There’s no chance of a dip in the rooftop pool of the Marina Bay Sands, but Vince does at least dip into the local cuisine as he samples, all too briefly, Singapore…
After the short stop off in Kuala Lumpur we kept up the turbo pace and only spent a couple short days in Singapore. If Kuala Lumpur was an upgrade from the grittier Southeast Asian spots, Singapore was the Ritz Carlton. It really is incredible how clean and modern that city/country is. The skyline was slightly reminiscent of Los Angeles, the sidewalks are wide and unbroken, street names are primarily of English origin, the traffic is orderly; it felt like I was back home (but the streets were much cleaner).
Like many travelers do, we stayed in Little India which is one of the more affordable neighborhoods in the city – Singapore is aggressively expensive. It was interesting to be in this India away from India, after leaving there merely weeks before. It’s wild just how dense of an Indian community has formed in Singapore, and their lifestyle/sense of community seem relatively intact, but existing within the more developed Singaporean metropolis. It’s a good place to stay, within walking distance to the central business district, and close to great restaurants and transportation (yes, the metro was awesome, I’ll save you from my usual paragraph on public transport).
On our first day we wanted a lunch to be remembered and we stumbled on a Shabu-shabu place called Steamboat Ramen that provided eats fit for a King. When you utter the words “all-you-can-eat” to two American guys who have been traveling for six weeks, you’re in for a narrow profit margin on that bill. With a little technique-guidance from the group of locals next to us, we concocted some of the best ramen I’ve ever had – and I’m reasonably seasoned (pun tragically intended).
After that we covered a good portion of the city center on foot, taking us past the Marina Bay Sands Hotel… If you haven’t seen it, Google image that bad boy right now. Now Google image the rooftop pool. Maybe next time I’ll stay there. Similar to Bangkok, a scenic river cuts through the core of the city, offering a nice little strip of touristy restaurants/bars along the bank on Boat Quay – a good place to stop for a $10 beer…
Due to lack of time and funds we didn’t do much by way of bars or restaurants at night, but we ended up putting more than usual energy into seeking out great lunch spots. The next day we had a great meal at a food court near Sim Lim square where we feasted on some seemingly authentic local lunchtime cuisine (Bourdain correct me if I’m wrong here). The place was lined with dozens of stalls with all different types of Singaporean, traditional Chinese, other types of Southeast Asian cuisines, and some oddities like rainbow jelly and monstrous squids.
I wish we had had more time to spend in Singapore, and like Los Angeles, it seems like the type of place that is much better when you know someone. Big, industrious metropolitan cities like Singapore can be some of the most interesting and enjoyable places to live, but difficult to fully appreciate and experience in a short window of time.
That’s it from Vince for now, but join him next week when he heads to the Philippines. For more of what Urban Travel Blog has to say on this sanitized but stimulating city don’t forget to check out Richard Tulloch’s insider city guide, plus his excellent article on the best attractions and places to stay in Little India. And, last but not least, if you’re interested in visiting Singapore – along with Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand on an epic journey of your own – check out the itinerary of Tucan Travel’s South East Asian tours. On their 48 day trip you’ll experience a Halong Bay cruise, the Mekong Delta, Angkor Wat, a Vang Vieng bicycle tour, a hill tribe trek, an elephant ride, a bamboo raft ride and much more.