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Travel Guide: Three Days in Singapore

When I was first planning my trip to Southeast Asia, Singapore was the only destination on my itinerary. Once I was down the research rabbit hole, my quick little week-long trip to the Little Red Dot, as its also called, turned into an almost 3-week adventure through both Singapore and a couple regions of Thailand. And guys, it was quite the journey for someone who has never really left North America.

So, why did I choose to travel to Singapore? This was a trip Josh couldn’t join me on, so I’d been doing a lot of research on safe destinations for women solo travelers. Singapore was on quite a few of those lists I stumbled upon, and the idea of going somewhere far away that pushed me outside my comfort zone was oddly appealing. I didn’t really know much about Singapore, to be honest, so I started to look into things to do, and immediately, I was so drawn to it and just felt like I had to experience this little city/state. I loved how futuristic it was while also being very connected to nature and tradition - in fact, they refer to Singapore as many things, one of which being a Garden in a City. Being the nature-lover I am, Singapore appealed to that part of me, while also feeding my urge to explore a new urban destination. On top of all that, I'd read that it was a very easy city to navigate in English, making my first few days in Asia relatively stress-free.



I’ll go more into why I added Thailand to this trip in my upcoming recaps, but today, I’ll be sharing my three days in Singapore, which absolutely flew by and were so much fun.

Friends, I had such a great time in this amazing little country. I loved everything I did, every experience I had and I can’t recommend it enough. The sites, the attractions, the food and the scenery were all spectacular. Singapore is striving to become the world's greenest city and as a result of that, most attractions are geared toward environmental conversation/education, and the country has also mandated green building since 2008.



The last interesting piece of information I wanted to share about the country is that its development is fairly recent. When you look at photos of Singapore, it just looks incredibly modern and ahead of its time. But when it gained its independence in the 60s and became its own sovereign, the city was over-congested, rivers were filled with sewage and unemployment and housing were a major concern, as slums were dominating neighborhoods. So in a span of just 50 years, Singapore was able to clean up and become a world-leader in modernism, while still staying very connected to its Malaysian, Chinese and Indian cultures. To me, that's just incredible.

And so, without any more yabbering on about how cool I think Singapore is, let's get to it.



This was part of a larger trip where I was traveling for three weeks. I flew into Singapore from New York City and spent three days in Singapore, and then explored Thailand for 13 days.






February/2019. From what I understand, there isn’t a “best” time to visit Singapore. I picked February because it happened to be when I wanted to travel based on my schedule. I have read that February tends to be one of the drier seasons (rain is common in Singapore), but I still experienced rain at least once each day I was there. Quick afternoon showers or downpours are very common, and thankfully I packed an umbrella because I definitely needed it. And of course, it was super hot and humid every day. The humidity really took its toll on me while I was there. Coming from snowy weather to what I was experiencing in Singapore was a shock to my system, and I was drenched in sweat within minutes of walking outside. Even while waiting outside for a taxi at 5a to catch a plane, I was sweating. It was pretty rough.







I flew via EVA Airways, and had a layover in Taipei. I could have gotten a slightly less expensive flight with a more budget airline, but I decided to spend a little bit more to upgrade to EVA. EVA is based out of Taiwan, and has amazing reviews online, especially for long-haul flights. They have slightly roomier seats, better than average food and really nice, clean and modern cabins. Pretty much anything except economy class in any airline was out of my budget and this was a really, really long flight, that in all honesty, gave me serious anxiety. The first part of the flight was 16 hours, and the second, 4 hours. And now that I've completed my journey, I can happily report back that I loved flying with EVA. I should disclose, though, that I was super lucky and got the entire row to myself for each of my 16-hour flights to and from NYC and Taipei. So, that probably helped quite a bit. I was able to lay across all seats and sleep decently well, and the airline attendants were very good about not making too much noise during service times. That said, I did find the legroom in economy to be pretty decent, and because I have one of those foot hammock things (find it here), I'm pretty confident that with a strong dose of Melatonin and my eye mask, I probably could have gotten some sleep, even with passengers next to me. I did pay a few bucks extra to pre-book a window seat in case the flight was full, but that ended up not being an issue. I also explored the Premium Economy area a bit while I was up and walking around the cabin to stretch, and honestly, I didn't find a huge difference between Economy and Premium Economy, and the Premium Economy seats were significantly more expensive. I feel really good about the airline I chose to get me to the other side of the world, even in Economy!

