The Marina Bay Sands Promenade
Type the word “Singapore” on Google and you’ll be inundated with all the information you can get your hands on, to visit Singapore. To end this Rediscovering Singapore series (here’s part 1, part 2 and part 3) , here are my personal tips and recommendations from my last two trips, some of which I was shared to by friends.
How to get there
Almost every airline in the world would stop in Singapore, so you are bound to find one that suits your need. If you can afford it, fly Singapore Airlines. Heck, fly Singapore Airlines ANYWHERE in this world if you can. (No, this is not a sponsored trip or post. I just want to fly Singapore Airlines everywhere. Period). Make sure you compare prices for the great deals often offered by the airlines within South East Asia.
Where to Stay
Accommodations are not cheap in Singapore. Talk about meeting almost every budget points, I got to experience quite a range of accommodations during the two trips I made within the last year; from backpackers hostel to the 5-star hotel.
1) The Hostels: Where the travellers (backpackers) hang out
It was during the start of my sabbatical that I stayed in backpackers hostel in Singapore; I was travelling solo (after Miss Sassy left during our September trip) and I thought it might be fun to check out the backpackers hostels for some travel stories and meet other travellers. I have to say, I was impressed with the standard of hostels here. Clean, comfortable and cosy. I will never forget one thing said by the receptionist of one of the hostels, a Malaysian, who said “Well, this is Singapore. They are very anal about everything, including not seeing your footwear all over the place. So yes, please make sure they are in the shoebox”.
Both award-winning hostels I stayed in over the two nights period are located in the same building on 33 Hong Kong Street in Chinatown, a central location within walking distance to Clarke Quay. For just under S$30 (check their websites for latest rate) you get a bed, free breakfast, free wi-fi, a homey feel lounge and common room, most likely filled with fun conversations from other travellers. Don’t feel like sharing your bedroom with strangers? They have private rooms as well.
2) The Hotels: the budget to mid-range options (S$100 – S$150 per night)
Hotels in Singapore are generally small in space that I feel claustrophobic at times. But when you are out and about most of the time exploring what Singapore has to offer, it’s probably best to spend your money elsewhere and settle for some of the value-for-money hotels available. Note, that there are “cheap” hotels (in price, quality and who or what goes on there) and there are “value for money” hotels. Go for the latter.
Here are the ones I stayed in and why I’d recommend them.
Victoria Hotels, 87 Victoria Street Singapore 188016 : The hotel might feel a little dated in design, though it is simple, clean and staff is very friendly. Location is great being 5 minutes walk to Bugis Junction, and very close to the MRT station and the museums district.
Value Hotel Thomson: 592 Balestier Road Singapore 329901 (Website) : This is a good value for money hotel in a good location. Again, rooms are small, with clean minimalist design. I was pleasantly surprised with the facilities which include a gym and a rooftop swimming pool (see the picture below) . It’s close to transport, and a short walking distance to Novena Square Shopping Mall, where the MRT station is located.
3) The 5-Star Resort: Marina Bay Sands.
Thanks to Finally Woken, I got to experience this hotel on my last trip. But we weren’t that impressed with it. The hotel is your standard 5-star hotel with a clinical feel that comes with a massive hotel, where you are one of the thousands customers around. The lobby is one huge open space with a sea of people coming and going, one can easily gets confused in trying to figure out where to check in and what to do. Someone should have figured out the guest-flow design a little bit better.
Don’t get me wrong though, the hotel is not bad. The room is generous in size with plush comfortable bed, iPod docking and flat screen TVs. I did find one design flaw in our hotel suite – there was no electrical plug in the bathroom. There was a hairdryer in that spacious bathroom, but I looked everywhere and couldn’t find one electric plug. I thought I had gone mad. After all, it’s a 5-star hotel, surely they wouldn’t miss such important element in a bathroom?
I kid you not. Upon reading reviews on Trips Advisor, it turned out, I wasn’t the only one who noticed it.
For the price that one pays to stay here, I’d say head out to other 5-Star hotels in the city or even the boutique hotels around (see below). Unless of course all you want to do is sip cocktails by the infinity pool on the 57th Floor, which is exclusive for the guest use only.
4) The Boutique Hotels – Where I would like to stay in next time
I have had friends staying in these hotels and they seem to keep coming back. Just take one look at their websites and the quirky design of the rooms.
Other travel tips
Getting around: Get an Ezy Link card from any 7-11 store or the MRT stations and this will allow you to travel on all the extensive bus and MRT network. (The card can also be used for other services and purchases where applicable). Another great thing I discovered about the transport system is this website gothere.sg that will tell you what transport options to take to your destination and how long the journey will take. You can also purchase the iPhone app that comes with it.
Walking is pleasant in Singapore, but not when the sun is out in its glory; Singapore can be very hot and humid. Stay in the air-conditioned malls until it’s good to come out and explore. One of the best walk is along the Singapore river from Clarke Quay, all the way to Marina Bay Sands through the Esplanade. A long walk, but do it just in time for the sun set.
Food: Food is a big part of my travel attraction and luckily, Singapore is a food haven; even friends travel to Singapore just to eat. Singaporeans love their food – from the hawker centres to the Michelin-star restaurants, Singapore has them all.
The Hainanese Chicken Rice and Char Kway Teow are my must eat on any visit to Singapore. I don’t have any favourite so far as I tend to explore and stop at any hawker centres or restaurants I find along the way, despite the list I have from friends on places to visit in Singapore. Best tips? Ask the local friend. Or check out this foodblog site on the food of Singapore : I Eat, I Shoot, I Post
What to do: There are too many things to list on what to do in Singapore. (And you obviously have not been reading my part 1, part 2 and part 3 of this Singapore travel series). From shopping, eating, the Sentosa Island resort, the Universal Studio, art performances and exhibitions, and even the beaches (albeit man-made), they have got it all covered. Check out their events calendar (via YourSingapore.com, the official Singapore Tourism website) for what’s on before you head to Singapore. There is bound to be something on while you visit.
If you are anything like me, head out to the museums and galleries. Check their opening times as free admissions are applicable on specific times.
So there, I have said it; I am officially infatuated with Singapore. The museums and galleries, the food, the architecture, the comfortable footpath to walk everywhere and the obsession with everything efficient and organised, it makes the place so easy to travel. There are plenty that I want to explore as it is, and given the track record of the Singaporean government’s effort in trying to make Singapore as a tourist destination instead of just a stop-over, I trust there will be something new the next time I am in town.