On the 23rd January 2018, I kicked off the new year by travelling to, for the first time, sunny (and sometimes rainy) Singapore, with one of my closest friends from high school. It was also my first time travelling with just a friend, and I think that spending so much time together definitely allowed us to bond more and become closer. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to experience a week in this beautiful country, which took me by surprise again and again, day in and day out, and would highly recommend anyone to visit if the opportunity arises.
As I documented my travels on my YouTube Channel, I received many questions on the daily about my experience, from how I planned my itinerary, where I stayed, my expenses, to finding vegan food and places that I would recommend. So, that is why I will be sharing and explaining all of the details of my trip in this blog post by each day, which can hopefully help many of you reading this with planning your next trip to Singapore. Or maybe it will even inspire you to visit there one day! Whatever the case, I am sure that you will probably, just like me, fall in love with Singapore ♡
Firstly, here is a general overview:
- When: 23rd January 2018 to 30th January 2018.
- Airlines: I flew with Singapore Airlines from Melbourne and booked my tickets around the end of November 2017.
- Accommodation: I stayed in the Strand Hotel, literally just a step outside Bencoolen Station, and in a very central location. The service was wonderful, and although the rooms weren’t the most sound-proof, as someone who doesn’t like to complain, I still really enjoyed my stay there.
- Transportation: The MRT system in Singapore was undoubtedly one of the best transport systems I had ever been on and experienced. With how convenient and fast to get around it was, we used it every single day. You can purchase a transport card at any major MRT station or convenience store. Also, our legs came in very handy too 🙂
- Itinerary: We had a brief outline of each day planned before we left off, with the main places we wanted to see booked in to a specific date, and other things to-do written in but not a ‘must’. We wanted to ensure that we enjoyed our holiday rather than rush it, so most of the time we did go to the places we had originally planned to, but also went with the flow and changed some things as the day approached. How we planned our itinerary was quite simple too- on each day we generally visited places located in the same or nearby area.
- Weather: Coming from Melbourne, the humidity and general heat in Singapore definitely took me some time to get used to. It was around 30 degrees Celsius every day, with a period of rain on most days, but thankfully I didn’t get caught it in (although my friend did!)
- Packing: Knowing that it would be hot and humid, I brought with me the lightest clothing I had, such as a few pairs of shorts and short-sleeved or sleeveless tops. Runners were a must as we planned to do a lot of walking each day, and a hat was essential for skin protection as well when outside. I also recommend bringing a light jacket, as shopping centres can get chilly from the air conditioning inside. Don’t forget the umbrella too!
- Language: There are four official languages in Singapore- English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil, with most Singaporeans being bilingual in English and at least one other official language. I experienced no problem communicating with staff or customer service assistants at all.
- Expenses: Overall, I personally found Singapore to be similar to Australia in terms of expenses, although the food was generally on the cheaper side. Of course, this is always dependent on a variety of factors. Here are some things you should factor into your budget (if you have one), aside from flight tickets and accommodation:
- Transportation– The MRT is definitely the most budget friendly way to get around, however you can also use public buses, taxis, etc.
- Food– High end popular restaurants will obviously be more expensive than local restaurants. Hawker centres and local food are usually the most budget friendly. You can also find 7/11 stores in almost every corner, which are handy if you need a snack.
- Entry tickets– I highly recommend researching ticket prices, if there are any, of the places you would like to visit before you go to Singapore. I used klook.com to purchase some beforehand and it made it a much faster process to enter.
- Shopping– This is entirely dependant on what you want to buy and from where. Singapore is decorated with shopping malls and areas, from high end to street markets, and variant in terms of what you can buy as well. I am trying to live more minimally, so I didn’t spend much on this area.
- Emergency– Always have some spare emergency cash with you just in case. Unexpected events can happen at any time when you travel, so it’s best to be prepared than not at all.
- Phone– If you would like to have some sort of phone/wifi connection while you’re there, you may want to purchase a SIM card when you arrive or book a wifi device rental beforehand.
