In classic Leah style I’ve left this until the literal last minute – I’m leaving Singapore in a little under 5 hours and obviously decided that now was the perfect time to try and update you all on my tips for getting on in Singapore. So I’ll apologise in advance if parts 2 and 3 are a little short and devoid of pictures but I’m on a tight schedule.
So, you’ve arrived in Singapore and you’ve found somewhere to live. The next step is to get to know your new home, and what better way to do that than to visit some key Singapore locations. I’ve probably talked about most of these places in previous posts, so if you want some more detail then please trawl through the back catalogue (I can’t promise it’ll be enjoyable!)
The best way to experience the contrast that is Singapore is to take a little wander down the Singapore river, at Clarke Quay and Boat Quay, and see the colonial architecture in stark relief to the modern skyscrapers that make up the Central Business District. Both Clarke Quay and Boat Quay are filled mostly with bars and restaurants but they all occupy the old shophouses, and it’s really something to see these colourful buildings right alongside the glass and metal of the CBD buildings. The same can be said for the shophouses and temples of Chinatown that look as if they’ve been plonked right down in the middle of a modern city. Chinatown is great for shopping for trinkets and just general stuff; if you’re looking for interesting, but cheap, presents or want some very Singaporean souvenirs you’ll definitely find them here. I’m not really sure what the policy is for haggling, you don’t do it in the rest of Singapore and I’ve never haggled in Chinatown, but I’m pretty sure that you can, although I’m not sure how much good it’ll do you.
Talking of shopping, you should also acquaint yourself with Orchard Road, a shopaholic’s dream, and pretty much the centre of downtown Singapore. If you need anything you will find it on Orchard, probably in the first mall you come to, and you’ll almost definitely get lost while you’re there. But, beware of the Orchard Underpass, an underground passageway that connects god knows how many malls (I think it’s three directly and seven indirectly) and is still confusing even after two years and too many trips down there to count. There are a couple of specific malls it’s good to know about though, if you’re looking for something more specific than just clothes and shoes. Lucky Plaza is a place that terrifies me with it’s over-use of neon lights and really confusing layout, but it’s good for anything cheap, particularly bags and electronics. I can’t promise how legit some of the stuff you’ll buy from there will be, but you’ll definitely get a good deal. It also has a crazy number of money changers, so if you’re ever in need of currency begin your search in Lucky Plaza. I’ve heard that Far East Plaza is similar, but I’ve never actually been in there because, by all accounts, it’s even more terrifying than Lucky Plaza. If you’re looking for slightly more unusual purchases, or shops that are slightly cooler than the usual high street chains then look no further than Cineleisure and Scape (behind it). Scape is an indoor market type affair that has pretty much everything you expect from an indoor market, and Cineleisure is just a bit edgier.
Singapore is basically all about shopping and eating, so I’ve already covered most of the places you’ll want to get acquainted with at first. If you’re looking for a taste of the outdoors and can stand the heat then there are a few places you can go to experience the more natural side of the Island, although they are few and far between. It is to my great and lasting embarrassment that I’ve never made it to McRitchie Reservoir or Bukit Timah nature reserve, so I can only say that I’ve heard that they’re nice. Pulau Ubin is the last remaining mangrove in Singapore, and is probably the sweatiest place on earth, but if you’re here for any length of time definitely take a day and go out there, the journey itself is quite an adventure, and cycling around the island and avoiding aggressive monkeys is a quintessentially Singaporean experience. Other natural places of interest include Gardens by the Bay, and the brilliantly cheesy Supertree light show, and my personal favourite, the history filled Fort Canning Park. There’s also Mount Faber and the surrounding area but you might well get lost up there. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Finally, there is Sentosa. If you want a day filled with theme parks and family friendly activities, horrific crowds and straight up consumerism (pretty much life in Singapore in microcosm) then Sentosa is the place for you. I’d recommend visiting it just to experience a typical Singaporean day out. It can be a lot of fun, but it’s most definitely a very weird place.
I think that’s probably the sum total of the places to visit in Singapore to acquaint yourself with the island. Part 3 is going to be on eating and drinking, but I don’t have time to write it before I go, so I can’t promise how long it’ll be before that one makes an appearance. I promise it’ll be up eventually!
Leah Out X
Update: I’ve done a little bit of editing to this post in an attempt to make it a little less dry, and to make the spelling mistakes a little less frequent!