First Impressions: Singapore, The Little Nation That Could

From the moment I landed in Singapore’s Changi International Airport I was impressed. Maybe it was the fact the place was spotlessly clean, orderly and efficient…or maybe it was just the fact that I had spent the previous two months motorcycling through Indonesia that made finally arriving in a country without trash and cigarette smoke everywhere appear that much more beautiful. Whatever the case may have been, my first impressions of Singapore were joyful excitement on returning to a modern, almost western country 😉 (at least compared to where I’ve been the last few months)

Exiting through the lowest level of the airport I came out to the bus terminal. For the mere price of S$2.20 ($1.75USD) I was able to take the #31 bus 22 kilometers into the heart of downtown Singapore where my Couchsurfing buddy lived.

Bus Window View
My view out the bus window

The ride through the city captivated me. My eyes were glued to the view passing by the large windows so much that I nearly missed my stop. Had those windows opened I would undoubtedly have looked like one of those dogs with their head sticking out of the car window, tongue hanging out and ears flopping in the breeze.

As I had slept in Jakarta airport the night before and then had a horrible encounter with Indonesian Immigration trying to leave in the morning — which led to 1) me being detained and taken to the interrogation room where I was threatened and questioned; and 2) being purposely held until my flight had left before being released and forced to purchase another ticket — it was nearly dinnertime before I finally made it onto Singapore soil.

And I Was Hungry!

I decided to start my culinary tour of Singapore at 嘉宴餐馆. While initially I was only going to order one dish, after seeing their menu I decided to go with three — two unknowns and one safe bet, just in case 😉

Chinese Restaurant Menu
The menu at 嘉宴餐馆 was nearly 20 pages long…it just kept on going and going!

After much thought and several flips back-and-forth through the menu I finally settled on two new dishes based solely on their names and not their photos: “old village chief to amuse” and “delicious round the waist.” With names like that I dare you to tell me you would not have done the same!

“old village chief to amuse”
This dish was called “old village chief to amuse” and as near as I could tell it was some sort of fried sea creature. Not fish, but something fishy nonetheless.

WOW…the food was absolutely amazing! I left thirty minutes later with a to-go box and S$30 ($24USD) less in my wallet but it was definitely worth it. Plus the leftovers tasted equally amazing the next morning, cold.

Next up was the Singapore Pub Crawl, which is often frequented by Singaporean Couchsurfers — both host and guest. In fact the provider of my couch knew quite a few of the other attendees. From 7pm to 3am we made out way up and down Boat Quay, bar-hopping every hour or so.

The Singapore Pub Crawl
Making new friends along the Singapore Pub Crawl

Jägerbombs All Around!
Jägerbombs All Around! This is called a Jäger-Train, where the first shot of Jäger is knocked over and the rest fall down into the Red Bull in a domino effect.

After the bars had closed at 3am one of the Pub Crawl organizers wasted no time whipping out a couple cases of beer from some undisclosed location. The dozen of us still standing proceeded to spend the next two hours drinking and chatting on the Clarke Quay Bridge — or as it is known by the locals, simply The Bridge. This place is very popular with the 20- and 30-something crowd; even as late as 5am it was crowded with a couple hundred people still knocking back cold — err, by this point warm — ones.

Clarke Quay Bridge
Forgive the quality of this image, I was quite — oh how should I put it — shitfaced.

As I crawled into bed around 6am that morning, one thing was clear: this trip to Singapore, originally intended to be a 24-hour visa run before returning to Indonesia, is going to last a lot longer than that!

Total cost of the night: S$20 pub crawl admission plus another S$300 ($236USD) spent on drinks.

More On Singapore Coming Soon!

Ever Visited This Tiny Nation? What Were Your First Impressions?

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel."   Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

15 thoughts on “First Impressions: Singapore, The Little Nation That Could”

    • Hahaha quite a train trip indeed! Luckily this train stops for every person. I could not imagine doing that many shots of Jager myself…talk about a recipe for a bad night.

      Whoever is footing the bill has the honor of knocking the first shot down and everyone else gets the joy of watching the remaining “dominoes” fall then grabbing their glass.

    • Yes, I learned that the hard way hehehe. But after spending Ramadan in Indonesia (e.g. not drinking for a month) I just wanted to enjoy the nightlife, I didn’t care the price!

    • Awwwww thanks for the kind words, I really appreciate it. That just brought a smile to my face =D BTW I now definitely have enough to create a few awesome tours around Asia for VadoVia — expect to receive my application shortly 😉

  1. Looking at your alcohol total reminds me why I didn’t go out in Singapore. Great story though. You seem to have a knack for getting in trouble with Indonesian immigration officers.

  2. Interesting story! Thanks for sharing. I have to agree though that there is no better way to enjoy your time in Singapore after having problems with immigration officers at the airport than having a delicious evening meal and drinking the night away till morning.

  3. I too was impressed from the first time I landed at the airport. It was so clean and orderly. It’s interesting to know The Bridge was quite full even at 5:00am. Look forward to more of your Singapore stories Derek 🙂


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