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gardkarlsen Singapore - A travel report by Gard
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Singapore,  Singapore - flag Singapore
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gardkarlsen's travel reports

Visiting friends in Singapore

  11 votes
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Singapore travelogue picture
Singapore is often just a city on your way to your destination. Many backpackers try to get away from the city as fast as possible because it is too expensive. But we got to experience a bit more of Singapore since we had friends that could take us around.

Favourite spots:
Singapore travelogue picture
I enjoyed our visit to the zoo (both the zoo and the night safari). And we also had some fun in Sentosa even if it was very hot that day.

What's really great:
Singapore travelogue picture
Well, Singaporeans have a reputation for enjoying their food and we got to try out a lot of different food that we had never tasted before. A visit to a hawker store is recommended.

Singapore travelogue picture
Zoo, Night Safari, Sentosa Island, Raffles Hotel, Sim Lim Square, National Orchid Garden, biking at Pualu Ubin

Singapore travelogue picture
We were lucky enough to be able to stay with our fiends this time so we have no experience with hotels. But if you want a good hostel I can recommend The InnCrowd ( Their page also has lots of information about Singapore itself.

Other recommendations:
Singapore travelogue picture
Once again it turns out that it is great having friends around the world. The trip to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur was triggered by an invitation to a wedding in Kuala Lumpur (called KL from now on). We didn’t get that much time to plan the trip because we got the invitation on pretty short notice. We did manage to get tickets round trip from Stavanger to Singapore for about 6000 Norwegian kroner (about 650 US dollars) and that is not bad. Maybe the price is related to the time of year when we went on the trip. We started from Stavanger on November 9th 2000. As usual we flew to Amsterdam to catch the next flight from there to Singapore. When I say we I’m referring to my love Nikki and myself. For the first time we had decided to bring a video camera. I also had to bring a laptop and it can get pretty heavy to carry all these items around. My advice is to bring as little as possible with you to carry around.

Schipol airport ( in Amsterdam has gotten a little facelift since the last time I was there. I like this airport because it has quite a lot of nice shopping and the whole airport is in one terminal so you don’t have to take buses around. It even has an Internet “café” on level 2 in the main shopping area. The price for 45 minutes was about 9 Dutch gylder.

The flight to Singapore took about 11 hours and 30 minutes and that is a pretty long time. We flew KLM and I have to say that their service and quality has lowered in the years after I started travelling. They seem a bit old fashion now since they don’t have little screens in each seat but keep on using the small TV’s hanging in the ceiling. The first part of the trip was freezing by the way and even when we tried to ask them what was wrong we just got the answer “it will get warmer”. In the end most people had put on all the clothes that they had brought along and it did get warmer eventual.

We landed at Changi aiport ( at about 4 pm. This airport has a reputation for being one of the best airports in the world and I must say that I was impressed when I went to the toilet and I saw the toilet paper was folded just like it is folded in a bathroom in a hotel room. Singapore gave us a hot and humid welcome. It was about 26 degrees Celsius when we landed and it seemed like it had rained. I like the climate and it reminds me a lot of the trip to Thailand in 1998. Talking about Thailand. We flew right over the island of Koh Samui when we were flying to Singapore. We spent the night in Singapore at a friend’s house and it was so nice to sleep in a bed again after sitting on the plane the previous night.

The following day we took the bus to Kuala Lumpur. But after a few days we returned to Singapore by bus.

We were a bit tired after the bus ride but after a nice meal we were ready to go to the night safari ( The night safari is a nice concept were you go around and look at animals in a more natural environment (at least for nocturnal animals) which means that it is only open at night. I think the place opens at about 7 PM and close at about 12 midnight. We first took the tram around and we also walked on some of the trails. There were lots of animals to see and the guides on the trams give a lot of information. It costs about 20 Singapore dollars to get a ticket for the night safari (it is cheaper if you don’t go for the tram option).

