Travel Diary – Singapore

Singapore is like my second home. My mum grew up there and I have been visiting my family there since I was a baby. My beautiful cousin sister was getting married in February in Singapore, and so ShakerFries and I would be attending with my family. I couldn’t contain my excitement! Give that this was ShakerFries first trip to Singapore, I got my blogging hat on and started to plan an itinerary. We only had 5 days, and it wasn’t even 5 whole days, as 3 days would mainly be dedicated to the wedding. This post will highlight some of the main places we visited in terms of food and attractions, which could be quite useful if you only have a couple of days and want to know what to do!

Our flight was 13 hours, direct with Singapore Airlines. As soon as we landed it was breakfast time. My aunty came to get us from the airport, and we already decided we wanted McDonalds for breakfast (don’t judge us). The great thing about Singapore is that all the major chains there are Zabiha halal (Burger King, Pizza Hut, Swensen’s, and McDs to name a few). Luckily, there is a McDonalds opposite my grandma’s flat in United Square. ShakerFries and I dropped our bags, freshened up, grabbed my cousins, aunty, parents and sister and headed over. I just got the chicken sausage and egg muffin meal with my favourite drink…iced Milo! It was okay. a bit overrated but it did the job after a long flight! Anyway, rather than trawl through all my days, let me tell you about the best places to visit, as well as the best places to eat!

Our hotel:

We stayed in the beautiful Grand Mercure Roxy, which is a 4 star hotel. This was incredibly close to East Coast Park, and right opposite the Parkway Parade shopping mall, which is full of restaurants and shops. There is also a hawker center opposite, where you can grab a quick fried chicken rice with badung drink (rose milk with grass jelly). Breakfast at the hotel was nice and there was quite a variety which changed daily. I generally just stuck to fruit and pastries but there are also eggs etc. According to online, The Grand Mercure Roxy is supposed to be one of the few ‘halal hotels’ in Singapore, however, they served pork and one of the waiters seemed to have no clue what halal was, so in the end we stayed clear, and just stuck to vegetarian food. To be honest we wanted to taste all the authentic food outside of our hotel so this didn’t bother us. 

It was tough at times to flag down a taxi, but our trips were fairly priced. You will find that the taxi drivers don’t always want to take you where you want to go and will sometimes drive off once they find out where you are heading, giving the excuse that they are ‘changing shifts’, which was code for ‘I can’t be arsed/this is out of my way’ *sigh* gotta love Singapore! We were borderline begging for a taxi most days, but that’s why Uber was so handy in the end!

Places to visit:

  1. Little India 

    Little India is historic and vibrant district which offers a lot in the way of culture, shopping and food. The main road is Serangoon Road which encompasses a mix of Hindu and Chinese temples, mosques and churches. That being said, my childhood memories of Little India are centred around Mustafa, the massive The 24-hour shopping mall Mustafa Centre which offers everything from electronics to groceries. Sadly, this is where I spent most of my time in Singapore as a child! 

    This time I was determined to see a more touristic side to Little India. I managed to take my camera and shoot some of the amazing street art off Serangoon Road. I visited Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple, the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, which has both an extraordinary interior and exterior. When walking to grab some lunch we passed the Little India Arcade where vendors were selling costume jewelry, souvenirs, saris, Indian sweets. Due to time constraints I couldn’t explore as thoroughly as I would have liked. For example, I would have loved to check out the Tekka Center which is Singapore’s largest indoor ‘wet’ market, selling an incredible array of produce.

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    Lunch was amazing. We went to a very reasonable, modest looking halal eatery opposite Mustafa called C M K Restaurant. This place serves some amazing Singaporean/Malaysian/Indian delicacies. I got a Milo dinosaur which basically a cold chocolate energy drink topped in chocolate powder, and Hainanese boiled chicken rice with chicken broth which is one of my favourite dishes! One of the great things about this place is that it is opened 24 hours! Just note that certain dishes and delicacies are only served at certain times 🙂

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    Hainanese Chicken Rice & Milo Dinosaur

     

    On another occasion we visited Gokul, in Little India with the rest of my family to eat some vegetarian food such as Rojak, vegetarian Laksa and vegetarian chicken rice (note: vegetarian soya meat substitutes are very famous in Singapore and provide a great vegetarian alternative! Also they taste waaaay better then Quorn stuff you get in the UK). 

