Thoughts and information for those who may wish to visit Singapore.
Originally published in the Clawson Patch newspaper May 2013
Michael: Damn the time goes too fast. Thought it is the moment to update readers some and pass along those tidbits of info that could make another’s visit to Singapore better.
Graciela: We are staying in an apartment, but I have never heard anyone complain about any of the hotels in the city. However if you want to experience what royalty and celebrities have then the Raffles Hotel is the place to stay.
Michael: Getting around is the easiest I have encountered in any city. Sure you can take taxis everywhere (many are Mercedes Benz), however Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is clean, efficient and actually enjoyable. The country really put thought into the system.
The MRT drops you off pretty much at the door of major sites and shopping areas. Other places are available through their bus system which includes double-decker buses.
Both systems utilize the same payment method, a prepaid card. My recommendation is to purchase one when you arrive at the fist MRT station. At the same time get one of their palm sized (when folded) maps. Each person will need their own card. My wife and I travel daily and use up about $50 a week. Cards can be easily recharged by using the machines located near the entrances. You are only charged for the distance traveled so it is necessary to tap in with your card both when you enter and when you leave. This is true for both the MRT trains and the busses.
Graciela: One person told me that many people come to Singapore to shop, especially for clothes. It is not so much price as selection. Last year Michael wrote about the designers in the country.
This is a country of fashion. Here everything is allowed and worn. In footwear I have seen sandals to boots. However, the vast majority of clothes are for warm weather.
For more affordable unique pieces I have enjoyed the clothes at Bugis Village which is near the Bugis MRT stop. But there are excellent malls everywhere from the high end ones at Marian Bay Sands and Orchard Street to ones that have almost whatever you want, like Mustafa Centre.
For cultural shopping the best are at Chinatown and Little India. Both are stops on the MRT.
This trip we accidentally found a unique area for one of a kind Asian furniture pieces. Dempsy Hill is a little off the main roads, but there you find several art furniture shops. We were told that many foreigners shop there for their entire home and have it shipped.
Michael: Communication is important for many reasons. In Singapore you can purchase a Nokia brand cell phone for $52. Buying local pre-paid cards is often much less expensive than international calling on the cell from the USA. Check into any of the cell phone shops or a 7 Eleven to get this service. Remember your passport though as you will need it to purchase a phone.
Graciela: We wrote about the Gardens by the Bay. But there are more in Singapore. Michael and I always enjoy the Botanical Gardens which also houses the orchid displays. It is a favorite place for wedding photographers.
Getting there is very easy. The MRT stop on the Circle Line of Botanical Garden starts you at the entrance.
The next one also has it own stop. On the East West MRT line get off at Chinese Garden to visit the Chinese/Japanese Gardens.
Michael: I concur with my wife that the three mentioned places should be on your must see list.
With museums there are so many to pick from that unless you spend a month in the country it is difficult to leisurely stroll them all. Your “do not miss list” should include the National Museum of Singapore (great history about the country) Singapore Art Museum and Peranakan Museum.
Graciela: We return to the Singapore Zoo every year for a reason, it is one of the best both of us have ever visited. Of course they feature many animals unique to Asia and not seen often in Western zoos. But they also have both a night safari and a river safari. These are extra costs but well worth it.
Michael: I am a big fan of Asian food and have pretty much been eating my way around the island. You can easily find establishments for Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese and other Asian dishes. The good part is that, unlike most Western food, most of it easily fits within my cholesterol reduction diet.
Graciela: I sometimes wonder if anyone eats at home. The malls have a higher percentage of space devoted to restaurants than I see in Colombia and the USA. I feel that with the hot temperature of Singapore it just makes more sense to go eat at an air-conditioned restaurant than cook at home. Oh and make sure you practice your chopstick skills before coming. Only the expensive tourist places put out forks.
Michael: However if you are a drinker then you had better bring your credit card. While food is reasonably priced beer starts at $5 a bottle.
Graciela: Money; bring plenty of it. Much of the clothes you will never see again elsewhere. There is so much that is difficult to pass up that you might as well have it in mind that you are going to purchase a suitcase, fill it and pay the extra luggage fee.
Michael: Sí mi amor – I thought when my wife agreed to cover the money that she would talk about exchange rates and things like that.
The country works on the Singapore dollar system. Their money is the new plastic kind used my many countries because it lasts longer and is less receptive to germs. The $1 is a coin so the lowest denomination bill is $2. You also have 50 cent, 20 cent, 10 cent and 5 cent pieces. I have not seen anything smaller.
Almost every mall has a currency exchange place. The current exchange is about $1 USD equals $1.24 Singapore dollars.
Graciela: I hope that others come to visit this unique place and enjoy it as much as we do. We still have a little time in the country and will continue writing about specific places.