Country #28: Singapore

Last week, I returned to Country #28: Singapore! Dan had an opportunity to visit for work, and I decided to join him since we’ve considered it a place to live abroad together. I stumbled across the following email reflection I sent to my parents in June 2019 when I first visited during my post-grad travels.

Originally written in June 2019 (lightly edited for clarity):

This week, I hit country number 28. Singapore is one of my favorite countries that I’ve visited so far in the world. They’re living in the future, but they’re such a young country, which is why I think it’s so amazing to me. They’ve only been independent from Britain for 50-60 years. It’s honestly crazy how much a country can progress in that time.

My best friend from college, Caroline, and I arrived Friday evening and took the train into the city from the airport. We didn’t spend a lot on our accommodation at all. In fact, we did the opposite of what Jake (my older brother) did. When he was in Singapore, he opted to stay at Singapore’s premier hotel, the Marina Bay Sands, for a night (and cheaper accommodations the other nights). It’s in the $500-700 per night range and comes with all the bells and whistles.

We opted to save the money that might go towards that and stay in a neighboring part of the inner city. It wasn’t luxury, but it did the job. Read: It was a private room in an Airbnb, and it didn’t have any windows. However, it did have crisp, cold air conditioning (a must anywhere in Southeast Asia). While the well-photographed room did the trick, we hardly spent any time there because we were only in Singapore for about 3 days total. 

After arriving on Friday, we laid low and just went to eat at a local Singaporean food market, Zion Riverside Food Centre. You always know it’s local when you look and feel distinctly out of place. But the best way to get better at those types of experiences is to have them, so that’s what we did. I ate pork dumplings, and Caroline ate some kind of noodles with shrimp and fish cakes. Then we went to the grocery store to grab stuff for the next day and home to trip plan. 

We ended up booking a really cool free walking tour for the afternoon on Saturday. I’ve never done a tour with a company like SneakPeek Singapore. It was planned for 5 hours (although it ended up being 6.5) and taught me the most I’ve ever learned on a walking tour. We spent time in a variety of areas – Kampong Glam, Chinatown, and Marina Bay. We ate at the Hawker Center (food stalls) in Chinatown for dinner. 

On Sunday, we got a traditional breakfast of kayak toast at Ya Kun in Chinatown. We then visited Gardens by the Bay and did the skywalk at the Supertree Grove (very cool – Google them!). We got drinks on top of Marina Bay Sands for the view. It was a better way to see the view on top rather than buying a ticket to the viewing platform. You pay about $22 USD for a voucher which you can use for food and drinks at the top.

We went to Little India for dinner and ate at a vegetarian restaurant. I’m pretty wimpy when it comes to Indian food because I can’t handle spicy food (nothing has changed!), but I’m trying to find different things that work for me in each food variety. Each time we ate on Sunday, we also found that we were also stared at because we were in such local places. We didn’t eat at any touristy spots, and thus people wondered what two white girls were doing there. Really only puts a dent in what it’s like to live in the minority. 

On Sunday night, we bought tickets to see Toy Story 4 at a movie theater on Orchard Road. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Seeing a movie in another country is also an interesting experience. Instead of the normal commercials shown before the movie, Singapore shows a lot of social commercials about progress. They also showed one about turning off cellphones before the movie that was a complete slight to the US/Trump. I found the link after the movie. It’s meant to be comical, but it absolutely illustrates what other countries think about him and his representation of us. 

Here it is:

On Monday, we checked out of our Airbnb and visited a friend of Caroline’s family at Facebook Singapore. They have a cool office, and we ate lunch and spent a couple of hours there. We then went to Chinatown to check out the cheapest Michelin Star restaurant. Not going to lie, I wasn’t impressed. 

After that, we went to the airport because Changi Airport is an attraction in it itself. We spent some time exploring before heading to Country #29: Malaysia.