In the trips around South East Asia, Singapore is not usually the one that ocuppies more days in the usually busy itineraries of travelers. It is small and the To-Do list of the country is usually concentrated in the central area so it’s a “No more than 2 days” type of place.
But if your budget allows you to stay longer or you hack accommodation using Couchsurfing or Housesitting, this city has much more to give. And with one of the most efficient public transportation in Asia, it will be easy to explore farther to find the hidden jewels of the country.
1. Hawker Center hopping
Hawker centers are THE place to go for great food at good prices in the expensive but delicious Singapore. With the usually short itineraries travelers usually, don’t get to know more than one or two of these gastronomic hubs.
Almost every neighborhood has one so ask the people around or type “Hawker center” on Google Maps and just choose the closest one. For lunch or dinner, you will need months before getting bored with the different options that you can find inside each of these jewels filled with the amazing taste of Singapore.
2. Sit more. Smell the green
One of the things I loved the most in Singapore is the great balance between city and nature that gives you the chance to stop and have some rest from the heat whit some birdwatching. Every day we ended up visiting some kind of green space because they just popped out in front of us while walking around.
So besides the usual Gardens of the Bay, stay longer and check more of the parks and coastal walks around the city. Some are closer from the Center like the Botanic Garden. Others farther away like Changi Point Coastal Walk, the Bukit Batok Nature Park or Mac Ritchie Reservoir where you can enjoy some trekking with the company of some local wildlife.
3. Explore the bizarre side
Forget about expectations and plans. Take Google Maps, choose a place you never heard of and just go and check it. You might end up in a place like Haw Par Villa. This is definitely not the high tech usual Singapore but a more bizarre side of it. And that’s why I loved it!
Haw Par Villa is a thematic village, with tons of colorful statues, representing religious scenes in a very kitsch way. It is not exactly in City Center but if you run with time, it’s a great way to take a long ride on the subway and enjoy the AC before having a nice -and bizarre- walk surrounded by nature while you embrace that weird stuff lover that you are.
4. Go local. And get free food with it!
With more time you can try more “everyday life” experiences. Visit the park near you to just sit and chat. You might end up with a new local friend. Go twice to that dinner place that you loved. Or even go to have breakfast or lunch at one of the Buddhist or Sikh temples of the city that offer free food.
This plan is not actually about getting the chance to eat for free in Singapore, that is just a bonus. This is actually about a beautiful community experience. The Singapore Buddhist Lodge is one of your options. A great place where diverse people sit together and share vegetarian food, conversation and laughs: the guy in his office breaks, the old ladies that take their time and spend the afternoon chatting. And of course, the several people that kept bringing us food because “You have to try this!”.
Yes. The kitchen volunteers here prepare food from breakfast till the afternoon so after the buffet lunch, there was a parade of steamed buns, black bean dessert, and fruit. As we stayed chatting they kept feeding us. They will not ask you anything but if you feel like it, you can make a donation or buy some snacks in the little shop they have before leaving for a walk in the near Fort Canning Park. You will need it after so much food! 😀
5. Explore more free stuff to do
Not everything is about money in expensive Singapore. This great city has a huge cultural offer and many of those events and activities are actually free. Visiting the Canning Fort Park we found a Museum with a very nice photography display. They gave us a guide with a list of many workshops and all sorts of cultural activities for the whole month so look for one of those to check in your closest museum.
You can also watch some live music for free in The Esplanade, check some local and international art at the ION Art Gallery or even catch one of the several movie screenings. Find out more about those here