I’ve been waiting for the right moment to dish about my beloved city. Singapore is a tiny island located off the southern tip of Malaysia in Southeast Asia. Think Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (your mom’s next book club read) and the Trump-Kim historic Singapore summit (aka peace talks). Here, we get to enjoy 365 days of sunshine, access to a wonderful public transport system, and racial harmony. Sounds divine, right? So here it is ladies and gents: a guide to a city that transformed from a muddied swamp to one like a glitzy daydream, all in under 40 years.
9. Sentosa Island
You are in for a thrilling time when you drop in on this island getaway. Sentosa is home to Universal Studios Singapore, which spots the world’s tallest dueling roller coaster. Indulge in the sight of sandy white beaches before checking in at several fun activity spots including iFly (indoor skydiving), Fort Siloso Skywalk (a stroll among the treetops), the Luge (a self-driving car system anyone over the age of 7 should be capable of handling), and ziplining at Mega Adventure Park.
Credit: Daniel Cheong
8. Marina Bay Sands
This resort fronting basically makes up the only Singapore skyline beknown to the rest of the world. It appeared in the scene when the world goes to chaos in Independence Day: Resurgence, Hitman: Agent 47, and of course, Crazy Rich Asians. It’s essentially a giant mall/hotel with a huge ship on top. The infinity pool on the top floor spots many people desperately trying to get a kickass bikini shot. I suggest going for a stroll along the picturesque Promenade instead. Walk farther down and about, and you may stumble upon the Esplanade outdoor theatre, which showcases gigs from talented rising artists.
Credit: Lonely Planet
7. Bugis Street
This street is a popular spot for both locals and tourists, so come prepared to face the crowds! I will admit that it does get a little claustrophobic, but it’s all a part of the Singapore experience. Here, you’ll discover rows and rows of local street food and trinkets—including fried chicken on a stick, otah, durian, fresh fruit juice, watches, socks, souvenirs, and many more. Hop on the escalator to levels 2 and 3, and you’ll uncover a variety of cheap clothing going at 3 for $15 or something similar.
6. Art Science Museum
I first stumbled upon this artsy, futuristic gem of a museum as a camp counselor chaperoning some campers. I will say that this museum is the epitome of Singapore’s art x technology scene. Home to ever-changing exhibitions (the previous ones included AI robots you could talk to—SHOOKETH), the museum is most famous for its permanent installation Future World.
The space prioritizes cutting-edge technological installations which include a crystal room perfect for cool Instagram pictures, a light-up ball pit, and animation you can draw and interact with on a giant screen.
Credit: The Screening Room
5. The Screening Room
Restaurant by day and movie theatre by night, The Screening Room presents nightly entertainment like no other. Grab your share of cocktails (or mocktails) at the rooftop bar before you are escorted downstairs to the screening room. The place is a hip hangout spot for retro moviegoers and the relatively young crowd.
Credit: SG Passion Made Possible
4. Orchard Road
This is an undeniable hotspot for the rising millenial and working class. Located in the vicinity of the CBD, Orchard Road is bustling with cultural street performers, shopping malls, movie theatres, and cute cafes. Head towards SCAPE Youth Park to shop local brands, take cute neoprints (Singapore has Japanese photo booths that allow you to customize your images), and munch on some delicious Korean BBQ at KIM’s. A notable perk is that almost every large mall or destination in the area is linked via underground tunnels—which is a fascinating treat in itself.
A personal favorite is the Library @ Orchard. It’s one of those libraries that hosts silent congregations for hipsters and college students alike. It is a daydream for book-lovers and browsers. It even has one of those tall ladder things to swing about on when the librarian isn’t paying attention.
3. Pulau Ubin
This one’s an island off the coast of mainland Singapore. It is known as the last “kampong” (translation: “village”) in Singapore. Getting to this island is a little tricky, but I see that your adventurous spirit is up for the challenge. You’ll have to get yourself to the East before you hop on a speedboat (will cost you $2) which will bring you over to the other side in under ten minutes. You will see some monkeys, all types of bugs, wild boars, locals, old huts, and a beautiful boardwalk overlooking the sea. I usually rent a bike for $10 or $15 a day, and bring it along my hike up Chek Jawa.
2. Arab Street/Haji Lane
This is known as the street that bloggers write about. Be ready to stumble upon many unique boutiques and vintage stores that sell trendy clothing, bags, accessories, artwork, and home decor. The prices are a little over H&M’s new collection, but more affordable than Topshop’s.
My favorite is this one store that allows customers to try on hilariously authentic ‘80s jumpsuits. As you begin to grow lethargic from strolling in and out of stores under the merciless sun, unwind at one of the many coffee shops nearby.
Credit: Working with Grace
1. Cat Café
Look me in the eye and tell me that you’ve never—not once in your life—dreamed of dining with cats (I emphasize on the plurality of the word, because there’s not one, but MANY cats that will want your attention as you are eating that apple pie). Cafe hunting is part of our culture, and this one is a rare find. A personal favorite of mine is Cat Cafe Neko no Niwa. The owners were extremely welcoming, and their cats were no different.
Last things to note before you arrive: there is no need to rent a car, selling gum is illegal, you can buy a meal for $3.50 at any hawker center (there are many around, with food as tasty as the ones in restaurants).
Southeast Asia is a magical experience if you truly immerse yourself in the scene. Living overseas sort of helped with my cultural immersion when I’m home, as it coaxes me to embrace the people I grew up around. It’s funny how I never really thought anything special of my little world until I realized there was so much more. However, I don’t think I will ever be able to take pride in a single type of cultural upbringing. Surely it can’t be too late to drench myself in a motley mix of customs and emerge just as one of planet Earth’s children.