Singapore Travel Blog› entry 3 of 7 › view all entries
This is the BEST airport in the WHOLE WORLD! I'm Serious! Because Singapore is such a transit location i.e. it's a stop over point for many international flights without being a selected tourist destination, the airport is absolutely brilliant. Although I'm biased- not only do I love Singapore I love Airports in general. It's easy to get around and there is so much to do if you have a long stopover! There are bars, restraunts, more duty free shopping tha you could shake a stunned cat at (e.g. every designer brand you can think of) and even some local faves such as 7/11.
Best: Internet access is FREE, there is a beauty spa that caters foot/back massages to the length of your stop over and its relatively cheap, Singapore Airlines lounge is GREAT (with WiFi, coffee, tea, tv), Changi has rest areas with comfy chairs and big screen tvs (that you CAN hear), the gardens, and Koi Pool are swell!
Worst: It's big, you need to leave enough time to actually get to your departure gate (maybe 15-30mins depending on your sense of direction), it can be crowded during peak season (although thats mostly taken care of by the big-ness), toilets are not often enough but they ARE western and they are very nice
I lived here for 5 years and am an avid Singapore-lover, I have gone back a few times to visit but unfortunately only for short periods! As an Expat I got to experience both the touristy and local aspect of life, here are some of my favourite places and pet hates!
Raffles Place is a great starting point, near the Quays (which I recommend for night-life and cafes as well as rickshaw rides (bicycles with sidecars) and is a historical centre. Chijmes is a gorgeous little ex-convent turned chic galleyr and cafe space, had high tea there which was tres enjoyable!
Obviously if you go to Singapore you go shopping, if you haven't heard.. it's pretty much the consumers' capital of SEAsia! Although Orchard Rd is famous and definitly worth a visit if only to see the massive Malls, it's also expensive and sometimes quite generic. There are a few great shops but they're mostly in the back/ upper storeys of the Centres and it's hard to find these quirky places on a limited time schedule. Having said this, if you are in Singapore, even just a stopover, near Christmas time, if you only go one place go to Orchard Rd! The decorations are fantastic, whole shopfronts are turned into fantasy lands and there is always at least one place with bubble 'snow'.
I would recommend Little India for shopping. It's Easy to get to, simply hail one of the abundant taxis anywhere on the Island and ask for Little India, plus it's adjacent to Orchard Rd so if you're feeling adventurous.. walk!. There are several must-dos in this district. Mustafa's is a department store but it is oh-so-much-more! This is a multi-storey emporium that you could literally feed, clothe, play and furnish your house! From exotic groceries to designer knock-off bags to dvds to fake floral arrangements, watches, tea towels, cutlery, shoes, tupperware and EVERYTHING else you could think of are sold in this redefinition of a "one-stop shop". To top it all off they are CHEAP, and most of the designer items such as watches, electrical and perfume are actually real. The other side is the markets or side-street stalls which permeate the area. They're great for buying knicknacks and especially religious trinkets such as prayer beads and insence. Also have a coffe or local "kopi" (dark esspresso with condensed milk) at one of the many small cafes and simly watch the culture embrace you. The residents are endlessly friendly and asking directions can often lead to a guided tour of all "my brother's/friend's auntie's shop" and a general life story.
