I’ve mentioned in a few posts that Singapore is expensive, one great Singapore experience that doesn’t need to cost much is a visit to Chinatown. Best visited in the evening it is a perfect place to have a cheap and delicious dinner while soaking in the atmosphere.
Chinese New Year is coming up in Mid February and Chinatown stalls were crammed with decorations in preparation for this huge celebration. In the Chinese calendar 2018 will be the year of the Dog. The markets are full of soft toy dogs, big and small, most in the auspicious red and gold colours. Since S is crazy about dogs we’ve had to make room for a small one in our backpacks.
Browsing the market stalls on the way to dinner is great fun. The streets are hung with red lanterns and the whole atmosphere is really festive.
The main eating area is named Chinatown food street, a Hawker Centre on Smith St. You purchase food from the selection of stalls all the way up the middle of the street and find a seat in the communal eating area or you can eat at one of the small restaurants. We had two nights in Chinatown and both times the food was delicious.
Smith Street has traditional Chinese shop houses, the area has recently been refurbished and restored and the covered roof is essential for the evening thunderstorms. It can be a bit intimidating figuring out what to order and how but if you hang out for awhile and watch how the locals do it you can figure it out. Many dishes are small portions so you can order lots of little things to try and share. Like most food markets if you look for the most popular stalls you shouldn’t go too far wrong. One evening we had this delicious black pepper, sizzling beef, we all thought it was some of the best beef we have ever tasted.
A completely different experience is the popular evening destination Marina Bay Sands – the mall culture in Asia is very different to what we are used to in NZ. This makes sense, because the weather is so hot, it is more comfortable to seek entertainment inside. Malls can contain theme parks, restaurants, boat rides, cinemas and of course shopping, shopping, shopping. Many are part of a complex that includes a 5 star hotel.
L and I were very interested to visit the viewing platform at the top of Marina Bay Sands. This hotel has 3 towers and the platform that sits across the top. Up here are bars, restaurants, an observation deck and an amazing infinity pool – for hotel guests only.
There are a couple of options for going to the top, pay for tickets to the observation deck, 57 storeys up, make a reservation at the restaurant or visit the Skybar, one level above the observation deck. Admission to the Skybar costs $20 SGD per adult and free for kids, with the admission you get a $20 voucher to use towards your drink. By comparison admission to the observation deck is $23 for adults and $17 for children. So a popular option is to head up to the bar for a drink and to soak in the views, especially at sunset. Unfortunately it seems like everyone else has the same idea. This place was crazy, the bar is super crowded, takes forever to get your drink and you can barely move in the crowds. Also whole parts of the edge of the deck are accessible only to hotel guests so it is quite difficult to get a good view.
If you are visiting Singapore and observation decks are your thing I recommend you skip the bar and pay for the observation deck. Otherwise splash out on the restaurant and ensure you book well in advance for a table with a view. If you are feeling really extravagant you can stay at the Marina Bay Sands hotel which includes access to all areas. Overall we found it a totally overrated experience and for the kids it was very overwhelming. We’d definitely prefer an evening in Chinatown over the Marina Bay Sands.
And so our time in Singapore is over – we’ve done some big sights, some we’d highly recommend and come back to – Gardens by the Bay – and some we wouldn’t do again. We might be back for a night or two in April before our flight to London.
Tell us your favourite Singapore sights in the comments 🙂
Next stop LEGOLAND Malaysia…