What to Eat
What to Do
Where I stayed
My Quest for Zest...
SINGAPORE FOOD RECOMMENDATION
1. Little India: Raj Restaurant
Had the bindhi curry and garlic naan. It was beyond filling and nothing short of amazing! Great flavor and made fresh. There are many vegan and vegetarian dishes. I was bummed the thali was only offered on certain days, but the choice of alternative curries didn’t disappoint. The atmosphere was nothing special or exciting, but the quality of food ranks it high on my must eat list!
Note: wander through Little India and I'm sure you'll find some other great eats! Tip, look for where the locals go!
2. Chinatown: Maxwell Road Food Center
This market is definitely a place to visit before your stay in Singapore expires. It is authentic and local. There are many food stalls to choose from and you will eat amongst countless other people looking for cheap, filling and good food. You can find vegan and vegetarian options and food vendors. There is sure to be a few new things to try so sample it all! I found a great noodle/veggie dish, grass jelly organic soy milk, bean paste bun, and more!
A bit out of the way but possibly you can make a stop on your way to or from the airport. It was super delicious and a good atmosphere for getting some online work finished. It felt like a true burger joint, conscious style.
I was a bit apprehensive about choosing a restuarant located in a mall. To me this feel doesn’t seem authentic or aligned with a minimalist health approach. However, it seems in Singapore, mall restaurants are common and popular. I decided to fight my resistance and give it a chance. There were countless burger options to choose from and it was really tasty. I unsurprisingly concluded the meal with a scoop of vegan ice cream, yum. It was a bit pricey, but a "worth it" splurge for my backpacker budget.
SINGAPORE TOURSIT ATTRACTIONS
1. Little India
2. China Town (food market and Buddha Tooth Relic Temple)
3. Gardens by the Bay / Marina by the Bay
4. Bugis Market
5. Clarke Quay Area
6. Airport Waterfall
*Read more detail in My Quest for Zest...
Method: Metro or on foot
First thing I do when arriving to a new place is stop by an ATM to withdraw money in the local currency. This will be important whether you are taking the subway, bus or taxi into town. You will find yourself mostly using cash to pay for food and activities during your visit as well. Although carrying a large sum of cash is daunting, I normally tend to withdraw $150-200 worth at a time. This will last at least several days, depending on where you are your personal budget of course. Taking larger sums of money will help cut down bank and ATM fees (which are typically $7 per transaction).
Tip: If you are an American traveling, I recommend the bank Charles Schwab (they reimburse you at the end of each month for the bank fee on foreign withdrawals).
Figuring out the subway system to get to the city from the airport was a bit of challenge at first, I was directed to the ticket machine without being informed you have to have a ticket to top up. You need to buy a card that will then serve as your ticket. You can purchase this card at the metro entrance. You will top it up with money before rides on a machine stationed at the entrance of the subway, entering in your desired destination point for price calculation. Besides the card system, the metro is pretty easy to navigate. The directions are clear and the maps are accurate. Every station I entered was, unsurprisingly, clean!
WHERE I STAYED?
Proximity: 9 (right next to a metro stop, food in the area, safe)
Capsule type hostel.
SINGAPORE VISA REQUIREMENTS
Knowing a country's visa requirement well before departure date is a must. Some countries require you to apply for a visa before arrival, some you can obtain a visa on arrival, and some you don't need a visa at all! It varies from place to place, even within South East Asia, and it varies based on your nationality. Visa problems could potentially hinder your travel plans, so it's best just to inform yourself, to the best of your ability, with the most up-to-date information, prior to your travels.
Potential problems with visas that could arise are...
overstaying your visa (which leads to paying large fines, being detained, or being deported),
being denied a visa,
or being unable to extend your visa.
So make sure to count your days correctly to avoid overstays!
This information is specifically for USA citizens... The information may be the same for your country of origin, but it's best to double check other sources or your embassy website...
