When booking our flight back to the United States from Bali, we knew we would have to go through Singapore with at least a 12-hour connection. So we thought, why not make the best of it, extend for a few more days and make the trip home just a little less stressful? Here is a list of must-dos (and corresponding tips) during your quick stopover on the Red Dot.
*Tip: I recommend booking three days in Singapore. No more. No less.
Start and End Your Day in Chinatown
Singapore’s Chinatown is legit. And how could it not be? Seventy four percent of Singapore citizens are of Chinese descent. The area is vivacious, and the streets near the main square are lined with vendors selling everything from street food (cheaper than eating anywhere else in Singapore) to over priced iPhone accessories to authentic chop sticks to colorful fabrics, etc. While in the neighborhood:
Stay at the Scarlet Singapore. One of our favorite things in Singapore was actually our hotel. The staff at this luxury boutique hotel were phenomenal. The rich decor and lavish rooms provided an oasis of comfort from the heat and bustle outside.
Eat at Ya Kun Kaya Toast. For a traditional morning brekkie, stop by this retro coffeeshop that serves buttery toast dipped in a runny egg.
And visit Sri Mariamman Temple: The oldest Hindu temple in Singapore boasts a colorful tower above the entrance covered with plasterwork Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer.
*Tip: Lonely Planet’s neighborhood walk through Chinatown is one of the best we’ve done so far and takes about 2.5 hours.
Expand Your Mind at the National Museum of Singapore
In the past two years, I’ve been to two fantastic museums that do a superb job of using multimedia to present history and culture to museum goers – the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa (read Ticket to Ride), and the National Museum of Singapore.
The museum satiates the hungriest of museum goers. How did Singapore become a city state? What role did it play in World War II? How did it become a global commerce, finance and transport hub? And why is it called the Red Dot? Visit the museum to find out. It’s free for children under six and $10 for foreign visitors.
*Tip: The National Gallery is also great. But if you have to pick between the two, pick the National Museum.
Meander Through Gardens by the Bay
Whether you go during the day or experience it at night, the $1 billion park is a site to see (I recommend going at night). Towering over the gardens are futuristic, botanical giants known as super trees measuring from 25 meters to 50 meters tall. The grove is open from 5 to 2 a.m. daily and is free to all visitors. From 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. you can stroll along the OCBC Skyway overlooking the gardens and Marina Bay for $8 (adults) or $5 (children).
We focused on the Supertree Grove because of time restraints – but you can spend a whole day in the gardens if that’s your thang! Additional attractions (some free and some not) include: flower dome and cloud forest conservatories, bay east garden, dragonfly and king fisher lakes, heritage gardens, world of plants, sun pavilion, art sculptures and far east organization children’s garden.
*Tip: Wear your walking shoes.
Ride High on the Singapore Flyer
For $33 a ticket (or $24 if your a senior or $21 for kids), you can board Asia’s largest observation wheel, the Singapore Flyer. The 30-minute ride allows you to take in all of Singapore – the Colonial District, CBD and Marina Bay, the high-rise housing sprawl and the South China Sea.
*Tip: Be sure to bring your camera or phone – you’ll get some great instagram photos. Public service announcement: please don’t be that couple who acts like they’re on a photo shoot with sole claim on taking pics when each viewpoint comes up. Don’t be a view hog; put your camera down now and then and actually enjoy the view.
Cool Off at the World’s Highest Urban Craft Brewery
Stop for happy hour at Level 33 on the rooftop of Marina Bay Financial Tower 1. Level 33 brews its own lager, pale ale, stout, porter and wheat beer in copper house kettles on site. Not only is the beer fresh (and cold), the brewery boasts one of the best rooftop patios in Singapore with sweeping views of Marina Bay and the city skyline. I preferred the blonde lager, Jay the IPA. But you can also order a beer paddle and try a flight of all their beers.
*Tip: Typical of Singapore, expect a bigger-than-you’re-used-to bill, even at happy hour prices.
Delight Your Tastebuds in Little India
Take a walk through Little India before dining at Lagnaa, a one-of-a-kind Indian bistro located in the heart of the neighborhood. On the upper levels of the restaurant, guests are encouraged to take of their shoes and sit on the floor for a barefoot dining experience. (If you don’t like taking your shoes off, you can keep them on downstairs.)
The owner and chef (K7) oversees every aspect of the restaurant, creating a truly authentic experience. When we dined at Lagnaa, not only did he introduce himself, we spent most of our meal learning about the intricacies of Indian cuisine and hearing stories about his many guests over the years. K7 walked through his 10 levels of heat and which dishes they are best with. He keeps track on his wall how many guests reach each level. Level 1 just about anyone can handle. By the time you get to level 5, it’s far less. Level 7 and 8, you’re a rock star. Nobody has made level 10. Jay and I love spicy food, so we ordered lamb vindaloo at a level 6 to split. Before K7 was able to walk from our table to the kitchen, we decided we’d be better off starting with a level 5.
It was one of the most memorable dishes I’ve ever been lucky enough to taste. The seasons on my tongue heightened all of my senses. My body temperature began to rise from my toes to my head. And my cheeks began to tingle creating a “food high” that left me feeling euphoric. Five was my level! Now for Jay, let’s just say he thought the dish was great, but if he were to order it again, he’d go level 4.
*Tip: Aren’t a fan of dining experiences like I described above? A lot of the dishes on the menu are best served with lower levels of heat. In fact, along with our vindaloo we had a chicken korma that even my mother would love.