1. The food – We love great food. We love reasonably priced great food even more. We might go on about the food in Singapore, but once you get here you’ll understand why. There aren’t many places in the world where you can get a Bib Gourmand meal for less than the price of a big mac, but Singapore is full of talented hawker chefs who will cook up a flavoursome feast in a matter of seconds. In fact, according to the ArtScience Museum, there are so many hawker stalls in Singapore that it would take 160 years to try them all. How do you choose? We like to play a little game called ‘hawker roulette’. The game involves joining the longest queue (long queues mean good food) and waiting until you get to the front of the line to look at the menu. Hopefully live bull frog porridge isn’t the only option.
2. The coffee – Having been disappointed with the coffee scenes in a lot of other cities, we were overjoyed at the choice on offer in Singapore. Rich, tar like kopi is brewed in large metal jugs and pored down an elongated spout into a hot glass mug. Delicious!
3. The shopping – Whether you’re on a budget or you like to splurge, Singapore has everything you could ever want. Head to Orchard Road to browse designer brands and big labels in air conditioned comfort. China town and Bugis offer more affordable, if not so genuine, merchandise. Nick’s watch died in a snorkelling accident in Fiji, so he bought a probably fake Casio on a Bugis street corner and to our surprise it’s still working! Bugis Junction shopping mall even has an air conditioned roof garden with a fishing pond. Don’t ask us why.
4. The architecture – Singapore seems to be one big juxtaposition, and the architecture is no exception. Original colonial mansions and colourful Malay fishing cottages clash with ultra modern skyscrapers clad in glass and chrome. The Marina Bay Sands Resort boasts a giant ship structure, balanced on top of three buildings. We thought it was hideous, but it seems to be a hit with everyone else. This ominous super structure looms over the ArtScience Museum which looks like a huge bunch of white bananas, but with some cracking exhibitions (usually with an entry fee), it’s well worth a visit..
5. The public transport – It’s efficient, clean, easy to use, never late, never too crowded and the trains show videos explaining how to be polite and courteous to each other. It’s everything the London Underground wishes it could be. Take note Sadiq Khan!
6. The art – Due to it’s strict no graffiti policy, there’s not much street art in Singapore. It’s no problem though, because the Singapore Art Museum always has excellent exhibitions, and on Friday night you can visit them for free! We were lucky enough to visit one of the exhibitions about Singapore’s independence and were given an unexpected private tour by a very proud and enthusiastic curator.
7. The education – Singapore is known to have one of the best education systems in the world, and the arts education here is particularly exceptional. We thought that the Arts University Bournemouth was good, but it’s nothing compared to Nanyang Technological University which has a sweeping, living roof, or LA SALLE College of the Arts which hosts high quality and sometimes controversial exhibitions for the public.
8. The people – Everyone we met in Singapore was courteous, polite, friendly, helpful and happy. No one ever seems to be in a rush and you never feel like you are in the way. Even the ticket machines are programmed to say ‘thank you, have a nice day.’
9. The Supertrees – Taken straight from the film Avatar, the Supertrees stand 25-50 meters tall and are covered in over 162,900 plants. These breathtaking living structures provide shade and a peaceful place to chill out during the day, and an exhilarating light show in the evenings. Best of all, entrance to the Gardens by the Bay is free!
10. The airport – Changi Airport is constantly awarded the prestigious title ‘World’s best Airport’, and we have to agree it is amazing. There is a koi pond, a rooftop swimming pool, a butterfly garden and a 24 hour free cinema. On the way to your departure gate, you can relax in one of the many free massage chairs. It’s almost worth the airfare just to go to the airport, then fly home again.
11. The Night Safari – A Zoo without cages? That’s right. Thanks to the clever use of trenches and wire, you can come face to face with elephants, lions, hyenas and rhinos when they are at their most active – at night. There are some animals that are behind glass, such as the tigers and leopards, for obvious reasons, but it’s still cool to see them prowling around at night rather than sleeping during the day. A must do in Singapore.
12. The surreal experience of Haw Par Villa – Also known as Tiger Balm Gardens, Haw Par Villa is as close to a bad trip as you can get without actually taking hallucinogens. Check out the 10 Courts of Hell if you would like some new ideas for nightmares. It’s free to enter, so it’s worth going if you like being utterly baffled.
13. The toilets – It might sound a little bit strange to recommend a city based on its toilets, but Singaporeans seriously know how to do their business in style. Beautifully designed and clean enough to eat from, it’s amazing that we didn’t have to pay once to use a lavvy in this city.
14. The Cat Cafes – Need we say more? There are 5 cat cafe’s in Singapore. We like The Company of Cats on Mosque Street, which serves tasty snacks and drinks to enjoy with their 10 adorable rescue cats.
15. It’s the world’s first Smart Nation – The Singapore Government has implemented an undisclosed number of sensors and cameras around the city to track it’s citizens and collect data. This all sounds a bit Orwellian, but it’s difficult to argue against a system that makes a city run so smoothly.
Singapore is a beautiful, diverse, culturally rich nation full of happy people, clean streets and incredible food. If you’ve never been, or you are thinking of going again, we urge you to book your tickets right now! See you at Changi!