When you think of jet-setting to Asia, your mind probably wanders to the miniature tropical islands with white sandy beaches and cocktails on tap. Or maybe you’re lusting after some temple trips, cultural hotspots and breathtaking views? More often than not, the cities and major hubs get side-winded for places a little more, exotic.
But I say nay, hold on a minute. There are hidden gems in Asia that do not consist of a scene from ‘The Beach’ (heart you forever Leo). Singapore is one of them.
Before I emigrated to Singapore I confess I had no idea of what the island was about – I just assumed it was a tiny place in a far far away land that wouldn’t offer me much. How wrong I was.
If you’re as ignorant as I was, this post is for you. Whether you’re booking your next long haul vacation or you’re travelling and wanting to explore – make Singas a priority hotspot.
Avatar Land aka The Gardens by the Bay
The first and most epic thing that is a MUST see, is the Gardens by the Bay.
A huge garden of 101 hectares (obviously, otherwise name would be silly) set off of Marina Bay, the iconic Gardens by the Bay is home to the supertrees – solar energised structures that look like they belong in the movie ‘Avatar’. It’s also home to an indoor waterfall, a cloud dome, huge plant structures made into animals, art sculptures, cactus garden…I could go on. It’s an entire day trip out for you to wander, and wonder.
But wait, I’m not finished.
At 7:45pm and 8:45pm every day (yes, every single day) the special SuperGrove solar trees offer onlookers an epic 15 minute light show. The shows are themed and change monthly, with music and lights that work in synergy on these trees. Best thing? It’s always free. ALWAYS.
Singaporeans have this incredible way of making something beautiful to look at as well as serving a purpose. The trees are fully functional on recycled energy, delivering ‘art’ that doesn’t use any spare power or energy.
Marina Bay Sands – rooftop pool and bars
If you’re vaguely familiar with Singapore, chances are you’ll have seen or heard of MBS – Marina Bay Sands hotel. A huge piece of architecture looming over the bay itself, the hotel is a hub of tourism.
While I cannot comment on the stay in the hotel (check the prices, ain’t nobody got time for that) I CAN tell you the bars at the very top offer the most insane views. Cest La Vi is the popular choice but always crowded, so my suggestion is Spago instead. Less crowded, more casual but still soaked in luxury, epic cocktails and extraordinary views.
Ola Beach Club, Sentosa
Sentosa is Singapore’s man-made hidden gem that you can get to via a shuttle tram from Vivocity mall, or just walk over the bridge. Crammed with things to do and see, it’s tagline is ‘The state of fun’ and boy does it live up to it.
Fun stuff aside, I’m here for the palm tree white sand beaches.
Sentosa has two main beaches – Palawan that plays host to TBC (Tanjong Beach Club) and Siloso that has Ola Beach Club and Mambos – among many many more.
While TBC is cool on a Sunday and everyone flocks there, I’m an Olas girl. So much so, it became my second home.
Olas has that Hawaiian tiki vibe that I can’t get enough of. The view is pure palm tree and white sands. The prosecco is $70 a bottle and their poke bowl is delicious. With its own pool and comfy sun loungers, it’s the perfect spot to get some sunshine TLC away from the city.
Selfie on a coffee? Sure thing in Haji Lane
Haji Lane is your hub for the ‘indie’ crowd. The artists. The tattooists. The creatives. The colour-lovers. The designers. The dreamers. You get the jist.
Brimmed with unique shops, coffee houses and places to eat, Haji Lane reminds me of Ubud’s main stretch in Bali. It’s just effortlessly cool, with buildings covered in epic graffiti that make for your Instagram backdrop.
But the coolest thing has to be getting your selfie on your coffee.
Is that even possible? Yep, it is. See:
This coffee house lets you take a photo there and then, or send one of your favourites, and you can get it added to any iced coffee or other drink (just not hot drinks). Heck, you can even get it printed onto dessert too.
So much fun and no-extra cost for this novelty, the coffee was tasty too.
