Living the high life...backpacker style

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Asia » Singapore
May 5th 2013
Published: May 14th 2013
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We didn't know until a few days before we left the Philippines where our next stop would be, as we just couldn't make our minds up on where to spend our last few weeks. Flights anywhere seemed expensive, but we wanted to go somewhere which would be diverse enough to excite us yet also have time for relaxing and great beaches. Once we had decided on the country where we would end our trip, it worked out cheaper (and suited us) to go to Singapore for a couple of days first, but it would be some 14 hours later until we got there. First, we had to take a Zest Air flight from Coron to Manila, where the plane wasn't much bigger than a car and used propellers instead of full engines, but it was only an hour or so. Arriving at the domestic terminal in the capital, we got a shuttle bus over to the International terminal ,but our flight was still 10 hours away and with nowhere to sit or sleep here (T1) until check in we whiled away a few hours in a fast food joint and a nearby hotel lobby. We finally checked in for our flight at 2.30am, took off at 5am and slept for the whole three hours, until we landed in Singapore feeling more than a little worn out.

Having been to the city before, we took the MRT (tube) to Ferrer Park where we had pre-booked a hostel that turned out to be one of the best we have ever stayed in. Accommodation here is probably the most expensive in Asia after Japan, so we chose a shared dorm room in ABC hostel, but it was a dorm with a difference - it offered double beds which were more like private cabins and really cosy so we were more than happy, especially as it was ready straight away so we could get a couple more hours sleep. The hostel also had free Wi-Fi, free breakfast, great hot showers and it was really new and clean too. What we really loved though was that for just 1 SDG (Singapore Dollar)/50p you could get a coupon for the Chinese restaurant downstairs and take your pick of delicious rice or noodle dishes from a big menu - in a city which is expensive for backpackers, things like this really help and we were down there like a shot for a tasty lunch, before crashing out for a couple of hours.

Later that day we ventured out to see Orchard Road, the famous shopping street, but we just window shopped and were amazed at how many shopping malls there were along one street; at least 30! And they were all huge and very grand looking - this city must have the most shopping malls in Asia, even more than Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, and they have their fair share. After wandering around this area for a while we hopped on the MRT over to a district we were looking forward to a lot, mainly for the food - Little India. Last time we were here in 2010 we ate some great Indian food which was cooked fresh to order in several restaurants, but after walking round the streets for a while it became apparent that the restaurants now mainly served canteen style Indian food, which disappointed us a bit. Don't get us wrong, we still enjoy this type of food, but we had it so much in Malaysia and had been looking forward to having a good fresh cooked curry here so we were a bit sad, but none the less we found a nice little place and had a feast which was very good, especially the mango lassi. We were shattered that night so went back to our hostel early and watched a film in our cosy cabin, falling asleep before 10pm.

As we have been to Singapore before we didn't feel the pressure to see or do anything major this time around and were just content with taking it easy while we were here. After a few hours of internet bits in the morning, we headed over to China Town to explore the markets which we really liked, saw the impressive Devil's Tooth Relic Temple, bought some chopsticks (of course) and Scott even got his eyebrows threaded in a small salon so he now has two again instead of just one 😉 We then had one thing on our mind - food of course! And we knew exactly where we wanted to go to get it, our favourite Hawker Centre, Maxwell's. Hawker Centre's are all over the city here and they are basically huge food courts serving up all different cuisines for very low prices, we love them. We headed straight to stall number 10 which specialises in a Singapore staple - Hainese chicken and rice. Its such a simple dish, literally just chicken and rice, but the chicken is boiled/poached so its silky smooth and the rice is cooked in a broth which gives it a delicious flavour. Served with some cucumber and chilli sauce on the side, this is one of our favourite meals, and it only cost 3SGD/£1.50 each - amazing.

Everyone knows Singapore is expensive, especially for alcohol, with a can of beer from the 7/11 costing £3, but it also has great nightlife which we wanted to check out, so that night we got a bit dressed up and armed with some of our own drinks we went over to Clarke Quay, an area filled with bars and clubs. Being a Friday night it was packed and of course the drinks in the bars were out of our budget - £7.50 for a beer and more for a cocktail - but we quickly found a spot right outside a cool bar on the river with a live band where we could drink our own drinks and listen to the music whilst soaking up the atmosphere, so we had the best of both worlds. Eventually we went into a busy bar which had a livelier band on and enjoyed dancing along to them, and before we knew it it was almost midnight. We had a really nice evening but it definitely made us think of being back in London, where when we had jobs we wouldn't think twice about buying drinks in nice establishments like the ones here, and seeing all the ex-pats who had just finished work bought it home to us that sometimes travelling on a budget in cities like this can be hard when you want to go out but can't afford the high prices. We managed to get the last train home and gratefully ate the remains of our 1SGD noodles that we had ordered earlier that night from the Chinese downstairs before crashing out after a fun night.

