2015 is an exciting year for Singapore because it is the year of the Golden Jubilee. It marks the 50th year since August 9th, 1965, the day this city-state gained independence as the Republic of Singapore. And because this is such a grand occasion for celebration, year-long events take place under the campaign SG50 (Singapore50). My childhood bestie from back in the kindergarten days happened to be enrolled in a student exchange program in Singapore so I thought why not pay her a visit and see what itinerary Singapore has to offer?
Now I don’t want to just call this “Top Attractions in Singapore” but it is going to be a top attractions list kinda post. However these attractions are available year-round, not exclusively this year only. Simply thought I’d throw in that Golden Jubilee, Singapore turning 50 big news in the headline. Blame me for misleading titles but cut me some slack ’cause I’m running out of ideas. Poop.
Note that these attraction sights are in the order that we visited them in, not by order of preference. And there’d been forest fires in Indonesia so the smog carried over to Singapore. Hence the weather was crappy and the photos may not be accurate representations of the places mentioned below.
Song Fa Bak Kut Teh
Bak kut teh literally translates into “meat bone tea” and it’s a meaty broth that consists of pork ribs simmered in herbs and spices over long hours. It was my first time trying this and it was delish! We found this restaurant by accident, but it actually turned out to be one of the best places for bak kut teh in Singapore. There are five locations for Song Fa and the one we’d gone to was at Chinatown Point mall. I don’t remember the prices, but around S$6 (~$5.90 CAD) I’d say?
This wasn’t exactly a must-see for me, but we were around the area so we decided to go check it out. I must say I enjoyed the experience. Little India is supposedly developed around a former settlement for Tamil convicts so the area is full of history. The buildings are unique and I loved how vivid the colors were in the streets. Very different vibe from say the shopping district in Orchard. And just by visiting here, you can really see how multicultural Singapore is.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Singapore Botanic Gardens is a 156-year-old tropical garden that has been ranked as Asia’s top park attraction since 2013 by TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards. It has also been awarded with the title Garden of the Year by International Garden Tourism Awards in 2012. And in 2008, it received a Michelin three-star rating. It’s a fairly big garden spanning over 74 hectares of land and consists of attractions such as the National Orchid Garden, Rainforest, and Ginger Garden just to name a few. If you like flowers, you’re definitely going to enjoy the National Orchid Garden.
Chinatown & Maxwell Hawker Centre
Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple.
Chinatown always seems to be a big attraction sight no matter which city you’re in yet it’s never been something I was interested in. I grew up in Vancouver, but I was raised by a Taiwanese family so what they have in Chinatown, yah those ain’t new to me. We did, however, have to come check out Chinatown for Maxwell Hawker Centre!! Can’t say you’ve been to Singapore if you haven’t been to a hawker stall and tried the famous Hainanese chicken rice.
Although Hainanese chicken rice originated from China, it’s pretty much one of Singapore’s national dishes. There were quite a few stands serving this, but one had a particularly long line and this was Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice. This was supposedly one of the best in Singapore as well. The queue was ridiculously long and we waited for at least 20 minutes or so. We came in the afternoon too, not even during lunch or dinner times. My verdict? It was alright. Not sure if the long line got to me, but I wasn’t wow’ed. In fact, I thought Mama Lee here in Van tasted much better. But hey, I’m no chicken rice expert. Don’t quote me on this. My friend really liked it so try for yourself if you’re willing to wait 20-30 minutes.
Hot pot at Hai Di Lao.
Enjoy hot pot + a free manicure, what!? #Asianservices.
Drinks at Little Saigon.
Clarke Quay is a historical riverside wharf and I don’t want to just rephrase its history from Wikipedia, so in a nutshell, Clarke Quay today is pretty much a busy area with restaurants, bars, and clubs. It’s for sure livelier at night and there were so many food and drink options, we were torn between choices. We did end up having hot pot at Hai Di Lao where they do this cool noodle swinging dance type thing. I have no idea what it’s called, but the chef comes out and does a little show for you. Pre cool I’d say. They also provide free manicure, which I couldn’t wrap my hand around. The nail salon was in a mini room, but it was still on the restaurant grounds. That bugged me in terms of sanitation and the smell of varnish is not exactly appetizing. But aside from hot pot, we also grabbed drinks at Little Saigon and had a girls night along the riverside. Very atmospheric neighborhood. I highly recommend coming down here for a drink on a weekend evening.
