Things to do in Singapore

Things to do in Singapore

Singapore is one of our favorite cities in the world. A sophisticated, multicultural, modern, clean, well-run city that is a foodie’s heaven.  This guide is designed for first-time visitors as the frequent traveler will have done these things already or may say they are too touristy.  As we are foodies, we could list well over 50 of our favorite restaurants and you would not have time to see any of the cultural sites. If we listed our favorite restaurants, we would be barraged with suggestions of others that have better (Have you seen Crazy Rich Asians or read the book?).  Singapore is a food-obsessed nation, and for good reason as they have some of the best food in the world.  It is almost the national pastime to discuss which restaurant has the best (name your dish here).  We tried not to make this too much a food obsessed article, but is is really hard as our trips usually revolve around a new spot to try the best…..

This article is geared for someone that has 3 or 4 days in Singapore and want to get the local flavor.


Changi Airport:  In our opinion the nicest airport in the world –  others are trying to surpass it, but it is the gold standard.  From free massage chairs, butterfly pavilion, movie theater, koi ponds and art throughout, it is a great place to spend an hour or two.  But, you didn’t travel all that way to hang out in the airport.

The MRT: The Singapore subway system is one of the nicest in the world.  It is clean, well-run, on-time and it makes it easy to get around Singapore.  The best deal is to get the Singapore Tourist pass for two or three days.  It covers the bus and MRT in Singapore and it makes getting around so easy.  Cabs are generally cheap, but the MRT is ridiculously cheap.  The card covers the train between the Airport and Town for less than a cab.  For the first ride into town, I would take a cab.  Not only will you be tired, but you get to talk with your driver and see the road that supposedly can be turned into a fighter jet runway at a moments notice which makes it kind of worth it.

East Coast Seafood Center:  We would say if you only have one local dish it should be here. One of Singapore’s signature dishes can be found here and eating by the water makes it that much better.  Come here for crab.  Order a large Sri Lankan Crab in either black pepper sauce or chili sauce.  We prefer the black pepper and then we order prawns in the chili sauce so we have both flavors without breaking the bank.  This is usually our most expensive meal during the trip, but it can’t be missed.  Go pick a restaurant along the water.  Foodies will argue if Jumbo, Long Beach, No Sign Board, Eng Seng or some other place really has the best pepper/chili crab.  They are all really delicious so I don’t think you can go wrong with picking one and enjoying.


The Botanic/National Orchid Garden:  The Botanic gardens are free to enter and they are beautifully maintained.  The Orchid Garden is at the top of the Botanic Garden and is spectacular and well worth the very small entrance fee.  Bring your camera as there are so many spots to take memorable pictures.  Also there are not many shelters to get out of the rain, so it you would be lucky to have a dryer day or bring an umbrella.

 

Visit Chinatown and Little India:  By this I mean walk through Chinatown and then take the MRT to Little India and stroll around there and walk to Arab street.  Chinatown has the food complex that is a hawker center on the 2nd floor, shopping and a wet market below.  The wet market is something to see if you have never been to one.  The Buddha Tooth relic temple is there and worth a visit.  Walking around Chinatown can feel a bit too touristy, but some cheap shopping and good places to eat.  Save time to get a signature Dish of Chicken Rice.  We like Tian Tian (Maxwell Food Court) or Hawker Chans (the new stand alone restaurant).  Then go through Little India for a different feel and smell. Nice little Hindu Tempe (Sir Veeramakalimman) to visit and after your walk through Little India you can walk over to Arab Street and see the Sultan Mosque. You can go to Kampong Glam or Zum Zum for a cheap late night meal with many Malaysian and Indonesian things on the menu.

Take a stroll along Orchard Road:  This is a great place to people watch and at one time was the high end spot to shop in Singapore.  Still plenty of high end shops and it would be easy to drop into one of the malls and spend a few hours.  Better yet would be to get a coffee at one of the coffee shops with sidewalk seating and watch the crowd.

  

 
Have a drink:  Now the most famous spot is the Long Bar in the Raffles hotel.  Their claim to fame is they invented the Singapore Sling.  It was a beautiful bar but I have not been back since it reopened as they were/are remodeling the hotel. This is a bit pricey even by Singapore standards.  As I am not much for the overly sweet Singapore sling, another great bar choice is CÉ LA VI at the top of the Marina Bay Sands.  They do charge to get to the bar, but you get a voucher for food or drinks when you get there.  An incredible view of the city and the infinity pool on top of the hotel.  This way you can see the Marina Bay Sands and the Gardens by the Bay on the way to your lunch or afternoon drink.  One less explored place is the Bar Rouge at the top of the Swisshotel/Stamford.  They have a dress code and cover on weekends as this has gone from a sleepy hotel bar to a nightclub.  They open at 5 and the action does not get going until a lot later.  They have a fantastic view of the bay from the bar on the 72nd floor.

