It felt so good to be back to what I consider my second home: Singapore! Five years have passed since I worked there, and everything still looked quite familiar. This time, I traveled with my family and had a quick vacation from work. Creating a jam-packed travel itinerary posed as a challenge. There were just so many places I wanted to revisit to rekindle “sweet” memories in so little time! Finally, with the help of my sister, we were able to carefully narrow down our top must-visit sights to seven. 🙂 Here they are, plus the superb restaurants we tried along the way.
Groupfie at Haji Lane
7 Tourist Attractions and 7 Restaurants We Visited in Singapore in 3 Days 2 Nights
1. Clarke Quay & Jumbo Seafood
Upon arrival in Singapore, we took the SMRT from Changi Airport to Metropolitan Y Hotel in Stevens Road. It was past dinnertime so the top of mind for the best spot to hang out in Singapore was none other than Clarke Quay, where ambiance is always the stark opposite of quiet and discreet—even in the wee hours of the morning. Night lights looked stunning and the pile of restaurants were still incredibly crowded at 10 pm. We’re not exactly the type who would just linger for drinks. Conversely, one of the reasons we flew here was to try Singaporean food specialties.
At Jumbo Seafood Restaurant, be ready to treat yourself to a seafood extravaganza. Chili crab, cereal prawns, and Singapore noodles (mei fun) are all must-orders. Prices are high but damn does this restaurant deliver the goods. Scallops in taro baskets were succulent and absolutely fantastic as an appetizer. Everything else was tremendously tasty and delicious. We enjoyed our meal a lot! Moral of the story? While there can be so many crazy dining trends to obsess over, at the end of the day, it’s hard to beat traditional, well-executed food. Two thumbs up! 🙂
2. Haji Lane & Selfie Coffee
Visiting Haji Lane in Kampong Glam for a fun shopping experience and cafe-hopping was top of our list. Haji Lane offers an unusual and interesting mix of independent boutiques selling a great selection of clothes, accessories, souvenirs, and even vintage cameras. With candy-colored shop houses and interesting murals, the lane looks pretty, and each storefront is very Instagrammable.
If you like taking selfies, Selfie Coffee is right up your alley. We were so intrigued to try and taste coffee with our faces printed on the whipped cream. Yes, it’s edible! Vegetable oil is used to digitally print the image on the top of the cream using a special machine, which the staff refer to affectionately as “Little Helper.”
The way to order is first choosing the coffee variant, paying at the counter, and then taking an on-the-spot selfie with the cafe’s iPhone. It’s nice that we were allowed to take several shots and select the perfect one to be printed onto the thick cream (similar to cake frosting). 🙂 Props such as shades and hats on the sides were available for the “photoshoot.” We were given the queue buzzer and we waited for our drinks to be ready on the second floor.
After about 15 minutes, the buzzer beeped and we took the two cups of cold Selfie Frappe (their best-seller) from the counter. Cold drinks are better because the photo lasts longer compared to the hot drinks. The funny part was seeing our faces on the foam getting thinner and thinner as we finish the drink. Price when converted to pesos is about Php 300 per order. I paid an additional fraction of the price to get the physical printed copy of our photos as a souvenir which I now keep in my wallet. 🙂 Selfie Coffee is a cool and bizarre concept and it’s a foodie destination worth going for!
3. Bugis Street & Asian Delight
Next, we ran down to Bugis Street nearby to shop for clothes and shoes and hunt gifts for friends back home. It’s one of my favorite places in Singapore because most items are reasonably cheap. I remember going here almost at least once a month before, so even with hundreds of shops in three floors, I know I won’t be lost in Singapore’s “most famous undercover street market.” There’s lots of interesting finds for giveaways. But if you’re a bit claustrophobic and can’t stand fighting with hoards of people for bargains and discounted merchandise, go find the exit quickly. 😛
For lunch, we shared a bowl of Singaporean Laksa and Black Pepper Salmon Rice at Asian Delights Stall # 2 inside Bugis Street. Both were hearty, spicy, and spot on delicious. Pepper in the salmon rice brought tons of flavor to the plate. The interior and setting of this local indoor hawker barely looked as elegant as most restaurants we dine in, but there’s nothing to complain about. Eating here is absolutely a great way to relax, rest from hours of continuous walking, relish more Singaporean tastes, observe people around, and just get into the moment.
