A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Comparing Singapore through the eyes of a solo backpacker vs no budget traveller
Hi guys! Briar here. My beautiful friend Amy wrapped up the concept of this collaborative blog post in a nutshell perfectly – so let’s jump straight into what she had to say.
Amy | I don’t know if you saw Briar’s Instagram post back in September, but it was a beautiful summary to a conversation we had had the night before she posted. Briar and I had been talking for a month or two over Instagram, and right from the beginning it was clear we saw the world through quite similar eyes. Maybe it was because we both had Roam in our IG names… but something just clicked when we started talking. We had travelled to many of the same places and had very similar takeaways. We saw beauty in similar things and chased the same cultural experiences. Looking through her incredible posts, it truly felt like she was seeing the world the same way I was.
But then after a few weeks of chatting, something funny happened. After all these feelings of similarity, it became very apparent we had COMPLETELY different styles of travelling. I was chatting about my next two trips I was planning. The first, that weekend, I was chucking a few grand on a 36 hour trip to KL to hit up some top notch cocktails on the infinity pool of Hotel Stripes, doing a few insanely good brunches and probably a beautiful meal at one of my favourite restaurants in the world (funny story but never ended up going as I lost my passport the night before…) The second was a jam packed 72 hour trip in Seoul, Korea. It was planned to the nth degree, colour coded spreadsheets and all, accommodation booked 5 months in advance, full of a mix of local Korean bbq joints and Michelin star restaurants, a 5 star hotel and business class flights. She backed this up with telling me about her upcoming trip. Kuala Lumpur was her first stop on her trip through Asia. A one way ticket to KL, her only accommodation for her many month long journey being 4 nights in a backpackers, zero plans in sight.. and her budget needing to stretch for a few months, so sheʼd probably skip the Michelin star restaurants.
But the best part was, we both embraced each others stories and plans with excitement, happiness and open minds. Neither of us judged one another and why would we? We saw the world through the same eyes, just chose to do it differently.
So this got us thinking, what it would be like to compare and contrast our experiences in a city. Whoʼs experience was ‘betterʼ? Who saw more? Who got a better feel for the city? What was the highs and lows for each version of our experiences? We decided to begin by comparing Singapore through our experiences. I’ve had many different trips to Singapore (being so close to my home of Perth, Australia!) so Iʼve selected only one of these to compare to Briarʼs experience, to give the most accurate comparison.
So here it is, a post dedicated to comparing Singapore through the eyes of a solo backpacker VS no budget traveller – for you to read with an open mind and an open heart, just like we did.
1 – ACCOMMODATION
Briar | I stayed on the outskirts of the ethnic Little India district, at a hostel named ‘Footprints.’ As I arrived early the reception staff were accommodating enough to keep my bag safe, until I could check into my dorm room later that afternoon. They were super helpful and advised me of any must-dos in Singapore that I simply could not miss. The area in which the hostel was located was just what I was after – conveniently close to the MRT metro and in walkable distance of tonnes of neat areas and attractions. The hostel was actually a real winner (trust me, they aren’t always!) My room was large, relatively quiet with next to no outside noise, and equipped with a locker to fit my bag and separate power point for each bed – win! I stayed on a comfy enough (in my realm of comfort) single bottom bunk, with 7 other respectful roomies – mostly who kept to themselves. Just thought I’d throw a hot backpacking tip in here (Amy you will love this one!) – Drape your towel or large scarf from the side of the bed and you’ve created yourself your own teeny area of privacy! The bathrooms were large and communal, accessed just outside the room. The vibe was pretty chill and seemed to be that of an older crowd (not teens), which was my cup of tea. The common area included a fully equipped kitchen and little nook with a couple of couches, large tv, and board games, cards and books.
The price of my room included free continental breakfast, which I of course took full advantage of. Fruits, cereals, toasts, coffee, tea and juice were in the mix! I chatted with a few guys from Africa and some other solo girl travellers over breakfast – but explored throughout the day as my own adventure buddy.
The hostel sadly had no bar – which is somewhere I would usually go to mingle with more fellow backpackers and share travel stories.
Amy | This trip, we (my husband Chris and I) stayed at the Fullerton Bay Hotel. We had a beautiful room right on the bay, with a view of the Marina Bay Sands. The room was incredibly appointed, good amenities, a beautiful big bath, a nice size balcony, a huge comfy king bed, and good mini bar selection. It was modern and not at all heritage or quaint, but not tacky either. The hotel itself had a beautiful lobby and services. The rooftop pool was really good – good sunbaking opportunities, good cocktails, really good pool service (cold towels, ice buckets, complimentary iced lemon water, good cocktail and food menu). The overall vibe was not overly pretentious but reasonably formal. It was a little competitive getting a good space by the pool and we obviously didnʼt chat to anyone or make friends, we were just there to enjoy the hotel and each others company. The location was good for a view but it was in a semi-commercialised area and we usually prefer the bars and restaurants of China Town and Haji Lane so we had to walk a little while to get there. It was close enough to Lau Pa Sat and Boat Quay though!
