Swyx's Simple Guide to Singapore
A personal guide to Singapore for foreign friends visiting.
Welcome to the Wakanda of Asia.
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.
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Sometimes there’s concerts in the Esplanade you can grab tickets to! plan ahead for this one. also perhaps check out local plays and performing arts type things
- if with a friend group, a board game night could be fun, at one of the Mind Cafes.
- For more bro-ey activities, perhaps pool or darts in Bugis
- For just drinks and a club type night out, Clarke Quay has clubs, bars and hookah bars. I also like the Korean BBQ and outdoor bars near Prinsep/Bencoolen. If living in the east, I am partial to the bars outside the Paya Lebar Square/Quarter malls for a quieter drinks night with occasional live performances
- For a fancy drinks night out, head to CÉ LA VI SKYBAR at the top of Marina Bay Sands:
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.
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)
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:
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ok big spender (jk, i dont have expensive taste, but these are the mildly higher price ($50~100/person) restaurants that I recall
- Canton Paradise I consider the best chinese food restaurant in Singapore - many locations - they have an upscale brand with Paradise Dynasty
- Crystal Jade probably the runner up
- Haidilao hotpot often involves a wait but is good hotpot and they give you a little performance if you order specials
- Morton’s Steakhouse for Steak
- Jumbo Seafood or No Signboard for seafood
- $$$$ famous brunch or dimsum at raffles hotel
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swyx approved niche sights - for extended stays
- Coney Island
- Pulau Ubin
- City Center
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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):
- 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
- Notes from an Even Smaller Island - famous humorous travel book about what its like encountering Singapore as a Westerner. Has a 2012 sequel.
- From Third World to First - Lee Kuan Yew’s autobiography, widely regarded as one of the best autobiographies of a famous world leader (LKY was basically the founder of Singapore, and a well regarded country leader) . long and heavy read, be warned
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