If you plan to travel as a tourist for less than 30 days you don't need a visa before arrival, you will get a stamp passing through the immigration line. Make sure that you have a valid passport, address of your accommodation, and possibly proof of onward travel.
If you plan to stay for up to 60 days, you will need to extend your visa before the first 30 days expire at an immigration bureau. Be prepared to leave your passport to process for several days and pay a fee. (However, I just passed through Singapore on a visa-run from Indonesia, staying for just a few days, so would advise checking the extension process on an embassy website or alternative blog.)
MY QUEST FOR ZEST...
Singapore - if I was asked to describe the city in one word, my response would be "clean". It is such a modern city, I felt like a hippy plopped down in the middle of a corporate scene. The skyline is filled with skyscrapers, countless malls with the most up-scale name brands, and the infamous innovative trees- Garden by the Bay.
Although I just spent 3 days here during a visa-run from Indonesia, I felt I was able to explore A LOT in a short amount of time and get a good feel for what the city has to offer. I honestly think this was the perfect amount of time for a stay here. It is definitely a different vibe from the other countries I have explored within Asia.
Arriving at the international airport, I was blown away by the environmental architecture that was to be a precursor for how the city is designed. There is the most beautiful indoor garden and waterfall inside the airport, giving a relaxed and calm vibe to an atmosphere that is normally stress and hustle-bustle. I honestly would have been happy to sit and spend an hour or two just hanging around the space relaxing. I could imagine if you have a layover this is the place to be, or if you arrive early for a flight, you could definitely enjoy your time here.
After checking into my hostel, Backpackers Hostel @ The Little Red Dot, which was basic and average but in budget, I was eager to make use of my time and begin absorbing the city. I designated the afternoon to wandering through Little India. It was about a 30 minute walk from my hostel, which could have easily been cut short with a metro ride, but I was in no rush. I don’t know whether it is because my previous trips to India or my energetic attraction to chaos but I loved wandering through the streets of Little India! I literally felt like I was in India due to the massive amounts of people, Indian culture/food, and street mayhem. However similar, it still resembled Singapore with its sanitation, architecture and infrastructure. I stopped in an Indian sweets shop for a glance, where they served all the traditional treats. I made my way to Raj for dinner, where I enjoyed the BEST bhindi curry (okra) I’ve had in a long time! I was so flavorful, cooked to perfection, and fresh. I highly recommend stopping here for some food. Options are clearly marked veg. Although the atmosphere is nothing special, the food makes up for it, making it well worth a visit! Stuffed full, I slowly made my way back towards the direction of my stay. I came across a beautiful Hindu temple, happy to be reminded of Indian spirituality and religious practices.
Day two, rise and shine! I was excited to have the whole day to explore and, of course, eat! Three days is a short amount of time to try and eat your way through such a big city, but I was up for the challenge! I try to see and experience a lot, but with a balance of moving slow enough to absorb and be present, to not feel rushed. I dedicated the morning to China Town: wandering the streets, eating the food, and praying at the buddhist temple. In hindsight, I would recommend China Town for mid-late afternoon; everything was still closed or just beginning to open as I arrived in the early-mid morning. Because I wasn’t planning to do much shopping, I wasn’t bothered, but I always enjoy to see what’s being offered. Some restaurants in the area I had noted to try from other blog recommendations were still closed as well, but this ended up being a blessing, as I saw the menus looked overpriced and average for my liking. I stumbled upon the Maxwell Road Food Center, which ended up being the best food option in the area, and I highly recommend visiting! I enjoyed seeing what all was offered from stall to stall and getting a feel for the food culture in Singapore. There were several vegan/vegetarian stalls that I was happy to run across. At the market I indulged in a red bean paste bun, organic soy milk with grassjelly, and a vegetable noodle assortment plate from a veg stall. New dishes, new flavors, lots of excitement!
The Buddhist Tooth Relic Temple right across from the Maxwell Road market is worth a walk through while you’re in the area. It’s beautiful, intricate, and a peace haven. As you enter, there is huge shrine to offer incense. The inside of the temple is filled with detailed art and sculptures of buddhas and deities. As you make your way around the outer edge, you can read about different deities, relating to different birth years.
