After Asha’s 3 week head start, I (I being Ryan) finally left Australia on January 31st. To kick off our trip together, Asha and I spent four days hanging around Singapore. We stayed with Asha’s dad Big Al, Gelay and Gabby – lazing by the pool, interrupting Al’s daytime ‘Rome: Total Warfare’ sessions, riding around on bikes, and riding buses around the city in search of cheap eats and good coffee. A nice way to ease into our holiday.
Singapore is hardly a backpackers paradise. In making Singapore a nice place to live – and it is, a lovely clean city full of parks, trees, gardens and spotless sidewalks – a city has been created that holds very little interest for travellers. Ritzy hotels, flash-shopping malls, cleanliness verging on sterility.
Its hard to live cheaply in Singapore – but not impossible. Prices for most things are about the same as Australia, which is fast becoming one of the most expensive countries in the world to visit. Our accommodation (with pool) was free, off to a good start.
Getting around in Singapore is pretty cheap – buses (with freezing airconditioning) seemed to cost $1.10 ($SD) for wherever we wanted to go, the MRT (train) costs just over $3 to get from the city centre to the airport (a 45 minute journey) and even taxis weren’t too bad.
There are plenty of flashy and expensive restaurants in Singapore – but the good news is there are places to get good, cheap street-style food. Hawker vendors can be found around local markets (such as Tiong Baru), and we found a huge hawker eatery in Chinatown, where across two sprawling levels you can find Singaporean, Malaysia, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern and just about any other variety of Asian street-style food you can think of. Most meals cost around SD$4 (thats about $3 Australian). Pretty cheap, when a pint at a nearby bar in Chinatown will set you back SD$12.
All food outlets in Singapore – including hawker vendors, restaurants and even school canteens – are graded from A to C on food hygiene. They are required by law to display their ranking where customers can see. Still some of the biggest queues can be seen outside vendors with a C ranking.