4. Chinatown & Chinatown Food Street
When in Chinatown-Singapore, buying souvenirs in Pagoda Street and barbecued meat (bak kwa) in New Bridge Road are the goal. We went inside Chinatown Heritage Center for a quick immersion into the multi-sensory experience of Chinese culture then dined like a local at Chinatown Food Street where a tantalizing spread of Singaporean delights await.
My mom insisted that we go and try the food stand that won a freakin’ Michelin star: Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle. We got there at around 5 pm and thought we were early for dinner. Apparently, we were already two hours late since the stall closed early at 3 pm. Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle’s signature chicken rice dish costs only S$1.85 a pop, less than half the price of a Big Mac at McDonald’s. Hopefully next time, we would have the patience to line at 5 am to make sure that we’d get a fair share!
Good news broke out last October 2016 when the owner of the stall, Chan, announced that he will be expanding the brand globally. Yay! To be a success, the taste of his soya sauce chicken must be well replicated and standardized in all the outlets.
Anyway, to satisfy our hungry stomachs, Chinatown Food Street has heaps of food options that cater to different taste buds. It’s a mighty destination for our food trail. 😉 Three among the popular stalls are Laksa Ah Tee Famous Prawn noodle 阿第馳名大蝦麵, Oyster Omelette Katong Keah Kee 加東加記蠔煎, and Hainanese Chicken Rice/ Bugis Street Famous Hanianese Chicken 新明路榕城肉骨茶. We loved the mix of bbq duck and chicken with rice. Char kway teow 炒粿條 (“stir-fried rice cake strips”) was moist and packed with a nice balance of sweetness and savoriness.
It’s al fresco dining over here. A huge Plexiglass awning has been built on top to protect diners from the rain and allow a free flow of winds that help blow away the fumes of the numerous barbecues and charcoal braziers. After dinner, as if not so tired enough, we went to Orchard Road for sight-seeing and grocery shopping.
5. VivoCity & Food Republic
Situated on the way to Sentosa Island, VivoCity (怡丰城) is the largest mall in Singapore, where budget to mid-range and high-end international brands can be found. It was Mid-Autumn Festival when we visited, so numerous stalls selling different kinds of mooncake and festive goodies filled up a big portion of the central area. We bought two packs with special flavors such as lychee, green tea, raspberry, chocolate, etc. Durian tasted most interesting. 🙂
We spent some time hanging out at the Skypark on the top floor then went to Food Republic for lunch. Every decorative detail of this latest 900-seater food atrium is aimed at recreating an atmosphere of nostalgia. Diners eat in thoughtfully conceptualized surroundings that are built with aged wooden beams, floor tiles and roof shingles. The high ceilings of Food Republic are illuminated with hanging light fixtures within old bird cages. Suspended old bicycles add a new twist to the ambient old world charm of the space.
The cornerstone of this food paradise is hawker food. We cherished the comforting aroma of Bak Kut Teh from Balestier Bak Kut Teh. It was presented with pork ribs simmering in a clear broth with several cloves of garlic. I liked how easily the meat came off the bones. This peppery soup is indeed a good choice as a tummy-warming treat.
We also ordered Hokkien Mee sheathed in a dried Opei leaf. Plated artfully to accentuate the five large pink prawns resting atop a bed of piping hot noodles, just by looking at this plate of hokkien mee made my mouth water. Slurping down the fat with gooey noodles was truly satisfying.
6. Gardens by the Bay & McCafé Singapore
Gardens by the Bay is a nature park spanning 101 hectares of reclaimed land in central Singapore, adjacent to the Marina Reservoir. By day, the location and its surroundings look gorgeous with greens and flowers; at night, the park is transformed to a magical fantasy land with fantastic light shows.
