Jan 31st, 2018, 12:07 PM

The Insider's Guide to Singapore

By Laurence Hewitt
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Someformofhuman
Navigating a foreign city can be tricky, so I'll take care of it for you.

So, you've ended up in Singapore. Hopefully this was a planned trip, rather than one of those nights where you fall asleep on an old boat and end up in Southeast Asia. Either way, you now find that you have some time to kill. What should you do? What shouldn't you do? Just how exactly did you end up in that shipping container? Your next thought might be, 'why are you writing this' (and if it isn't, it should be). I moved to Singapore in 1999, lived there twice between 1999 and 2001 and then again from 2008 to 2013. Even though I don't have the passport-- nor was I ever technically a resident-- I most certainly feel like it's my home. 

Do This: Go to a hawker center. These hives of various food stalls are the place to be. The number one thing to do without question is to indulge in Singapore's best feature: its food. What food, you ask? Well, my friend, that's the beauty of these hawker centers:  the cuisine covers any and every type of food or drink that you could ask for. The hawkers are spread throughout the city, with every local having their own personal favorite. In my opinion, the Newton hawker is the best one in town, since its mostly open-air and it's packed from corner to corner with a variety of excellent foods. Plus, they upgraded the bathrooms a while ago from "unusable" to "I guess it could be worse".  

Image Credit: Wikimedia/Allie_Caulfield

Maybe Don't: You'll be tempted to go on the Singapore Flyer. Don't. From the outside, it looks like the perfect vantage point to see all of Singapore from the sky, and the offer of eating dinner above the glistening city is enticing. The catch, however, is that the Singapore Flyer is overpriced and breaks down practically every other day. You can get a far superior view literally 10 minutes away from the top of Marina Bay Sands.

Do This: Speaking of Marina Bay Sands, it's more than worth your time to visit this impressive building. This skyscraper has quickly become a Singapore icon, despite only opening in 2010. From its shopping to its view, Marina Bay Sands is worth your time. The building has everything:  a casino, high end shops, clubs, restaurants and even a concert hall. With three towers connected by-- for lack of a better description-- a surfboard roof, Marina Bay Sands stands on its own across the bay while it looms over the rest of the city. The surrounding area also includes even more classic Singapore iconography: The Fullerton Hotel and the Merlion, sitting just across the bay. While The Fullerton is the perfect place for breakfast or afternoon tea, the Merlion is the de facto symbol of the country. As the name suggests, the statue is half-lion and  half-mermaid; if that doesn't convince you to see it, nothing else will.

Image Credit: Wikimedia/Erwin Soo

Maybe Don't: Do not go to Universal Studios. The Sentosa-based attraction simply doesn't offer enough for those over the age of 13. It's fairly small and fairly overpriced, plus in recent years its best ride (The Battlestar Galatica rollercoaster) has been plagued with safety issues and often closes for months at a time. 

Do This: Club Street is the best place to grab a drink in Singapore. On Friday nights they block off the road so that you can sit out in the open air and have a nice refreshing drink. It's loud but not obnoxious, it's lively but not aggressive, it's the perfect place to unwind. I'd recommend Gem Bar (full disclosure: my best friend's father partly owns the bar, but if I didn't love it, I just wouldn't mention it). 

Maybe Don't: Singapore is a hugely impressive multicultural city, which is something that you can truly feel throughout the country. That being said, Little India is sadly a waste of time. There are two exceptions to this, however: the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is an incredible place to visit. It's a colorful and vibrant place, and the perfect way to get a feel for Hindu culture. The other exception to visiting Little India is if you happen to be in Singapore for Diwali. The whole of Little India becomes one huge festival; the streets are covered in lights, and the atmosphere becomes extremely lively. Outside of those two exceptions, however, Little India is mostly just a fairly standard shopping street that lacks in personality. I'd recommend China Town ten times over. 

Image Credit: Flickr/nekotank

Do This: I'm going to air a personal grievance here. I hated Park Mall with a firey passion that could fuel a star. It was a dour shopping center that sold furniture. Low ceilings and dark brown and gray stone walls were stained with the inescapable smell of old coffee spewing from the worlds worst cage, mixed with a cigarettes spewing from the worlds worst smoking area. Every time I was forced to go, it felt like I was being punished, because no eight-year-old wants to buy a new chair. Even worse: it was across from a cool shopping center that had a cinema and place that sold swords. The feud began in earnest on a summer day. It was a crisp 34 degrees Celsius. I had come presumably because I was tricked into being there, so I sat for what felt like three years waiting for my parents to buy a chair... a chair that  we never bought. It was a breaking point. I had lost some of my life to this place. Life I would never get back. I then made a vow that somehow, someday, I would destroy that building. It stood for many years mocking me, saying "you'll never truly escape me." It haunted my dreams for years. I hated this place. However, in the end, I won. Park Mall was closed and is being torn down. So please go stand outside what used to be there and laugh. Point and laugh at this building that nearly ruined me. I won Park Mall. I won.