Savoring Singapore

Over the past 22 years, I have been to Singapore dozens of times. My first trip was in 2002 with my wife and life partner Regina, a Singaporean. Over the years, we spent many weeks visiting family and friends. In 2018, we decided to spend winter in Singapore. I have had the privilege of seeing Singapore through the eyes of a tourist and the eyes of a native-born Singaporean.

One of the best views of Marina Bat Sands is from the walkways at the top of the Supertrees in Gardens By The Bayr

In 2023, more than 13 million people visited Singapore. Once seen as a stopover on the way to other places in Asia, Singapore now appears on every list of top places to visit. There is a lot to see, do, eat, and experience in Singapore. A few days in the city-state is enough for some people, while at least a week is needed for serious exploration, and four months is just fine for me.

The Merlion, with the head of the lion and the body of a fish, is the official symbol of Singapore. Marina Bay Sands is a modern symbol of the country with the world’s largest and longest infinity pool on the 57th floor

I love the food in Singapore. As soon as we arrive, I head straight for a hawker center. Singapore food is the original fusion cuisine with Malay, Indian, and Chinese (primarily Cantonese, Hokkien, and Teo Chew) influences. The best food is found at hawker centers (food courts) which have dozens of stalls serving local food. Several hawker stalls currently have or have had Michelin stars, and many are designated as Michelin Bib Gourmands. While there are hawker centers designed for tourists (Lau Pasat, Newton. and Maxwells come to mind), I prefer to go to a neighborhood hawker center where the food is more authentic and cheaper.

Char Kway Teo is one of the many noodle dishes that can be sampled at a Hawker Center in Singapore. Hawker Cetner are food courts, mostly outdoors, with some of the best and cheapest food in the city/state

Noodle dishes are my favorites. Char kway teow, laksa, fried Hokkien prawn noodles, wonton mee, satay, Hainanese chicken rice, and kaya toast are must-haves. Chili crab is another and there are many places to eat Singapore’s national dish. Singaporeans like their food spicy, sometimes spicier than I like it. When I try out a new hawker center, I go straight to the stall with the longest line as it is likely to have excellent food. For special occasions, I’ll go to one of the 55 Michelin-starred restaurants in Singapore.

Durian, a unique fruit of the region People either love or hate Durian, a distinctive fruit of the region. One my third try, I developed an appreciation for the fruit

For Japanese food, I go to Takashimaya, a hidden gem for all things Japanese on Orchard Road. There are also some unique dining experiences—dining on a cable car over Sentosa Island, on the Singapore Flyer, or at Ocean’s restaurant with a table next to the giant aquarium.

After having my fill of Singaporean food, the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is my next stop. I especially love the orchid garden with its dozens of varieties growing in their natural habitat. After that, I’m on to the Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay. The towering Supertree Grove is an eco-friendly wonder rising almost 50 meters. I go at night to catch the sound and light show. In the daytime, the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome are lovely as are the rest of the gardens. For special exhibits, it is important to book in advance to avoid the lines.

While in the area, I take in the iconic views of Marina Bay Sands. I have dinner or drinks at one of the restaurants at the top of MBS (as the locals call it) and watch the sunset. MBS also sells day passes for the infinity pool which, at 380 meters, is the highest in the world. In the evening, I go to the MBS light show. It is possible to see the light shows at the Supertrees and MBS on the same evening.

My favorite time to see the Supertrees is at night. I go to the sound and light shows every time that I am in Singapore. It’s short, but beautifully done. Time it right and you can see the Marina Bay Sands fountain and light show right after.

As a museum-goer, I can spend hours at the Art Science Museum which has cutting-edge exhibitions at the intersection of art and science. The Asian Civilization Museum is my second favorite for its wide range of Asian history, art, and culture. I especially enjoy the Islamic art and the Tang shipwreck exhibitions. The National Gallery features Southeast Asian art and is a good way to explore the artistic culture of the region. I love street and public art and Singapore has extensive murals.

One of my favorite World War II museums in the world is the Former Ford Factory, the location of the British surrender to the Japanese during World War II. The museum shows the history of World War II from three perspectives – Singaporean, British, and Japanese. Coming from a Western background, I did not know most of this history and learned a great deal during my visit.

The Former Ford Factory is the location of the surrender of the British to the Japanese during World War II. It tells the story of the war from three perspectives—Singapore, British and Japanese. It is an important part of WWII history in Asia

Har Paw Villa and the Hell’s Museum are unique Singaporean experiences. A bit kitschy, the park has been around since 1937, courtesy of the Tiger Balm founder Aw Boon Haw. It features the Ten Courts of Hell and other displays of mythical and cultural stories. The Hells Museum, a newer addition, explores how religions and cultures relate to the afterlife.

In years past, parents would take their children Haw Par Villa to teach them about filial piety and other customs. The Ten Gates of Hell scared my wife on these visits. I recommend going. The new Hells Museum shows how the afterlife is viewed in many different cultures

Singapore, Penang, and Malacca are the best places to become immersed in Peranakan culture. As Chinese immigrants they made their way south in the mid-1900s, many Chinese men married Malay women and adopted all facets of the culture except the Muslim religion. This became known as Peranakan culture. There are two museums devoted to Peranakan culture in Singapore. The Intan requires a reservation to enter and has a wonderful collection of Peranakan clothes, dishes, and decorations. The Peranakan Museum has a comprehensive collection of Peranakan artifacts. When I want to eat Peranakan cuisine, I go to one of Violet Oon’s restaurants or Charlie’s Peranakan hawker stall in the Golden Mile Food Center.

One of the most well-known resort areas in Singapore is Sentosa Island. Here you’ll find lovely beaches, Universal Studios, Resorts World’s S. E. A. Aquarium, zip lines, luges, laser shows, and much more. For more World War II history, I stop by Fort Siloso.

I have been to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple at least a dozen times. It is a must do in Singapore. Especially at night. To go inside (highly recommended) you must visit during the day.

I love to spend an afternoon exploring the ethnic neighborhoods in Singapore. Little India has Mustafa’s– a great place for shopping and eating Indian food. Going to Kampong Glam to see the impressive Sultan Mosque is always a treat, especially during Ramadan. Chinatown is the place to be for the Lunar New Year and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. I go into the temple everything I am in Chinatown. There are many lovely Chinese and Hindu Temples, mosques, and churches in Singapore. For evening activities and restaurants, I go to Clarke Quay. There are tons of trendy restaurants and bars in the area. Joo Chat is another vibrant neighborhood on the east side of the island.

The Lunar New Year is a festive time in Singapore. Chinatown is bustling, especially the on the eve of the New Year. Lion Dances are an important part of the festivities. I highly recommend going to the Chingay Parade to see performers from all over the region.

Pulau Ubin Island, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, and the Southern Ridges are places to go for nature walks, especially to see bird migrations. For water views, a bumboat ride along the Singapore River is a great way to see Merlion Park and other city views. For cultural experiences, I go to Esplanade Theaters on the Bay or the Victoria Theater. For shopping, Orchard Road is a road of malls with every designer store imaginable.

Getting around Singapore is very easy. The trains and buses are cheap and efficient. Grab is Singapore’s version of Uber and is easy to book. Since it’s near the equator, Singapore is warm all year round with a rainy season in the fall and winter. Over my twenty-two years of visiting, I have yet to run out of new discoveries. I highly recommend taking the time to savor all that Singapore has to offer.

Sue and Reggie at the Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay The Cloud Forest is one of the many attractions at Gardens By The Bay. Best to book in advance to avoid the lines
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