2 weeks in Singapore and around -- what to see and do?
March 9, 2013 8:14 AM   Subscribe

My Dad lives in Singapore, and I'll be visiting him for two weeks this summer. He'll be pretty busy with work during the week, and I'm trying to plan one or two day trips (spending one night somewhere else is fine, but no more than that). Where can I go that is a) safe to travel alone to (I'm an upper-20s female)? and b) relatively cheap (I'm thinking probably a bus, train, or boat ride to somewhere in Indonesia or Malaysia)?

I'm particularly interested in southeast Asian history and cuisine, so I'm seeking places that allow me to explore those in depth. A beach wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, either :). How do I get there? What should I see? What are the requirements for any border crossing that I'll have to do? I've never been to Asia, but have traveled pretty extensively in Europe and West Africa. Is there anything I should know about traveling alone in this part of the world?

Lastly, if you have any off the beaten path recommendations for where to wander in Singapore, lay 'em on me!
posted by eenagy to Travel & Transportation around Singapore (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Definitely go to Penang - you can hop on a very cheap Air Asia flight, and once you're there there's tons to do, see and ESPECIALLY eat. Penang's seen a huge heritage revival in the past few years after gaining World Heritage status, and there's never been a better (or easier) time for single women travellers to wander around. Lots of funky innovative things happening. For example, this place is great to wander around in -- a huge sprawling set of heritage buildings converted into antique/bakery/bar space.

Singapore: go eat at Madras Woodlands in Little India - if you get there before 11AM they might have some appam left (rice pancakes served with saffron sugar) - so good. I also love the Neil Road area. You can get xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) at Qunzhong Eating House on Neil Road - that's an eccentric establishment which serves a very limited range of very good things. After that, just down the road, you can pick up some of the best egg tarts in Singapore at Tong Heng. Or you could while away a lovely afternoon in the tea house just upstairs from Qun Zhong.

I really have too many recommendations. Feel free to MeMail if you want specifics for history-related things (I am, in fact, a historian of Southeast Asia and a woman in my late 20s) or if you have questions about visas etc. Excited for you!
posted by idlethink at 8:26 AM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Put up your plans in IRL (the meetup) section of this website, there's a small but friendly selection of mefites based in Singapore who'd have tons of ideas, tips and welcomes to share.
posted by infini at 8:35 AM on March 9, 2013

For a nice evening on the island, try the night safari! I really enjoyed it.
posted by cman at 9:08 AM on March 9, 2013

Late one night go eat a meal at Newton Circus... Singapore doesn't allow street vendors, but instead gathers them into central locations. Some great food made fresh awaits!

Also, go to the Raffles Hotel and have a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar. Historic!
posted by matty at 11:19 AM on March 9, 2013

If you like food, do a little research and learn what a Hawker center is-- fantastic gourmet foods that are really cheap. That link is just the beginning-- there are dozens and dozens of blogs you can research Singaporean food from. Also, I have been very partial to Tiger Balm Gardens ever since I was a kid. It's hard to explain-- acres of tiny garish terra-cotta statues depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. There is nothing like it anywhere else-- I can't even begin to tell you how awesome it is. Don't think it is "serious" aesthetic art in the Western sense-- think of it more as an Asian version of giant roadside dinosaurs or "world's biggest potato" scenic attractions. To Western eyes it might appear kitsch, but since these are religious scenes try not to think of it that way-- think of them as folk-art items of devotion. Like I said-- hard to explain.
posted by seasparrow at 12:13 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get yourself to beach shack on juara beach in tioman!
posted by nvly at 12:20 PM on March 9, 2013

Best answer: You have to check out the EatingAsia posts on Penang and Malacca. Malacca's another historic city (Portugese, Dutch and British influences) with UNESCO status and is about 4 hours away by bus from Singapore.

Definitely do an IRL post when you're in Singapore!

Do visit the Bukit Brown cemetery in Singapore - for a solo nature ramble, or for a guided tour led by volunteers from the local heritage and nature societies. It's a former municipal cemetery containing at least 100,000 graves including notable pioneers from early Singapore history, and has since become a secondary forested area with lots of wildlife and greenery. It's been slated for redevelopment, with exhumation of graves already under way notwithstanding strong protests from civil society for a moratorium given the historical, cultural and ecological importance of the site.
posted by hellopanda at 1:22 PM on March 9, 2013

Definitely go to PenangĀ 

Since you are a single woman, be aware Penang is in an Islamic country (Malaysia), quite different than Singapore. Take heed accordingly.
posted by Kruger5 at 1:30 PM on March 9, 2013

Since you are a single woman, be aware Penang is in an Islamic country (Malaysia), quite different than Singapore. Take heed accordingly.

actually, Penang is one of the most cosmopolitan places in Southeast Asia, extremely religiously tolerant, and has a long history of being so. especially for tourists. you will be fine. I'll reply to your MM soon! but just wanted to make sure this was clear for others.
posted by idlethink at 1:40 PM on March 9, 2013

Jodi Ettenberg, who's travelled her way through SEAsia, recently wrote a piece on solo female travelling. Much would depend on the place (I wouldn't worry about Penang and other cosmopolitan places) and how you're travelling (backpacking or hotels), but you won't go very wrong with a good dose of common sense and caution wherever you are.

(Feel free to memail me for Singapore recommendations if you like.)
posted by hellopanda at 2:12 PM on March 9, 2013

Danau Toba and Bukit Luwang in Sumatra are pretty rad. It's a quick flight with a medium length drive. Both are doable as an overnight.
posted by karst at 4:13 PM on March 9, 2013

Best answer: Instead of going to Newton Circus as it's overpriced for tourists and not that great, try Lau Pa Sat in the business district, a great restored building with lots of good food that's mostly local.

Don't bother taking buses often. The trains are fast and cheap, although crowded during rush hour, and Singapore cabs are fabulous and comparatively cheap. If you have an iPhone, get the Comfort Taxi app that can tell where you are by GPS or postal code and book a cab for you. GOthere.sg (website or app) is very helpful for figuring out how to get around. Singapore cab drivers love talking to tourists too.

Slightly off the usual: Pulau Ubin has mangrove kayaking which is lovely. The Walking Tours are worthwhile.
posted by viggorlijah at 5:51 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I suggest plan at least three days two nights for a getaway trip. Penang and Malacca (aka Melaka) are great suggestions. If you like the beach, I would suggest islands in Peninsular Malaysia such as Tioman, Redang and Langkawi (more touristy). Booking a trip is relatively easy because it involves arranging transport to the nearest town/city/port and getting a 3D2N snorkeling package with a resort in the island. If you like diving, snorkeling and mountain climbing, I highly recommend Sabah. Despite being there twice, I would like to go again because there are so much to see and do. Then again, now is a bad time to go Sabah especially the east coast because of the terrorist situation.

Will not recommend Indonesia because it is relatively unsafe compared to Singapore and Malaysia for first time to Asia solo female traveler. Plus, English is not widely spoken. Unless you wanna go Bali.
posted by liltiger at 8:51 AM on March 10, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks all! Looking forward to the trip. If you have specific recommendations in Singapore, or any stories from weekend getaways, please MeMail me!
posted by eenagy at 12:29 PM on March 10, 2013

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