     

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    Vegetarian Rojak & Laksa

     

     

    2. Arab Street

    Arab street and Haji Lane are both located in the Kampong Glam district. This neighborhood is bursting with cafes, independent boutiques and traditional stores. I would compare it to the hipster vibes of Shoreditch but it offers so much more than that! I must say that this is probably one of my favourite places in Singapore. The Sultan mosque is stunning and is a heritage site, so is one of the only mosques where the Azaan is announced freely. The local area is full of halal cuisines from Middle Eastern to Japanese to Indian. There are also plenty of ‘hipster’ or should I say ‘Mipster’ (Muslim hipster) cafes to grab lunch or a coffee. ShakerFries and I wandered around and captured some of the amazing street art before having some deer murtabak (stuffed pancake/parata) for lunch from the famous ZamZam restaurant, an Indian Muslim restaurant that has been open since 1908. After lunch we headed over to Lickety, which sells eggless waffle cones topped with ice cream and 2 toppings of your choice. We went for the red velvet/plain waffle, with taro yam and coconut ice cream, as well as honey lavender ice cream. This was topped with poke and sprinkles. The waffle was surprisingly light and the coconut ice cream definitely stood out from the two!. I really recommend trying this place. Be aware that there can be ques at certain times of day. Other things to do around the area include shopping, checking out the souvenirs and carpets, and just generally soaking up the atmosphere! Arab Street is also where the amazing Atap Bar is located. Check out my previous review to find out more.

     

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    Arab Street & Mosque
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    Deer Murtabak
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    Lickety

    3. Gardens by the bay/Marina Bay Sands

    MBS and Garden’s by the bay are best viewed at night. We started off viewing the 15 minute Laser and fountain show at the steps of the MBS promenade. It’s visually captivating and is tons better then any fountain show you will see in Dubai! Check out the show times online to make sure you don’t miss it. From there we walked towards Gardens by the Bay, which contain beautifully lit supertrees which are between 9 to 16 storeys tall. You can also catch a free sky show of choreographed lights and sounds here in the evening at the Garden Rhapsody amidst the Supertrees. After admiring the trees and taking a few Instagram worthy shots, we made our way to Satay by the Bay, a nearby Hawker Centre. Here, we indulged in some freshly grilled mutton, chicken, beef, and prawn satays with sweet peanut sauce. It was amazingly tasty and all freshly made. You can get a lot of halal food here and stalls are generally open until 1am.

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    Gardens by the Bay
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    Mutton, Chicken & Lamb Satay

    4. East Coast Park

    This isn’t a place that is well known among tourists as a place to visit. In fact, one of the only reasons that I come here is because it’s a tradition! Every time I visit Singapore, I hire a bike one morning (when it is cooler) for about 8 bucks an hour and take a ride in East Coast Park along the coast. I also ride down Bedok Jetty and watch the fisherman at work, before parking my bike under a tree and walking along the beach. Then I usually grab an ice cream after handing back my bike. The best place to hire from is the rental shop near East Coast Lagoon Food Village. If you ask any taxi to take you there they will drop you right by the food court which is literally a minutes walk to the bike shop on the coast. That way, once you’ve finished cycling you can grab a bite to eat from the food village. Here they serve everything from vegetarian popiah to gado gado and some traditional Malaysian dishes like nasi lemak with fried ikan bilis (fish). If you want to try some traditional satay with peanut sauce, check out HARON SATAY, which has been running for almost 40 years!

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    East Coast Park
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    Vegetarian Popiah
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    (left to right) Vegetarian Gado Gado, Chicken satay with peanut sauce, Nasi Goreng, More Gado Gado!

    Make sure you leave room for dessert, because here’s the place to grab some yummy desserts like chendol (crushed ice with gula melaka and condensed milk) and ais kachang (crushed ice over beans and jelly, topped in sweet colorful syrups). Everything here is reasonably priced. Again, not everything is halal, but all halal stalls will be clearly marked and certified. and are gathered in one corner of the food court, just ask someone for the ‘Muslim food’ section.

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    Cendol

     

    5. China Town
    We were lucky as it was nearly Chinese New Year when we arrived in Singapore. For that reason, Chinatown’s markets were bustling and the streets were brightly decorated. Again, Chinatown is great for purchasing reasonably priced souvenirs. If you are a foodie, here is the place to try Char Kway Teow which is essentially stir fried noodles. Be very careful though, as not everything is halal in this area! 
    After being warned off several times, ShakerFries and I worked up the courage to try the durian fruit from a durian restaurant in Chinatown market. We paid a hefty $8 for a few pieces and were shown to a table and handed some plastic gloves. Surprisingly, the fruit didn’t smell as bad as we expected it to! It wasn’t a very sweet fruit, but had a creamy texture not dissimilar to an avocado or sweet potato. much to everyone’s surprise we both enjoyed it!

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    Durian
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    Durian
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    Inside the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

     

    I’m sure there is a lot more to discover here in Chinatown, but the main thing worth seeing is the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple which is beautifully designed and contains Buddhist art and history. It’s free entry too which is great, and you can’t miss it (look our for the bright red building!)! 