After a few days in Singapore we also went to the zoo during daytime ( It is a pretty nice zoo but I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for the animals that are “contained”. Most of them seem to be very bored and I don’t like seeing animals that are trained to do stuff for our amusement. If you go to the zoo be sure to plan the day according to the shows that are held and the feeding times. When they feed the animals you also get some information about the animals from one of the zookeepers. We only went to the reptile show but we got our money worth on that cause Nikki was picked as a “volunteer” from the audience to help out with all the snakes. But she is not very fond of snakes so she had to back out after a little while. Anyway, to get into the zoo you have to pay about 12 Singapore dollars per ticket. It is a bit out of town but we managed to get there by using MRT combined with a bus.

The following day we found out that it was time to get out of the city and get some exercise. We were brought along by our hosts Yen Ping and Edwin to Changi village (near the airport) were we took a little boat over to Pualu Ubin a small island only minutes away from Singapore island. Pualu Ubin is a tiny island and it is more or less used as a place where Singaporeans leave their “leftovers”. When we walked around we could see plenty of cars that were more or less falling apart because of rust. The boat itself is pretty cheap (about 2 Sing dollar) and you can rent a bike for 8-10 dollars. I didn’t really think that it was a great bike but it got me around on the island. We just biked around for a few hours until we were all wet from sweat. In the end it started raining a bit and we just managed to get back to the center where the ferries/boats come in. In this center you’ll find the places that rent out the bikes and there are also some restaurants. On the island you can see durians hanging on trees and apparently they fall down when they are ripe. In other words: keep an eye on them so that you don’t get hit cause they are pretty big. For those who wonder…durian is one of the fruits that Asians love and everybody else hate. It doesn’t smell good and I can’t say it tasted good either.

The Singaporeans are well known for their eating habits and they have many interesting dishes. One night we were taking to Raffles Marina to eat at the restaurant there and we must have gone through like 20 courses and everybody was stuffed in the end. We had scallop, clamp, jellyfish, salmon, crab, chicken, pork, beef.and so on. We also had a local dish called chicken rich another night and that was pretty good. It is basically what the name indicates: one boiled chicken (served cold) with rice that has been boiled in the same water as the chicken was boiled in. Other dishes not to be missed is:
Prata: fluffy-crisp fried “bread” served in different manners
Satay: marinated meat on a stick that has been barbecued over charcoal and it is served with a thick peanut sauce.

The hawker store is also a must when you go to Singapore. It is basically a lot of small food stalls that has gathered together in one place and they all see to have their own specialty. You can order food from all the different stores and you sit in the middle of the stalls. Many of the dishes that I have described already will be served at Hawker centers. We went to the Hawker center near Newton Circus and that was great. But I have to admit that the Chinese dinner dishes are a lot better than the desserts. Many of the desserts include crushed ice, red beans, starch, syrup and so on and that is very different from the dessert we are used to. Highlights from the dinner must be the oyster omelet, satay and fish bowl.

The restaurants have ratings by the way according to their “standard”. When I say standard I don’t mean how good the food it. It more comes down to how clean the place is. A is the best of course and D is the worst.

I’m really glad that we had some local guides in Singapore because if not we would have eaten a lot of Western food instead of trying out some of the Chinese/Indian/Malay dishes that we tried out. Some of the places that we went to looked pretty shady compared to what I am used to from back home and a name of a dish doesn’t really give you much information what the dish taste like.

Sentosa island is a little island located just to the south of Singapore. The island contains beaches, hotels, golf courses and all sorts of entertainment. You can reach the island several ways: by bus (the cheapest way), by cable car from Mount Faber or by a ferry. We choose to take the bus since it is also useful to use the bus when going around on the island. So we parked the car at the world trade center and took the bus from there. The price was 7 Sing dollars. Once on the island there were lots to do and their website provide more information. We tried one of the miniature golf courses at Wondergolf and that was pretty fun. The Asian village is not really that interesting and the same goes for the Dolphin Lagoon. It cost like 17 dollar to get into the Dolphin Lagoon and you get to see the pink dolphin close up and a few lucky ones get to pet them. But these 17 dollars also gives you access to the underwater world and that is a nice aquarium. There is a little petting aquarium where you get to touch the fish and there is a tunnel that you go through where you are surrounded by the aquarium and it is fun to see stingrays and sharks swim right over your head. We also had to try Fantasy island which is the water theme park at Sentosa. According to the brochure they are open until 10 pm but the night when we went there, there were so few people that they would close earlier. We also found out that some of the slides close at 6.30 cause they are not allowed to operate in the dark. And with to slides closed due to maintenance there were not much left to do.