Once in Singapore, I relied on Grab (Asia's Uber) and the MRT to get around. I found public transportation to be pretty easy to navigate (especially if you're using Google Maps). The buses were a bit tough because the ones I used didn't announce which stops were next, so I had to follow the route along on Google Maps to make sure I didn't miss my stop. I definitely preferred the MRT over the buses, but I had to rely on buses quite a bit because the routes were a lot more convenient much of the time.







I tried to find an affordable accommodation that was somewhere between a hostel and a moderate hotel. I actually almost considered staying in one of the pod hotels, but knowing how I am, and how desperately I would be needing sleep my first few nights on the other side of the world, I knew a private room and bathroom situation would be a much better option. I chose the Nuve Urbane, which was a newer hotel that opened recently, and was therefore, offering some nice introductory pricing for bookings. I got a budget twin room, which was really, really small, but perfect for a solo traveler. Basically, once my two backpacks were on the floor, there wasn't much walking room. But they did provide you with “handy” phones, which are smart phones you can use to make local calls while walking around the city, or browse the internet, and free snacks in your room. Overall, I loved my stay here. It was very affordable when I booked, and also included a complimentary breakfast each morning, which helped me to save a few bucks.

The one thing I will say is that I do kind of wish I had picked a hotel closer to downtown. For a first-timer's 3-day stay in Singapore, most of what I wanted to do and see were the very touristy things, most of which were located downtown. It was a minor inconvenience to get there and back every day, especially with needing breaks in my hotel room in the afternoon to escape the humidity. But, that said, the hotel was close to Little India, which was really fun to explore, and was a 5-minute walk to the closest MRT station.





I had such a long list of attractions I wanted to visit while in Singapore, and almost didn't do many of them because I felt like I was being too touristy. Then I decided to heck with it because many of these things were what inspired me to want to come to this destination to begin with. I tried to balance out each tourist attraction with just wandering the local neighborhoods to get a really good feel for the city, and I'm really happy with how I ended up spending my time.




Gardens By The Bay
It shocked me to learn at the Gardens By The Bay is only a few years old. Build in 2012, there are quite a few experiences you can take in here, and many of them were the very first photos I had ever seen of Singapore. The Super Trees are probably the most iconic, and there are also different exhibits that include the Flower Dome, Cloud Forest, Floral Fantasy and several others. The popular ones require a paid admission, and some exhibits are free to experience. I ended up going all-in and paying for admission to the Cloud Forest, Flower Dome, Floral Fantasy and the Super Tree Observatory. I figured, I flew over 20 hours, I should do it all! The only attraction I planned to see but didn't have a chance was the OCBC Skyway, which allows you to walk high above ground on an elevated walkway that connects two of the super trees. I planned to do this at night to see the trees lit up for their evening light show, but when I got there, they had closed the Skyway because the winds were strong, and it had been raining off and on. I was pretty bummed, but I still got to wander through the grove to see the trees lit up against the evening sky.



I personally loved the Super Trees - I just thought they were such a unique landmark, while also serving a wonderful purpose. They're designed and built to function like a real tree. Ranging from 80-160 feet tall, these "trees" are pretty much the heartbeat of the Gardens by the Bay, and serve real environmental purposes. They're fueled with solar energy, collect rain water to help irrigate local garden and fountain displays, and also help facilitate the air conditioning systems in the other observatories at the Gardens by the Bay. On top of that, the actual structures of the trees are wrapped in exotic orchids and other ferns and greenery, making them truly spectacular sites up close. I read somewhere that their trunks contain over 150,000 species.








At night, the Super Trees light up, and put on a show from 7:35-8:45 every day, and it's a popular event for tourists and locals. The light show is powered by the trees' solar energy.