To see a more local side of shopping take the No.7 bus to Holland Grove, this is my favourite small shopping area! There is a local supermarket, 'Cold Storage' incorporated into a funny old building packed with little stores. There are great souvenirs that arent "souvenirs" and shops are unique and cheap, they range from used books, chinese knicknacks to a personal favourite: Zed and Zee, specialising in only 'Beanie Babies' . My recommendation: The Sushi Bar, they serve the best grilled octypus you'll ever taste! (NB: Holland Grove is in an Expat area so it is definitly 'westernized')
For a slightly more daring shopper I would suggest a local Hawker Market such as 'Ang Moh Kio'- accessible by MRT (the monorail train system- this is very simple to use so dont panic!) or taxi. This is the real deal Sinporean shopping experience, and you'll see the HDB governement housing that is home to over 80% of the population. The open air market is home to a range of hawkers, who set up shops daily. Be aware that this is also a fresh produce market, it is not advisable to buy fresh vegetables witout washing them in bottled water and fresh meat products should be avoided (and it can be smelly). Also, check for Avian Flu warnings before you go as live birds are sold and it may not be a good idea to visit if there are warnings about the area. On the bright side you can experience how a true Sinaporean shops, also these places have cooked food stalls and make he tastiest local food! (Try the Luksa, Beef Ball Noodle Soup and Ice Kachang). My favourite part was always the 'Pet' section of the market, fancy a salamander? Or a miniture terrepin (turtle)? These are great fun to check out and if you are all adventured-out there's a handy McDonald's just over the road!
Singapore has a thriving electrical goods trade, computers, digital recorders and cameras, and repairs (handy for the gadgeteer traveller) Although most large shopping centres will have some sort of camera-man, if you are really a child of the millenium hit the business district such as Raffles Place, Suntec City, Ngee Ann City or China Town.
Suntec City is a personal fave, try and get to Carrefour (Car-fore), a french-inspired megamarket, and it also has the world's largest fountain. The design of the surrounding five buildings is meant to represent a hand while the water is money or 'prosperity' flowing into it! Only in Singapore!
Jurong Bird Park and Singapore Zoo/Night Safari: The zoo and safari are world class, brilliant and see them if you can!! The Zoo has a great range of animals, nice natural enclosures, a domestic "petting zoo" and my favourite a water playground! Yes take your bathers to the zoo because its fun for kids and adults alike! The bird park is great for kids, though a long way from the CBD. Don't even bother with Pasir Ris, it's old and dilapidated and probably not hygenic.
Beaches aren't really Sinagapore's strong point, the East Coast Parkway ( what you drive down from the Airport) pases a beach and recreational area frequented by Malay tourists. The ocean is often polluted... I have had the nasty experience of someing out of the water with globs of oil (yes oil as in shippig fuel - which is black and NEVER come out of clothes) stuck to my skin and bathers. The only thing I would recommen is the Sailing Club, you learn to windsurf and it is really fun!
Sentosa: Don't even bother. Seriously. It is touristy, expensive and worst of all it's not even well maintained. The water park had to be closed in the 90's due to a fatality and the rest of the place is just horrible. From a giant cement "Sea Lion" which shoots lasers from it's eyes to cable cars that smell bad and stop mid-way. It's the most over-rated destination in the country.
If you want history or a cable car ride go to Mt Faber or Fort Canning park. At Fort Canning you can experience the colonial histoy and from Mt Faber you can catch a scenic cable car ride to the World Trade Centre at the docks. All fun!
Honestly the best way to see Singapore is to stay in the centre of town and just wander around, you'll find yourself hopelessly lost but you'll also discover gems such as Arab St, the National History Museum, temples, stalls, markets and eateries. There is no worry about getting lost because Singapore is firstly, a relatively safe, clean city with low crime and secondly, public transport is easy and cheap. You will have no trouble hailing a taxi and the drivers are more often friendly than not! Remember to enjoy the arcitecture and food, atmosphere and bulk shopping.
"Singlish"- a strange mix of Chinese, Hokkien, English which most locals speak fluently, look out for expressions such as 'lah' on the end of sentences (this word has no specific meaning) and 'ay-orr' (disgust, surprise, disbelief), "+++" (plus plus plus)- this is the goods and services/governement and serive charge added to most things, it is a standing joke that most institutions will try and "+++" charge you as much as they can.
Remeber it's the tropics so dress light (plan for extra clothing on the way back though) but in most temples skirts, singlets and shorts above the knee are considered rude. Most places will also ask that you remove shoes.
Happy Travels! Xo Kat