Singapore: The Backpacker’s Guilty Pleasure
The aversion to anything pricey – it’s a universal trait of the typical backpacker. That is why backpackers and budget travelers all flock to Southeast Asia to satisfy their thirst for travel and adventure. Southeast Asia, unlike Europe or North America, is generally inexpensive. But there is always an exception to everything and in Southeast Asia, that exception is Singapore.
More known for being amazingly clean and well-disciplined than anything else, Singapore is often visited more by tourists with fat wallets and gold credit cards than backpacker travelers with a shoestring budget. That doesn’t mean backpackers who do visit the country don’t enjoy their stay. That also doesn’t mean it isn’t a destination worth exploring.
people would say that Singapore does not have its own identity. On the contrary, I think what makes it so unique is that it’s a melting pot of rich cultures. Walking along the streets of Chinatown and crossing to Little India, I was amazed by how one can experience two different cultures in one small place. Various temples scatter the neighborhood – from Singapore’s main Taoist temple, Thian Hock Keng, and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple to one of the oldest Hindu temples in the country, Sri Mariamman Temple.
Because Singapore is more expensive than its neighboring countries, I knew I had to choose the things I want to shell out money for wisely. After hearing so many people rave about the Singapore Zoo & Night Safari, I knew I had to see it for myself. And for S$71, it was definitely worth it. I’ve been to a lot of zoos before but this one is just so impressive on so many levels, from the outstanding exhibits to the extensive variety of animals. You can see the wildlife of the cold, freezing Arctic first and then look at the fascinating animals of the Australian Outback next. The Night Safari is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Throughout the exciting tram ride that took us across all corners of the globe until the highly entertaining tribal performance, I could only stare in amazement at how realistic and authentic everything felt.
No trip to Singapore would be complete without a quick stop at Gardens by the Bay. It’s the perfect example of how Singapore is able to utilize state-of-the-art design and architecture to make one of the most amazing nature parks on the planet. Taking advantage of the free admission, I was able to walk through the four themed gardens of Heritage Garden which showcased the Indian, Chinese, Malay and Colonial history of Singapore. Admission to the world famous Supertree Grove is also free so I had the chance to gape up in awe at the 16-story trees from down below. If you want to see them up close and get a spectacular view of the Marina Bay skyline while you’re at it, I highly recommend you take the OCBC Skyway. It’ll cost you S$5 but with the view you’ll get, the last thing you’ll think of is the fee you paid for it.
One of the best things about Singapore is it practically tempts you to ditch all forms of public transportation and just walk to wherever your feet takes you. Stroll through Clarke Quay and Boat Quay to breathe in the Singaporean atmosphere. Cross the Boardwalk to Sentosa Island to spend the afternoon at Palawan Beach.
And if you get hungry from all the walking, go to any of the hawker centers scattered all across the city and you’ll find different kinds of cuisine that is sure to satisfy your grumbling tummy. If you’re into spicy food as much as I am, you will love it there.
Singapore isn’t a place to get your feet muddied up and your hands dirty. While most of Southeast Asia is sprawled with off the beaten paths and dirt roads, Singapore has smooth, paved roads with pedestrian lanes and traffic signs that are actually obeyed. But what Singapore offers its visitors that no other country in Southeast Asia can is the opportunity to sit back and delight in the comforting balance of the familiar and the different. At the end of the day, Singapore remains the perfect stop for backpackers who want to take a breather from the colorful, exhausting chaos of the rest of Southeast Asia.