Traveling around Singapore


Singapore is a great place to stay. Like I heard someone say recently, “Singapore is no longer just a pass-through place“.

But I’m sure if you’re a foreigner staying in Singapore for a while, you must have heard people around you say that, “Hey, Singapore is great! But what’s really great too is how connected Singapore is and how easy it is to go on a getaway somewhere in Asia just for a couple of days!”

I must say I agree with this 🙂

Singapore is one of the world’s most connected city, and is geographically very well situated in Southeast Asia. Think about it… 3 hours from Hong Kong, 2h30mn from Bangkok, 1hour from Bali… Isn’t that the dream? For us westerners in Singapore this truly adds value to our stay, as an open door to discover Asia…

Singapore in SE Asia

From my experience, when planning for a trip, airfare can be quite expensive. People will argue that low cost airlines are really cheap… Tiger Airways, Air Asia, Jet Star, and most recently Scoot.

But I would like to add that “low costs airlines are really cheap” IF you book early!! It happened to me so many times to plan a trip just a few weeks in advance, and tickets we’re really not cheap.

At one point, non-low cost airlines like Cathay Pacific and Silkair can be cheaper!! Here’s a great website that I use to compare flights and make sure I get the best bargain: http://www.skyscanner.com.sg/.

Regarding destinations, there are so many that it’s hard to choose… Here’s a great website to help you decide: www.tripinasia.com. It was recently created by some friends of mine, and it’s really comprehensive and useful! If you like it you can join their growing community of fans on Facebook.

Trip In Asia website

A few of my personal favourites would be:

Malacca for Peranakan delights and jewelry shopping
Bintan for an easy beach vacation
Bali if you have more time, to unravel temples’ secrets, rice fields and volcanoes
Kota Kinabalu for a visit of Orang Utans
Hong Kong for a shopping and Dim Sum treat
Bangkok for nightlife and fun…!!

Also you might want to keep an eye open for local festivals in each destinations, to make sure your trip has the right timing to make it a truly unforgettable experience 🙂

Hope you like my tips!! So now let’s get started on planning your next getaway from Singapore!!

Christmas season in Singapore


Season‘s greetings to all !! 

For non-Singaporeans spending the Christmas season in Singapore this year, we’re probably thinking the same thing… It’s really interesting to have a hot Christmas!! I don’t know about you but usually in my home country Christmas comes together with cold temperature, snow… and a hot chocolate by the chimney 🙂

This is not my first Christmas in Singapore… At first I was a little put off, like probably other fellow expatriates living here. It’s just so different from our usual Christmas atmosphere! But Singapore always has something different to offer. What I like most about being in Singapore around Christmas and New Year’s Eve is:

– the Christmas decorations around town make you feel like it’s Christmas (even though inside you might be dying of heat!). Sometimes I feel lightings are too colourful and shiny, but it’s a good start to help you get in the mood 🙂

– Business partners will most likely deliver hampers or small gifts to your office! That’s part of the small things that make me happy!

– But most of all, you still feel like you’re on holiday in summer 🙂 !! Don’t you just love waking up to a warm weather and having a cooling drink by the beach next to neighbouring coconut trees?

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Speaking of Christmas decorations… did you know that each year there is an implicit “competition” for the tallest Christmas tree in Singapore? Especially between Singapore attractions and hotels, but also including shopping malls… Check out these ones for example!

Xmas tree @Ngee Ann City

Ngee Ann City

Xmas tree @Shangri La lobby

Shangri La Hotel lobby

I even heard last year that Singapore Flyer claimed they had the tallest Christmas tree in Singapore… even though their Christmas tree is not a tree!! So which Christmas tree is your favourite this year? 🙂

new year images

And as the end of the year approaches, here’s wishing you a wonderful new year of 2013 !!

Botanic Gardens and National Orchid Garden


Well, it’s been a while since I haven’t written anything here… but I’m back! And even more so, I have now moved to Singapore and am ready to discover new places to share with you 🙂 How great is that? Yoohoo !!

I recently went back to the Botanic Gardens, and re-discovered how big it is. It’s really a great feeling to be able to step out of the buzzing city for a while and relax. I particularly like the Symphony Lake, especially at the end where it stretches out to a little wooden hut where you can cool off and observe turtles swimming by…

Another bit of the Botanic Gardens you really don’t want to miss out on is the National Orchids Garden. It is very famous and is worthwhile for any person who likes orchids (but who doesn’t really?) !! As you may know, most Orchids are bred by humans, and Singapore was particularly skilled in creating orchids and assigning them to political personalities, so as to honour other countries. You can have a look at the “VIP Orchids” wall in Burkill Hall, it truly is very interesting. And did you know who the last VIP Orchid from Singapore was dedicated to? Prince William and Kate Middleton, now Duchess of Cambridge…! In September this year.

