A stipulation of our visas is that we are forced to do a “flagpole run” every 90 days. (It must be a Canadian term because no one here seems to have heard of it.) Basically you need to step out of the country and into another (i.e., “go around the flagpole”), before they let you back in. We’re looking at these flagpole runs as a sort of forced vacation. It’s a good thing, too, because these last three months have flown by. What with settling in and finding jobs, learning to live in a new country has been quite a process. Missing a bit of development in our lives, we decided to head to Singapore for a couple days.
We rode our motorbike to the airport (45 minutes each way), but despite being slightly uncomfortable, we saved ourselves about $60 in taxi fares.
Singapore is dubbed “the Asia for beginners” and it’s easy to see why: it’s extremely clean, very developed, organized and green – so, so, so green! The city/country doesn’t have just one or two official languages, it has four: English, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil.
It has a very cool history (see Wikipedia) and the people are some of the nicest we’ve encountered since moving to this part of the world. We have a friend who works/lives in Singapore with his wife and kids, so we were lucky enough to stay with them in their Housing Development Block (HDB) to see how most locals really live. Singapore was very reminiscent of London to me: small spaces, exorbitant prices. Due to it being an island nation, Singapore had to built up instead of out, so there are a lot of high rises everywhere you look.
Having only two full days, we needed to make the most of them. We like to travel on a budget, so we opted to do a lot of free things and eat as cheaply as possible. We spent a total of $470 CAD over 2.5 days, with the bulk of that going towards our flights. Here’s a breakdown of where our money went:
As soon as we finished our hike, a torrential downpour started, so we ran under a tree. Knowing full well that we would get drenched, some construction workers nearby let us borrow two umbrellas to use. So kind!
Having not had enough of walking yet that day, we walked through the Singapore Botanical Gardens. Admission is free, except for access to the National Orchid Garden which cost $5 Sing pp (4.50 CAD). Let’s be honest… any garden that has a Wikipedia page deserves a visit.
Singapore is known for being expensive, especially when it comes to food. However, we like to try local cuisine wherever we go. We discovered that if you stick to Hawker Centres, the food can be reasonable.
I met my Singaporean friend, J, during my MSc over in London and I’m so thankful she was able to show us some typical Singaporean food! Having a local friend is invaluable when you travel around. Plus it’s always fun to reconnect around the world 🙂
We ate at Makansutra Gluttons Bay, which had amazing views of the Marina Bay Sands.
The three of us ate extremely well (and drank delicious sugar cane with lemon drinks) for around $45 Sing (41 CAD).
The second day was much more city oriented. We walked through Kampong Glam, the Malay and Muslim quarter of Singapore, which was historically important as a fishing village and housed Malay artistocracy.
We then visited the Buddhist Tooth Relic Temple, which holds a tooth relic of the historical Buddha. Be sure to check out the museum on the 3rd floor and rooftop garden on the 4th floor if you go.
We tried chicken rice at the unbeknownst-to-us famous Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice at the Maxwell Road Hawker Centre. The queue was about 15 minutes, but I’d say it was worth it. The chicken was extremely moist and juicy.
We walked around the Marina Bay Sands (MBS), looking at the Gardens by the Sea (from afar… we had enough of walking for a while).
We found a free walking tour from Singapore Footprints. It’s run by university students who are passionate and excited about their city. They focused on a lot of buildings and monuments, so it was nice to learn some new things. They don’t offer many tours during the week, so by the time we went on this one, we knew a lot of the facts that were mentioned. It would have been much better to start our trip off with this walking tour. Do note it’s about 2-2.5 hours long!
Singapore has a cool Helix Bridge connecting the MBS and “main”land. We were walking through it at night and I couldn’t help but get excited when I saw these lights below my feet!!!!
There’s a light water show put on at the MBS a few times every evening, and it was really well done. Lights, music, and fire helped tell a 10 minute long story.
We spent more on this 2 day vacation than we did in a few weeks of living in Thailand. All things considered, we managed to save a lot of money by staying with a friend (we probably would have CouchSurfed otherwise), eating locally, and sticking to free activities. I discovered Baba House a little too late – their tours were fully booked for three weeks! Next time we go, we’ll be reserving spots in advance.
We flew back early on Sunday morning, because we love church so much we didn’t want to miss even a day 😉 Of course, we didn’t leave without indulging in some free foot massages at Changi Airport!