Singapore is one of my favourite destinations. I like the multicultural environment which you can see in every part of the island. Probably one of the biggest reasons why I was ( and probably still am) eager to live there for a while. For me cities are not about the buildings that they have, rather than about the feeing that they give when you are there. So here are a couple of reasons why I am so fascinated by this tiny booming country, and what you should do if you are planning a visit:
Still the #1 thing to do in Singapore, and it completely deserves the title. It’s an amazing getaway within the city, which gives you the chance to be fascinated by all the amazing tropical plants and distinct flowers. I would suggest getting off at Botanic Gardens MRT station.There is a gift shop mid-way, which also serves as a good place to cool down, after quite a walk. The Orchid Garden is totally worth the $5, take a nice stroll and enjoy the colourful flowers and their stories. Good recommendations for The Halia inside the garden, but I would definitely recommend Relish Burger at the entrance, may it be for a flaky croissant and cafe latte or even for a burger. Gotta love the ambiance.
A part of Singapore which I really like, probably as it reminds me of Beijing. Full of different food stands, you have the opportunity to try several authentic Chinese cuisines. I usually go to the 麻辣香锅 , but beware that this dish comes extra spicy and there is a special procedure when you order: grab a bowl, fill it in with different vegetables, meats, tofu or fish and weigh it, then you pay and wait 10-15 minutes for that same bowl to be cooked with lots of spices and chilies. They usually give you a card that vibrates when the food is ready. I would suggest getting 1-2 bowls of rice to combat the spiciness. It goes really well with a cold Milk Bubble Tea from CoCo Tea just opposite the food stand. There are endless options here from fast food stands to restaurants, and most of them are pretty decent. Chinatown is also a good place to get really cool and cheap souvenirs, even Durian candy or Mooncakes. It is also a good place to get your nails done 🙂
This part of Singapore between Serangoon Street and Jelan Besar is full of colourful 2-story buildings, many amazing Indian temples and lots of Indian food. It’s a good place to get your eyebrows fixed or even better, get your hands henna tattooed.
Arab Street & Haji Lane
It’s never ceases to amaze me how Singapore is made of all these different cultures and religions. If you came across several Indian temples in Serangoon, or Chinese ones in Chinatown, it would only be predictable to see a golden Mosque in Arab Street. And if you walk just a bit further, you will find yourself in one of Singapore’s coolest little streets, Haji Lane. Expect the cutest little shops with some very special stuff, some of which might come a little bit pricey.
City Square Mall
As our hotel was very close to this mall, and also considering the MRT station is basically inside the mall, we did spend quite some time inside here. It has a very nice food court in the upper floors, several restaurants as well, and also a game area. The shops are also quite nice, they have a Charles & Keith here. The 2 ground floors are filled with little food places for breakfast, including a Fairprice (huge supermarket).
There are quite a few things one must not leave Singapore without eating these fruit and food in particular:
Every time I go to Singapore, I keep finding out new fruit that I haven’t even seen or heard before. The last time I went there I discovered Selak, the snakeskin fruit. The absolute must for everyone going to Singapore is of course, the king of fruit, Durian. Known for its smelly flesh, you shouldn’t be discouraged by that, because instead when you eat the silky, custard yellow meat of Durian you cannot even smell it but are pleased by the sweetness and richness of this incredible fruit, that you wonder how can this be made from nature. Tian’s favourite however, is Mangosteen, as he likes to call it a “cold” fruit, which apparently it also aids digestion. In the Durian family, it’s also another favourite fruit of mine, Jack fruit, which is a bit less smelly than the Durian, much sweeter and not as soft.Other fruits to try would be: Rambutan, Indian Mango, Papaya, Lychee, Dragon fruit ( or Pitaya). And a good place to try all these would be in Chinatown or Bugis Street market.
Typical Singaporean breakfast
A typical Singaporean breakfast is usually made of kaya toast, which is basically toasted bread spread with butter and coconut jam ( it is just as good as it sounds) served with barely done runny eggs which should actually be slurped, and kopi, which is local coffee sweetened with condensed milk. We also like to add some dim sum to this, such as 粽子 ( zong zi – sticky rice filled with meat or vegetables, wrapped in bamboo leaf and then steamed). For a bit of a Malaysian hint, order Nasi Lemak, which stands for fried fish with some rice. For me there’s something odd about eating fried fish for breakfast though, I guess I am just not used to it.
A local friend first sent me to this ice cream & desserts place in Toa Payoh on my second trip to Singapore. I absolutely loved their salted Gula Melaka aka salted caramel and had to go again.
Tim Ho Wan
The first thing you should know about Tim Ho Wan is that it’s the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant. But that doesn’t mean that it is less delicious than its more expensive counterparts. Again a courtesy of my local friend who sent us to this gem, where we stuffed our faces with different dim sum and other amazing little treats. Expect great authentic Chinese food which is meant to be shared. We went to the one inside Plaza Singapura but plenty of other locations available.
If you decide to go to Orchard Street, one of the main and most famous streets in Singapore, it will be pretty hard to avoid passing through ION. Filled with almost everything you could ask for, they have some pretty nice brands from Forever 21, H&M, Zara, Muji, Accessorize and many more. Their food court is one of the best, and they make the best 干炒牛河, beef flat rice noodles. They have some really nice dessert places, especially one called Subway, which makes the most amazing Singaporean desserts. I die for their Kuid Dadar, which is a Pandan crepe filled with coconut. And then a little bit further is my favourite Bubble tea in the world from Taiwanese Share Tea, Winter Melon tea with bubbles.
The Japanese gem inside Singapore, is a big shopping mall with many different luxury stores. They have a really big and nice bookstore, while I really like the store on the lower ground floor with lots of knick knacks. A floor lower there’s a very Japanese food court, which is worth trying. They also have my favourite ramen place there, Ajisen. On this floor they usually hold different fair kind of events, once it was with food and once with children’s toys.
One of the newest malls in Singapore, you will definitely pass by it if you are going to Sentosa Island.
Charles and Keith
One of the few ( in not the only) Singaporean brand, for mostly shoes and bags, and some other small accessories. I particularly like shopping and checking out Charles and Keith because it makes me feel like I am bringing home a very Singaporean piece with me, that most likely won’t be able to find anywhere else. Not quite so realistic anymore, as they have a very nice online shop and plenty of shops outside of Singapore now ( like in China). But then the style is quite different and very much to my taste. Although there are plenty of their shops everywhere around Singapore, the greatest deals you will get only at the Airport shop. Of course, here there’s a limited selection of designs and sizes, but a very fun shopping experience for adventurous and frugulous types like me.
Flying from Tirana
The best way to get there ( and anywhere in Asia for that matter) is via Turkish Airlines. I have nothing but praise for them. The planes are very good, service impeccable and so many more benefits when you fly from Tirana. Flight schedule being a very important one, as you leave Tirana on an evening flight ( which gives you opportunity to sleep and get adjusted to the time difference easily). You transfer in Istanbul for less than 2 hours and after a red eye you arrive in Singapore in the afternoon. The flight back is also very convenient as you leave Singapore at midnight and arrive in Tirana around 8 in the morning. For those who are working this schedule is beyond amazing, as you get to save 2 days from your leave (yay).