Solo in Singapore
I was lucky enough in November of 2019 to spend a week in Singapore on a business trip. People tend to think that traveling for business is awesome, and while I do love business class on an international flight, you don't actually get as much free time to explore as you'd think. But this time, even though I spent most of the days inside a large conference center, I got to see quite a bit of the city. My co-workers had all been to Singapore many times, so I was basically left on my own. So here it is - my thoughts on a week solo in Singapore, especially how to get pics of yourself!
Flight: SEA-HKG-SIA on Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class
This was my first time flying with Cathay, and I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed but i wasn't overly impressed either. Their business class cabin on the A350 is pretty standard, however the interior is definitely in rough shape. The compartment locks weren’t working so they were stuck open and there was duct tape holding the lavatory wall on. I didn’t use their entertainment system too much because I’d downloaded my own movies, but I did like their interface and they had a decent selection of movies and shows.
The seats themselves are pretty comfortable and Cathay provides a sleeping mat to place on the seat when you lay flat that make them even softer.
I did really like their food options in business class (see pics). They offer both a western and an eastern food options so you can try something new or something you eat all the time.
They also fly the A350 from Hong Kong to Singapore as well even though it’s a quick flight, which was nice because it meant having the twin aisle space.
My favorite part of flying Cathay was their lounges. They have chefs cooking excellent made-to-order Asian food as well as things like mac and cheese and salads. They also have bottle of Moet waiting for you chilled which I always appreciate!
One big thing to keep in mind - people are always looking for the impressive piece of Changi airport, especially the indoor waterfall - in order to see that, you'll want to look for signs to the Jewel. It's in a separate area from the terminals
Hotel: Grand Hyatt Singapore
Very central location to shopping and lots of food
Great housekeeping staff
All day Room Service
Pretty decent pool with private cabanas available and poolside drink/food service (not the infinity pool you might get somewhere more expensive)
Have to cab to most tourist activities but at least it’s in the middle of most of them
The lighting in the bathrooms isn’t great for doing makeup
We were on a work trip so we took cabs everywhere. They’re reasonably cheap, but make sure you don’t get a “limousine” one – those are about 4X the regular price.
You can also add an App call “Grab.” It’s basically the Uber + Uber Eats of Singapore.
What I loved:
Whenever I’m in a city for work, I like to find the best option to see the city in the short time that I’m in town. Singapore Sidecars was by far the best option I could have chosen. They’re a family-run tour company that has multiple options for what you want to see. I chose the Singapore in a Nutshell tour, and because I was on my own, I emailed them directly. They were super easy to contact, and worked with me to set up a good time and pick-up location. Essentially, you sit in the sidecar of your driver’s motorbike as he takes you around the city. For someone on their own, this is the absolute BEST way to get pics of yourself in Singapore. My driver took as many pictures as I wanted, both on my camera and my phone.
We met in the Kampong Glam neighborhood where he gave me the history of the Mosque. Then we drove out past Gardens by the Bay to the Barrage to catch the sunset (probably my favorite part of the tour). This is an area that’s popular with the locals – families were out having picnics and letting their children run around. Then we drove into the city, onto piers and areas that you’d never be able to get to with a car. We drove past a few of the temples and into the night markets. Throughout the tour, I learned about the history of Singapore and saw many of the incredible murals that are sprinkled around the city.
Overall, this was probably one of the best tours I’ve ever been on and I’d highly recommend it!
Places I stopped on the tour and would recommend:
Buddha Relic Temple (super cool lit up at night)
Kampong Glam Neighborhood:
This is one of the many unique cultural areas in Singapore. There are murals hidden down alleys, the Mosque itself, and some amazing food.
The statue of the Merlion is a fun stop. It’ll be super crowded, so it you’re looking to get pictures without other people, you’ll want to go super early in the morning, probably on a weekday.
Gardens by the Bay:
This is obviously a “can’t-miss” in Singapore. It’s such a unique experience. I actually walked to the Gardens from the Merlion, and it gave me a pretty cool view of the Marina Bay Sands hotel and the Singapore Flyer.
