The Merlion represents Singapore's history as a fishing town.
Previously, I have not written a destination story before. I have had some pretty great opportunities, but always concentrated on the airline side of things. That makes sense, since this is an airline blog, not a travel blog, but I decided to try and do something a little different . I have found that most people who enjoy airlines, also have a love of travel — so, it sort of makes sense.
I love to travel, but I do not consider myself a travel expert. This story gives a newbie-perspective on traveling to Singapore for the first time. I spent five days there with a few journalists, Singapore Airlines and the Singapore Tourism Board and figured I should share some of my main take-a-ways.
English is King
Almost everyone speaks and almost everything is in English in Singapore. It isn’t just the touristy places either, but almost everywhere you go. I have been told before, “lots of people speak English there,” but it has never been more true.
Part of me was really excited that so much was in English, but another part wished it seemed a bit more foreign.
Singapore most likely won't give you culture shock, but if you are looking for culture, you can still find it in Little India, Little China and Arab Street. This is a shot of a flower necklace maker in Little India.
English is one of Singapore’s official languages (Malay, Chinese and Tamil are the others). One reason English is so prevalent is Singapore didn’t break way from the United Kingdom until 1963.
If you are not well-traveled internationally, this is a great place to get your feet wet. It provides a great spring board to other Asian destinations.
The Changi Airport Rocks
I know for most people the airport is just a means to an end, but in Singapore, it is part of the destination. Unfortunately, I did not have much time to check out the airport , but I was given enough information to know that I really want to go back with some additional time on my hands. Yeah, it has 100 airlines going to about 200 cities worldwide, but that is not as cool as having the largest slide in an airport called “The Slide @ T3.” Be sure to give yourself some time to explore everything that Changi Airport offers.
Okay, this is a bit embarrassing, but if I can stop others from making the same mistake, it will be worth it — bring shorts.
Although I had some of the best food of my life while in Singapore, a much cheaper experience is going to one of the many public food markets.
Really, it is a bigger lesson about learning a bit more about the location to which you are going. I am one of those that enjoys to be told where I need to be when I start a trip and the rest will figure itself out. Well, it turns out that Singapore is only 85 miles away from the equator and I packed with business casual clothes.
When on blog-travel, I try to keep looking professional, but not bringing shorts was a HUGE mistake. I knew it was going to be hot, but I did not realize how humid it was going to be. If you somehow forget shorts when you travel there, don’t look in the resort areas. Cheapest I could find was $100 (you do not want to know the most expensive). I ended up getting some from a street vendor for $10 — deal! The moral of this story is pack for everything and check the weather reports (duh, right?).
Eat, Rest, Repeat
One of the best parts of vacation is being able to eat great food and relax. This seems like a way of life in Singapore — they aren’t afraid to eat. I am not sure how so many people are so healthy, but I love the food. There were so many great food options, it was hard to choose. From street vendors to world renowned restaurants, you cannot go wrong. Singapore really has a unique combination of Malaysian, Chinese and Indian influences in their food.
Even though I got to experience some of the most amazing food ever at places like Blu on Singapore Shangri-La’s 27th floor, nothing beats walking through a public food court and choosing from foods I had no idea what they were. From full duck heads to “shark nuggets” It is a wonderful experience, if you are not afraid of your food.
We were lucky since our trip matched up with the 18th annual Singapore Food Festival. This year’s theme was spice and they did not fail to deliver.
Little China offered many small shop options.
The Rules Are Not That Strict
I think one of the stereotypes that most Americans hear about Singapore are that the law are super strict. There is a fear that if you break one law, you will receive severe consequences. That is not the case.
On the way over, people were making jokes about chewing gum. It turns out that it is not illegal to chew gum, but it is illegal to buy or sell it. Lucky for me, since I had a pack in my bag, but decided not to chew it.
The strict rules mean that Singapore is quite safe. In some places, there was trash and graffiti, but everywhere we went, I never questioned safety.
Get Off the Beaten Path
Pretty much anywhere you visit, it is best to (safely) get off the beaten path. There are places with very different languages and cultures that can make it difficult to explore off the beaten path, but not in Singapore. Transportation (even taxis) are dirt cheap and it is not difficult to walk around and check out side streets. You can easily find architecture that has Indian, Chinese and even British influences, which is pretty unique.
The Singapore Flyer offers a leisurely view of the entire city.
Shop, Shop, Shop
There were many shopping opportunities in Singapore-it was annoying. Well, if you like to shop, it would be great, but other than shopping for clothes that I need (ie shorts) or airline stuff, I am not into the browsing thing. However, it is hard to avoid malls and stores. Downtown you even have to go underground and through a mall just to get across the street — smart business move. No matter what your taste, from Gucci to buying frogs, there is a store with what you need.
Get Some Altitude
If heights and great views are something you enjoy, do not worry- Singapore has many options. The first strucutre I went on was the Singapore Flyer, which is a large ferris wheel that takes about 30 minutes to go around (see time lapse video). No worries if you are afraid of heights- your car in the Singapore Flyer is large enough and the wheel moves so slow, it doesn’t cause much fear.
If you want to take your Singapore Flyer experience up a notch, you can rent out a whole car and have a catered dinner. I guess quite a few wedding proposals happen while on the top — that would be a long 15 minute ride back down if she said, “no.”
The view from 1-Altitude of the Singapore Flyer and Sands Marina Bay.
The next high place to go is the Sands SkyPark at the Marina Bay. Even though the view from up top is impressive, the view from down below is a bit unreal. It looks like someone built three large buildings and put a boat up top.
The building did not come cheap, costing over $6.5billion to buy the land and build the facility. The view deck gives great views of the Merlion and Singapore Flyer. On one side is a spotting deck for anyone who pays the fee to go up and the other is an infinity swimming pool for guests of the hotel/casino.
The final place up high was 1-Altitude Gallery. It is situated on the highest point in Singapore and offers views of both the Singapore Flyer and Sands Marina Bay. I would highly suggest going at night since you can see the light show from the Sands and the Flyer lit up. It is a bit trendy with a popular bar and a lot of young people. If trendy bars aren’t your thing, I would suggest going early to avoid the crowds and enjoy the views.
The Culture With-In the Culture
There is a great mixture of culture in Singapore — you need to make sure you check out Little China, Little India and Arab Street.
When walking into some of the temples, I felt I was truly in a different culture and one with the people. Where Singapore as a whole really doesn’t give you a culture shock, checking out the smaller areas in Singapore can give you that cultural experience you are looking for.
Many of the temples were very intricate and impressive.
Party Until Dawn
I have gotten beyond the age of partying all night, but if that is your thing, there are many options. Probably the best area is Clarke Quay along Singapore River. They have some pretty interesting places to party (they have a bar/club that is all hospital- themed). Even if you aren’t into the party scene, it is still cool to walk through the area with all the interesting lighting and people.
Catch Some Sun Rays
Singapore is a tropical climate and to really get the feel, it is best to head out to Sentosa. It is almost a resort-type area in Singapore. From swimming dolphins to a super long zip-line to a Universal Studios, there is much to do. However, I decided to enjoy the sandy beaches and just relax. While on my balcony at the Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa Resort I had two monkeys come visit. That was probably one of the coolest experiences I have had.
A lot more to do
There is a lot more to explore in Singapore than what I got around to. Tourism is Singapore’s largest industry, so they make sure tourists stay happy. They have a handy YourSingapore.com website to help navigate what there is to experience.
Have you been to Singapore? Or do you live there? What more would you add for must-sees?
* Time lapse video of the Singapore Flyer
* 62 photos of the Singapore trip