Super Tree Grove is free to visit, but the Skyway and Observatory are a paid exhibit. I did choose to visit the Observatory, and it was really cool to be on top of the tallest Super Tree, which offered incredible views of the city via two levels. The first level is a walkway around the circumference of the Super Tree's canopy where you can learn all about what the Super Trees do. The upper level is a rooftop deck that offers 360-degree views of the city.



The first level of the Super Tree Observatory.

It was really cool to be able to see the tops of the Super Trees.

380° views from the top of the Super Tree Observatory.


The Flower Dome is the largest glass greenhouse in the entire world, and a few weeks before I left for my trip, I learned that the themed display at the Flower Dome during my stay was going to be Dahlia Dreams. Dahlias are my favorite flowers, and they're not ones you see at grocery stores or even corner flower shops. So whenever I get to see them in person, I get really happy. So, this display was like a literal dream come true for me. They had so many varieties, including the big dinner-plate sized beauties, as well as the smaller ones. It was just amazing, and I spent quite a bit of time wandering around, looking at them all.








The Cloud Forest is home to a 130-foot mountain with a waterfall that's meant to recreate the climate and terrain of tropical mountain jungles. You take an elevator up to the top of the mountain, and walk back down via a pedestrian pathway that spirals downward around the mountain. It was really cool, and each floor you descent had its own theme, like "Lost World," etc. I really enjoyed this quite a bit.







Floral Fantasy was one attraction I debated doing, but when I thought about it, I figured I may as well since I was there. I will say, I could have done without this one. The main entrance is absolutely stunning, and I loved the moving floral balls that drop from the ceiling. But beyond that, the rest of the displays were beautiful, but not much different than Flower Dome. And, it was very small. Because of the limited space inside, I was much more aware of how people were monopolizing the prettiest displays for full-on photo sessions and it was a little hard to actually enjoy it. Once I walked through the whole thing, I thought to myself, "Is this it?" There is a 3-D show at the end that they make you sit through, and if you have kids, it would be really fun. But for me, it was a bit silly, and I was just kind of waiting to leave. If in doubt, I would hesitantly say skip this one (hesitantly because the front entrance display is rather amazing). That's not to say the displays weren't stunning - they truly were. But if you've already done Flower Dome, this won't be much different.

Main entrance to Floral Fantasy. 



I couldn't believe the colors in these orchids. So stunning.

Hey bud, I really like your flower crown.


There are all kinds of free things to walk around at the Gardens as well, including sculptures, lily ponds, and Dragonfly Lake. While I was there, Dragonfly Lake was filled with giant inflated eggs as part of an art exhibit. At night, they lit up and changed colors, and it was set to soothing music. It was actually really cool in person and at night especially, had a hard time walking away from them.


Boardwalk path around Dragonfly Lake.





Merlion Park
Home to the Merlion Fountain, Merlion is the mascot for Singapore. He has the head of a lion as a nod to Singapore's Lion City nickname, and the body of a fish, which pays homage to its roots as a fishing village. The fountain is just under 30-feet tall, and the entire park offers amazing views of the Singapore skyline, including a really nice view of the famous Marina Bay Towers.




It's really kind of touristy and lame, but one of the vendors at the park sells Merlion-shaped ice pops, and I definitely got one. They come in a few different flavors, and I opted for coronut, which really hit the spot after walking a round in that heat and humidity all day. I just remember ending my day here, and my dress was just, well - soaked, and I had sweat beads dripping from all parts of my body. But I was so happy because I had just spent the entire day on the other side of the world, and it was a really happy moment for me.



Helix Bridge
This pedestrian bridge was designed to look like a strand of DNA, and also has four viewing platforms along its route with iconic views of the city. One thing Singapore does really well is making sure everyone can take in the city skyline in several locations, not just on this bridge, either. I walked on the bridge from Merlion Park to Gardens By The Bay, and at night, it lights up! I got to see it at night, but didn't manage to snap a photo of it illuminated.





Explore The Neighborhoods
I made it a point to plan time to wander through Little India and Chinatown, and each of these little neighborhoods was a really fun experience. Little India is filled with some really pretty temples, and of course plenty of Indian restaurants and walking streets. I almost skipped Chinatown because I was nearing the end of the day when I happened to be near it, but since it was right by the MRT line, I decided to pop over. I'm really glad I did because it was quite the experience. The hanging lanterns all over, the brightly-colored buildings and the street vendors and shops all made it really fun. And afterwards, you just hop onto the Downline MRT line to head out.

Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Little India. 



Burgis Street Staircases in Little India. 

The buildings in Little India were so beautiful.




All of the buildings above the shops in Chinatown (and most of Singapore, actually), look like this.





Fort Canning Park
This wasn't high on my must-visit list, but I happened to stumble upon it while wandering around downtown and decided to pop in. It's situated up on a hill overlooking the city, and you can either choose to walk up the stairs or take an escalator that runs parallel to the stairs. I definitely chose the escalator, because you know, it was hot. Walking around the park, you'll see lush tropical plants and flowers, and also some historical sites and buildings that date back to the 14th century. To be honest, the buildings didn't interest me as much as the plant life. Living in New York, I never get to see tropical plants like this, so I spent most of my time here being mesmerized by those.






Clarke Quay
There isn't a ton to do here, as it's mostly just an area full of restaurants and a few shops. There's a shopping center nearby as well. But, it sure is lovely to stroll past. The colorful buildings are a backdrop for boat launches that will take you around the river (which I didn't do, but it looked really fun). And there are also a couple of really beautiful pedestrian bridges you can walk across to get to other parts of the Quay. Nearby is also the famous MICA Building, which is currently Singapore's police building. All the colorful doors and windows make it quite a sight to take in. You can't miss if if you're wandering around the Quay.







Hawker Centers
I feel like the number one dining experience to be had in Singapore are the Hawker Centers. These open-air food destinations are something special, and are where vendors specialize in one, or just a few, dishes, and have mastered them to perfection. They say if you go to a guy that makes BBQ stingray, for example, it will probably be the best BBQ stingray you've ever had because it's all he makes day in and day out, and the recipe has likely been passed down by generations.

Hawkers Centers were a bit challenging for me because of my dietary restrictions (picky pescatarian), but I managed to eat here one night. I absolutely loved the carrot cake, which is pan-friend radishes mixed with garlic and eggs. It was so light and fluffy and delicious. I'm still thinking about it. Walking around with a giant cup of ice-cold sugar cane juice was also incredibly refreshing, and something I'd never had.

Carrot cake and sugar cane juice. 


Marina Bay Sands
Probably the most iconic building in Singapore, I felt like I couldn't leave without stepping inside, even if only to say that I did. I debated a lot prior to my visit what I should do to enjoy the view from the top because you have a couple options. You can purchase a ticket for the Observation Deck, or pay a cover charge for Ces La Vi, the bar/restaurant at the top of the building. The cover charge for Ces La Vi can be used toward food and drinks once you're up there, so I decided to go that route and be super touristy and try the Singapore Sling, the city's famous drink. When you visit Ces La Vi's Lounge, you also get a glimpse at the infinity pool at the top of Marina Bay, which is sadly only for hotel guests (otherwise I would have planned a dip!). The views at the top were definitely incredible, and worth the efforts to get to the top.




My timing wasn't perfect for my trip up there, though. It started to rain a couple minutes after I situated myself at a table with my drink, so many of us were directed to flee our tables to escape the rain and wait it out before we could continue taking in the views again. But thankfully, it was a quick downpour, and I was able to walk around and see the city lights from up top.

The Singapore Sling drink. So pretty, and so not very good.

Super zoomed-in and not so great photo, but I still loved the view.

The two silvery domes on the left are the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. 


The famous Marina Bay Sands infinity pool, which overlooks the city. 


Also, the Singapore Sling? Not very good. Tasted like cough syrup, so that was a tourist fail for sure. I'm glad I can say I tried it though. And, it sure looked pretty in my hand while I walked around.