The Gardens themselves are huge. You could spend hours wandering through here if you wanted to, but because I was in town on business, I didn’t quite have that amount of time. So, I focused my time on the Skyway in the Supertree Grove. You’ll have to kind of plan this out if you want to see if at a specific time of day. I got lucky and rolled up right around Golden Hour, but still had to wait about 20 minutes before my “ticket time” was valid. You can buy tickets when you get there, but they are for a specific time slot. They only allow a certain number of people on the skywalk at a time, so they’ll keep you moving once you’re up there. A lot of people around me were actually waiting for night-time to buy tickets because it gets lit up.
I do wish that I had a chance to get into the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome – maybe next time!
Fort Canning Park:
The park was almost empty when we went through it, but it’s well worth a visit. I wish we’d spent a bit more time there, but it was almost 100 degrees that day and we’d walked there from the Raffles Hotel, so my co-workers were ready to head back to the hotel.
Because it was a conference we did end up eating most of our meals either at the hotel buffet (which was pretty good actually) or at the conference center itself. You’ll find a lot of Indonesian satay and Chinese rice dishes along with Western dishes and fruit. It’s always a good mix. I’d especially recommend the desserts :).
One of the local delicacies that I just couldn’t bring myself to try was Durian. It’s famous for its smell and most of my friends from the area actually don’t love the taste either, so I avoided it this time.
That said, on the days that we did have some time to get out, here’s a few of the places that we ate/drank
Raffles Hotel & Bar:
While there will definitely be a line to get into the bar, this is such a cool spot it’s worth the wait. The hotel itself is beautiful and reminds you of older days. The bar itself serves the famous Singapore Slings, and if you’re not looking to order food, you can sit on the top floor and sip slings and eat peanuts.
This is a large restaurant area where you can take your pick of everything from Irish to Indonesian. It’s also got a roof over it but is still basically open-air so it’s great if the weather isn’t perfect. It’s also lit up at night with some cool architecture
Chinatown Street Markets:
A classic spot to grab some dinner is the Chinatown street markets. Honestly just pick a spot and grab a table on the street. It’s a tourist trap for sure, but the food is great and you can order everything form vegetarian dumplings to frog (not just the legs)
What went wrong:
I did have issues with the humidity and my DSLR camera lens. Because I had the lens in my bag in the air-conditioned hotel, as soon as I took it out to take pictures walking around, all of the lenses fogged up. I had never experienced something like this before, so I started freaking out that there was something wrong with the camera. I did some googling and everyone suggested everything from not putting my camera in AC ever to just waiting it out. After about 20 minutes, the lenses did end up clearing as they got used to the temperature.
What I may have done differently:
I wish that I’d stayed the weekend and had time to do more of everything. Alas, business trips are pretty strict.
I also wish I had gone up to the top of Marina Bay Sands, but my co-workers mentioned that drinks are $30 each and there’s an entry fee on top of that, so it didn’t seem worth it. If I was on my own and not there for work, I would have had the opportunity to eat at more unique places. As it was, I missed out on that opportunity.
General Tips and Tricks
If you're looking to get Hainanese Chicken at one fo the Hawker centers, ask a local for their favorite. There are a handful that are geared towards tourists and are super expensive. Also, many of the cheaper local ones are only open for lunch
It's hot and humid - pack smart. Don't be surprised if your lenses fog up.
I highly recommend walking the riverfront, especially at night
Check out the Barrage at sunset. You'll get some incredible views
There are a lot of tourist traps, but the locals are super willing to help you avoid those
One of my cab drivers told me that the Formula 1 race brings in thousands of tourists and everything is ridiculously expensive during that time, so be careful with your dates if you're looking to save money
Shopping - most of their malls have multiple floors of underground stores that you actually have to go through in order to cross some major streets. Just make sure you know which direction you want to go, because it's very easy to get lost down there