Singapore Zoo:  This is a smallish zoo that is well run, clean and visitor friendly.  You get to see rainforest animals that you would never see anywhere else.  The stars of the zoo are the Orangutans.  They also are very active in helping save the remaining population of Orangutans.  Very good for kids with lots of activities and you can even have breakfast in the zoo close to the animals.

Tiger Brewery:  A nice brewery tour.  You used to go to over the bottling area that was just amazing watching the packaging conveyors.  They don’t do that anymore, but it is still a nice tour and it finishes with beer tasting at the bar.  Even with your admission figured in, this is about the cheapest beer you will drink in Singapore.

Hawker Center:  You really have to go to a hawker center and order the local delicacies.   Lau Pa Sat is probably the best known hawker center, and in the evening has many food vendors to choose from.  It blends architecture from the 1890’s with modern hawker food.  This may be a bit too touristy, but the satay can’t be beat.  This is a World Heritage site so worth visiting.  Other more local hawker centers offer all the famous Singapore dishes but you really should have Roti Prata at least once, Chicken Rice, and Mee Goring or Nasi Kandar.  There are so many more like the peanut pancakes and….I could go on and on.

 

The Quays:  Clarke Quay and Boat Quay are nice little areas along the river banks that have numerous restaurants and bars.  These are places to be seen and for late night clubbing.  We really don’t do that so we only walk through during the day.  A lot of history packed in a small area.  We take visitors on a Bum Boat tour that nicely gives the history and a short boat ride.  From the Quays you can walk to the Merlion and take some pictures.

 

 

 

 

 These next places either take too much time on a short trip or are a bit too touristy for us. Things we love like hiking the Southern Ridges or MacRitchey Reservoir are so nice but they do take time.  There are also area attractions like the cable car to Sentosa island, the Singapore Flyer, gambling at one of the casinos, and so many museums. 

If you are intrigued and would like to visit Singapore but don’t want to venture on your own – join us on one of our trips to this fascinating region!

Jon and Carol are owners of Vista Adventure Travel specializing in small group tours to incredible places.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paris is still Open

Paris is still Open

Paris is one of the most amazing cities in the world and I want to urge you to visit Paris despite the current disruptions.  As I am sure you are aware, the last two months have been trying for Paris and the Parisians. Throughout France, the outcry over an increase in the gasoline tax has driven French people to don yellow vests and protest in the streets.  Mostly, these have been peaceful. In Paris, what began as a peaceful gathering was turned ugly by hooligans. It might have been said that this was due to an overreaction by the police but I really don’t think that was the case.  You could have made that argument after the first instance of violent protests, but for the protesters to show up week after week and each time be better prepared for the police response, it shows they are there for the action. It is hard to say if the peaceful protesters naturally had hooligans in their makeup or hooligans chose the protests to come out and wreak havoc. 

But even with the “riots” Paris is still the Paris that you love. The protests started on the Champs-Élysées and pretty much stayed there until the police tried to clear the rioters. This caused it to spill over from the Champs, but it only moved about three blocks each side. Yes, the hooligans did break storefront windows, spray-painted graffiti, burned cars and vandalizecenturies-old statues.  Why they would even uproot Christmas trees and burn them in the streets is beyond me, but they did that too. 

Having our trip dates set and our non-refundable tickets and hotel, we did not want to cancel because of the rioting.  We had scored a hotel in a prime location, only half a block form the Champs. We were there on December 1st, the biggest day of protests. You will probably see the coverage of the ongoing protests, and the news will show pictures from December 1st as it was the most disruptive day.  Since we were right in the middle of that mess, we decided to get away and explore other parts of Paris that we had not been to. The metro was still running, so it was easy to be far away in less than a half an hour. 

We went to the 11th Arrondissement and walked around the rue Oberkampf.  As we walked we saw a line out the door and down the side of this little boulangerie (bakery and bread shop). We got in line and ordered some coffee, baguette, butter, and jam and grabbed one of the few tables.  The coffee was good but the bread was out of this world. We are always amazed at how much better the baguettes taste in France/Paris. It could be that we are usually on a low-carb diet when not on vacation or they really are that much better in France. I have trouble describing how heavenly simple baguette and butter tastes is it the right amount of crust or chewiness or..  This is something not to miss when you visit Paris. If we had not been away from the Champs we never would have found this place. Also they had a little Christmas market right there in the wide median area of the adjoining boulevard. We got to see local delicacies and handicrafts. Sometimes just walking through undiscovered parts of a city without a mapped out itinerary and timetable is the best way to really get to know a place. Stopping in at a Bistro for a charcuterie and glass of wine makes for perfect people watching. Taking a chance on an unknown spot and finding an excellent place for dinner, was all because of the problems in the Champs. 