MacRitchie Reservoir nature trail
If you want to feel lost in the wilderness, trekking through the jungle surrounded by wild monkeys – you don’t need to fly hours into the middle of Asia. Just head to Singapore’s MacRitchie nature trail. The island’s oldest reservoir, this tranquil place still holds untouched forest that now has walking trails around the whole area. It also sports a TreeTop Walk – a 250 m aerial free standing suspension bridge that makes you literally feel like you’re up in the air, overlooking the entire forest.
Be warned though – once you start the walk, you’re in. Deep in. It takes 2-3 hours to do the full circuit and there’s no stop along the way for refreshments. Take so much water with you, because in the thick of the forest it’s so humid and hot.
I took my hungover boyfriend thinking it would be a great way to sweat out the alcohol – let’s just say I was wrong. So very wrong.
Universal Studios, Sentosa island
Okay so I know it’s gimmicky, can be found across the globe and isn’t your typical ‘cultural’ Asian experience. However, Having a theme park here is something worth shouting about.
FYI, I refused to go for at least a year, claiming I hadn’t emigrated 7000 miles into the East just to spend a day at some Americanised overpriced resort.
Then my best friend demanded to go, so I went along for her and HAD THE BEST DAY EVER.
The Transformers and The Mummy Returns rides are my absolute faves. But the whole day is just super fun – for all ages. The reason I’ve included this is to show the diversity that Singapore has to offer. It’s not all temples and hawker food centres and parks. It offers everything, for everyone.
Contrary to what the name states, the ‘safari’ is actually through the Singapore Night Zoo. So yes, it’s still technically a ‘zoo’ – if you’re against zoos, don’t go.
That being said, it really is a wonderful, informative evening. Starting from 7pm onwards only, this safari begins with a tram that takes you around the park, showcasing all the animals that considers it home. No flash photography is allowed – just try enjoy the moment instead.
After the tram ride is complete, you can then embark on the walking tour. Aided only with a map and your sense of direction in the dark (no tour guide needed), you can go explore the zoo’s nocturnal species. Hearing the lion’s roar and tiger cries in the dark is just awesome.
I really recommend this experience – and please note Singapore’s zoo does SO MUCH to save and facilitate animals – do some Google research if you want more info.
Best curry you’ll ever have – Little India
Little India is, as the name depicts, a mini India. A haven of colourful buildings and tourist souvenir shops, you’re met with a mixture of intoxicating smells: incense, and curry.
Are you a curry fan? Meat eaters and vegetarians alike can go to Little India and get the most authentic curries – a taste sensation, I assure you.
For my personal recommendation, seek out Banana Leaf Apolo. It’s THE best Indian curry house in the whole of Little India. Not officially, I’m just making that claim myself. Let’s roll with it.
Dinner in the clouds? Go on then
Singapore is known for it’s cable cars that offer awesome views over the treetops / beach / harbour. A must-do if you’re here, the rides are relatively cheap and it is worth the views.
That being said, I took it up a notch or 6. I did Dining on Cloud 9.
A 4 course meal plus alcohol is arranged for you (you can choose dishes) and you’re then ferried into the cable car, for a 90-minute out of this world dining experience. With each full run the courses are swapped – staff only getting the few precious moments as the cable car docks to switch your plates up!
The food itself is delicious – and we ordered an additional bottle of bubbly to enjoy the experience to the max. You can even get your cable car cabin decorated for extra special moments, including proposals, birthday, anniversaries. Whatever you wish to celebrate.
Bonus for every muggle out there: Harry Potter cafe, Platform 1904
This went viral on LadBible before I even emigrated to Singapore – so I knew I had to experience it for myself at some point. Then low and behold, I moved directly opposite Platform 1904 and the cafe became my staple for lattes, pastas and silly photos when my fam visited.
As the name suggests, it’s a Harry Potter themed cafe. The interior is designed to reflect Hogwarts school, while the props on hand mean everyone can dress up and snap themselves as their inner witch or wizard.
As for the food and beverages? It also follows suit. They have their own version of ‘Butterbeer’ and a very special gin based cocktail that is reminiscent of the Goblet of Fire, sparking into the air with every shake of the cinnamon dust. Even the half-roast chicken main course is set alight before you can eat it.
For all Harry Potter fans, you’ll just love this place. Oh, and the coffee is great too.