Though we’ve technically visited Asia before (a trip to the Middle East in 2015), we’ve never been anywhere like Southeast Asia and Japan. We chose to start this leg in Singapore for the simple reason that we were able to book a reasonable round trip flight there (about $900 each). But once we started researching Singapore, we got more and more excited to have it on our itinerary.
Getting to Asia
We did not have an auspicious start to the trip, as our flight from St. Louis to San Francisco was delayed by 5 hours due to a simple mechanical issue that couldn’t be fixed efficiently due to an unability to find the right adaptor (the United pilots, who were irritated by this, may have given us too much information). Granted, I’m grateful for mechanical issues to be caught on the ground, especially after tragic recent events, but we were very disappointed to miss our flight to Singapore. When we finally made it to San Francisco, they gave us a nice hotel room and we got a good 5 hours of sleep, and they upgraded us to “Economy Plus,” so our 17-hour transpacific flight was maybe a little more comfortable. But we would have rather had 12 more hours in Singapore by making our original flight.
Arrival in Singapore
Our delayed arrival gave us two nights and one day in Singapore rather than two full days. The passport control line was long but moved quickly, and we collected both pieces of luggage (so that’s a win compared to our Europe leg!) and followed the signs “Train to City” to the MRT station adjacent to the airport. Some quick math convinced us to go ahead and get two nonrefundable refillable MRT cards rather than the 2-day tourist pass and we filled them each with $10 and headed onto the metro. Fun fact: currently the MRT ticket counter only accepts MasterCard rather than Visa, which we don’t have. Luckily we’d already hit an ATM and had Singapore dollars to pay cash.
After checking into our very so-so hotel (review below) around 8:30 p.m., we headed out toward the Gardens by the Bay. Singapore at night is magical. It is a little bit Vegas, a little bit Dubai, and a lot of neon. We really enjoyed walking amongst the supertrees and photographing the skyline with Marina Bay Sands hotel. By the time we headed over there, it was too late to go up in their observation deck (closed at 10:30 p.m.) so we took the MRT back to our neighborhood and found a cute little backpacker bar for a couple of overpriced beers. There weren’t many open in our neighborhood and retail alcohol sales cease at 10:30 in Singapore, foiling our plan to just get a couple of cheaper beers at the 7-Eleven to enjoy in our room. But we were grateful to unwind after a long flight and lot of walking, and felt very happy to finally be in Asia.
One Day, Two Michelin Stars
We began our full day in Singapore bright and early with breakfast on the roof of our hotel – hard-boiled eggs and steamed dumplings. At least it was free! From there we headed to Chinatown and wandered a bit, taking in the Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple and the Buddha Tooth Temple, including the famed tooth itself on the fourth floor.
After the temples, we joined the queue at Liao Fan Soya Chicken, whose claim to fame is being a former hawker stall that earned a Michelin star. The line wasn’t too long (about 30 minutes waiting at 10:30 a.m.) and we were nice and hungry by the time we got our food, which was very tasty though not out-of-this-world amazing. After lunch we visited the free City Museum of Singapore to take in the exhibits about Singapore’s city planning. It was really well-done and I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in urban planning. From there we saw more of Chinatown (via a very uninspiring audio tour Chad had downloaded – we gave it up halfway through) and Fort Canning Park.
After a rest, we went out in the evening through the Kampong Glam neighborhood to our second Michelin star food stall, Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles. These were quite good and it was especially fun to see the intricate series of actions they put into building their signature dish. After a little more walking, we caught a bit of the Marina Bay Sands fountain show but were pretty beat and called it a night ahead of a fairly early MRT ride back to the airport the next morning.
We’ve already got a list of sights to see on our return trip to Singapore at the end of June, including Orchard Street and Emerald Hill and the Botanical Garden. Happily we’ll be in a different hotel, this time in the Geylang neighborhood. While pricey, Singapore is a really cool city/country and we were glad to have a chance to go.
Review of Mayo Inn
The hotel is pretty worn but it was nice to be so convenient to 2 MRT stations. Overall it felt clean but the furniture, carpet, paint, etc. are quite tired. We were pleasantly surprised that a light breakfast on the roof was included. We enjoyed being in the neighborhood of the hotel, which felt very local. Overall it was fine, but next time we’re in Singapore we plan to stay somewhere else.