The tiny city-state of Singapore is a great way to spend a one-day reprieve when traveling from Malaysia to Indonesia, or vice versa. Just a day is enough to hit all of Singapore’s hot spots, because even if your budget is relaxed, more than a few days in Singapore will decimate it.
A day in Singapore, I think, should really focus on two things: the food and the history. Sing’s food is incredible, with Indian, Middle Eastern, Chinese and Malay cuisine scenting the air. The country also has a rich World War II history, and there are some sites worth checking out that commemorate it. For the most part, Singapore is walkable, but the train and buses are easy to use and a welcome respite from the heat.
There’s no other way to start the day than with kopi coffee and kaya toast from national chain Killiney on Killiney Road, or any number of family-run kopitiams. If it’s not too hot by the end of breakfast, take a walk through Fort Canning Park to see the bomb-proof Battle Box, where the British decided to surrender Singapore to the Japanese and is now filled with wax figures reenacting history. Chinatown is nearby but it’s not necessarily a must. What is a must is Sing’s brightest spot, Little India, where each restaurant is better than the last. It’d be a sin to miss the curry, and the markets are also worth a look.
While Sing in general is expensive, its museums are mercifully cheap, usually topping out around US$8. My favorites are the free Changi Museum, where Allied POWs were held by the Japanese; the National Museum of Singapore, which dives deep into local history; and The Peranakan Museum and Asian Civilisations Museum, which have well thought-out displays of the wider region. Arab Street is another area filled with markets, shisha/hookah places (although there’s been quite the crackdown on them lately), mosques and plenty of kebab options after a night of drinking.
After the sun sets, head to Gardens by the Bay for walk on the 72-foot high, 420-foot long OCBC Skyway in Supertree Grove. These gigantic trees are the focus of a light and sound display at night, and at SG$5, it’s a much better option than the zoo’s night safari.
For dinner, head to the 100-plus food stalls at Lau Pa Sat hawker’s center near Raffles Place. It’s a tourist trap, but it’s also authentic. At night, Boon Tat Street is blocked off and set up with tables and chairs. You can get whatever dish suits your fancy, from Sing’s national dish of chili crab or super spicy fish or chicken laksa to satay and chicken rice, among many others. (Lau Pa Sat is currently closed due to renovations, but should be open later this month.) Afterwards, there are several high-end bars to choose from, including the sky bar Sky on 57 at Marina Bay Sands. LeVeL33 is also a quality rooftop bar with a great view, but only worth it if you’re willing to splash out. To end the day on a budget-saving note, head to 7-11 and stock up, then drink along Clarke Quay. Singapore may have a boatload of ridiculous laws, but thankfully, an open container law isn’t one of them.
What’s your ideal day in Singapore?