It’s funny how life works, isn’t it? One minute, you’re going here, or there, and then wondering if you made the right call.
During some points of my travels I’ve suffered from “The grass looks greener over there” syndrome. There have been times I’ve arrived in a new place only to be called to another quicker than I probably should have. I remember leaving early from Greece to go to Ireland after I found a flight deal I couldn’t pass up, later from Malaysia to Thailand and one time I left Berlin on a whim after seeing a picture of the Dancing Houses in Prague.
Singapore, until last month, was a shiny green path of land calling my name.
I had originally planned to go to Singapore almost exactly a year ago when I changed travels plans last minute and hightailed to Africa. I’m sure you all remember that story… Instead, I went to South Africa and fell in love (yes with a guy… but first with the country itself).
Admittedly, I’ve wondered at times, “what would have happened if I flew to Singapore last May instead of South Africa?”
The answer: My life wouldn’t be the same… (and neither would my opinion on Singapore).
Had I went to Singapore when I initially planned, I probably would have enjoyed it more. Back then, I wasn’t traveling on such a strict budget (I thought at that point I’d be headed home and back to corporate life soon) and I was traveling by one-way tickets only, so I could make my exit whenever I felt the urge to go to the next country. This time, however, I booked a roundtrip (nonrefundable) ticket to Singapore from Cape Town, planning to stay two weeks. Whoops.
A previous Singapore resident told me right before I left: “What are you going to do for TWO WHOLE WEEKS in Singapore?!” If she didn’t know then I certainly didn’t.
The truth is there aren’t two weeks full of sights and activities in Singapore. It definitely more of a 1-3 day stopover destination, in my humble opinion.
Needless to say, I didn’t make it the full two weeks.
You were always at the top of my list of places I wanted to see. I tried to come mentally prepared for a big city experience but it just wasn’t for me.
Ultimately, I feel I didn’t get the full experience because I didn’t feel like wiping my savings account. I lived on less than $50 a day for a year across Europe and Asia, which I thought was pretty good, but Singapore on such a budget would be close to impossible.
As it turns out, doing almost anything on a budget is out of the question- even having a meal at a dive bar/grill cost $20, and don’t even get me started on the cost of activities/tours. I’ve never paid more than $10 for a meal in any of the countries I’ve visited in Asia, so that was new and frustrating. One of the nights I decided to walk a few miles until I found a proper grocery store so that I could save some money by buying food + alcohol there and bringing it back to the hostel. Chips: $5. Sandwiches: $10. Excuse me, what the what?! I can rent an entire bungalow on the beach for that price! Then, I found the liquor section and my last overpriced straw was pulled…
One bottle of vodka cost $90.
Thailand’s islands, $1 Pad Thai and $2.80 buckets of booze beckoned me but I tried to reason it away and just enjoy where I was at…but…seriously…
“HOW can it be this expensive here?! If I’m spending this much on a cocktail it better come with a cabana boy and ocean view, just saying.”
Just for laughs, I ran a blind search on flights. Thirty-five dollars would fly me to Thailand…. It was too difficult knowing I could fly to Thailand, cab to accommodation and eat + drink till my heart’s content, all for the same price as ONE bottle of vodka in Singapore- but on an island.
So I cut my time in Singapore short and went to Thailand. I couldn’t resist, but for the next two days I saw everything I could.
Singapore, in my humble opinion, is like the Las Vegas of South East Asia, but without all the dirty/crazy/madness (it’s actually one of the cleanest cities in the world). Imagine a tamed, well-behaved Las Vegas, without all the partying, gambling and showgirls.
What’s left you say? Well…
- All the high-end shopping and eating you can imagine.
- Overpriced EVERYTHING.
- Skyscrapers galore, and then some.
- TONS of tourists.
These aspects of the experience were not ideal for a traveler like me, but I can see why so many people enjoy this place. Singapore really is a beautiful city worth seeing with your own eyes at least once. If you’re not traveling on a budget, like I was, you may totally love it.
Even with my cut-short experience, there were quite a few highlights.
For me, these were the top things to see and do in Singapore:
The Light Show (Gardens by the Bay)
The Singapore Sling
It really is a beautiful city, I will give it that!
Finally getting to Singapore felt very full circle in a way- like I was completing my original mission, and in doing so I was given reassurance that my gut lead me down the right path a year ago. South Africa (instead of Singapore) was definitely the right choice a year ago, but I had to go see for myself.
As for now, I am happy to be back in Cape Town, my home away from home, where you can buy a bottle of vodka for $7. Just saying.