Gardens by the Bay is a place for all ages. It’s not only made to be a scenic garden for families and a beautiful tourist attraction for the appreciation of nature but was developed as part of a strategy by the Singapore government to transform Singapore from a “Garden City” to a “City in a Garden.” The stated aim is to raise the quality of life by enhancing greenery and flora in the city.
Highly educational and visually stunning, the Supertree Grove is the most striking. It has supertrees, which are tree-like structures that dominate the Gardens’ landscape with heights that range between 82 ft and 160 ft. These super tall trees are not ordinary trees as they may seem. With enclaves of unique and exotic ferns, these are vertical gardens that perform a multitude of functions, which include planting, shading and working as environmental engines for the gardens.
After taking pictures everywhere, we paused for a snack at McCafé: Angus Beef Burger from the signature collection, fries, and veggie burger, and mocha frappe.
7. Marina Bay Sands & Din Tai Fung
I’ve been to Marina Bay Sands over 10 times but I’m still impressed by its design and architecture every time. 🙂 It’s incredible how the hotel towers slope but stand on straight legs, which give the complex its unique look. Tower 1, in particular, has a slope of 26 degrees. The architecture follows the principles of feng shui to create a perfect balance of energy and harmony with the environment. The number 26 on the slope of Tower 1 is considered prosperous since the individual digits add up to 8, a lucky number in Chinese culture.
Marina Bay Sands also offers a unique indoor cruise experience with the indoor sampan cruise that traverses along the canal by The Shoppes. A sampan is a flat-bottomed boat and native to the South East Asia region. Traditionally, sampans are elaborately decorated and propelled by a single boatman who uses a pole rather than oars. In MBS, a boatman punts the sampan and its passengers along the indoor water ways past the Rain Oculus that gathers and pours out 22,000 liters of water per minute, a major component in the resort’s sustainability efforts.
Aside from premium clothing and accessories outlets, make up stores, and fancy restaurants, another attraction you don’t want to miss is the Wonder Full Light and Sound Show. We were lucky we just got in time to catch it. Best thing is that it doesn’t require advanced booking and it doesn’t cost a single cent.
The light, water and sound extravaganza took three years, more than a hundred technical experts, a one hundred and forty piece orchestra, and thousands of work hours to be created—to make great and free entertainment for all. The Light Show starts at 8:00 pm, and the Water Show at 9:30 pm. There is an additional show at 11:00 pm on Friday and Saturday nights. The show begins with a single drop of water, signifying the beginning of life, and progresses from there into a full-blown display from birth to maturity. For sure, it’s a must-see at Marina Bay Sands.
We met Achi Anne and her husband at Din Tai Fung MBS. Specializing in xiao long bao 小籠包 (soup dumplings), this Michelin-star awarded restaurant that’s founded in Taipei is that the kind where you walk out of happy, wanting to tell all your friends about it. Like a kid in a candy store, just point and order anything that looks good on the menu. Coming with a group to share portions of food and the bill would be wise.
While waiting for our table, we watched how staff in the open kitchen make and knead the dough, cut the dough to small circles, wrap, and pleat the dumplings. It looked as if they were working in lightning speed! These master pleaters made an entertaining show for guests outside.
Pork xiao long bao as well as crab xiao long bao are not to be missed. If you need something else on your table, go for their signature steamed buns, salted egg yolk prawns, pork chop fried rice, and braised beef noodle soup.
My advice to those who’d be trying out Din Tai Fung’s xiao long bao for the first time is to eat without dipping it into vinegar or other condiment because the sweetness of the minced pork and the broth would be enough to send you to heaven. What I love most about these soup dumplings is the explosion of rich, steaming, hot juice which oozes out into the groove of the tongue. So yummy! 🙂
Singapore may not have the world’s best beaches or be seen as off-the-beaten path to adventure travelers, but it’s one cosmopolitan city that can leave you thinking that it’s somewhere you would want to live one day. It’s clean and safe. Public transportation, thanks to the SMRT, makes it easy to get around places for an inexpensive price. And with the endless varieties of food offered in hawker centers and restaurants, you’re guaranteed a good meal. We absolutely enjoyed touring in Singapore. This won’t be our last. 🙂