Sorry I’ve been so MIA lately! December means Midterms for Thai students, so I’ve been up to my eyeballs in writing tests & grading papers. I’ve also been traveling a lot lately, and frantically scrolling through the internet trying to figure out where I’m off to after Dan Chang. I say Dan Chang because I’m definitely leaving little Dan Chang, I just haven’t decided if it’s for Bangkok, Madrid, France, or Chicago. We’ll see! In other exciting news, I’m going to Chiang Rai next week on an annual teacher’s trip for my school, then Christmas in Cambodia, NYE in Bangkok, and I’ve booked flights to Myanmar at the end of February! But anyways, back to October break travel, here’s my short trip to Singapore.
Singapore – this country always gets a mixed reaction from backpackers. At least from the peasants I tend to mingle with here in Southeast Asia. Let’s be real, we’re all ballin’ on a budget. Some people roll their eyes and say Singapore is overrated, mostly because it’s they can’t afford it. And by expensive it’s comparable to US prices, really it’s just pricey in comparison to the rest of Southeast Asia.
On the flip side of the coin, some people freaking love it. And by love it I’ve heard multiple people say they could live there. While I would probably pick a different country if I had to leave Thailand, I thought Singapore was pretty dope.
Singapore reminds me of something out of iRobot, or any other futuristic something-is-taking-over-the-world Will Smith movie. It’s shiny and sleek, with perfectly clean sidewalks and skyscrapers around every corner. It’s known for it’s strict littering laws, and it shows.
The helix bridge at Marina Bay.
I booked a short stopover in Singapore while traveling from Penang, Malaysia back to Krabi, Thailand to head to Koh Phagnan for the Full Moon, costing me only about $6 US extra than flying direct. The Singapore airport actually offers free tours of the city if you have a layover.
I slid into Singapore on Saturday evening. I really underestimated how much time I had, so as soon as I threw my bags down I rocketed from my hostel to tick everything off my list. I stayed in the chic Haji lane area. It’s a little hipster neighborhood full of old shophouses converted into modern shops and hostels.
Feeling hella broke after spending a couple weeks running through Bali and Malaysia, I wasn’t trying to spend a ton of money on transportation, so I headed off on a nice 30-minute walk to Marina Bay. In Singapore you can get the train direct from the airport, which is always a wallet-saver.
Gardens by the Bay
While Singapore is expensive, there is a TON of free stuff to do. The first thing I did was head over to Gardens by the Bay to check out the man-made solar-powered trees. There was some show going on where they changed colored in accordance with music, complete with children and parents. I felt like I was crashing Disney World a little. The trees were cool to see, but after snapping a few pictures I dipped.
Then I headed over to Marina Bay Sands to check out the rooftop bar. Marina Bay Sands is the huge hotel that you see in all pictures of Singapore. It kind of looks like a boat on top of 3 pillars, and the boat is where the rooftop bar is. Buttttt I messed up and got there too late to just grab a drink at the bar – it was nighttime, meaning the bar was now a club, with a 40SGD cover just to get in. I’ll drop 20 on a nice cocktail with a view, but I’m wayyyyy too poor to drop 40SGD on cover a club by myself. So I tucked my tail between my legs and headed off to Plan B– The Raffles Hotel.
The Raffles Hotel & Singapore Slings
Seeing as I’m a peasant, why would I head off to the expensive Raffles Hotel? I’m a huge cocktail nerd, and the Raffles Hotel is the hotel that originally invented the Singapore Sling. So I broke my budget to try a cocktail in it’s birthplace, I know I’m the worst.
Online I had read ahead of time that a Singapore Sling was only about 20SGD at the Raffles Hotel. Wellllll surprise surprise- it was 36SGD. But I figured I had come too far not to drop some dough on the freaking cocktail. So I grabbed a handful of peanuts and told the bartender to hook me up.
The Lowest of Lows
To be honest, I’d never even had a Singapore Sling before this trip, at least one that was memorable. I read something at the hotel that said Singapore Sling’s were invented so that it would be acceptable for women to drink in public. And I could see that this pink concoction truly was the original “girl drink,” I think the alcohol to sugar ratio was even higher than sangria. I paid 36SGD to say that I tried the original Singapore Sling, but I definitely did not pay for a cocktail that I enjoyed.
Then I realized my next mistake of the evening – while most places in Asia don’t have tax, this usually doesn’t apply for nice Western-style places. Definitely not nice upscale Western places like the Raffles hotel. So one of my worst nightmares came true, I ran out of cash.
This is probably the worst country this could’ve happened in. I don’t know why I didn’t have my card with me? But like I said before, Singapore takes their laws VERY seriously. It’s illegal to even spit gum out on the sidewalk. I immediately started freaking out – getting arrested for walking out on a bill is honestly a new peasant low, even for me.
So what did I do in this situation? Channeling my 15-year-old delinquent self, I confidently threw some bills in the check folder, stood up, and strutted out of the door like I actually was meant to be there. All was well until the waiter came running after me – after I awkwardly offered to let him hold my license while I got more cash, he realized what a pathetic POS I was and let me off the hook. For the sake of drama, all-in-all I narrowly avoided getting arrested in Singapore.
After again WALKING for 40 minutes, with an empty wallet and shattered pride, I made it back to my hostel, only to wake up a few hours later and carpe diem before carpe-ing a flight to Krabi.
Singapore has a mascot, something that I find both adorable and hilarious. What is this mascot, you ask? A Merlion. What the hell is a Merlion, you ask? A mermaid tail with a lion head. It doesn’t even have enough dignity to have any kind of limb. So it’s more of a lion-headed fish.
There is a grand total of 5 statues of this less-than-majestic beast around Singapore. The one I chose to visit was again, at Marina Bay. I could barely snag a selfie with the thing without getting another tourist in it. The Merlion is one of those tourist attractions where everyone just kind of wants to take a picture with it and move on with their life. Similar to the Mona Lisa, but with less sophistication and history. No one actually stops to ponder why that silly statue is there and what the hell a Merlion actually is. Are there even lions in Singapore? Are there mermaids? After spending time in this corner of the world I’d say some kind of cockroach hybrid would be more appropriate.
Sri Mariamman Temple
Vibrant Little India, where the temple was located.
Don’t get me wrong, Buddhist temples are beautiful, but after spending time in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia I’d definitely say Hindu temples compete. They’re significantly more colorful, and the array of gods makes for an interesting variety in statues and idols.
I tried to snap some siq pics without being disrespectful of the majority of people at the temple who were actually there for worship.
After that, I whisked myself off to the airport. And by whisked I mean walked my broke butt to the train and took public transit to the airport. Less than 24 hours in Singapore in a nutshell.
‘Curry Laksa in the airport before heading back to Krabi. While I wanted to try a bunch of different Singaporean foods, I was not in the mood for eating after spending a week in Malaysia. Oh well, next time!