2 – GETTING IN/AROUND
Briar | I’m all about walking from sight to sight to save money, and in doing so seem to find more hidden gems than I would otherwise. Singapore was no exception, and I found myself stumbling across abstract sculptures, quirky street art, and observed the local life as it swiftly passed me by.
Throughout the 1.5 days I took four metro train rides in total. One into the city from Changi Airport which took 40 minutes, one 3 minute ride from Little India to Orchard Road in the afternoon, one 5 minute ride from Chinatown back to the hostel at night, and then obviously my last one back to the airport the following day. Each of these fare rides around the city cost 1.90NZD.
The metro was well connected, impeccably clean, and one of the most efficient I’ve ever been on – while still being budget friendly, making it a great way to whizz around Singapore.
Amy | We walked or took taxis everywhere. We have used the metro previously, but now rarely use it – the taxis are super convenient and clean, and not overly expensive. We just hail a cab and are at our next destination in 5 mins or so. We took a cab to and from the airport and it only took us 20 minutes and cost around 20NZD each way.
3 – A TYPICAL DAY
Briar | I landed at 7am and jumped on the metro quick smart, wanting to make the most of every second I had of this short trip. I checked into my hostel, scoffed down some of the free breaky, and chilled for half an hour or so to accumulate a quick wee list of places I wanted to head. I added these to my maps.me app and got on my merry way.
At first glance I knew I was going to love Singapore through and through. I was hit with an overwhelming sense of ‘omg, I could totally live here!’ And that thought didn’t change in the slightest.
I walked to the eclectic, multi-cultural hub of Kampong Glam, and meandered through the super artsy Arab Street, Muscat Street and Haji Lane. I checked out a selection of the gorgeous boutiques, dreaming of all the lavish Persian rugs, gorg vintage clothing, and cutest Asian homewares I ever did see. I gazed up at the fairy-tale like Sultan Mosque, and took photos galore of all the vibrant, creative street art lining the alleyways.
I walked from here to Bugis Street Market to check out the bustling maze of stalls, all before a pit stop at the local Albert Street Hawker Centre to devour in my first taste of the local cuisine for lunch. I chose some sort of rice noodle soup concoction and a quench thirsting grapefruit juice – super delicious by the way, and a great find as I was almost the only Westerner around! From here I rolled back to my hostel to properly check into my room.
I then wandered into the magical hub of Little India. I paid my respects at the colourful Sri Veeramakaliamman Hindu Temple and explored the authentic collection of streets bursting with life. I jumped on the metro to the high-end shopping area of Orchard Road, before walking in the direction of popular Gardens by the Bay. I spent a good few hours taking in the impressive man- made trees, tranquil garden vibes, and nearby Marina Bay Sands – where I window shopped in the swanky stores and relaxed for a bit at the waterfront, watching the world go by. Before I knew it, it was time for the nightly light and music show where the Gardens by the Bay light up in all sorts of dazzling colours.
I then briskly walked to Maxwell Hawker Centre (my tummy sure was rumbling at this point) and had another heavenly meal, this time consisting of veggie Thai green curry, and a fresh passionfruit juice. The place was chock-a-block so I sat and had some great chats with two corporate London-living Aussies, who were in Singapore for work. I then toddled along to nearby China Town for a late night browse at the intricate Chinese temples, traditional handicrafts, and gorgeous red and gold lanterns embellishing the streets. I then hopped on the metro, my last mode of transport for the day, got to the hostel and hit the hay ready for my last half day tomorrow morning.
The next day I got up, again filled up on the free breakfast (my next meal would be lunch on the plane) and decided to have one last wander around the captivating Little India. I weaved through the rainbow hued alleyways of Little India Arcade and soaked up the lively atmosphere one last time. It was then off to pick up my bags and reluctantly catch my flight in the afternoon – leaving wiggle room to explore the airport as it’s a whole other destination in itself. With a tear or two in my eye, I jumped on my plane and was homeward bound – Asia, why do you do this to me!