Clark quay is an area that has been turned into restaurants, pubs, shops and so on. We went there on a Friday night to get something to eat and there were lots of people there. It seemed like most of the people were either foreigners (either tourists or expatriates).

If you like to walk there is also the option of walking around in Chinatown during the day. You will find Chinese temples, Indian temples and lots of little shops. We also went into a local wet market and it was quite and experience to walk around and look at all the people working on chopping up fish and so on. We even found a few cages of frogs and I was impressed by the speed of the guy that was removing the skin from the frogs.

If you walk a bit further you’ll reach Singapore river and boat quay is located here. This is something like Clark quay but you won’t find that many shops in this area. But it is filled with bars and restaurants. If you walk a bit further you are in the downtown business area where you will find some of the skyscrapers and big banks. On the opposite side of the river is the place where Raffles landed his boat originally and there are a couple of statues of him. Many of the older buildings are located here including the old parliament, theater, courts and so on. But there are also new buildings such as the new parliament and Raffles City Shopping Center.

Mount Faber is the highest mountain in Singapore but that doesn’t really say much cause it is pretty flat. And it is not very high at least to Norwegian standard. But we drove to the top and the view from the top at night is pretty nice and there is even a restaurant on top. And this is also where the first cable car station can be found (the one that leads to Sentosa).

I think many people are familiar with the word Orchard road and I think most people associate it with shopping. And the shopping possibilities is almost endless in this street cause one mall follows the next. If you pick up information pamphlets in the mallshotelairport you will find some sort of description on the different malls. We spent a couple of days on Orchard road and we found a few good bargains. When we are on the topic of shopping I guess I have to mention Sim Lim Square where locals shop their electronics. The mall is dedicated to cameras, video cameras, TV, videos and so on and I think it is like 6 floors. It is quite overwhelming to walk around in this place and what bugs me is that you have to ask for all the prices. I’m used to looking at things without being “bothered” by sales personnel.

If you want to get away from the city noise then a good option would be to go to the Botanic gardens. It is nice and quiet and people go there to go on picnics, go jogging, play football with their kids and so on. The garden also includes the National Orchid Garden where you have to pay about 2 Singapore dollars to get in. And as the name indicates it is filled with all sorts of orchids.

On November 22nd it was time to go back to Norway again. Again I have to say that Changi is a very nice airport and there are shopping possibilities here too if you missed something in town but according to our local guides it is never cheaper at the airport. But getting tax refunds for things that I had bought went swiftly and of we went. The flight back from Singapore to Amsterdam took about 12 hours and 30 minutes. I’m glad that Nikki and me had 3 seats to share because it made it a bit easier to sleep. It was not very nice to get back to Norway where it was raining at it was about 8 degrees Celsius. But to look on the bright side of it: I won’t get anymore mosquito bites this year J It was a great trip and we got to see a lot and do a lot and most of this is because we had local guides. The next time we go to Malaysia I think that we must try and see more of the country itself. I have heard that the east coast is great with many small islands that are worth visiting.

Published on Sunday January 5th, 2003

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Sun, Jun 06 2010 - 11:49 AM rating by mistybleu

An enjoyable read; with lots of tips for my next visit

Sat, May 31 2003 - 03:50 AM rating by inzaghi

I lived in Singapore for almost 20 years and can vouch that this is one of the most accurate reports ever written on this small clinically clean island. Two thumbs up!

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