    6. Sentosa Island
    A trip to Singapore wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Sentosa Island. My usual trip to Sentosa involves getting a taxi to Mount Faber, and a cable car from there to the Island, where you get the scenic view! Once on the island, there are a range of activities to choose from. The luge experience at Imbiah Lookout is quite fun, and it involves taking a ski lift back to the start point which is a great experience! 
    We also generally visit the Merlion and get a customised ice cream from Stickhouse nearby, or in ShakerFries’ case, a cheeky KFC! Other activities include chilling on the beach, going to the S.E.A aquarium at ResortsWorld Sentosa, visiting Madame Tussaud’s, or even Universal Studios! If you are walking around the Resort world main square near Universal Studio entrance, be sure to pick up some Garret’s popcorn (cheese is my favourite flavour!) 

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    Stickhouse at Sentosa Island

     

    7. Merlion Park
    On our last morning in Singapore, ShakerFries and I decided to take the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) metro to Merlion Park near the Fullerton hotel. By the way, the MRT is a easy and cheap way to get around and I highly recommend using it especially if you are on a budget! Anyway, this place is great to visit by night or day, as the sweeping views from the Merlion Park across the Marina Bay area are unmissable. Its a great opportunity to marvel at the collection of architectural icons that dot the Singapore skyline. Besides the views of MBS accross the water, Merlion park has of course, 2 Merlions, the larger of which stands at 8.6 metres and spouts water from it’s mouth! The mythical Merlion has the head of a lion and the body of a fish, and is symbolic in Singapore.

    Once we had taken a few snaps, we headed to the food stalls near by, specifially Toast Junction, to pick up a Kaya Toast for breakfast, which is a staple breakfast item in Singapore and Malaysia. Kaya toast is prepared with kaya (coconut jam), a sugar, coconut milk and eggs, pandan, and sometimes butter. Its basically a jam on toast equivalent for the Singaporeans and is sweet and satisfying!

     

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    Merlion Park
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    Kaya Toast

     

    8. Orchard Road
    Orchard Road is like the ‘Oxford Street’ of Singapore, encompassing a 2.2km shopping belt, which is the place for retail therapy. We didn’t spend much time here, and only came here to find the ‘uncle with the ice cream cart’. Yeah you read that correctly. from 12 onward you can usually find the uncle with a traditional ice cream cart parked on Orchard Road itself, outside Takashimaya, selling slabs of ice cream in a slice of sweet colored bread for $1! I’ve had it before but unfortunately we arrived too early to find this cart so had to leave without trying it on this occasion..sad!

    9. Newton Hawker Center

    Newton Food Center is one of Singapore’s most famous hawker centres, and consequently is incredibly touristy. It is about 5 minutes drive from Orchard road and is open from 6pm until late. This is still one of my favourite places to eat, because it serves the best chilli crab! It is a bit pricey ($36 for 800g), but trust me, it’s worth it. Served with a plate of fired man tou (sweet steamed buns), these live Sri Lankan crabs are served up in a sauce with a subtle ketchup flavour, with a light spiciness and restrained sweet, sour and savoury flavour. The man tou buns were crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and bursting with sweetness. I love dipping these in the chilli crab sauce. It’s just the best! 
    At this food court I also ordered my favourite drink chin chow. It’s made of grass jelly and is vegetarian. It’s kinda cross between flat coke and Vimto which makes it sound unpleasant but it’s actually super refreshing, and is almost like a Singaporean bubble tea. I recommend also trying their BBQ stingray which is MINDBLOWING. This dish is not for the faint hearted as it is super spicy, but is also bursting with flavour! Other dishes you can find here include the classic Malaysian roti canai (roti prata) which comes with a chicken/mutton sambal curry. The other thing I tried was the black carrot cake aka char kway teow which I mentioned earlier. This dish is made from rice flour and white radish which some call white carrot. The mixture is steamed, then cut into cubes and fried with garlic, eggs and preserved radish called ‘chai poh‘. It is served black with fried with sweet dark soya sauce, and is totally yum. 

     

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    Spicy Stingray
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    Chilli crab with soft, sweet bread and chin chow drink
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    Roti prata

     

    10. Bengawan Solo

    Bengawan solo is the most amazing patisserie/bakery in Singapore. There are now over 35 branches across Singapore, and it has been going strong since 1979, serving up the best Indonesian and Malaysian delicacies. This place is the Selfridges of Singapore, so it can be quite pricey. I would limit your choices to que lapis cake, pandan chiffon cake and ondeh ondeh. My FAVOURITE things which I have eaten since I was a kid are the lapis sago colored gooey treats, and the que tarts which are pineapple tarts. These pineapple tarts are between $20-40 dollars and so are quite pricey, but they make an awesome gift! You can find a branch in Parkway Parade shopping center but honesty you will probably come across at least one branch when wandering the streets of Singapore!

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    Pineapple tarts

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I hope this post helps you when deciding what to do and eat around Singapore! There is tons more to do, see and eat but we were short of time, so these are the main highlights of my most recent trip! I have visited Singapore several times though, so if you need any advice on some additional places to visit be sure to comment or message me 🙂 

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