Living in Singapore Like a Local
In late May, I traveled to Singapore for the second time in life in order to visit my longtime friend, Robert. He and I studied abroad together in Hong Kong back in 2014 and had kept in touch ever since. He’s Dutch and lives in South East Asia; I’m American and live in North East Asia – I think it’s cool how we come from different lives back ‘home’ and have ended up enjoying a sort of similar experience. Needless to say, I was excited to reunite. Also, because the only other time I’d been to Singapore was on a 26-hr layover back in 2014, I was fully ready to explore the city through the eyes of a local.
Here’s my little guide to visiting Singapore!
The first thing to note is that Singapore is expensive. I’ve lived in New York and Hong Kong, which are among the most expensive cities in the world, but I guess little Changwon city life here in South Korea hadn’t cushioned me to the blow of 15 dollar beers and the like. Hard to imagine at first, but I prevailed overall because I was prepared. So my advice to you, if you plan to visit Singapore, is to have a solid amount of money on hand so you can have a good time without stressing out.
THE CITY IS FULL OF ART.
Maybe you’re a visual creature and are enthralled by the colors of the rainbow appearing in all their glorious shades and variations on the assorted canvases around the globe, or perhaps you just like to look at art. Whatever your jush, Singapore has something for you. Like many diverse and densely populated big cities, there’re several communities dedicated to art and music. I recommend you search your local Facebook events and find something interesting. You’ll get an experience different to what TripAdvisor suggests, and probably be supporting local artists.
THE CITY IS FULL OF HISTORY.
I took a long walk from Little India, where my hostel was located, to the Chinatown area to meet Robert for brunch, and there was so much to see. I do prefer walking in a city when I can. Maybe it’s the New Yorker in me or the fitness enthusiast, but I just love being able to take in a city while getting those steps in. The first photo below is of a church of which I forgot the name. I wasn’t even thinking of those details as I snapped some of these pics. The second was taken in Little India. I was told that during certain holidays, the square is lit up and brightens the whole night sky. I also visited the National Design Centre, which had a free exhibit chronicling Singapore’s design milestones over the past 50 years. Contemporarily, I can say I love the architecture Singapore displays. And it’s certainly not by accident! If you’re like me and are aroused by visually pleasing places, that’s a singular reason I’ll recommend you visit Singapore. There’s a lot to be inspired by, and the photos I’ve shared below don’t even cover a fraction of it.
THE CITY IS FULL OF FOOD.
It’s not hard to find a vegetarian meal in Singapore. The city is an amalgamation of different cultures and food tastes and is always changing, so you can expect for western culture to be present as well. I ate my fair share of Indian food (some of which I was already keen on and some that were new to me!) as well as your standard brunch items with a seasonal or artistic kick. Food happens to be one of the aspects of a country that lets you get a little deeper into understanding the people and the culture. Being that Singapore has so many nooks and crannies, sort of a sample representation to the whole, it can be fun to travel to different areas of the country and discover different food. Pictured below is just a small sampling of what I indulged in during my trip. Side note, but also important, it helps to eat with friends who love food, too! Make sure to clean up that drool as you scroll.
BONUS! RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE.
I stayed at a hostel called The InnCrowd Hostel, located in Little India. Beyond the location being pretty stellar and the vibes within the hostel being better than average, they host a free scooter tour a few times a week. They provide the scooters and expert guidance of the city. I think it’s a great way to see parts of the city you may not have seen normally and meet people with whom you’ll either commiserate with over the drenching sweat you produce throughout the tour or high five after you make your way over a steep hill. Just another fun and cost-effective way to get more from your trip. Even if you’re interested and aren’t able to do it through this hostel, you can search the web to find something similar! The more you know…
THE CITY IS FULL OF COLOR AND NIGHTLIFE.
There is a light show both by the Marina Bay Sands as well as at the Gardens of the Bay every night! That’s right, I said nightly! Sure, if you went most days out of the week, it would get dry, but they can be pretty mesmerizing if you’re looking for something to do while you kill time. I rather liked the water show at Marina Bay Sands better than the show at the Gardens. The former was an optical masterpiece while the latter was beautiful and alluring due to how large everything was. You may have a different opinion though, so check it out!
As for nightlife, there’s plenty of it. I’m not a huge partyer, but because I was hanging out with my friend who was a local, I thought it’d be a good idea to experience what local people experience when they want to suck down a bucket of beers and have a good time. I can’t exactly remember the name of the bar we went to on my first night, but I think it was called Sharky’s. Very dive-bar-ish with so many expats and throwback music! The only photo I captured from that night was an opaque and blurry one of the ceiling where patrons had drawn their best renditions of genitalia. Gotta love it.
Can I quickly talk about how I somehow accidentally booked a business class ticket for my flight back to Korea? I promise, my toenails aren’t actually dollar bills that grow every time I clip them. I swear I wouldn’t have done that had I been paying attention to me buying my ticket. Anyway, since I was in that situation, I guessed I would just enjoy it! I dunno, man. Airport lounges and complimentary champs and food might have to be the new wave for me (after, of course, the initial embarrassment of not knowing where the lounge was and asking the custodian if the food was free – new experiences, man! Don’t judge.).