After our trip to Vietnam, I got the chance to spend a few days in Singapore, where my friend Anna now lives full-time. I was only there for a few days, but I tried to pack in as much exploring and eating as possible. Here’s what I got up to when I was in town:
We got in on Sunday night from Vietnam and had about half a day to settle back in. Anna had to return to work the next day, so we kept things pretty low key. We took the MRT into town from the airport (this was super easy, but make sure you have cash or a credit card that isn’t a Visa) and headed to Anna’s apartment, which is a beautiful expat compound of swimming pools and modern spaces. Most Singaporeans live in public housing called HDBs (after the country’s Housing & Development Board), which are super affordable, but expat housing is generally more expensive and a lot of seems very luxurious. One of Anna’s friend’s said his apartment complex has 18 pools, for example.
We were starving so we headed to Tiong Bahru’s hawker for dinner. There were only a few stands open, but Anna rounded us up some of the best food I’ve ever had. My favorite thing was a dish called chwee keuh, which is steamed rice cakes (they have sort of a jellied texture) topped with preserved radish relish. It sounds gross, but was so good I had it for breakfast later that week too. You just never know what you’re going to like! We ended the night with a cocktail nearby and some friend chicken skin to snack on. A head’s up that booze is expensive in Singapore – like $20 a drink expensive – so don’t plan on doing any big nights out if you’re visiting.
Monday morning marked my first day exploring alone. There were a lot of things on my list, but my top priority that day was going to the National Museum of Singapore. I’ll be super honest – I didn’t do a whole lot of research on the history of Singapore before I arrived and I had a lot of questions about how such a small island became a huge economic force. The National Museum has an excellent permanent exhibit that walks through the history of the island, why it’s such an important port city, and how it’s become the ultra-modern city you see today. It got a little propaganda-y towards the end so take things with a grain of salt (Singapore is an authoritarian country after all), but I definitely learned a lot and highly recommend if you’re not informed about the area like I was.
After that I grabbed some lunch at Chijmes, a convent turned restaurant and shopping center, and walked over the Haji Lane for some to-die-for shopping. Honestly, so proud of my self control that day. I stopped myself from buy approximately 1000 purses. It’s super cute and affordable, so definitely recommend spending some time there. I then took the MRT back to Anna’s, changed for dinner, and grabbed some dim sum with Anna and some of her co-workers.
Tuesday was my second (and final) full day of exploring Singapore and honestly I need to go back because I really loved the vibe of the city and there’s so much I didn’t see. I spent the morning exploring Tiong Bahru, which is one of the hip neighborhoods in Singapore. I grabbed breakfast at the Hawker, which was super intimidating at first, but just smile, point at what you want, and hope some probably speaks some English. You’ll be fine. Then I wandered around some local stores, including this beautiful bookstore called BooksActually, and grabbed a scoop of mango passionfruit ice cream. I needed a morning just to unwind and it was so nice.
In the afternoon, I set off on an adventure to Marina Bay Sands and the Supertree grove at Gardens By the Bay. I took the MRT, but google maps took me this weird route where I got dropped off by the side of a highway and had to walk around a bunch of construction. Once I found the park where the Supertrees are located, though, everything was just fine. Plus, I never felt unsafe in Singapore – it’s notoriously one of the safest places in the world. The Supertrees were incredible and I highly recommend doing the skywalk even though you have to pay like $8. It’s a scam, but it’s worth it.
Afterwards, I grabbed a water and a pastry at the cafe nearby and just sat, listened to music, and soaked it all in. Of the whole trip, this may have been my favorite moment because I just felt so deeply content. I came into this trip being so anxious and uncertain of whether I could do this, so to sit there on my last day looking back at everything we’d done and every way I’d pushed myself and to be sitting in a beautiful city felt amazing. I literally just sat at this cafe for two hours and let everything sink in.
After a final breakfast of kaya toast with Anna, it was time to head to the airport and eventually back to Madison. I ended up flying two Hello Kitty service flights where everything from pillows to utensils to the in-flight video is Hello Kitty themed, which was pretty fun and surreal. And 27 hours later I was back in my apartment in Madison and back to real life.
The entire trip was incredible and I would love to go back to Singapore some day. I feel like I just got a taste of it and I know there’s so much more to explore that I didn’t get a chance to see this time around. If Anna will have me on her couch again, you know I’ll be there!