The last time I went to Singapore was exactly 10 years ago in 2003. My mom and I were on our way to India, and we decided to do a 2-day layover in Singapoe and stayed with Mira’s mom out there. I was barely 18 at the time, and the only things I was excited about were getting my hair highlighted and eating delicious mee goreng.
This time around, I had a completely different agenda going into it. In the past few yeas, I’ve been hearing mixed things about Singapore since it has a rapidly growing expat scene. Facebook even opened up an office there a couple years ago, and I always wondered in the back of my head if I should apply for a position out there. My friend from high school, Jen Woo, also moved there last July, and I was curious to see what her life as an expat was like out there. Not to mention the growing EDM scene – all big DJs always make stops in Singapore since all the AzNs are hardcore into house music apparently. And of course, the food – Singapore had insanely good food, from what I remembered, so I was pumped to go back for the noodles and roti pratha.
A few months ago, Jen and I coordinated a weekend for me to come, and she was super cool about it when I asked if it’s ok if Jenna came along too. So off we went to Singy after our amazing food crawl in Penang! We met up Mira’s mom during the day at The American Club, which was so so so nice. I hadn’t seen her since Rekha’s wedding last year, and it was great to catch up with her for a couple hours. The American Club is like a Club Sport type of situation (has a fitness center, business lounge, etc) and Elizabeth Auntie is a member there so we ate lunch here. Jenna and I were beyond thrilled to eat salads – finally, the produce and salad dressing tasted normal! It is so goddamn hard to find a normal salad in Asia, and this is one of the things I miss the most about being away. Anyway, we lounged around, chatted, and drank beers and then finally headed over to Jen’s when she was off of work.
The entire weekend, Jen was an amazing hostess! (Feel like I’ve gotten super lucky with each place that I visit people in.) She asked me what I wanted to do beforehand, and i just told her I wanna see what the life of an expat in Singapore is like. I really didn’t care to go to fancy restaurants or do anything over the top. The only one touristy thing I wanted to see was the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, but that’s a must! Jen took us to her favorite hawker centers (which are all over Singapore), we did a river cruise though the city, went to Marina Bay Sands, and then there was the nightlife. To be honest, I was actually more excited about the nightlife more than anything because a) I’ve become so boring in Bangkok when it comes to drinking and b) the music scene is just so much better in Singapore from what I keep hearing, so I was down to actually go to an untz untz club at night. On top of that, Jen made sure and forced different groups of people to come out each night because she really wanted to show us a good time.
It’s Sunday night right now, and I’m currently feeling super dead because both of these nights were 5am-ers with excessive drinking and going out. The sad thing is, I didn’t even drink that much (3-4 drinks the first night), and my hangover was so terrible and I felt crappy. I remembered why I don’t like drinking that much anymore and how I enjoy my sober lifestyle nowadays. Anyway, besides that, here are my key takeaways from Singapore (in no specific order):
The food in Singy is the bomb.com. I had nasi goreng, mee goreng, roti pratha for days (yes, we got this both nights around 4am) – everything was to die for, and it’s interesting to see the different flavors/ways that these Asian countries make these dishes. The laksa dish I had in Singapore was way better than the one I had in Penang, and all they did was change part of the broth. When I went to Singy in 03, they had more traditional style hawker carts that you’ll still see if you visit Bangkok or Penang. With the growth of Singapore, they’ve ditched most of the actual carts and now have full on hawker centers that you’ll see in the pictures below. It’s freaking intense, but so delicious and still so cheap. I love love love the different juices they have – I tried a yummy one called ABC this time which is super healthy (apple-beetroot-carrot.) So spot hitting. I used to think that all Asian food tasted the same, but now, I’m super picky and see a huge difference in the dishes. God knows how I’m going to eat Asian food back in the states now- I’m legitimately nervous about it.
Next, I think Singapore is a lot of fun, but I think I was going through some reverse culture shock for sure this weekend. Even Jen and Jenna could tell I was a little weirded out, and I surprised myself by being like this! Singapore is just so westernized that you feel like you’re in America, and I was not expecting that at all. Everything is so efficient and organized and orderly, and this is not the way most parts of Asia are. I felt like I was right back in America when I was here – everything is super clean, people speak English, and prices are the same. In some cases, even higher than American prices. I wasn’t mentally prepared for this, so it definitely kinda caught me off guard… I guess it was a green light when the immigration process took literally no more than 45 seconds at the Singapore airport.
Then there are the malls. The malls are intense and I’m not sure if I’m a big fan of the Singaporean culture… or in some ways, lack thereof. Everything is based around malls, malls, and malls here. Just like I said earlier, Singy is very westernized and you don’t feel like you’re really in a foreign country. I feel like if I had to be an expat somewhere, I would want to embrace another county’s culture, and I’m not sure if Singy would completely do it for me. With that being said, over the course of the weekend, I spoke to Jen’s friends, and they all love it for different reasons: food is great, taxes are great, and traveling from Singapore is great. It’s a very very liveable place, and super easy to get comfortable here. I get why people stick around for sure.