Two days later, Paris was still cleaning up the Champs when we stopped in at one of our favorite restaurants, La Cordonnerie.  We were discussing the disruption with Chef Hugo and how his restaurant only 5 blocks away form the Champs was untouched. He commented that it was untouched by the riots, but those riots were televised around the world.  As the news has a tendency to do, they dramatize the events and make them a lot more sensational than is usually the case. Hugo’s family run restaurant depends on tourism and the Parisian love of good food. When a few hooligans make news and disrupt business, the ripple effect on the everyday working Parisian is felt.   

 

 

 

 

 

Paris is a big city and small disruptions should not scare you away from experiencing this magnificent city. Chances are the Parisians will be appreciative that you are willing to visit their city, and they will show you an even better time.

Jon and Carol are owners of Vista Adventure Travel specializing in small group tours to incredible places.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What not to do around wild monkeys!

What not to do around wild monkeys!

Monkey Angkor Wat2

Monkey at Angor Wat – Can I have your sunglasses, please?

 

“They are just so cute!” During our last tour of the Angkor Temple complex outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia, we saw a lady sit down on the steps near a group of curious monkeys. As the monkeys approached, people in our group wanted to join in the fun.   Being the killjoy that I am I quickly moved our group to a safe distance away. Before you could blink, a monkey was crawling on the lady who sat down. The next second he was on her head grabbing a handful of hair and her shiny sunglasses. As she reached up to try to protect the glasses, off the monkey jumped with the glasses and bits of her hair.   She was lucky that all she lost were the glasses and a handful of hair!

 

Monkey with Ice Cream

Monkey with stolen ice cream cone

 

Monkeys are everywhere in Asia. In Nepal, we have seen a monkey rip an ice cream cone out of a 5 year-old’s hand leaving her crying but basically unharmed.

 

In Malaysia, we have seen hordes of monkeys descend on parked motor scooters and rip them apart looking for food. In Bali, they are almost pets with locals selling bananas to tourists to feed the monkeys. Monkey bites are more common than most realize. One study had 13 Australians flying home every month to get rabies treatment. Most from Bali and most of those for monkey bites.

 

Monkey Singapore SignEven in highly developed areas like Singapore, you see signs like this.

The biggest fear of a monkey bite is rabies. From the mammals to be worried about in Asia, monkeys rate number 3 behind dogs and cats. Some say that it is rare to be bitten by a rabid monkey because if a monkey is infected, it would die very quickly (like 20 days). But and this is a huge but, if you are infected with rabies and not treated, it is almost 100% fatal. So even if the statistics are on your side, if you are bitten by a monkey, you will end up getting the shots to avoid an agonizing death.

What turns into a cute photograph or wildlife experience quickly turns into a vacation-ruining nightmare. If you are bit, you are going to get a series of painful shots. – In many cases, doctors have migrated away from the really painful shot into your abdomen in favor of the more expensive shot surrounding the bite and then one into a large muscle – ouch!! Even if you have had the rabies vaccine, you will still get shots, only fewer of them. Nevertheless, your holiday is most likely over having to spend at least the next few hours in a hospital/doctor’s office and hoping they have rabies vaccine on hand. After the first shot, you will likely have to go to a big city or even your home country to finish your series of shots.

Wow! We have painted a pretty bleak picture of what happens if you get bit by a monkey, but if you follow some of the guidelines below, you can avoid all that messy monkey bite stuff.

These are the things not to do when you encounter wild monkeys:

  1. Don’t carry plastic bags as monkeys have been conditioned to know these contain food. Monkeys will aggressively take your bag if they get the opportunity. The same applies to soda/water bottles.
  2. Do not feed them. They become accustomed to the food and lose the fear of humans. They will also become more and more aggressive. They may not be happy at you feeding them too slowly, or the pack may show up and want theirs or you may run out of food before they thought you should. Just don’t feed them.
  3. Don’t try to pet them or let them crawl on you. The reasons for this should be obvious. If they end up crawling on you, stay calm, don’t reach with your hands to get them off and let them get off on their own after they tire of crawling on you.
  4. No flash photography as they may become aggressive.
  5. Don’t make eye contact.  Eye contact make be interpreted as a hostile sign and they may become aggressive.
  6. Don’t smile at them as showing your teeth may be misinterpreted. If they are showing their teeth, it is not a smile it is their way to say back off.
  7. Don’t fight to hold on to whatever they have latched onto – they don’t fight fair and will scratch or bite you to keep whatever it is they want. Most likely, after they have a taste of your sunglasses or whatever they will drop them 50 yards down the road.
  8. Like encounters with other wild animals that are being aggressive, you want to make yourself appear larger and if possible pick up a stick or have your hiking pole ready. Back away slowly.   Don’t turn your back and run – don’t show fear!
Monkey and Photographer

Monkey sitting with a tourist!

 

Overall, monkeys make great photographic subjects. The vast majority of encounters with monkeys are fun and harmless. Keep these rules in mind when traveling in monkey country and enjoy!

Jon and Carol are owners of Vista Adventure Travel specializing in small group tours to incredible places.