Here is a selection of beautiful Orchids in the garden:

No wonder the Vanda Miss Joaquim Orchid was proclaimed National Flower of Singapore!!

So if you are planning a visit to the Botanic Gardens and National Orchid Garden (which you should), remember that entrance fee is 1$ for students and seniors, and 5$ for adults.

Also, I would recommend you to find a convenient bus line for you to go there (there are many). Another option would be the MRT station “Botanic Gardens” on the Circle Line, however it will take you to the far end of the park, so you might have to walk a little distance. Enjoy !! 🙂

Bar Stories on Haji Lane


Remember Haji Lane? Small, discrete and yet trendy street hidden in Kampong Glam near Arab Street?

I was there last time I was in Singapore and although some places are still there, I must say that shops there change quite quickly! Maybe because the rent is very high… Even so, it is also nice to see new shops and places to discover, it’s a good change in a place like Singapore where people complain it’s too small and always the same… 🙂

I discovered a new place that people had told me about, Bar stories. You have to look for it, it’s not very well indicated, and on the second floor too.

The originality of this place is that you can customise your own cocktails/mocktails. And if you have no idea what combination would be best, the bartender will help you out if you tell him your usual preference (sweet/sour/fruity/else…).

I really enjoyed my drink, and so did my friend with hers. I asked for something not too sweet and refreshing and I was given a cool lime-based mocktail with little bits of kiwi, while my friend had a sweeter and fruitier drink with strawberrys. Yummy.

The setting is also quite relaxing, with nice cafe-style touches. And prices are ok (although they must be higher at night for cocktails). So go for it 🙂 I recommend it !!

See Singapore Pass


Did you ever wish to visit the whole of Singapore in just a few days, but didn’t really feel like spending too much on it? Here’s a perfect deal for you! The See Singapore Attractions Pass.

It’s a card which gives you free and unlimited access to attractions and discounts in famous AND off the beaten track places of Singapore. There are different packages available so you can pick the one which best suits your needs. Go check out their cool website to choose the best option for you.

And together with the card, you will be given a paper brochure with details of the offers you are entitled to. You can enter for free to museums, visit famous parks, take part to fun and interesting activities and even get discounts at participating restaurants and outlets!!

Among the various activities available on the pass, here are two personal favourites:

The Original Singapore Walks are a great way to discover more about Singapore’s history and less known anecdotes. You might think that walking in Singapore is very tiresome because of the heat, but it’s actually quite pleasant. But most of all, the tour guides are very knowledgeable and willing to share their passion on Singapore’s history.

– The National Orchid Garden is really worth it. It is located inside the Botanical Gardens and allows you to discover a large number of different orchids. I had no idea there were so many different types of orchid before I went there!! Did you know that most of them are actually hybrid varieties crossed by men? Click here for more information on Singapore’s gardens.

The best thing about the See Singapore Pass is that no matter which activity you decide to go for, you can be sure it will be a success. The pass provides you with free access to quality tours and museums, as well as interesting activities (a trail up in the tree, a flight in the air, or even a slide down a snowy path!!)…

It’s ideal if you want to cover most interesting places in Singapore in just a few days, and really perfect if you have relatives visiting you in Singapore too. Definitely my favourite sightseeing pass in Singapore!

CNY 2012 in Singapore


Chinese New Year (CNY) is coming up! Although it is officially on Monday 23rd Jan this year, celebrations in Singapore begin before hand. So why not take advantage of this week-end to see as much as you can?

CNY 2012 in Singapore will include :
– streets light up in Chinatown
– lanterns and light shows along Marina Bay Reservoir
– the Sentosa flower event to celebrate the upcoming Spring
– the Chingay Parade on Feb 3rd where there will be dragon shows
– music, theatre and play performances all around time
– and of course many shopping bargains and commercial events…

You can start planning your outings here.

But for those of us who are not familiar with CNY, what is this celebration really about? Chinese New Year – also called the Spring Festival (春节— pronounced chun jie) – celebrates the end of one year (ie the Rabbit year) and the beginning of a new year (ie the Dragon year).

