Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Travelling Southeast Asia: Singapore

Singapore was the first stop on our two month trip, and as someone who had never been to Asia before, I would definitely recommend it as a good starting point and a slow transition into a new continent. I’m a full-time worrier and am usually a little on edge when getting to know new places, and whilst Singapore was like nowhere I’d been before, it did have the feeling of lots of different cities and cultures mixed together, so there were a lot of small familiarities.

The main preconception I had about Singapore was that it would be super clean, and that wasn’t wrong. There was absolutely no litter, you could eat your dinner off the floor of the MRT (underground train network), and on almost every street corner there was someone jet washing the pavements.

Singapore was definitely the most expensive place we visited, making it a challenge to stick to our backpacker budget (£50 a day between the two of us). After a lot of searching we settled on Fernloft Hostel (City), which took up £30 a night of our daily budget for a private double room. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t nice, but I accepted it at the time, thinking that was going to be the standard of accommodation we would have for the whole trip. But this was definitely not the case; we stayed in hostels and guesthouses elsewhere for around £5 a night that were cleaner, had windows in the rooms and much more pleasant shared bathrooms. Maybe this was just down to the fact that Singapore is an expensive place to go, but we walked past a lot of hostels in the city which looked a lot better value for money.

The MRT is the easiest way to get around Singapore and it is a dream to use. My favourite thing was the lines on the floor which ensured that you let people of the train before getting on yourself. What can I say, I’m easily pleased. Don’t be fooled into buying the tourist pass though, unless you’re spending your whole day on the underground it works out much more expensive. We stuck to the Smartcard (an oyster equivalent, and it was perfect for what we needed for the three full days we spent in Singapore.

Okay, enough of the boring details, and onto what we did!

Our first full day was for sight-seeing. In the morning we headed to Gardens by the Bay, which is a beautiful area to wander around. We didn’t go up the Skyway (the funny-looking tower-like structures) or inside the domes, but there is plenty to see for free and we spent an hour or so just admiring the different themed gardens.

The gardens are right next to Marina Bay, which is home to a luxury shopping mall and sits amongst the array of skyscrapers that characterise this section of the city.

From Marina Bay you can follow the river along through various quays, each with their own distinct style.
The remainder of the day was spent in China Town, where we finished off in the Maxwell Road Hawker Centre and filled ourselves with Tian Tian Hiananese Chicken and fried sweet potato dumplings.

The following morning after fuelling up on peanut butter at Toast Box, we travelled across the city to Sentosa Island to find Universal Studios. You’re probably wondering how tickets to Universal were squeezed out of our backpacker budget, and the short answer is that they weren’t. We decided before the trip that we really wanted to go to Universal, having loved it in Florida the year before, so bought the tickets in advance, which somehow meant it didn’t count. It’s funny how often this kind of rationalising takes place when on a budget, isn’t it?! Having said that, it’s still a lot  cheaper than theme parks elsewhere in the world.

Regardless of whether we could technically afford it or not, I am so glad we went. I don’t know about you, but there is nothing better than running around like a child all day and experiencing so many great films come to life. The best rides were the Jurassic Park rapids, the Mummy rollercoaster and the Transformers 3D simulation ride. I also met the Penguins from Madagascar, but no big deal.

After we’d exhausted ourselves in the park, we decided to go and find Sentosa Island’s beaches, which were just a short walk from Universal. Sentosa Island also supposedly boasts the southernmost point of continental Asia, although we later read online that it might not be the case. Nonetheless, it made a pretty sweet Instagram photo…

We spent the majority of our final day in Singapore wandering down Orchard Road, window shopping all the designer stores and dodging downpours of rain. We had one of my favourite lunches of the trip at Din Tai Fung, a Taiwanese chain with restaurants all over the world. The food was amazing, yet reasonably priced, and I finally learnt how to use chopsticks.

Off Orchard Road is a little street called Emerald Hill Road, with rows of colourful terraced buildings. I loved seeing all the contrasting layers of architecture alongside one another.

Although our budget didn’t stretch to the iconic Singapore Slings served in the bar, we had a look around the infamous Raffles Hotel, and wished we were staying there instead of our dingy hostel.

With our time in Singapore coming to an end, we headed to Little India, the most colourful and vibrant area we visited, and ate some amazing but super cheap murtabak and bhajis in the Tekka Centre.

I really loved Singapore and will definitely be returning someday. Hopefully when I’m no longer on a backpacker budget and can afford to stay somewhere with windows, and maybe even a view!

I also vlogged our stay, which gives an even better impression of Singapore, so please give that a watch and subscribe to my YouTube channel for more travel vlogs to come from the rest of the trip.

Have you been to Singapore or Southeast Asia? Let me know what you did or saw in the comments! 


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