Singapore was once a fishing village, hence its national symbol, the Merlion. Designed in 1964 for the Singapore Tourism Promotion Board, the largest Merlion measures 8 meters designed by Kwan Sai Kheong and sculpted by Lim Nang Seng. It has become the symbol of Singapore that it is obligatory for tourists to take a picture with the Merlion on the background.
Modern Singapore was founded in the 19th century and it became a Crown Colony in April 1946. Today it is one of the most prosperous countries in Southeast Asia.
All I could think about as I boarded the plane which was taking me to the city state of Singapore was the Merlion; images of opulence, of tall buildings and large shopping malls with the most famous name brands.
People who enjoy ancient history and culture might not be impressed with the 21st century buildings of the young country but those who enjoy shopping and other luxuries will find it to their liking. Some of the great things Singapore has to offer is its cleanliness and safety. The streets are clean and it has a very low crime rate.
The Lion City has a tropical rainforest climate and it has no distinctive seasons. Temperatures usually range from 22 to 35 °C (72 to 95 °F). April and May are the hottest months while the wet season usually starts from November and lasts until January. July to October are the often the months when there is haze brought about by wildfires in neighboring Indonesia.
Currency is Singapore is the Singaporean dollars.
From the Philippines to Singapore, I booked a flight with our country’s leading budget airlines, Cebu Pacific. During my first trip to Singapore, I spent about $250 on a round trip ticket.
GETTING AROUND SINGAPORE
Singapore has one of the world’s most efficient bus and transport system but one thing that surprises people is the fact that Singaporeans drive on the left-hand side of the road. Unlike in other Southeast Asia countries, traffic is orderly. In order to navigate the city well, you will need a copy of The Singapore Street Directory.
Private cars. Singapore is quite an expensive country. It is has actually been awarded the not so coveted title of the most expensive city in the world. The rate for car rental is around $150 per day but there may be special deals for longer-term rental.
Bus. Singapore’s bus system is the envy of many countries. Passengers rarely have to wait more than 20 minutes for a bus! Fares range from $.050 to $1.20, but there are also buses which charge a flat rate. Riding a bus to your destination is easy! Just purchase your ez-link card and swipe when you embark and disembark from the bus. You can also drop the exact money into the fare box.
TIP: No change is given when you use bills or coins to pay for your bus fare so make sure you have the exact amount ready!
Train. Singapore’s MRT system is quite easy to navigate, even for first-timers. Train stations are clean and orderly. EZ-link cards used for buses are also used for the train system. There are various top-up counters in train stations, should you run out of fare money.
Taxi. Singapore has almost 20,000 taxis and it is easy to flag one down, except when it is raining. Fares start at around $2 for the first kilometer and then $0.10 for each additional 220m.
However, it is important to note that there are various surcharges. From 11:30 in the evening to 6 in the morning, there is additional charge of up to 50% of your total metered fare. Journeys from the airport also have a $5 surcharge from 5pm to midnight during Fridays to Sundays.
WHERE TO STAY
Singapore is a country with numerous accommodations for various budgets. Hotels run the gamut of the very expensive 5-star accommodations to more humble ones. The average hotel rate in Singapore is about $50.
WHAT TO EAT
Singapore has a cuisine which is a mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian influences. There are food for the meat lovers, as well as for vegetarians. Exploring Singapore is incomplete without tasting the dishes the country has to offer.
- Bak kut teh
Bak kut teh has been a favorite in Singapore since the time when it was only a fishing village. There are various bak kut teh recipes but some of the most common ingredients used are star anise and pepper.
2. Fried carrot cake
When the word cake is mentioned, people think of desserts, however, fried carrot cake is made with eggs, radish flour cake, and preserved radish. There are various versions but the most common you will see in Singapore is the chopped up version.
3. Kaya toast and soft boiled eggs
This is the iconic breakfast of Singaporeans. You will see this in hawkers at the start of the day. The bread used is the traditional rectangular white loaf, toasted on a bread grill and then lathered with coconut or egg kaya. The eggs are usually put in a large hot water metal pot and then covered.
4. Chilli crab
Crabs with chilli sauce is a must-try dish when in the city-state. These crabs are usually eaten with mantous or buns dipped in chilli sauce.
Laksa is a dish which is the result of the merging of Malay and Chinese cuisines. There are 2 main types of laksa, asam-laksa and curry laksa. The more predominant type is the curry laksa. The traditional Singaporean curry laksa uses fish slices, beancurd puffs, coconut milk, cockles and shrimps.
6. Curry fish head
Another ambiguous dish which is most probably of South Indian origin, curry fish head is delicious. Made with the whole head of red snapper, it also has many variations.
WHAT TO SEE
- Helix Bridge
The Helix Bridge links Marina Centre to Marina South in Marina Bay. Officially opened in July 2010, the bridge was designed by Cox Groups from Australia and Arup from Singapore. The bridge has 4 viewing platforms located strategically and it has been recognized as the World’s Best Transport Building in 2011.
2. Singapore Flyer
A giant Ferris wheel, the Singapore Flyer officially opened to the public in March 2008. The Flyer has an overall height of 165 meters and was once the tallest Ferris wheel in the world until the construction of the High Roller in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ticket prices for the Singapore Flyer are USD $27 for adults, USD $17 for children and USD $20 for senior citizens.
The Merlion is the symbol of Singapore. It has the head of a lion and the body of a fish. The lower half of the merlion’s body represents the country’s origin as a fishing village when it was still named Temasek and the upper part of the Merlion’s body represents the country’s original name Singapura, which means lion city.
4. Marina Bay Sands
Marina Bay Sands is the iconic luxury hotel of Singapore with breathtaking views. The hotel also has a skypark where you can take in stunning views of the city-state.
Room rates start at USD $240. Skyopark rates are USD $19 for adults, USD $13 for children and USD $16 for senior citizens.