There are certain things that should feature on every expats Singapore bucket list, things that are unique to this fascinating island, things to try, to visit and to experience. Here’s my top 10:
Eat Chilli Crab
This is one Singaporean delicacy that is not to be missed. Put your plastic bib and gloves on and get stuck in. Yes, Chilli Crab is incredibly messy, but it’s truly delicious. The Chilli Crab at Red House in Robertson Quay is highly recommended.
Fill your boots at a hotel Sunday Brunch
Singapore’s decadent hotel Sunday brunches are legendary. All the top hotels put them on each weekend. Forget about your waistline for a day and instead imbibe free-flow champagne and gorge on seafood, meats and divine deserts. Many of the hotels have a supervised kids playroom or plenty of entertainment so even parents can relax and enjoy themselves.
Every expat’s mission should be to do as many hotel Sunday Brunches as possible whilst living in Singapore.
Take a bumboat to Pulau Ubin
Take a step back in time and take a bumboat to Pulau Ubin. Just ten minutes away, this island is a sanctuary for nature lovers and the place where you can find Singapore’s last remaining traditional villages, or Kampongs, as they are known.
Initially earmarked for redevelopment, the process of resettling the villages to the main land commenced in the early 1980’s. This process was halted due to public outcry but may one day recommence. Today there are less than 45 families living in Pulau Ubin.
Go biking, bird-watching or camping, and get glimpse in to how life was in the sixties.
Enjoy it while you can!
Watch the ThaiPusam festival
ThaiPusam must be a contender for the world’s most gory festival and Singapore is home to one of the world’s biggest ThaiPusam celebrations. Taking place at the end of January each year, this Hindu festival is an extraordinary visual spectacle. Devotees pierce their bodies with multiple skewers, which are then attached to a heavy Kadavi. They then walk in a 3km procession from Little India to River Valley Road and it’s not uncommon to see them collapse with exhaustion (and possibly pain) enroute. It’s noisy, crazy and there’s a great atmosphere. It’s not to be missed.
Go trick-or-treating at Woodlands
If you’re a fan of Halloween, head to Woodlands for Singapore’s ultimate trick-or-treating experience. The residents (nearly all Americans) put huge effort into decorating their homes and gardens for this extraordinary Halloween event. An entire street is closed and security is called in as residents dish out bucket loads of sweets to eager children. Attended by thousands, there’s a real street party atmosphere and it’s so much fun.
Visit Changi War Museum
Dedicated to all those who lived and died in Singapore during World War II, this museum tells the story of more than 50,000 civilians and soldiers who were Prisoners-of-War during the Japanese Occupation. The Singapore of today is a world away from what it used to be, and Changi War Museum will give expats a deeper appreciation of this part of Singapore’s history during an event that had an impact on the world.
Watch the Singapore F1 Grand Prix Night Race
Even if you’re not an F1 fan, the experience of going to the Grand Prix’s only night race is like nothing else you’ve ever experienced. It’s a street circuit and goes past many of the major landmarks in the fascinating colonial district and there are plenty of prime viewing points. It’s noisy, it’s thrilling and there’s a superb line up of international acts each year, ranging from Katy Perry and Rihanna to Maroon 5 and The Killers. You can also walk up the racetrack when the race is finished.
Top tip: What many people don’t realise is that you can go on the Singapore Flyer for free!
Throw a party on a catamaran
Every expat who lives in Singapore should have at least one party on a luxury catamaran. And if you don’t organise for your own party, make sure you wangle an invitation to someone else’s. Whether it’s a day trip with a barbecue, sunbathing and swimming or a classier affair by night as you sail up the coast, it will give you memories that will last much longer than your time in Singapore.
Durian is known as Singapore’s national fruit. Even the Esplanade theatre is designed in the shape of a Durian.
You can’t go into a supermarket or into China Town without inhaling its overpowering, retch-inducing odour. The smell is so strong that you’re not allowed to take it on trains or into hotels.
The Durian fruit has a prickly exterior and a creamy texture that supposedly tastes like sweet custard, but for most people, the pungent smell is more akin to rotting flesh and makes most of us keep a wide berth. BUT, every expat needs to try it (just once) while they are living in Singapore. If you can’t face the thought of trying the fruit, then less offensive alternatives include Durian icecream or Durian puffs
Travel, travel, travel
Singapore is in a prime position for travelling to so many incredible places cheaply and easily. Deserted beaches, bustling cities, ancient history and endless natural wonders are all easily accessible. In five hours you can be in Chengdu in China to see the pandas; in three you can reach Burma to explore endless historic sites or be in Borneo to see the Orang-Utans; in just over two hours you can arrive in bustling Bangkok or touch down in Cambodia’s awe-inspiring temples in Siem Reap; and in under an hour you can be in Langkawi for some R&R.
Make the most of where you live and travel as much as you can!
No.11 on my list would be a trip to Orchard Towers. I haven’t been there yet, but it is a Singapore institution and I’d hate to leave Singapore without experiencing it for myself.
What’s your Singapore bucket list?