, a lot of people were sitting inside and they serve everything coconut- we LOVE coconut!

It was a bit pricey, but Nasi Lemak dish was excellent and so was the Tuna Tartare. Great meal and the atmosphere.

Natureland Spa

We took a Grab back to the hotel, it was not a weather to enjoy the rooftop pool, we did not want to shop, so decided that it’s time to get pampered. I remembered seeing Natureland Spa while walking in the Marina Bay Sands mall that’s attached to our hotel, so we went there and they had an opening for the couple’s massage.

Initially Sean was skeptical about getting massage at the mall, but after being in Thailand and knowing how good massages are in Asia, I assured him that it will not disappoint. And it did not! We had great full body massages, but did not get enough feet rub, so booked ANOTHER massage, just feet/legs for an hour. It was so relaxing we both fell asleep and I literally overslept one leg πŸ™‚ .

We got dinner take out at the mall and had a quiet night in as it kept on raining and we had an early flight the next morning.

It was a much needed day for some R&R after a lot of sightseeing and before continuing our travels to the next destination.

Conclusion

Long travel time to get here, but what a great time in Singapore! We wished we had a couple more days, though even three is a good amount of time to get a feel for this city. While taking cabs we talked a lot with the local drivers (you actually have to be Singaporean to drive a cab) and learned some interesting facts about the customs, government and overall life here. We thought prices were high- well, they are EXTREMELY high if you want to buy a car for example. Something that costs 25k in the USA, would be over 100k in Singapore. And you only own it for 10 years, so it’s basically a long term lease. You can buy a house, but the government owns the land for 99 years. Gum is not sold in the country and is basically illegal to chew it (not sure if anyone would ask what is in your mouth, but we did not risk it). A lot of interesting facts that made us think that it’s a great place to visit, but not necessarily a place we’d like to live. I am glad we got to experience it, but the trip is only getting started. Malaysia, here we come!

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