For the first time in ages we didn't set an alarm clock the next day but still woke up fairly early, well before 11am. We were hungry so got ready and went to find a hawker centre we remembered from our last visit called the Tekka Centre which is in the Little India area. We wish we went to this place sooner! It was a dream for us, with maybe 60 stalls selling a variety of Indian food for £2-£3 each - I had a yummy naan with a veg curry while Scott had a succulent Lamb Biryani, both were amazing and set us up nicely for the day ahead. No visit to Singapore would be complete without seeing the famous Marina Bay Sands, a new luxury 5* hotel with three towers and a boat shaped rooftop pool going across the top, so we got the MRT over there to check it out. This hotel is huge and so opulent, we heard rooms cost £250 a night which is extravagant but considering what you would pay for the same luxury in say New York it probably wouldn't seem that much to the rich and famous. After wandering through the lobby we ended up in the lift on the 55th floor, which led to the spa, and somehow Scott charmed the security guard to let us go up to the 57th floor where the pool was, although it was supposedly strictly guests only. We had secretly hoped we would be able to get up here just to see the panoramic views of the city (as the sky lift up to the viewing platform cost £20!), but as we were here and conveniently had our swimwear in our bags...we did the only thing that came to mind, which was to act like a hotel guest and get in the pool! Wow this place was incredible, very glam, and the infinity pool offered the best views across the whole of Singapore while the Jacuzzis on the other side overlooked the F1 race course. There was some serious money being spent here but obviously we couldn't even afford a bottle of water, however we spent a good few hours sunbathing and swimming in the pool which was awesome, living the high life literally. When we left we walked past the Singapore Flyer (like the London Eye) and strolled across the Formula One race track which was cool - it's where the world's only F1 night race is held in September, and we stopped at poll position for a few photo's before passing the pit building and getting the MRT back after a great day.

On our last night in the city we decided to go to a nightclub which was holding an event with a world famous DJ, so got ready and headed over to the Clarke Quay area again, with our shop bought drinks of course. We didn't get out until late as we had a nap so only had 45 minutes or so around there but it was just as busy as the night before so the atmosphere was good. Then we walked along the river to Zouk nightclub, where we got in for free as we had emailed them earlier that day, saving us around £30 - Singapore is so expensive for a night out, even more than London! Once inside we made the most of a drinks special and spent some time people watching and giggling at the crowd, who were mainly Asian and from what we have seen on this trip they can't really handle their drink, so we shouldn't have been surprised when at midnight the men's toilets were busier than the ladies with guys emptying their stomachs. We went down to the dance floor for a couple of hours and danced until we left around 2am, grabbing a taxi back to our hostel which only cost £5, demolishing the noodles from earlier and getting no more than 4 hours sleep, as we then had to get up for our early morning flight to the last destination of our trip...

Singapore is a really cool city and even though we were backpackers on a budget we still had a great time here. The variety of food was a highlight for us, and it was very cheap as was the public transport, while accommodation and alcohol were expensive. No doubt we will be back again one day!

S&V's Travel Info & Tips:

General Info: Approx 2 SGD to £1.

Transportation: Singapore is well linked with an MRT (tube) system, with journeys costing between 1.10 SGD and 2.20 SGD. You can take the MRT from the airport to anywhere in the city, saving a lot of money on a taxi.

Food: As we said we love the food here! The Hawker Centre's are amazing value with lots of variety, our favourites were Maxwell's near China Town and the Tekka Centre near Little India.

Accomodation: ABC Premium Hostel was fab, with cool double beds in dorm rooms costing £35 a night for 2 people (they also had single beds). It had free Wi-Fi and breakfast and was near the Farrer Park MRT stop, so very handy.

Other observations:

x) The Singaporian's are a friendly bunch they will stop to chat given any opportunity.

xx) The city is fairly accessible on foot, especially if covering the main sights at Orchard Road, Little India and China Town

Additional photos below
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14th May 2013

It's great to hear that you enjoyed the time in my home country so much! Next time if there's a chance I can bring u guys around if u all are in SG again:)
14th May 2013

Phillipines and Singapore look great! Enjoy your last few weeks. Ps - eyebrows look great!

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