Crossing the bridge from Malaysia into Singapore was like stepping into another world. Suddenly, traffic laws and pedestrian crossings were obeyed, sidewalks lined the streets, people waited in lines, and the air and streets were noticeably cleaner. Singapore is undoubtedly one of the cleanest cities I have ever visited.
It’s also incredibly beautiful, (at least for those who can see the beauty in a city, a category I definitely fall into). After only a few hours in the city, I could already sense that Singapore would be near the top of my list of favourite cities around the world. As a global commerce, financial and transportation hub, Singapore is the world’s only island city-state. (We were there more than anything to use the city as a transportation hub as it had the cheapest plane tickets to Manila, the Philippines).
Our first day in the city we spent walking around the central business district (CBD) walking over 25,000 steps (my phone tracks that…). We admired the sky scrapers we hadn’t seen in ages and looped back along the riverbank. Singapore has seemingly put a great deal of money into art strategically spread out through the city, especially along the Singapore River.
Because posing with art is fun <3:
We wandered from Bayfront to Clark Quay, down both sides of the Singapore River. We walked past Raffles Place and admired the modern architectural skyline backdrop behind the old shop houses that lined the Singapore Riverbank. We stumbled upon old British colonial buildings, and so much more. Although we walked a ton, everything is connected with an efficient and easy-to-use transport system that we happily hopped on when our legs started to tire (or more accurately, when we needed a cool down from the intense heat).
As the sun began to set, we positioned ourselves to watch the Wonder Full Light & Water Show at Marina Bay Sands from across the river. *You can watch the show from either side of the river, but the lasers are more visible from the side across from the hotel where you can get the full view; however, you miss most of the water show which is too far away to notice and can’t hear the music. Honestly, it wasn’t that spectacular (it looks better in the photo than I remember it!) but if you’re in the area, it’s worth stopping for. There are two shows a day – at 20:00 and 21:30 with an additional 23:00 show on Fri & Sat.
Following the show, we headed over to the opposite side of the river to go to the top of the Marina Bay Sands – the building where the lights had been coming from. We were told by a friend that you can get to the top for free if you go to the restaurant but found out once we arrived that men need to be wearing pants and shoes. Dan was in shorts and we didn’t have much time in Singapore – nor was there any way I was getting Dan into pants in the near unbearable heat. So, we paid S$22 each for tickets to the Sands SkyPark Observation Deck , 57 levels up and boasting panoramic vistas of stunning Marina Bay and the ‘world-class cityscape’. Cited as the ‘best vantage point in the city’ we thoroughly enjoyed the gorgeous night views and even caught the second Wonder Full Light & Water Show (which, again – is nothing to go out of your way for).
Our second day we headed into Chinatown to mow down on the city’s best hawker food, at the city’s largest Hawker Centre: Maxwell Food Centre. Of course, like many Southeast Asian countries, Singapore is as much about the food as anything else. While Singapore has many high-end restaurants, some of its best local dishes are prepared in crowded, open-air markets (hawker centres) by experts using recipes honed for generations and I couldn’t wait to taste them!
Our first stop was the famous “Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice” stall. It’s often referred to as the most famous chicken rice stall in the world – there’s a picture on their stall of Anthony Boudain eating there as well as a sticker showing the results of a cook-off with Gordon Ramsay (which he lost). Obviously, we ordered the chicken rice. When I saw the plate of plain-looking rice topped with plain chicken, I was a little dubious – but after the first bite I was impressed! It amazed and surprised me how much flavour was packed into the dish – I didn’t even need the dipping sauce!
The next dish we searched for was “Carrot Cake.” We had no particular stall in mind, we just wanted to sample the famous dish, which is definitely not what you think it is (or what it’s name suggests). This savoury carrot cake has no carrot in it and is commonly referred to as ‘chai tow kway’ in the Teochew dialect. The core ingredients of the cake are rice flour and white radish which some call white carrot (hence the name). The mixture is steamed, then cut into cubes and fried with garlic, eggs and preserved radish and either served black (fried with sweet dark soya sauce) or white (original).