It is a tradition for Chinese people to gather with their families at this time of the year, enjoy good food and spend time together. In mainland China, people are usually allowed a full week of holiday, which is enough time for them to travel back home.

Homes are decorated with red paper cuttings, families thoroughly clean their houses to get rid of bad spirits and welcome good ones for the new year… and also, the elderly usually give out a little money in red envelopes to the younger members of the family. We call them 红包 (pronounced hong bao).

As this is a time of the year for peace, sharing love and gathering with your loved ones, I would like to sincerely wish you a very happy Chinese new year !!

恭喜发财
Gong Xi Fa Cai
Prosperous new year (literally : Wishing you a lot of money) 

新年快乐
Xin Nian Kuai Le
Happy New year !!

If you want to make a joke to your friends, you can tell them : 恭喜发财,红包拿来 !(pronounced : gong xi fa cai – hong bao na lai), which means “Happy New Year! Give me the red envelope!”.

English Translation:

In every avenue and street
From the mouth of everyone
The first sentence when we meet
is congratulations
Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations to you
Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations to you

The winter has come to an end
That’s really good news
The warm breeze of the spring
will wake up the earth
Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations to you
Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations to you

The heavy snow has melted
The plums are about to blossom
The endless dark night is over
We hear the crowing of a rooster
Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations to you
Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations to you

After so much difficulty
with so much discipline
So many hearts are looking forward
To the news of spring
Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations to you
Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations to you

Singapore’s colonial heritage


You might be thinking, like many, that Singapore destroyed most of its old buildings to make way for skyscrapers and office towers… and that Singapore is something like this:

But can you spot the low old-looking building right in front of the towers? That’s the Fullerton Hotel. One of Singapore’s many colonial buildings that still exist today… Did you know that the Fullerton Hotel walls were built in 1928? That’s how old some pieces of history are in Singapore. It was once the Singapore Chamber of Commerce, before it opened as a hotel in 2001.

Another masterpiece of Singapore’s colonial heritage is the Raffles Hotel. It was in 1887 that it first opened its doors… and at that time it had only 10 rooms! And did you know that people say this is where the last tiger of Singapore was shot dead? In 1902 in the Bar & Billiard room…

Still today, the Raffles Hotel remains an iconic landmark of Singapore. You can go have a walk inside the hotel and have a look at the luxury shopping boutiques. The inside courtyard is also splendidly taken care of, and you can really feel the luxury and long history of the site when you wander around for a while. Of course, you shouldn’t miss out on the Long Bar, THE most famous place to have a Singapore Sling in Singapore… And you shouldn’t miss out on the Raffles Museum either !!

Last but not least, I would like to share with you one of my favourite things about Singapore… shophouses. They are a heritage of Singapore’s colonial era. Their structure is very simple : a shop or restaurant on the ground floor and a comfortable living space above. To give you a better idea of what they look like, here are some pictures:

Aren’t they beautiful? My favourite shophouses are located on East Coast Road. Their colours and detailed sculpted facades are simply gorgeous. You can find them basically anywhere in Singapore, like in Chinatown, Little India, or downtown around the Raffles Hotel, like on Purvis Street for instance.

Needless to say, Singapore has many hidden treasures. And unlike what people may think, she is still taking care of leftover pieces of her very valuable history!! The URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) is the organisation in charge of preserving this beautiful heritage.

Chinatown


How can you go to Singapore and not go to Chinatown?

When Sir Raffles organised the city of Singapore, he determined zones for each ethnic minority. The Indians have what is today Little India, the Malays have the Kampong Glam area with Arab Street… and the Chinese have Chinatown.

Today, Chinatown is still mostly populated by Chinese people. You can go there very easily by MRT and experience a China-like atmosphere. If you really want to see the way some locals live, have a stroll around People’s Park Complex. It is a huge shopping complex – not very beautiful, but at least it will give you a taste of locals’ daily lives.

What is there to do in Chinatown?

Visit the area to begin with. When you step out of the MRT, simply walk around. Do not stay only on Pagoda Street (which is the most “touristy” street), but instead do feel free to take a turn and go into Mosque street, Temple street… Among Chinatown’s must-do, do not miss out on the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, the Sri Mariamman Temple (an Indian temple in Chinatown! That’s Singapore’s melting pot!), and of course the Chinatown Heritage Center – a wonderful Museum that will tell you everything about how Chinese migrants settled in Singapore. Also don’t forget to look up once in a while to admire ancient shophouses and Chinese lanterns!

