Swyx's Simple Guide to Singapore

A personal guide to Singapore for foreign friends visiting.

Welcome to the Wakanda of Asia.

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Annotated Map

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IMO Grab, Singapore’s Uber, is essential for getting around quickly. Download and sign up for the app as soon as you can. You can definitely use the MRT and bus system (no need to buy a card, if you can just use Apple Wallet. may need to use debit card) but it wont be as point-to-point as you need for travel with a short time in Singapore.

Singapore in One Day

6-10am: great for walks/runs outdoors as it is going to be cool from the night before.

  • Henderson Waves a simple bridge in Mount Faber near the city center, a relatively new attraction but featured in many videos of Singapore because of its connection to nature image
  • MacRitchie Reservoir more for serious runners, a very popular route around the north of the city. Singapore doesn’t have much natural water, so it emphasises water recycling (once one of Singapore’s hot startups) and uses a system of reservoirs to catch rainwater for purification (and supplements by buying water from Malaysia)
  • East Coast Park - a personal favorite because i live nearby. lots of food options, and bikes for rental. image

8-10am drop in to a Ya Kun Kaya Toast restaurant to breakfast like a local. They’re pretty ubiquitous. I do think Ya Kun is better than its clones. I usually get a “Set A with Teh O Kosong”. I have my soft boiled eggs with a bit of light soy sauce.

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Alternative breakfasts: Nasi Lemak, Char Kway Teow, Prata (see below), or Dimsum

9am-12pm: most malls will be opening up and not too crowded at this time, can be nice for a wander around. Or you could head early to the Singapore Zoo up north which opens at 8.30am (though go in the afternoon if you want to combine it with the Night Safari, a good night zoo open 7pm-12am).

  • in the East: either Changi Airport Jewel (but probably leave this for just after/before your flight), or Tampines malls (there are 3 malls near Tampines MRT)
  • in the West: Jurong East malls (Jem, Westgate, and the non-mall shops in the direction of Jurong Library). Clementi also is like this but to a lesser extent.
  • in the city center: perhaps a good time to just wander around Orchard Road and walk towards Plaza Singapura (30 min walk). Flip the direction if you want to end at Orchard instead for lunch. Make stops along the way - Somerset has really come a long way in recent years especially with 313 Singapore.

It is also not a bad idea to book a Duck Tours ride of Singapore to tour Marina Bay area if you dont mind the gimmick of a boat-car thing. Or for something more active, Bike Tours!

For lunch options refer to food guide below

1pm-5pm: perhaps more malls, the Zoo, or Chinatown, or Sentosa! Def go around Orchard Road if you haven’t already.

5pm-9pm: Gardens by the Bay. Most of it (the Supertrees) is free, but I do like the Cloud Forest and then the Flower Dome to a lesser extent. Definitely walk to Satay By The Bay for dinner (and satay), and perhaps Marina Barrage for the sunset and nice pics of Marina Bay. 8pm and 9pm most days there is a light show.

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If it is raining (as it often is), you can stay indoors at the Marina Bay Sands and in fact you can spend an entire day walking around the underground network connected malls at City Link Mall at CIty Hall and Marina Bay Link Mall (no good url sorry).

7pm-11pm: dinner and night activities

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  • For a fancy drinks night out, head to CÉ LA VI SKYBAR at the top of Marina Bay Sands:

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11pm-4am: late night caps

only 2 valid choices:

  • Go to a well known prata place. Upper Thomson is well regarded but perhaps too snobby. I like the coin pratas and banana pratas, but those are very sweet - just the plain prata is great with curry and egg prata with a bit of sugar. more prata places all over the country, go with a local if you can
  • head to Swee Choon Dim Sum restaurant for the best late night dim sum in Singapore. take note of the mobile order and checkout experience! try to go later at night as it can be quite busy at peak hours (9-11pm). You can also get the dimsum to go if you want to take it out to somewhere else to eat.

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Food

One of the Boon Tong Kees for good hainanese chicken rice

Most Singapore Mixed Rice is great, but the selection at the ones at Bugis Mall or ION Orchard Basement or Paya Lebar or Clementi I think of as reliably good. but don’t overoptimize just look for ones with decently long lines during lunch (there are bad ones but it is a dice roll)

Local food - definitely try Laksa, and Satay. and the others here. Personal underrated loves are Xiao Wan Mian/Xiao Guo Mian for the taste and value (this thing is like $5 and amazing).