I hope that gave you a solid brief understand of my trip to Singapore! Now, I will take you through our itinerary for each day 🙂
On the 23rd January, Courtney and I left Melbourne at 4:40pm and arrived at Changi Airport at around 9pm local time. By the time we checked through immigration, collected our luggage, organised our pocket wifi device*, caught the MRT to Bencoolen Station, and checked into our hotel, it was 11pm. My very jet-lagged body literally said “goodnight”, and I collapsed onto the bed, where I fell right asleep until the next day.
Our first full day was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. It was a day full of sightseeing and exploring, which I enjoyed very much.
In the morning after getting ready and having breakfast in our hotel, we checked off the first item on our ‘must-see’ list, which was walking along the well-known and popular Orchard Road. We got no where near walking along the full extent of this long and modern road, but we definitely experienced the very first taste of Singapore’s shopping malls. One mall we stumbled across was Plaza Singapura, filled with stores of all kinds and not to mention a big food court. Back to walking outside, I also came to realise the beautiful greenery of this city, and how nicely decorated the streets were with luscious trees and plants despite the surrounding tall buildings.
After an energising lunch at a vegetarian/vegan restaurant called ‘Real Food‘ on Orchard Road, which was absolutely delicious by the way, we took the MRT from Dhoby Ghaut Station to City Hall, where we began our little walking adventure. First, we came across a beautiful War Memorial, before finally reaching the bustling Merlion Park. I was so blown away by how picturesque the skyline was of Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands and Ferris Wheel among the surrounding buildings, that I had temporarily forgotten about how sweaty I was. Walking along the bridge was just magical, and then we reached the Merlion statue at last- only to see that it was under construction. But that’s okay, because there was still a miniature version of it nearby and I still couldn’t get over the amazing skyline view.
We continued to walk around the bank of Marina Bay, and after resting for a short while inside a shopping mall nearby, we reached the entrance of Gardens By The Bay. Entry is free, however we wanted to take a look inside the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest, so we paid S$28 for those tickets at a counter and also S$4 for a short cart ride from the entrance to the Domes. Needless to say, I was left speechless by how extraordinarily amazing both Domes were in their own unique way. The design and beauty was breath-taking; especially the waterfall inside the Cloud Forest, and just how these Domes came to be was incomprehensible to me. Further, the SuperTree Grove Walk yet again blew me away with its creative design and views of Singapore from the short bridge. It was well worth the extra S$8 ticket, and I can only imagine how cool it would it be to be there at night. I can definitely see now, why the Gardens By The Bay is a must-visit in Singapore.
Following that, we were quite exhausted from all of the walking we did during the day, so we opted to have dinner and return straight back to the hotel to rest. We actually got lost trying to find a vegan friendly place that I wanted to try out for dinner, but instead found another food court with many options, so we each got our own meal and sat down to eat before heading back to the the hotel.
* We had booked our pocket wifi device through Klook, however we do not recommend it as upon showing our printed booking which we had already paid for, we were told by the counter that Klook does not partner with them anymore. This meant that we had to pay for the device again as well as a deposit, and ask for a refund from Klook.
Day 2 in Singapore was certainly another wonderful day of exploring and learning many new things about the country again.
The first place we decided to visit in the morning was the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which wasn’t too far away at all by MRT from Bencoolen Station. Although not as spectacular as Gardens By The Bay, this garden had its own uniqueness and a more local feel, as we quickly realised that many people were going for their daily walk or jog along the paths. There were many different gardens to see within the area and I definitely appreciated its beauty, however after about half an hour of walking, the heat got to the better of us and we decided to venture off to our next destination.
Using the MRT again, we then arrived at Clarke Quay (which I only learned the proper pronunciation of the word ‘quay’ after the vlog was uploaded), and it was a place that I had heard lots about prior to coming, so I was very excited. We first fuelled up from lunch inside the food court at Clarke Quay Central, where I ordered a delicious design-your-own bowl packed with veggies, tofu and purple sweet potatoes, and then began exploring. Once again, and probably no surprise, I was blown away by how stunning the area of Clarke Quay was- the exceptional architecture of the buildings, the rainbow colours, and the general vibe- it was almost too much to take in one go! Although we discovered that the real liveliness comes in at night, it was still nice to look around without too many people about.
