12 Amazing Hours in Singapore

While booking my plane ticket to Bali, I was weighing the options of a 6-hour layover in the Singapore airport, or a 12-hour layover so I could leave the airport. As you can guess, I went with the 12-hour layover so I could do a bit of exploring in this humid cultural melting pot. I never regret opting for a lil adventure so it turned out well 😀

Singapore at sunrise  Singapore at sunrise

I feel like I had two days in this city since I arrived at 3:30am. My initial plan was to cab straight to a park so I could check it out when it opened at 5am (most Singapore parks open at 5am). I’m glad I didn’t do that. Turns out the sun wasn’t rising until right before 7am so I’d just be sitting in the dark in a random park without cell service or anything, so that idea became less appealing. I figured I’d kill some time getting some work done at the airport, charging my phone and then figuring out the public transportation system. Their train system is SO easy to understand and luckily all the signage is in English so this was probably the easiest Asian travel experience ever (good intro for me since I’d never been to Asia). I did grab a map which proved to be a day-saver since I didn’t really plan anything and struggled to catch WiFi.

Train in the morning... nothing compared to the train packed at rush hour  Train in the morning… nothing compared to the train packed at rush hour The train card  The train card

I thought the trains seemed so big with so much empty space early in the morning, but by 8am when everyone was going to work we were packed like sardines. (Note—it seems like the days start later here. It was a ghost town til around 8:30am, and some coffee shops don’t open til 9am or even 10am!) I was taller than most people unless there was a tall Western boy nearby (I saw a good number of Americans here, more than in Sydney for sure. Or maybe they are just easier to point out here).

After a mere 12 hours in this awesome town, I have the slightest taste and can’t wait to check it out again one day—especially the museums, food and nightlife! What floored me was Singapore’s unique history and an obvious influence from so many cultures: Chinese, British, Arab, Indian and Malay (and even some American). It’s such a cool mix. Now that I have my bearings (and hopefully got my “taking the train the wrong way” thing out of my system (this happened more than I’ll admit), I’ll be able to fully jump in next time.

Here’s some things you should definitely hit up if you’re in Singapore –

1. Gardens By The Bay

This was amazing. The Super Grove Trees are giant tree-like structures and they are a sustainable system keeping the gardens alive, doing a multitude of tasks like returning oxygen to the air. It’s so cool. Go early in the morning — it’s so peaceful and beautiful. It brought me back to being on holiday with my family in remote towns. I just laid under the super trees for a while and pondered life. Twas nice.

2. Haji lane and other cool neighborhoods

This is a lively street in Arab town. Cool shops, street art and food. I imagine this place is fun at night. I obviously got a smoothie… I realised after drinking it that maybe that wasn’t smart because there was ice in it, and I’m not sure if Singapore’s water is contaminated or not. I of course did not research this beforehand. Hmm. Time will tell.

There are some other cool alleyways I thought about visiting but chose this one — here’s the list of the other ones I consulted.

3. Walk around downtown and check out the museums!

The Esplanade Park is stunning. Also go check out the Fullerton Hotel—it is a gorgeous historic building. I did check off a ton of walking on my quick day in Singapore but the museums look amazing (and I’m not always a museum person so that’s saying something). Like I said this city obviously has so much history and cultural influences. I’m keen to learn more about it (am currently reading Wikipedia for Singapore history smh).

The museums I will check out whenever I am back here: Singapore Art Museum, Asian Civilisations Museum, ArtScience Museum, and National Museum of Singapore.

4. Check out a cool local spot (I went to a popular local coffee shop)

In general it was fun to get lost just a ~little~ bit to get a better sense for the city’s hustle beyond the beautiful show Singapore puts on downtown. Since I love coffee shops, I googled the best coffee shops in Singapore. This once called Chye Seng Huat Hardware came up with amazing reviews and it was a 22 minute walk from Haji lane, so why not.

I ended up having to find it using one Google Map screenshot that didn’t have street names. Useful. A quick rainstorm was upon us so I needed to find the place quick! To my relief I found it after walking through what seemed like an industrial area—lots of hardware stores and auto shops. I was getting a lot of lengthy looks from men and I was a bit uncomfortable, even though there were plenty of young people around obviously heading downtown for work. But being a tad uncomfortable can be good 🙂 By the end I felt like a pro of the area (especially since I had to troll around the area and wait for the coffee shop to open at 9am).

This ended up being one of my favorite things! The coffee shop is actually near a hostel so I met some Americans at the shop, but it was mostly cool Singaporeans 😛 The coffee shop doubles as a bar and it is very ~trendy~ so you know I’ll be hitting that up for happy hour one day to get a true nightlife experience.

Oh, also, this is apparently a v Singaporean thing to do—get your kopi (coffee) in a little takeaway bag and drink it with a straw. I did this at the airport. Not into the plastic bag thing but I didn’t even know I ordered it…and I will admit it was fun to tote around my little coffee.

Image from leonefabre.blogspot.co Image from leonefabre.blogspot.co

5. Explore the nightlife

This city seems like it gets lit at night (both with spectacular lighting and the social scene), so I look forward to seeing that one day.

TL;DR: Bottom Line

I know other people have way more experience in Singapore than myself, but just as a starter—you’ll have a good time if you do these things: take public transpo, go to the Gardens, walk around the Esplanade, see the Parliament Building and one or more of the museums, go down a cool laneway (visit Arab town. Yum food), have a kopi, and get a little lost 🙂

Oh and apparently the Sands infinity pool is only $30 for a drink so it’s probably worth going up there and looking super luxe ?