Eat of course!! Hawker food in chinatown is not bad, I particularly enjoy their noodles. Try “food street” (which is actually Smith street) at night, or you can also go further to Maxwell Center too, where they serve excellent Chicken Rice !! However if you prefer to sit in a restaurant and enjoy the aircon, there are many restaurants in the area that you can choose from. A personal favourite would be Kok Sen Coffee Shop, on Keong Saik Road – their Chicken Claypot is simply to die for !!

Food street at night

And shop!! In Chinatown you will find lots of decorative objects and fun things for tourists to bring back to their home country… chopsticks, key chains, small buddha statues, scarves and so on. But you can also find Chinese medicine and herbs (check out Eu Yan Sang for instance), or refined jewellery and antiques on South Bridge Road. Other shopping options include chinese dresses (“cheong sams”) or tea. There are also a few designer boutiques if you go further to Ann Siang Road and Club Street, not too far away.

So don’t just walk through Pagoda Street and say there is nothing to see in Chinatown… you will soon find out this area is more interesting than you thought!

East Coast Park


This is a post I have been wanting to write for a while! East Coast Park is definitely one of my favourite places in Singapore, and it shows perfectly how surprising Singapore can sometimes be.

Many people think Singapore is covered with skyscrapers. But few know that there is a beach where you can enjoy satay sticks, barbecue, camp, rent a bike, fish and do watersports… all of these in East Coast Park!

East Coast Park is a park on East Coast beach, in the Southeastern area of Singapore. It’s a great place to have a stroll on a lazy Sunday.

If you have time, you definitely should rent a bike (or a tandem!) for an hour or two. It is quite cheap and very, very nice to ride a bike by the sea. The path can actually lead you quite far out in the direction of Changi airport!

Also, if you would like to escape from the urban atmosphere for a while, you can do it the Singaporean way!! Go camping in East Coast Park! There are spots allocated for you to plant your tent, and no need to worry about infrastructures, there are plenty of CLEAN showers and toilets around.

As for food (what else?), I strongly recommend you go to East Coast Lagoon Food Village. They have good satay sticks there (see Local delicacies), and also a personal favourite, Oyster Omelet! Not everyone likes it, but I really do. And it’s pretty safe too, as oysters in Singapore are usually fresh.

Oyster omelet and fresh coconut. What a treat!

And let’s not forget watersports! You can go sailing from East Coast Park, and also waterskiing and wakeboarding. I’m sure you didn’t know about that 🙂

Time to plan your outing! Check out some more information and go have fun!!

Little India


Among Singapore’s must do areas, Little India is absolutely worth visiting. To me, Little India is the perfect place if you want to have a taste and feel of India! Here are my favourite things to do around colourful Serangoon Road.

1. Have dinner at Khansama restaurant, at the junction between Serangoon Road and Norris road. The food is excellent, the staff very friendly and prices are affordable. If you cannot really eat spicy food they can tune it down for you. And if you do not live in Singapore and are used to Indian best sellers only (like Butter Chicken or Tandoori) you will be amazed by the length of the menu… Go on, try new dishes!!

2. Wander inside Mustafa department store and hunt for bargains. Mustafa centre sells books, CDs, DVDs, electronic goods, footwear, clothing, food, house appliances… basically everything. And this is precisely what makes it fun, you can find anything there!! It’s clearly a low budget department store, so I wouldn’t recommend to go there if you are looking for high-end quality objects. However, you should go there at least once to feel the atmosphere.

3. Experience the Indian crowd on a Sunday night… if you are looking for a real foretaste of India, Sunday night is the best option. Crowds are out, shops’ products are on display in the streets, fragrances invade the streets, women wear colourful sarees…

                         

4. Visit Hindu temples and learn more about Hindu deities! Check out Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman or Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Little India. But there are many other hindu temples in Singapore of course.

5. Take a stroll around the area when Deepavali lights are out. What a treat!! Deepavali (or Diwali) is the Indian festival of lights. It is a public holiday in Singapore which takes place at the end of October.

6. Enjoy an Indian breakfast! Dosai, chapatis, dahl… served altogether with masala chai, and there you go, a typical Indian breakfast right in the heart of Singapore!!

Of course when strolling around Little India you have to be ready to step into the Indian atmosphere for a while 🙂 But then again, Singapore is diverse and has a lot to offer, so you might as well go for it and live different types of experiences!!

And you, what are your favourite places in Little India?