Singapore: 5 Cheap Things To Do in the City of “Crazy Rich Asians”
Before Singapore blew up as the city from the big-screen phenomenon “Crazy Rich Asians,” it was my small island home for the 4 months that I studied abroad at the National University of Singapore. Singapore is a city-state just south of Malaysia that has blossomed into a teeming metropolis due to tedious urban planning and goals of becoming a utopia. And it’s not far off. During my four months living there, I was consistently impressed by the perfectly manicured greenspaces, modern architecture, and overall spotlessness. Travel to Singapore and you will see that it’s no wonder the city was chosen as the backdrop to “Crazy Rich Asians.” This city drips money and glamour; I often like to call it the “Dubai of Asia” to those of inquire about my time there as I am often at a loss for words when attempting to describe its complexities. Luckily, you actually don’t have to have tons of money to explore Singapore. Being a broke college student, I definitely found all of the hidden (and very cheap!) gems. Below are my top 5 activities that won’t break your wallet.
1. Pulua Ubin
I want to start with a lesser known Singapore hidden gem that not many travelers know about! Pulau Ubin was my nature paradise and own personal escape during my time living in the bustling city of Singapore. This was hands down my favorite part of the city which is funny because its technically another island separate from Singapore’s mainland. Pulau Ubin is a fishing village that has been left untouched in the wake of Singapore’s modernization efforts. This tiny island offers wildlife (wild pigs and lots of monkeys), abandoned quarries, boardwalks, and camping areas. And the best way to explore is by bike, which will only cost you $8 for a full day rental! Bikes can be found as soon as you arrive off the boat at the only port of the island. To get to Pulau Ubin, you can take a bumboat (half the fun of the experience) for just $2 each way, leaving several times daily from the Chaingi Point Jetty.
2. Gardens by the Bay
The Gardens by the Bay may be what Singapore is known best for (besides maybe the infinity edge pool of Marina Bay Sands – see #3) but it certainly does not disappoint. This garden isn’t like any other as its main attraction aren’t really plants at all but “supertrees” constructed by hand. These trees scream Avatar (for your second movie reference of the day) and are actually a sustainability champion for the city as they collect rainwater and solar energy. Every night, the trees come alive in a light show, complete with epic music and light choreography. The light show is free and cannot be missed on any visit to Singapore! In addition, you can also see the trees up-close from the canopy skywalk, a 22 meter raised walkway that twists around the supertrees. The skywalk costs $8 and is also something I thought was worth spending the money on – especially if you get lucky enough to be up there during the light show!
3. Marina Bay Sands
Marina Bay Sands – the luxury hotel and casino – gives Singapore harbor its iconic image with its cruise ship-shaped top, complete with the highest infinity pool in the world. The hotel hosts famous visitors from around the world and is the epitome of class. Although you can only go to the infinity pool if you are a guest, which will put you out a couple hundred bucks a night, you can still access the hotel’s rooftop views for free at the CE LA VI Sky Bar. The views of the city are picturesque both at day and night plus you will feel like you are living the life straight out of “Crazy Rich Asians” at this boujee rooftop bar.
4. MacRitchie Trail
Another lesser known attraction is MacRitchie Park and Trial, which was my second favorite nature escape while living in Singapore (if you can’t tell, city life isn’t really for me). The trail wraps around a large reservoir and is complete with jungle paths, tree top canopy walks, and viewing towers. Plus, if you want to meet one of Singapore’s wildest residents – the Long-Tailed Macaque Monkey – this is the place to go. It is crawling with monkeys, which can be fun if you maintain your distance (they like to steal things…) and don’t stare them in the eyes (apparently this makes them angry…). The TreeTop walk sits 25 meters off the forest floor and is an awesome way to see the park and get up close and personal with the monkeys that like to sit on the rails. Its open from 9 am to 5 pm every day except Mondays and is free. Although there a couple of access points to get to the TreeTop walk directly, I suggest hiking the whole MacRitchie trail which is about 8 km all the way around so bring some good hiking shoes!
5. Clark Quay, Boat Quay and The Singapore Harbor
Clark Quay is the place to be for good food, drinks, and a night out in Singapore. Its located right downtown on the waterfront of the Singapore River. Restaurants line the water’s edge with plenty of outdoor patios, complete with glowing mushroom-like structures that light up with changing colors. If you are looking for cheaper food and drink options, walk from Clark Quay to its neighboring Boat Quay which is a little more traditional and has more budget friendly options. My favorite is the Purple Turtle which is a hole-in-the-wall type bar with a great deal on a bucket of beers (hard to come by in Singapore – the city of expensive alcohol!). Plus, Boat Quay is walking distance from the Singapore harbor which offers beautiful views of the city – from the towering Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer to the lotus-shaped ArtScience Museum and floating soccer field.
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