After a yummy snack for a few dollars at Babao Dessert Shop, where I ordered one of my favourite desserts, snowfungus soup topped with extra red beans, we continued to explore and walked along Singapore River to reach Riverside Point and Boat Quay. Both places were just as lovely as Clarke Quay, and then out of the blue, we happened to unexpectedly wonder into a shopping area called One Raffles Place. Now this mall left a huge impression on me for a few reasons: the sheer size of it, the stunning interior design, the seemingly endless array of food court stalls, and the amazing atmosphere. In fact, we both agreed that this place had the best food court out of all the places we visited in Singapore, not to say the other food courts weren’t great of course.
So that wrapped up our second, adventourous day in lovely Singapore.
I can confidently say that our third day was all about colour, colour, and more colour. This was definitely one of the things I loved most about Singapore- just how vividly painted the city is, from pastels to bright and bold.
We kick started the morning off by visiting the well-known Haji Lane. I can assure you that I went a little camera crazy here, because its distinctiveness and pure artistry- you guessed it- simply blew me away. It was a narrow yet cozy street completed with two-story, fairy-tale like shops, not yet bustling, but still filled with tourists who were also snapping away at the large murals painted on the walls and colourful insta-worthy backgrounds. We visited a few unique stores selling tapestry and other vintage items, before heading towards the nearby Sultan Mosque.
Coming to the Sultan Mosque almost felt like walking into a completely different country. Not only was the mosque so elegantly designed with white and gold, but there was also a Middle-Eastern themed street right next to it, and I just loved the multicultural feel there (and more insta-worthy backgrounds). Following that, we moved along to the must-visit Chinatown, which made me feel like I was in a completely different country again- this time China! Words cannot describe how vibrant this area was, embellished with red lanterns and other Chinese decorations for the upcoming New Year, as well as many, many people.
As we were feeling a bit hungry, we first found our way to the nearby Maxwell Food Centre, or in other words, a hawker centre. These are very popular in Singapore not only among the locals, but the tourists as well, and most certainly great for budget-friendly travellers wanting a genuine local lunch experience, sitting in a fan-forced yet slightly stuffy and quite crowded roof-covered area. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any vegan-friendly meals, so Courtney grabbed her own meal to go, and we walked about minute to a vegan cafe next door called Well Dressed Salad Bar. After a satisfying bowl of rice and veggies, we had to walk around the Chinatown area, taking our time to admire the architecture once again as well as stores selling beautifully hand-made Chinese art and other crafts. I know that this was Chinatown, but I happened to come across a stall selling traditional Indonesian desserts as well, so listening to my couldn’t-resist-it heart, I got myself a pack and they were just unbelievably delicious. Luckily, just as we were walking back to the MRT station, the rain began to pour, so we didn’t get caught in it and went back to rest in the hotel as the rain passed.
Later that evening, we experienced our first bit of Singapore’s energetic night-life. We were still so attached to Clarke Quay from the day before, that we decided to head back there, except this time after sunset, for something different. Before that, we had dinner in the food court at One Raffles Place again, and then headed to Clarke Quay. I am so grateful that the rain stopped that evening, because that night was truly one to remember. The quiet and stillness of the Clarke Quay area that was yesterday, was suddenly brought to life by the multi-coloured beaming lights shining from above and hundreds of people chatting away, laughing and enjoying themselves on the tables placed outside the bars. We also joined in and sat at an outdoor table, appreciating the slight breeze, taking in the moment, while Courtney sipped on her (alcoholic) drink. I genuinely loved the atmosphere there that night, and would recommend anyone to visit Clarke Quay both at day and at night.
The theme for day number four was definitely ‘shopping malls’. As I mentioned earlier, although I am trying to live more minimally and really did not feel the urge to buy too many things, I still really enjoyed exploring the malls that Singapore is known for and becoming fascinated by its immensity.