After China Town, I took on the feat of walking to Gardens by the Bay. I was up for a long stroll, but that’s it exactly what it was, a very…long…stroll. It was neat to pass through corporate Singapore, what appeared to be everyday life for most as they entered and exited tall buildings in nice business clothes. I was impressed with the “green” architecture of some of the hotels and skyscrapers; plants were coming from all floors and angles of the building, or small ponds circulated the entire base of the building. The incorporation of nature gave the city a soothing effect. I passed several malls on my way to the Bay Area, filled with designer stores, again making me feel like an out of place flower child. It’s interesting though, I find many restaurants are located inside malls throughout the city, several recommendations I received were all located inside a mall. Anyways…arriving to the marina at the bay gave great views on the city line. It seemed like an area for all people to gather: those taking selfies and insta-shoots, business men on lunch, the fitness focused on a run, etc. Coming closer to the attraction, there were free areas of the park to explore that included gardens and sculptures. I paid entrance to visit the Floral Fantasy and Supertree Skyway. I was intrigued by the Cloud Forest but it was currently under construction. Maybe the Flower Dome is worth a visit as well, but with budget traveling, you sometimes have to pick and choose your activities. The Floral Fantasy was super calming and serene. It wasn’t overly crowded and the attraction was super well maintained and sensory. I enjoyed all the flower exhibits and moving arrangements, taking time to just sit and smell and observe out of the heat of the day. However, the sensory film at the end was nothing amazing for me, it highlighted the different features of the park. For those traveling with children it could be more of a thrill. It was more entertaining to experience the safety protocol and entering the theatre in lines than the movie experience itself haha.
The Supertree Skyway was something I knew I wanted to do as soon as I booked my flight to Singapore. A futuristic park for a modern city just seemingly attracts a nature enthusiast. It turned out to be an innovative way to bring more plants and nature into the city. The tall structures are surrounded all the way up with plants. Walking across the bridge at the top, looking out over the city, suspended in air with countless plants nearby…it was a breathe of fresh air. I spent time wandering the bridge, absorbing the views, taking photos for families, and cleansing the soul. I highly recommend taking the bridge walk and spending time wandering through the park on your visit to Singapore. I didn’t stay till evening, when there is a light show, but I could imagine it would be beautiful.
Leaving the park, after exploring through some of the other free gardens and sculptures, it was time I refueled with food. I took the metro to Clarke Quay and broke my mall restaurant resistance to eat at a recommended spot NomVnom. It was nice overlooking the river and colorful strip of houses and restaurants in the Clarke area, despite the fact one of them was Hooters…The food at NomVnom was super good! They had endless options of vegan burgers, it was hard to choose! They also offered vegan pizzas, ice cream, etc.
Impulsively I decided to make one last stop before heading back to the hostel. I had a walk through the Bugis Market. I believe it is best in arrive in the late afternoon when the shop venders are still set up on the outside. There is a food street with many vendors and lots to look at. I don’t think I’ll ever meet a market I don’t enjoy…Even if I don’t buy anything at the time, I like the sensory stimulation and deeper understanding of the culture.
On my last day in Singapore I woke up with plans to walk one more time through Little India or eat at a restaurant that looked appetizing near the hostel, but channeling the “less is more” approach, I decided those options were asking too much of me. I settled on heading in the direction of the airport a bit early and stopping off at another vegan burger joint I had read good reviews about, Veganburg. I was happy I took a more relaxed approach to my travel day, and I got to enjoy another super good burger to complete my Singapore food crawl. I was able to take my time, getting some work done in the restaurant (had good wifi), and leisurely make my way to the airport.
I think a 3 day trip to Singapore is a sufficient amount of time to see some sights, eat good food, and move at a leisurely pace. More days would definitely be required if you plan to do more tourist activities (boat ride, clubbing, parks) or shopping trips.