Amy | We arrive in the arvo, check in to our hotel. Freshen up, have a shower, relax on our balcony for a bit then get ready and head out. We go to Boat Quay for dinner (which usually disappoints to be honest) but then redeem ourselves with a visit to one of our fave bars – Asam Cold Drink Stall. Up a flight of dark stairs above a 7 eleven, next to a ‘massageʼ parlour… and youʼre in a small, dark, concrete and poster filled bar with maybe 15 others. This super local, super cool bar has no menus. Just tell the hipster Singaporean local bar tender what kinda cocktail you like heʼll whip you up the best cocktail youʼve ever had, I guarantee it. We have a few too many of these then wander bay to our hotel, along the bay past the Merlion. We stop in the hotel lobby for a night cap, enjoying the piano player in the corner as we settle our souls and get ready for sleep. We head back to the room for a peppermint tea in our bubble bath, and then crawl into our super comfy king size bed listening to the sound of the water of the bay right outside our balcony window.
We wake up around 8am, hitting the auto-open button on our blinds to fill our beautiful room of natural light. We have a quick shower and Nespresso in the room, then head out. We walk to China Town to get our morning Acai Bowl and coffee at our fave Singapore cafe – MyAwesomeCafe China Town. We go there every time.
After wandering around China Town, taking photos and visiting all the gorgeous temples, we grab a taxi to see a few of the typical Singapore sites (Gardens by the Bay, Fort Canning park, or a museum). We then walk back to our hotel around mid arvo – straight to the pool. We grab two pool loungers and order two pints of tiger, satay and some truffle fries for a late lunch. They return with our order a short time later with our order, plus 2 cold towels, iced lemon infused water and complimentary sunscreen. We spend a few hours by the pool, listening to music, chatting, drinking, eating, tanning and try not to think about work. Around 4pm we head back to the room, freshen up and head back out.
For tonights dinner, we grab a taxi to Haji Lane and get some Mexican. We listen to live music, shop in the antique stores, and just take in the general amazing vibe. We have a chat to fellow travellers over cold tigers on cane chairs on the side of the laneway and listen to the most amazing acoustic singer. We watch the world go by. Locals, fellow travellers, expats… they all seem to be here and it feels alive. After a while, we retire for the night but again walk the long way home, past the Raffles for some night time photos and through the city. Taking in the warm air and mentally preparing ourselves for returning home.
We arrive back at our room to find a lavender spray next to our pillow with some ginger chocolate – a gift from house keeping. We enjoy our treats, have a beautiful warm shower with our rainforest shower head, then crawl into bed for the final time this trip.
4 – BUDGET [ NZD ]
TOTAL – $31.50 NZD
Transport [ex flights] – $7.50
Accommodation per night – $13.50
Food and Drinks – $10.50
Other – NIL
TOTAL – $1074 NZD
Transport [ex flights] – $32
Accommodation per night – $748 per room = $374 each
Food and Drinks – $267.50
Other – $26.50
5 – WHAT DID WE MISS OUT ON?
Briar | Honestly, not a whole lot. Obviously if I had more time in Singapore I would have been able to visit more places, but I was pleasantly surprised with how much I managed to see and didn’t feel as though I was rushed. If I had a bigger budget I may or may not (I really wasn’t bothered as I knew the lines were a million years long) have bought tickets to enter the Skywalk, Flower Dome and Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay. Indulging in an alcoholic beverage from a rooftop over the skyline could have gone down a treat, too.
Amy | If this was our first time in Singapore, we wouldʼve spent less time by the pool and more time seeing sights. For this particular trip, we only really saw two sites. We didnʼt exactly make friends (we had each other!) but hung out with ‘localsʼ at Asam Cold Drink Stall and Haji Lane. We didnʼt experience local Singaporean food this time either.
7 – How safe did you feel on your trip? Do you think this was an effect of your travelling style?
Briar – I felt incredibly safe. And no, I think no matter my travelling style Singapore is a very safe destination – with a little common sense of course.
Amy | In my eyes, safety is almost a non-concern in Singapore except for around expat/rowdy tourist areas. I never feel unsafe, but I’m also always with my husband there.
8 – What did you have planned prior to arriving?
Briar | Accommodation, that’s it. I had a few ideas floating around my head of things to see and do prior, and more that was brought to my attention from fellow backpackers from where I had just come from (Sri Lanka, India, Nepal). I planned my day out then and there, as I would normally do elsewhere.
Amy | Singapore is an easy city to just land and run with as it’s very small and well connected. We definitely researched new bars/cafes/restaurants and any current exhibitions before we landed, but didn’t plan an end-to-end itinerary.
A FEW SNAPSHOTS FROM BRIAR’S EXPERIENCE
A FEW SNAPSHOTS FROM AMY’S EXPERIENCE
What is your travelling style?! Comment below and let us know your thoughts and which destination you would like to see us compare next. We would love to hear!
Don’t forget to head over to Amy’s travel blog where she spills the beans on how to live a wholesome life that perfectly combines travel AND career! She has travelled to some incredible corners of the world, and provides great stories and gorgeous photos to top it off! Click here > roam_y.com.au and here > @roam_y. Show her some love!
Thanks for reading,
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