After living abroad in a particular place for a year, it stops being a constant adventure and fades into the drone of everyday life. I stopped getting lost in the subways, taking pictures, and thinking that everything I did was worthy of a Facebook post. That’s why I was happy to have someone come visit me a few weeks ago and remind me how cool Singapore is from a fresh perspective. I tried to hit all the main tourist things with my guest and it went a little bit like this:
Marina Bay Sands– The famous hotel, Singapore’s iconic building. The place is beautiful, dripping with money, and the splendor is tangible. Right on par with Vegas. If you happen to have the money to stay there (which I don’t, so I haven’t), you get access to the rooftop infinity pool, where you can swim on top of the city.
If you’re not willing to drop the cash for the pool pass, you can still get to the alfresco bar and restaurant at the top. The drinks are pricey, but really you’re paying for the view. It’s pretty baller to be sat reclined drinking a nice glass of wine with the city lights laid out before you across the bay.
1 Altitude– Weird how my two favorites are bars…hmm. This one claims to be the highest Al Fresco bar in the world—at 73 stories it’s the tallest building in Singapore and touts a 360 view of the city. The feeling of standing against that glass railing, looking out of the city of almost six million, is pretty epic. Yes, you have to fight that urge to toss something right over the side, but it’s worth it.
Little India– Loads of temples and amazing restaurants and areveydic clinics. After living in Asia, temples don’t really stun me anymore, but I remember when I first arrived here I wanted to wander into everyone to smell the sweet incense, gaze at the gods, their eyes staring relentlessly into my unrecognizable eyes. No matter which religion or science you believe in, it’s hard not to feel the stress of outside life seep from your soul in the safe silence of a temple. The ones in Little India dance with color, one of the most intricate being the people temple.
The food in Little India is the real treasure. The variety of flavors and spices coursing through an Indian dish, staying in perfect harmony with each other, manifests deep satisfaction that only an amazing mouthful of food can. Plus you can eat with your hands, which is only natural and organic.
Chinatown– Chinatown is one of the only places in Singapore you can haggle for prices, one of the most fun things about shopping in Asian markets. From chopsticks to silk robes, Chinatown is the perfect stop for souvenirs. It’s also a good place to get some culture, beer, or foot reflexology. Chinese foot reflexology less the relaxing foot rub you hope to get from your honey at the end of a long day and more the pain of having a grumpy old Chinese man beat and squeeze the pain right out of bones. But hey, try everything once!
Orchard Road– Orchard is the shopping capital of the shopping obsessed country of Singapore. Seriously—I have seen more malls on this 26 mile wide island than I have in my entire life put together. We’re talking hundreds of malls. All with the same stores. So on Orchard, they have to make it special. This is where you can shop at four different Prada’s within two or three blocks of each other. You can smell the classic A&F musk wafting from the three-story outlet.
Top Shop, Forever 21, Zara, all the lower end brands stack up in the basements of the malls, all interconnected in a maze underneath street level (it’s seriously weird taking a escalator up four floors just to get to the ground level), while all the lux ranges line the streets, nestled into beautiful malls that have marble floors and chandeliers. My favorite store? Cold Stone! (What can I say, we all love a piece of home).
Arab Street– Mediterranean, Lebanese, Middle Eastern food. Holy God, I never knew how much I could appreciate a falafel before I moved to Asia. Arab Street gives me the feeling of being downtown in an old Asian city. Multicolored shop houses line the streets, housing amazing boutiques offering a much appreciated alternative to the huge shopping centers, unique cocktail bars with only 20 seats installed in the smallest of places, and tons of amazing little restaurants. They have a middle eastern feel, with seats on the floor, allowing their customers to lounge and smoke hookah until all hours of the morning. My favorite, Blu Jaz is a four-story restaurant and lounge which hosts gorgeous music groups nightly and is somewhat of a local icon for hookah.
Sentosa– A magical island right off Singapore that touts smooth white sand (flown in from Australia), beautiful warm water (a bit of oil won’t hurt you), and a gorgeous sea view (the ships that crowd the horizon look lovely don’t they). Despite it’s fakeness, it’s not hard to convince yourself you’re in paradise as long as you don’t look too far beyond the beach. Other options on Sentosa include Universal Studios (obviously one of my favorite things in this country), the water park (another one of my favorites), the aquarium, or the maritime museum. Sentosa has loads on cheesy tourist stuff to do, but since it’s insanely expensive, and as I local I feel a bit embarrassed by it, I’ve skipped the simulated sky diving, ice luge, and surfing.
East Coast Park Food Centre– Let’s be honest, nothing is better than cheap seafood! I like this place because it’s completely out door and the vibe is beachy and relaxed, which is rare in Singapore. Platters of garlic prawns, seafood noodles, and chili string ray will cost you about $35 sing. Here you will get the experience of cheap Singaporean hawker center food, without the stench of fish ball and pig organ soup!
These aren’t all places I frequent, but they’re definitely the sites unique to Singapore, and therefore, the must sees for tourists. Come see me, and I’ll take you!