Friday, 20 September 2013

5 Things You Can Do For Free In Singapore

If you are backpacking around Southeast Asia then Singapore should definitely be on your to do list. You've just spent several weeks eating dubious food, being harassed by tuk-tuk drivers and riding buses that had definitely seen better days. Suddenly you're surrounded by shiny skyscrapers and fast-walking businessmen shouting into their blackberry wifi headsets and you realise you're no longer in Cambodia. For most westerners Singapore is a welcome break from the chaos of less developed countries where they can indulge in some health and safety regulations and actual roads with lane discipline! However, you're now used to spending about $2 on a decent meal and about $5 on a hostel. In Singapore, $2 won't even get you a glimpse at the menu in a proper restaurant and most of the hawker stalls will charge you at least $2.50 for a meal and that will be very basic (but still probably delicious). As for a room, you're looking at about $25 just for a bed in a cramped dorm that smells of feet and is about 4000 miles from the actual centre of Singapore. So you have to splash out a bit to eat and you have to splash out on your accommodation and now your credit card has shrivelled up in protest leaving you with a grand total of $0 to spend on activities. For this reason I have scoured the city and found you 5 things you can do for free to make the most of your time in Singapore.

Get Lost in Little India

This vibrant section of the city is the perfect place to wander around for a couple of hours with your head in the clouds. Take in the colours and the smells while you reminisce over your journey so far or ruminate on the nature of existence. As you glide through the streets lined with fresh fruit stalls and quaint street cafés emitting spicy and exotic aromas, appreciate the fact that even amid the hustle and bustle of the power city that is Singapore, there is still place for these traditional districts where women still dress in dazzling jewellery and saris and where the sense of community is still so strong.

Striking colours in Little India

Explore Chinatown

If you've just spent hours wandering around Little India you might be loath to then do exactly the same in its oriental cousin down the road. However, I cannot stress the difference between the two areas enough! Little India and Chinatown are different enough to make you believe that you are in a different city. "But every city has a Chinatown" I hear you cry, so what makes this one special? Well for starters it is surrounded by skyscrapers and business hubs which make a nice juxtaposition with the hawker stalls and hanging lanterns. Most importantly, though, it is probably the cheapest place in the whole city to grab a bowl of chicken rice!
A wok-ful of delights!

Chinatown by night

Visit Kampong Glam

A beautiful mosque just off a dual carriageway. Stroll down the leafy boulevard lined with cafés and take in the view of the mosque standing majestically at the end of the street. The combination of decorative paving and palm trees give a truly magical feel to this little part of the city. If you haven't thought ahead to cover up before you get to the mosque then fear not, they provide gorgeous full length robes in a very stylish powder blue to visitors free of charge. Read up on Islam once you're inside and take a peek at local muslims going about their prayer routine. Make sure you clean your feet before entering! The inside of the mosque is pretty underwhelming compared to the outside in terms of beauty and splendour so don't feel too disappointed once you're inside. Have a glance around and then come back out and take some photos.

Cover up or you have to wear this...
Pretty gorgeous

Window Shopping on Orchard Road

Orchard Road is most definitely a shopping experience unlike any other and no matter how small your budget may be, you can always afford to window shop. Boasting 22 malls and 6 department stores, this road is right up there with 5th Avenue, Oxford Street and Rodeo Drive and is a haven for hardcore shopaholics. Girls, go and lust over the jewellery and luxury boutiques that mix super-cute Japanese twee with all-American block colour staples to create stand out pieces that are both fierce and unique. Boys, rock on over to the many world class suit makers and take a lot at what they have on offer. You'll find everything from ice-cool black suits to slick gold numbers. Don't actually buy a suit (unless you happen to be a millionaire), instead get a feel for what would suit you, maybe even get measured up and try some on. Really get an idea of what are the current trends in the fashion world (maybe sneak a photo of two if you can do it without getting caught) then head over to Vietnam and get it tailor made for you for about 1/100th of the price! Cheeky? Yes, very, but when it comes to economising, everything goes.

But one of the many, many malls on offer
Watch the Laser show at Marina Bay

So it gets to evening and you've spent about 8 hours on your feet wandering around Singapore in a heat that is less than gentle and now you're ready to collapse. Perfect. Let your legs give way on the steps of the plaza at Marina Bay and watch the laser show outside Marina Bay Sands. Lots of flashing lights accompanied by some emotive music, what's not to love! You can even get that obligatory photo with the Merlion while you're there. Happy days. Just try not to get too jealous of all the expats eating in the painfully expensive restaurants along the strip by the waterfront which you will probably pass on your way there. The food may be top notch, but the bill will turn your stomach.

Major lasers

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