Gardens by the Bay
A must for visiting Singapore. Find out more ≪here≫.
Universal Studios Singapore
I’m not a big rides person anymore, but I sure had fun at Universal Studios. Read more about my visit ≪here≫.
A merlion is a creature that entails the head of a lion and the body of a fish. It’s a widely used mascot and a national personification of Singapore. It’s quite the sight but be prepared to encounter lots and lots of Chinese tourists. Not implying anything here, just saying it’s a popular attraction sight and many tourists visit here, most who happen to be Chinese.
Apart from the merlion statue, the park offers a spectacular view of Marina Bay Sands and the ArtScience Museum. If you wish to avoid the crowds, try taking a walk around the park. You can still enjoy the majestic view of the most expensive building in Singapore and like us, you might accidentally discover a little treat for yourself.
By little treat, I mean Lady M, a cake boutique founded in New York. They are known for their handmade mille crêpes and everyone has been raving about them. I had to see for myself and I ordered the signature flavor, which features more than 20 crêpe layers and a caramelized golden top. Let me tell you… It was mm-mmm! Absolutely divine. A slice was around S$9 but the way the layers of cream and crêpe melted in my mouth, it was worth each and every penny. Although after a few bites it did end up being too sweet and fattening so I recommend sipping a cup of tea or coffee with this over afternoon tea time.
Fountain of Wealth
I’d find out about this from TripAdvisor and it’s really nothing but a big fountain. Except… when we got here, I noticed how people would stick one hand in the water and circle around the fountain in the center three times. I asked a local and turned out that by doing this, it is believed that you will get lucky and earn a fortunate hence the name “Fountain of Wealth”. Oh I put my hand in there. And I circled the shit out of the fountain. I’m usually not superstitious but this was actually pretty fun and I was like a silly little kid running around the fountain. Plus the view was gorgeous at night when the lights lit up and changed colors and oo it was sooo pretty! Gahhhh the little kid in me is coming out even as I relive these moments now through writing. It was just so fascinating and I couldn’t take my eyes off this magical sight.
The fountain is situated in Suntec City at Downtown Singapore. It’s a multi-use development so there are the Suntec City office towers and the Suntec City Mall. Not really much of a tourist attraction, but if you want to try your luck, feel free to come down here and test the waters.
We had dinner here too at Food Republic. We had noodles of some sort and chicken and lamb satay and it was phenomenal. Food court food so prices were very affordable. Why don’t food courts here in Canada taste like this!?
Last but not least, we have Toast Box. Originally established to recreate local Nanyang coffee shops back in the 60s and 70s, Toast Box is now a tending cafe that can easily be found almost anywhere in Singapore.
Forget the hawker stalls, forget the Hainanese chicken rice. You truly cannot say you’ve been to Singapore if you haven’t tried their traditional kaya toast. Kaya toast is bread that has been toasted and spread with butter as well as kaya, which is a jam made from eggs, sugar, coconut milk, and pandan leaves. The hint of saltiness from the butter paired with subtle sweetness from the kaya jam puts this breakfast favorite over the top. Breakfast like a local, can’t get any more Singaporean than this. Oh and I tried Yuanyang coffee for the first time. I remember watching a Cantonese police drama and the lead character would always order this. It’s basically half coffee, half milk tea, or three parts coffee and seven parts Hong-Kong milk tea to be exact. In Maylasia, this is known as Kopi Cham, but in Singapore they call it Yuanyang.
Well, there you have it. Top 10 attractions in Singapore according to well, me! Everyone travels differently so not all of these may appeal to you and frankly, I’m only calling these the “top” attractions because these were the only attractions we visited. Ahaa, cheated a little there, but hope my little commentaries were insightful. Singapore is fairly small too so it can definitely be done as a short one day or layover trip even. Check out NieNie’s awesome “Night Layover in Singapore” guide for how to plan a stopover in SE Asia!
Remember to check out my Singapore vlog and I’ll see you next time!