As I prepare to venture off into yet another Asia adventure, I’m compelled to give a little shout out to one of my now favourite cities on the continent: Singapore. While the Lion City’s reputation is, at times, a little lackluster among travellers, I can say that this isn’t a place where you should let its critics get in your ear.
I feel fortunate to have recently discovered the chance to consistently bag cheap flights to Asia from my normally-not-so-cheap small home airport in the depths of the wilderness of the Great White North. My saucy secret travel hack? Flying on United Airlines via Singapore.
Let’s just say, I’m more than okay with the arrangement. Besides the insanely long flight time between LAX or SFO and SIN, anything that’ll help me get to Asia more often for less AND allow me to roam the streets of Singapore for a couple days is a-OK with me.
Need a little push to visit? Here are a few of the best reasons to visit Singapore…
#1: Oh-so-tasty food
Even jet-lagged and cranky AF after a 17.5-hour (yikes!) flight, my love of Singapore quickly blossomed via my tastebuds—as my travel love often does. In a half-daze, I roamed around Chinatown for a late-night snack, stumbling into one of Singapore’s most famous hawker centres, Chinatown Complex Food Centre.
Spoiler alert: It didn’t disappoint.
After wolfing down what was, undoubtedly, the most succulent wonton noodles & char siu combo of my entire existence on earth, I knew that my love affair with Singapore wouldn’t end in one trip.
The best part about Singaporean cuisine is the variety. Like much of what you’ll find scattered throughout the city-state, the country’s three main ethnic groups—Chinese, Indian, and Malay—are well-represented in Singapore’s most famous foods.
Besides those oh-so-delicious wonton noodles, a couple other dishes to taste include:
- Laksa: Along with Japan’s tonkotsu ramen, laksa is a god among mere soups. As you scroll through the Malay Peninsula, each region has their own different version of this classic dish. You’ll find just about every variety of laksa in Singapore, but keep on the lookout for the city’s two most famous variations, curry laksa and katong laksa.
- Char kway teow: This Chinese-inspired dish is a Singaporean classic, tossing together broad rice noodles with a dark-soy-based sauce among a variety of ingredients like sausage, pork fat, eggs, cockles, and fish cakes.
- Nasi lemak: A popular Malay breakfast staple consisting of fragrant coconut rice topped with ingredients like sambal paste, deep-fried anchovies (not as fishy as you’d imagine), peanuts, and fried chicken.
#2: Charming historical districts
Although Singapore’s often seen as a beacon of modernism, the city’s also surprisingly packed with historical flair. People often forget that Singapore’s emergence as a global financial powerhouse is only recent, and that up until about 50 years ago, it was, along with its former country-mate, Malaysia, relatively underdeveloped and traditional.
Whether you spend your first 24 hours in Singapore strolling along the Singapore River’s lovely historical quays (Clarke Quay, Boat Quay, and Robertson Quay), wading through small boutique shops in the old Malay quarter of Kampong Glam or sorting through saris in Little India, it’s not hard to get a sense of what Singapore was like before its mega economic boom.
#3: Brilliant modern architecture
On the flip side, it’s hard to ignore the beauty of Singapore’s more modern side. Peering upon the central business district in the evening from Marina Bay is one of the simplest pleasures you’ll have while visiting Singapore.
And let’s not forget the nearby Marina Bay Sands. If you’ve watched Crazy Rich Asians—a persona you’ll have to summon to stay at this luxury hotel & casino!—you’ve probably seen this extraordinarily unique three-towered structure topped with a boat-like rooftop.
Even if you’re not keen on re-mortgaging your home for a night here (hey, it is, after all, one of the absolute top choices for where to stay in Singapore, if not in the entire world!), be sure to pop up to the hotel’s Marina Bay Sands Sky Park or one of the rooftop restaurants & bars for incredible views over the modern skyline.
#4: Innovative attractions
It’s not a secret that Singapore’s got some tremendously cool stuff that you just won’t find anywhere else in the world. Case in point: Gardens by the Bay.
Sprawling 101 hectares in Marina Bay, Gardens by the Bay is not just one of the coolest things to see in Singapore, but, undoubtedly, one of the world’s most unique places. As you wander around here you’ll find everything from a Flower Dome and Cloud Forest to art sculptures and well-manicured Asian garden.
The most famous attraction at the Gardens by the Bay, though, is its space-age Supertree Grove.
These innovative trees aren’t just built to harness spirit of Pandora; they act as an exhaust for cooling for the nearby conservatories and contain panels to harness solar energy. Time your visit with the nightly Garden Rhapsody when the supertrees explode into a cavalcade of colours timed to a musical medley.