My family visited for a week during Chinese New Year, and I played hostess in Singapore for the first time. I’m a very thorough and somewhat anxious hostess because I stress over whether or not everyone is having a fabulous time.
My parents and aunts have been to Singapore in the past so they had a food bucket list rather than touristy demands. We took it easy and visited one touristy spot and balanced it with 5 meals every day.
THINGS TO DO
We visited Garden by the Bay, a nature park by the marina. The garden was created to enhance flora in the city and they’ve done a great job with the park on reclaimed land. When you first enter, you see these huge supertrees. The tallest one is almost 16 stories tall. The supertrees are vertical gardens that are also pretty environmentally advanced. I don’t know all the science behind it, but our guide said the trees manage the air intake / exhaust function and manage the conservatories cooling systems and also harness solar energy. So honest opinion is that the trees look a little goofy but it’s a pretty impressive structure. The park is less than 10 years old and I think once the vertical gardens really start to bloom, the supertrees will look completely different.
The Heritage Garden walk was very pretty and showed traditional trees from Singapore’s diverse cultures (Indian, Malay, colonial, and Chinese). Definitely take a map because it can be confusing.
Unfortunately, I was vetoed out of going to the conservatories (which cost extra) so we didn’t get to see the indoor waterfall or the green house. I’m saving that for my next trip!
If you’re already in the park, trek towards the Satay by the Bay. It’s a little more expensive than your standard hawker center, but it’s a good break and you get to sit in the shade away from the brutal sun.
Nonstop Shopping on Orchard Road
Singapore’s Orchard Road is famous for having tons of malls lining the street. You’ll find all your standard luxury brands (Chanel, Tiffany, Hermes, etc) lined up along the street, but you’ll also get a sense of the history of Singapore in the mix of local, American, and British brands.
Marina Bay Sands
I mentioned having a fancy dinner at Spago a few weeks ago, but there’s a more low-key Spago Lounge that’s a great stop for visitors. It’s a very laid back restaurant and you get a great view of the infinity pool and the concrete jungle of Singapore. We sat up on the 57th floor for drinks and snacked as we watched the sunset.
Heads up: unfortunately, the swimming pool is only for hotel guests
My aunts also stopped in the casino afterwards for a bit of gambling. Make sure you bring your passport! You have to show that you’re a foreign national to enter the casino. To discourage Singaporeans from gambling, there is a $100 SG entry fee for Singaporeans. The non-gamblers can hang out at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.
Since my family has already done the typical Sentosa / Botanical Garden trek in Singapore, we went a little off the beaten path and visited Kampong Glam. When Singapore was previously divided up by ethnic groups so historically, this area was predominantly Malay and Arab. We visited the Malay Heritage Centre, checked out the Sultan Mosque, and walked around Haji Lane. Haji Lane is a new hipster-y area with great restaurants and shops.
THINGS TO EAT
Bak Kut Teh at Ng Ah Sio
Bak Kuh Teh is a pork rib soup that started in Malaysia. My dad claims that the soup helps keep your energy up during the day; initially, the dish served immigrant workers who needed strength to work in the fields all day. We tried a couple restaurants but our favorite was the traditional Ng Ah Sio.
We visited at least 4 hawker centers and my dad probably cleaned out the one closest to his hotel. You can get very cheap and delicious local foods here. My personal favorite is the Laksa but all the dry lo meins are pretty good!
Recommended hawker centers: East Coast, Tiong Bahru, Maxwell, and Lau Pa Sat.
We ate tons and tons of seafood. We had the classic Singaporean Chili Crab at Jumbo and Long Beach. The general consensus was that Jumbo had some riskier dishes but the Long Beach dishes were classically yummy. Try for yourself!
Read more about chili crab here.
We hit our limit on Singaporean food so we had a Japanese barbecue at Robinson Quay. Aburiya doesn’t look like much from the outside but the service is excellent and the food was all very fresh. We walked around Clarke Quay afterwards and grabbed a drink at one of the many many bars.