Changi Airport
I know, it's an airport! Why would you take time out of your adventure to hang around here? Well, my friends, because it's been named the best airport in the world several times in a row. And locals actually hang out here because there are plenty of things to do and see. I didn't think I was going to get to see as much as I did, but an issue with my flight home left me stranded here for 24 hours. And guys, I wasn't that upset about it. But, definitely Google this airport and watch all the videos about it, and you'll see why it's worth your consideration to spend a few hours. While stranded, I did manage  to spend a lot of time at Jewel, which is a one billion dollar addition that was added to Changi just about a year ago (April 2019). The center of Jewel is basically a shopping and eatery center, and also home to a giant rain vortex, which is an indoor waterfall that spans the height of all Jewel's levels, meaning you can see it from all floors you visit. It uses recirculated rain water from the roof as part of Singapore's continued green-building efforts. It was really cool in person, I gotta say. It also has does a light show after sunset, and it was quite the sight to see! Keep in mind you have to visit Jewel either after security if arriving, or before security if departing (meaning you don't need a boarding pass to visit).

The rain vortex at Jewel/Changi Airport.

Most of the airport was covered in jungle greenery - including baggage claim!

While I was stranded here on my way home, I had dinner at a restaurant in Jewel, and my seat overlooked the rain vortex at night
during its light show. 


While waiting to board my flight home, I also visited all the terminals to check out some of the displays. I visited the cactus gardens, sunflower gardens, orchid gardens and quite a few of the shops. I was never bored, and my time flew by - at the airport.

Enchanted gardens inside Changi airport.

Sunflower gardens at Changi airport.

Orchid gardens at Changi airport.



I already covered Hawker Centers, but of course, there's plenty more to choose from when it comes to dining in Singapore. Because I was traveling solo, I chose to eat at more casual places, and there were some hits and misses. I will be honest, I wish I had eaten more at the Hawker Centers. I had a hard time adjusting to the heat, and there were times I was near a food center, but was just so hot and uncomfortable that I really wanted to sit in air conditioning while I ate. That is my biggest regret from the trip, and I do wish I had just sucked it up and went for the Hawker food instead. But, that said, I still found some really cute places.

I decided to have lunch at Fennel Cafe while I was exploring Gardens by the Bay. Fennel is located inside Flower Dome, and while it's not amazing food, and it's definitely not super highly-rated online, I still kind of enjoyed it. I got a really lovely drink, some excellent house-made breads with various dips that were all delicious, and a sandwich. Because it's inside the Flower Dome, the ambiance is lovely, and everyone was very friendly. It's not mind-blowing food, but for convenience purposes, I thought it was a nice little lunch spot (definitely better than the other offerings at Gardens by the Bay, one of which was McDonald's). Not sure how I forgot, but I totally didn't snap any photos of my food while here. Ah well. Inside Flower Dome is also a high-end restaurant called Pollen, which actually is very well-rated. I thought about doing a fancy lunch there instead, but it was pretty expensive, and I was feeling something a lot more casual (and also fast) that day.

Entrance to Fennel Cafe.


Baristart Coffee Cafe was a quick little pitstop I made one afternoon, and I'm not going to lie, my main mission was to get a parfait I had seen online before I even left for my trip. But it came at a perfect time of the day when I was tired and needed a little pick me up. So I hopped in, sheepishly ordered this little guy (not sure why I was so embarrassed - maybe because I was the only one there who got it), and sat down and enjoyed every single bite. Many people online rave about their coffee drinks, so something to look into. This little guy is seasonal only, so he may not be always available.

I mean, he's even holding a little plant.
For dinner one night, I wandered over to Herbivore, which is a Japanese vegetarian restaurant. I opted for some gyoza and some miso ramen, and it was all so, so good.






Three days was definitely not enough to have a full Singapore experience, but I was really able to cover quite a bit of ground. I absolutely fell in love with this city, and I'm crossing my fingers I'm able to go back (and take Josh with me). Australia is on our bucket list, and we'll be keeping our eyes peeled for a super long layover in the Little Red Dot, for sure (Josh is already on board with this plan).

Since my time was limited this trip, there were a couple of things on my list I wasn't able to do during my visit to Singapore. I would also recommend looking into:

Singapore Zoo (check out the monkey breakfast and night safari)
Sentosa Island (also home to Universal Studios)

Have you been to Singapore? What are some things I missed this time around that I should definitely see next time?

*All photos with me in the actual photo were taken by a lovely photographer named Michelle with Sweet Escape.


                        



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