We began our morning by walking to the Bugis Shopping District from our hotel, which took around 10 minutes and was surprisingly a lot closer than we thought! First we visited the Bugis Junction Shopping Mall, furnished with several levels of many popular stores from Nike to Etude House, and shops such as bookstores and even cutely decorated ones. We also finally came across our first supermarket called Cold Storage, where we found lots of different Singapore and international delicacies, snacks, and whatever you would normally find in a supermarket. Something that I also noticed was that in every (or most) Singapore supermarket, there was always a dedicated refrigerated section selling all types of fresh sushi. Also, much of the fresh fruit being sold was almost always wrapped in plastic or in a container to-go. These things were interesting to realise, because it highlighted some cultural differences between Australia and Singapore.
For lunch, we walked to a nearby food centre called Fortune Centre, as Google had told us that there were some vegan options there; but to my delight, it turned out that all of the eateries inside were at the very least vegetarian! Perhaps this was because there was a temple nearby, but I was downright excited. We found a vegan bento box eatery and decided to settle for that, and not only was it super delicious, but affordable as well. I also opted for a rainbow sushi from Create Healthy Lifestyle too. After demolishing our meals, we then walked back to the Bugis Shopping area and visited the Bugis+ Shopping Mall. This mall was similar to Bugis Junction in that there were plenty of stores, with a lot of variety, although it was bigger in terms of size. After a look about, we travelled by MRT to our next destination.
Another item on our ‘must-see’ list was ticked off when we arrived at Suntec City. I simply could not- yes once again- believe the utter magnitude of this shopping mall. There were at least three atriums, each connecting to one another, and each with multiple levels of stores of all kinds. The interior was graced with stunning decorations, and we even found a rooftop garden decorated with vibrant greenery and plants running up and down walls. In the centre of the atriums on the basement level was a huge fountain that you could walk in to, and we decided to as well, however it just happens so that our timing wasn’t quite right and we got splashed on- unfortunate but it still felt great in the humidity!
I don’t quite remember where we went for dinner that evening, although my instincts tell me that we most likely went to a food court nearby. As night time fell, we went back to the Bugis area to experience some more night-life again, as we had heard that the area becomes more lively after the sun goes down. That sure was right, because the streets were lined with young people, especially inside the busy Bugis Street Night Market, which was the place that we wanted to check out. If you like Korean fashion and are/or on a budget, I highly recommend that you visit this night market. It is filled with compact and cheap clothing and accessory stores, as well as street food stalls too! This was also where I bought my first and only clothing items in Singapore- just two tops that really caught my attention. We both really loved the atmosphere inside this market, and after walking around for about an hour, we went back to the hotel to rest our slightly sore legs and prepare for the next day.
Our fifth day in Singapore involved a little bit of everything. For me personally, I experienced such a special time, as I will explain a little later.
Once we got ready and energised ourselves with breakfast inside the hotel (which for me always included sweet, fresh and watery fruits that I bought from supermarkets or 7/11 stores), we first visited the Chinese and Japanese Gardens by MRT. It was around a half hour journey, but well worth it as the scenery was incredible. The architecture of the bold red and white Chinese pagoda you see as you enter into the gardens once again stood out to me, and reminded me instantly of some memories from when I last visited China. The atmosphere was also quite serene and peaceful too, with many people going for their daily walks on the surrounding paths. Although I did want to explore more, I think that I was really starting to feel the exhaustion from all of the walking in the past few days catch up on me, so we walked back to the station soon after arriving and took the MRT to our next stop, Raffles City.
While I was in Singapore, many of my viewers following my journey on YouTube and friends on Instagram were asking for a meet up sometime during my stay, so I decided that today would be best as it was a Sunday and Raffles City was located in a central area. So, I had my first ever meet up, and it was the greatest pleasure to meet some viewers, who were not only so sweet and kind, but brought gifts too! It was a truly humbling experience, and incredibly special to me, so again, thank you to those lovely people who came to say hi. My feelings of gratitude and joy instantly made me feel a bit better physically, and afterwards we had lunch inside the food court of the shopping mall. We then continued to do some exploring, and I know I’ve said this a million times already (I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea), but I just love how neatly organised and elegant the interior was. It was again another reason why Singapore is known for being a “shopper’s paradise”.