Here is Eugene Yan’s list:

I endorse all these foods

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Here is @dimfeld’s list at Hong Lim center:

  • The Cantonese braised chicken feet at Ji Ji Wanton Noodle was probably the best thing I ate the whole trip
  • Dong Sheng makes a really good Kaya toast set
  • Laksa from Cantonese Delights
  • Char kway teow from Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee
  • And elsewhere:
    • Swee Choon Tim Sum - big bao, mee sua kueh ,and xiao long bao
    • Jumbo Seafood - Steamed Cod with Diced Chili and Vegetable (got this as part of set B2)

Few other things for visitors:

  • At S$10 per day; the Tourist pass for MRT (the train/bus) seems not worth it. We took MRT a fair amount and never spent more than S$6 in a day. Maybe if you’re going really far a lot it makes more sense
  • you can pay for MRT with credit card using your iPhone just like Apple Pay,
  • Orchid garden is great, make sure you hit up the coolhouse, both for aircon and since it has some of the best flowers
  • Night Safari is great
  • The national museum has a free tour at 2PM which we found very informative
  • Apple Store at the Marina Bay mall probably has one of the best views of the bay
  • Marina Bay Sands Skypark has the best view but isn’t really worth the cost IMO. - Probably better to go in the evening when the restaurant is open and it’s cooler. We went when it opened at 11 and it was just super hot with not much to do.
  • Duck tour was fun, the “big bus” was not too cheap but also very good for just seeing stuff

Burpple is a good food review site

Food courts are the heart and soul of Singapore food, especially when with a group. Let everyone choose their favorite! Every mall has a food court, and every HDB town has multiple food courts. Most of the famous ones are downtown:

Multiple hawker stalls have won Michelin Stars, but imo after they win they sometimes get overrated/lose their luster.

to be completed

Fancier Food

ok big spender (jk, i dont have expensive taste, but these are the mildly higher price ($50~100/person) restaurants that I recall

Sightseeing

to be completed

swyx approved niche sights - for extended stays

Night Spots

I do like the board game cafes, but cooler people than I would go for the bars in the Maxwell or Bugis

Coworking

there are not many good short term options to be honest, particularly if you need to work late to overlap with US hours. Wework exists, and I’ve personally used SPACES. however the better offices are likely to just be friends’ offices. Antler VC is pretty startup friendly and nice to work out of at all hours.

Adjacent Travel

  • Taiwan is $400 and 4 hrs away by Scoot
  • Bali/Batam are good for cheap holidays. have yet to dive/surf there but would love to
  • Malaysia is the enemy, do not recommend
  • Singapore has some offshore islands that are known tourist destinations but honestly i’ve jsut never been

Fun Facts about Singapore

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The country is about 730 square km (273 square miles - The five boroughs of NYC is 300 square miles) - about 20% of which was reclaimed from the sea (essentially by buying sand from Indonesia and filling in the gaps, and draining water Dutch polder style.

It rains pretty often. It’s not uncommon to have a week where you get tropical rain every day of the week, especially during monsoon season (Dec-Feb, June-Sept):

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Media about Singapore

Podcasts

  • I do enjoy the History of Singapore podcast by PJ Thum, an Oxford academic. it is occasionally hard to cover singapore objectively if you stray from the government approved history. he toes the line.
  • the Straits Times podcasts are a good sampling of local news and concerns
  • the local radio stations 98.7 and 90.5 FM are decent

Books to read on the flight in

Movies about Singapore

  • Crazy Rich Asians is set in Singapore, but is about new/old riche people who are a real thing. Pierre Png, Tan Kheng Hua, Fiona Xie are legitimate local legend/celebrities, while Michelle Yeoh is from Malaysia. When they leave they airport they head straight to Makanstura Gluttons Bay for food, which I strongly approve of and is about the only “real people” thing they do in the movie.
  • thats about it haha. You can watch Jack Neo comedy movies but he is disgraced now
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