Going back to Singapore and having the opportunity to show Ryan around the country that I called home for 3 years was easily my most nostalgic travel experiences yet. Growing up as a “military brat,” my dad’s career took us to Singapore from 1997-2000. Some of my greatest childhood memories and best friends came from my time in Singapore. So when we had the opportunity to take one final trip before my gig as a housewife was up, there was no second guessing that our trip would be to Singapore.
Although, my opinions are completely biased, Singapore is one of those places that one loves for many reasons. It is warm all year long (I might want to add humid), it is culturally diverse, and the food is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. Even more so intriguing, Singapore has long held the title of being the cleanest, greenest, safest place on Earth.
In 2015, our journey to Singapore happened to fall right before Chinese New Year, the year of the sheep. Our hotel, The Scarlet Singapore , was situated right in the heart of Chinatown which gave us a perfect view and chance to see how Singapore prepared for Chinese New Year. The Scarlet Singapore is a luxury boutique hotel which fully lived up to it’s claim of luxury and made our stay extremely comfortable.
It had been a while since I had experienced Chinese New Year and one of the few phrases I actually remembered from Mandarin Class as a kid is “Gong xi fa cai, hong bao na li,” which essentially means “Happy New Year, now give me my hong bao.” I was positive this would not be as cute coming from my adult self as it was from my 9 year old self, but luckily English is one of the many official languages of Singapore. We spent our first day wandering the lively and festive red filled alleys of Chinatown, viewing temples, watching dragon dance shows, and taking in Chinese New Year’s vibes. This is the day in which Ryan decided it was time to buy a GoPro to begin documenting our travels.
Our second day in Singapore was dedicated to a trip to The Raffles Hotel and a boat tour to the Merlion and marina area. Ryan had purchased the tickets for the tour, but we failed to realize that the particular ticket that we purchased did not include the high tea portion of the Raffles Hotel. At the last minute our guide mentioned that she had 4 tickets available for the high tea. We quickly scrambled to let her know that we were interested and she managed to squeeze us in. For those of you not familiar with the Raffles Hotel, it is one of Singapore’s best known hotels. It was built in 1887 as a colonial style high end hotel and named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore. They are also known for the signature drink of Singapore, The Singapore Sling. If you ever visit Singapore, be sure to visit the Raffles Hotel and partake in their high tea.
As I mentioned before, I gained some of my best friends while in Singapore. I met my oldest best friend back in 1997 right after moving to Singapore. Her dad introduced himself while my dad and I were in the Navy Exchange and invited me to her birthday. Melissa and I ended up being neighbors after a few months and her brother and my brother ended up becoming best friends as well. Melissa’s mom is from Singapore and as soon as Melissa heard we were going to Singapore, she let us know that her uncle owned a bar called Cuba Libre in Clarke Quay which we had to visit. We had met Uncle Trevor earlier in the day before they were opened. He made sure that we planned to come back later that night. Looking back, I wish I would have asked Uncle Trevor about the history of Cuba Libre, but in short it is a really trendy Cuban bar adorned with tributes to Cuba, metal art of Che Guevara, live bands, dancing, and an overall good time. If there is one thing that you must order at Cuba Libre, it is their mojito. It is easy to lose track of how many you’ve had and this easily was one of the best mojitos I have ever had.
I must admit that I was fortunate enough to still have some elementary/middle school friends that still lived in Singapore. I’m still ecstatic that we were able to meet up with them at a bar called Screening Room and they were incredibly helpful with recommending all of the things that Ryan and I should do our trip. It was even more fun catching up on all of the time that we had lost over the years. Thanks again Meghan and Nadine! There are no greater friendships than international friendships.
Because I could honestly write in lengths of details about Singapore because the trip meant so much to me, I’ll condense it and leave you with my Must See/Do List.
- Try Chili Crab: Singapore is a Southeast Asia Food Mecca. There are so many delicious cuisines from so many cultures because it is a melting pot. The chili crab is by far one of the most well known dishes from Singapore. Let’s be frank here… Seafood is usually a hard no for me, but coming back with Ryan I knew that we had to share this dish. I would eat this dish over and over again and probably drink the sauce. It was simply that good. There are a few places in Clarke Quay to enjoy it. Jumbo Seafood is one of the most recognizable. However, it is wise to make a reservation if you plan to visit Jumbo Seafood. We were not able to get a table there, but we found a great restaurant near by that offered the dish.
- Visit the Hawker Stalls for majority of your meals: Hawker Stalls are essentially food stands. The food is delicious and fairly cheap. Since Ryan and my internal clocks were off, we would often find ourselves going to “take a nap” aka going to bed early and waking up again at 11:00 PM and walk to a nearby late night hawker stall to eat at. Some dishes that are well known to Singapore that you have to try are Hainese Chicken (a childhood favorite of mine), Char Kuay Teow, Satay, Roti Prata. Singapore is a blend of so many cultures so you will essentially have a little bit of everything. If you’re brave, try durian. The smell might be overwhelming, but it actually tastes fairly good.
- Take a tour of the Tiger Beer Brewery: Although we didn’t feel that we were able to get as in depth of a tour as we might have had in the States, the Tiger Beer Brewery was quite fun. We even got to pour and enjoy our own beers at one point of the tour and of course what better way to enjoy a Tiger Beer than in the motherland.
4. Shop on Orchard Road: If you’re into high end fashion and brands, Orchard Road is the place to go shopping. Even if you aren’t, it is great for window shopping. Keep in mind Singapore is one of the most expensive countries in the world. So budget accordingly.
5. Take a stroll around Little India: We honestly could have stared at this temple all day and would have loved to take a tour of it. Little India is so vibrant and there are surprises around every corner. We honestly didn’t spend enough time in this area.
6. Ride the cable cars over to Sentosa Island: Sentosa Island is home to a number of activities like Universal Studios, Madame Toussade, Dolphin Island, Skyline Luge, and Adventure Cove Water Park just to name a few. We chose just to walk the beach where there were several volleyball tournaments going on, peacocks taking a stroll, and grab a bite to eat and while watching the sunset.
7. Things I Wish We Could Have Done or Spent More Time Doing: We made a quick stop at the Casino and took a quick peak at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool. If I recall correctly we had to buy a drink at the bar in the hotel to go see the pool. It was nighttime when we arrived at the hotel so we did not get to fully enjoy the view of the pool. I am sure that it is amazing during the day. Gardens By the Bay is another must that we didn’t get to see. The pictures and videos that I have seen are truly breathtaking. Take a trip over the border and into Malaysia. Trips to Malaysia used to be a regular occurrence for my family. Some cities that I would highly encourage you to visit are Malacca and Johor Bahru.
There is so much that has changed in Singapore even in the last few years and there are probably a number of things that could be added to this list. If you’ve ever been to Singapore, I am interested in what you would add to this list. Let me know in the comments some of your Singapore Musts.