After resting for a bit back at the hotel while my friend went to do her own exploring, we decided to have dinner at a local food court just opposite our hotel called Food Republic. Since the day we arrived, we had always wanted to have a meal inside, so that’s exactly what we did and with no surprise, this turned out to be my cheapest meal in Singapore. There weren’t exactly any vegan options, however I could turn a dish into one, so I simply ordered a Korean bibimbap with veggies only, and the lady at the counter was so kind that she charged me less and topped with bowl with extra vegetables. So my meal ended up costing me S$5.10 and it was definitely both delicious and satisfying. Afterwards, I saw that were was a Thai eatery selling tapioca cakes, so we got some to try for dessert as we had never tried them before, and oh my…I am just lost for words by how heavenly this dessert was. The soft cake-like texture drizzled over with sweet coconut cream made it complete, and we devoured them almost too quickly!
Day number five then came to end here, as we went back to the hotel to rest.
Day 6 was officially our last full day in cheerful Singapore, and I could not believe how fast time had flown by already. Nonetheless, we made the most of it and ticked off any last things on our list that we really wanted to do and see.
Bright and early, our first destination for the day was Little India, another cultural area we both had to visit. We came via MRT and immediately upon exiting out of Little India Station, I could start to feel the Indian atmosphere that bathed the area. Colourful buildings, Indian jewellery and antique shops, local markets, cafes and vegetarian restaurants lined the streets decorated with people of not only Indian descent, but other cultures too. Vibrant ornaments also dressed up the roads, and beautifully designed Saris hung above and below inside the Tekka Centre. We were astonished by the spectacular colours once again of Little India, which made some more very insta-worthy photo backgrounds. Following our morning of exploring, we walked nearby to Genesis Vegan Restaurant for lunch, as I had read many great reviews about this restaurant and wanted to support the owners. It without a doubt took me some time to choose an item from the menu, because everything looked so delicious! I finally chose the Korean stone pot bibimbap, and we both enjoyed our meals wholly. If you ever visit Little India, I highly recommend also dropping by to this restaurant for a lovely lunch.
As this was now our last afternoon in Singapore, we both had different ideas in mind of what we wanted to do, so simply by compromising with each other, we did our own exploring for a few hours. Courtney headed towards the Southern Ridges, while I caught the MRT to visit Haw Par Villa. “Haw Par Villa – formerly known as the Tiger Balm Garden – is an 8.5-hectare Asian cultural park, the last of its kind in the world.” (Source- http://www.hawparvilla.sg), and this was a place that I call interesting. Aside from free entry, hundreds of statues and giant dioramas illustrating scenes from Chinese mythology, folklore and history adorned the park in a cute and creative manner, so extraordinarily that I was taken aback by its originality. It was a sight that I had never seen before, definitely showcasing Singapore’s uniqueness. Although not as humid as previous days, the sun was quite strong which meant the heat was intense, so following a short walk around, I returned back to the hotel using the MRT (by intense I mean sweat coming off my nose bridge the moment I put my sunglasses on).
For the rest of the afternoon and evening, we were packing our suitcases and organising our carry-ons for an early start the next day. We had dinner at Food Republic again, before attempting to have an early night so that we wouldn’t be too exhausted from travelling the next day.
As our alarms went off at 5am on Day 7, we quickly got ready, doubled checked we packed everything, said goodbye to our hotel, and hopped on to the MRT for the last time before reaching the airport.
One more thing that really surprised me about Singapore was the immense size of the subway stations and how smartly the whole system is designed. There are signs in all four main languages everywhere directing you to a line transfer or an exit out of sometimes up to 15 different ones, which although sounds complicated, is actually hard to become lost inside. Some stations were so huge, that transferring from one line to another alone was a workout in itself, and our station, Bencoolen, was 8 levels deep! I was certainly nothing short of impressed, and still dearly miss the efficiency of their public transport system.
Once we checked our baggage in and grabbed some breakfast, we relaxed for a bit inside next to the windows, reflecting upon our trip while watching the planes fly by. We also explored a little inside Changi airport, and were surprised to find a Butterfly Garden! Again, genius. At around 10am, we said by to Singapore and our flight left off; though we left a piece of our heart in this amazing country.
I hope that you found this blog post helpful, and if you have any other questions, please feel free to leave a comment so that I can answer it for you 🙂 Thank you for reading my first post, and I wish you a wonderful day.