Experience Singapore like a local
This article was inspired by Jeric Adriano’s piece 4 ways to experience Singapore (published on the EF Vietnam and EF Japan blogs).
It’s said that Singaporeans’ favorite activities are eating and shopping – once you set foot in the Lion City, it’s easy to see why they have perfected both. However, Singapore, which is about half the size of London, has way more to offer than shops and restaurants: Check out our guide that will help you experience the famous and exciting diversity the city has to offer.
Eat all of the food
Do what Singaporeans do best and eat your way through the city’s delicious cuisines: Go for the Indian dosa and feel the richness in all the sauces and spices, or try the Hainanese chicken rice if you’re leaning toward Chinese flavors. Sample some laksa, a spicy noodle soup, to experience a taste of Malaysia. Fusion it up, and visit a mamak stall to see what happens when Malay and Indian cuisines come together to create such masterpieces as roti canai, the popular flatbread. Oh, and if you’re craving something sweet, try a staple of the Singaporean cuisine: kaya toast – a heavenly concoction of coconut jam (that’s the kaya), sugar, coconut milk, and eggs, all served on toast.
Drink all of the coffee and tea
It’s important to stay hydrated while sightseeing and exploring, and Singapore makes this endeavor a pure (and mouth-watering) joy: Two important words that you need to know are teh (tea) and kopi (coffee), both of which you can find them both at a kopi tiam, a coffee shop, that offers myriad ways to order the popular beverages. While you’re at it, make sure you sample some teh tarik, the national drink of Malaysia that can be translated as “pulled tea.” Its ingredients are simple – milk and tea – but the way it’s made wonderfully explains why it’s called pulled tea: You pour the tea from one cup into another and repeat the process until the drink is frothy. It doesn’t sound particularly exciting in writing, but it’s impressive to watch.
Experience the quirky
Haji Lane, located in the Kampong Glam neighborhood, is a must: This Malay-village-turned-hipster town gives off a fun and eclectic vibe: It’s a short and narrow street with no skyscrapers, boasting a multicultural and artsy atmosphere that will let you forget that you are in one of the busiest metropolises in the world. The area is filled with unique shops, alternative eateries, and cozy cafés that are perfect for taking a break from admiring the cool architecture, colorful murals, and edgy street art.
Take in the cool and hip
Tiong Bahru is currently the coolest suburb of Singapore, and it’s full of coffee shops (yes, more kopi!), bookstores, and art galleries nestled between old Chinese building estates. The trendy neighborhood is the perfect mixture of east-meets-west-meets-art-deco and can best be experienced during a casual afternoon walk.
Explore the bay that has it all
The Marina Bay area is truly spectacular – both by day and at night: Anywhere is a good starting point, but why not get an overview of the city’s impressive skyline from the Singapore Flyer, one of the world’s largest observation wheels. For a cool photo-op, visit Merlion, the famous half-fish, half-lion statue in Merlion Park. Then, we recommend you head over to the award-winning Gardens by the Bay: a truly breathtaking patch of green with loads of picnic opportunities, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, vertical gardens, and more flowers than your Instagram feed can handle. Oh, and let’s not forget that all of this is surrounded by restaurants, shops, museums, and “that” building…
Splurge and take the swim of a lifetime
Singapore’s piece the resistance is definitely the Marina Bay Sands: the three-cascading-hotel-towers with a 150m-long infinity pool on the 57th floor. Let’s face it, taking a dip doesn’t get much more magnificent than this. The Marina Bay also includes nightclubs, a casino, a plethora of stores and restaurants, and a museum – just in case you get bored of all that swimming with a view.
Marvel at iconic architecture
Singapore boasts some of the world’s most impressive buildings, so get your camera ready: The “Vertical Village,” a housing project with stacked residential blocks, was chosen as the World Building of the Year 2015 and looks a bit like something you’ll see during a game of Jenga. The Marina Bay Sands never ceases to amaze, and neither does the ArtScience Museum that, to some, looks like a flower, and to others, resembles, the hand of a robot. And while we’re interpreting architectural masterpieces, let’s not forget The Esplanade, a performing arts center, that’s basically a giant durian fruit or the eye of a fly. If there’s still space on your phone or memory card, hop over to the Helix Bridge to pose, snap, and share.
Discover the city’s wild and green side
Singapore might appear as a concrete jungle, but the city is bursting with green spaces that are never more than a hop, skip, and a jump away. You can explore the city and its history on a bike (Punggol Waterway, Bidadari Cemetery or Halus Wetland), admire iconic gardens and parks by foot (Chinese Garden or Fort Canning Park), soak up the sun on the many beaches (East Coast Park), or observe wildlife in their natural habitat (Jurong Bird Park, Sungei Buloh, or Chek Jawa).
Sentosa is a beautiful island resort, less than a kilometer away from Singapore’s main island. The name translates to “peace and tranquility” in the Malay language, but Sentosa is far from being sleepy. After a short cable-car ride from Singapore, you’ll set foot on a five square kilometer island full of exciting attractions, popular theme parks, and resort-style hotels. But it’s not all about entertainment, as Sentosa also has its own luscious rainforest and two kilometers of white sandy beaches that will fill your Instagram feed in no time.
Image by Nicolas Lannuzel, Flickr / Creative Commons