Next is the nightlife. Obviously as most of you know, I feel super comfortable around Asians, and SGP is predominantly Azns. It’s hilarious to observe them… firstly, they’re superrrrr into EDM, and I had a blast making random friends on the dance floor during Paul Oakenfold‘s set at Zouk on Saturday night. (BTW – love that I got to see him in SGP!!! SO SICK.) Zouk is one of Singapore’s oldest clubs and is also the main EDM club there, and let me just say – it shits all over Ruby Skye and probably most clubs in California in general. It’s an intense Vegas style club, and again – so efficient. This place is always packed brim to brim, but these Singaporeans have the method down to get people in and out of this club ASAP. We showed up at 2 am and the people that were working were like robots and we were in probably 2 minutes. But the thing that I found most entertaining was how Asians love to pop champagne bottles. That’s all they do. They just get champagne ordered to their table, drink that get drunk off of it, take hella selfies, and then order another bottle of champagne to pop.
On top of that, to get into any nice club, you pretty much have to get a table. On Saturday because it was a big DJ in town, that was different (you just buy normal tickets), but on Friday, we went to a couple different clubs and we only got in and didn’t completely burn holes in our wallets because Jen had friends who had tables/got us in. And yeah, we popped a bunch of champagne bottles. I felt douchey but it’s also pretty funny and you just go along with it because it’s all really harmless. They make it all fancy with firecrackers and shit too. Seriously hilarious and hella azn.
What else do I think about Singapore? Oh, at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, they have a casino. MBS felt like Vegas, literally. Actually, a lot of Singapore did. It’s so nice with malls and hotels, but the MBS area was very very Vegas. I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s a gorgeous hotel with a casino. The interesting this is, it’s free to enter the casino if you’re a foreigner (the casino is not an open style one like in Vegas, there’s an entrance for it. I got to take a quick peak in, and it looks exactly like Vegas casinos! So trippy) — you just need to show your passport. However, if you’re a Sing resident, you need to pay 100 SGP dollars to enter. Why? Because apparently Asians have a gambling addiction, and this is their way of regulating. Has it been effective? Apparently not. MBS is insane though – this is by far one of the sickesttttt hotels I have ever seen with a crazy rooftop infinity pool. I’m sure a lot of you saw my Instagram. It’s insane. Definitely a must-see if you ever go to SGP.
Lastly, it was great to meet Jen’s friends and have conversations with them. This is what I’ve loved most about all my trips when I’ve stayed with people – Malaysia, India, and now Singapore (and of course, meeting people in Thailand!) Jen’s friend group is very diverse and they’re from all over the world. Some she’s met through friends of friends, others are ex-coworkers, etc etc. As I’ve said before, people abroad are just super nice and open-minded and are just willing to try new things. With SGP in specific, most of them moved for their job or to experience South East Asia, and SGP was their ticket to doing this. Between Sing and Hong Kong, most companies are based out of those two places, so you’ll likely find the most amount of expats here. Whenever I’ve talked to people abroad, I start wondering about where I’ll end up next and if finding something abroad is what I’d potentially be interested in. I love meeting new people so much, and the past 6 months have been so refreshing to have new convos and get to know new sets of people. Jen’s friends were saying that SGP has changed in just 2 years that they’ve been here, and the government is really starting to embrace the young expat scene. So many restaurants and bars are opening up, and I think they wanna keep this going to keep boosting their already-amazing economy.
Singapore was super super super fun, and I’m so glad I went. Now I’m starting to clearly see the differences between all the cities and am realizing each one is awesome in its own way and offers something of its own. KL, Bangkok, and Singapore are all amazing but so different but what I think is cool is that SE Asia has a lot to offer and I feel really lucky to be experiencing all these places. I’m also realizing how much more there is to see here. God. I keep learning about new cities and new places and want to go to all of them!!! The next time I go to SGP, I def wanna go with Mira – I’d love to see what she thinks of it now and how different it is from when she lived there years ago.
Here are SGP pics – you’ll see the flow of the weekend from clubbing to day time food to drunk food. Truly a weekend of fun and food, mostly! I think I love food-based vacations the most… the beach, not so much. I can do without it. Enjoy and drool over the pics of some amazing food…again!
Pretty Singaporean money.
The American Club
Mira’s mom, me, Jenna – miss you meems!
Boon Tok Kee
best chicken rice place
random peanuts they give you at the beginning
View from Esplanade
Marina Bay Sands by night
me and jenna :)
jenna, me, jen
Upstairs awesome rooftop section
not sure why downstairs is Mansion and upstairs is Madison
these are cabs. mercedes? wtf
Kyo!! so fun
Poppin champagne bottles. duh.
missed edm sooo much…
DRUNK food time!
all the curry for roti pratha
so so so good
#devoured it all.
yay for connecting new friends!
LEGIT hawker center
they even tell you what to exactly eat…
my fave dish of lunch
Ion… crazy mall
loved this dessert
view of Singapore from MBS
not very flattering
awesome infinity pool
casino at MBS
it looks like vegas!!
floating pavilion… did not know these existed till this trip.. a LV one
MBS during the day
Lotus looking building
first hooters in asia! (i think)
awesome awesome bar
One of the best cocktails i have ever had!
new friend = patron shots!
connect 4 at bartini… my favorite game :)
Yes, Zouk happened..
he had a great set
party party… I MISSED THIS
so cool to see him in asia!
best drunk food ever
Mee goreng. yum yum yum.
roti pratha again, obvi
Bye bye singapore! see you next time.