Singapore can be done in a day and a half. The best thing to do is to stay in Little India and visit Chinatown.
In Chinatown, visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum just down the street from the Sri Mariamman Temple (Hindu), which isn’t far from the Jamae Mosque (Muslim). That’s Singapore in a nutshell – a harmony of cultures.
At the Buddha Temple go upstairs to the free Buddhist museum on the 3rd floor. They have tons of Buddhist relics from around the world and have done a good job telling the story of Buddha in a designed path through the museum. Take your time. Read a bit. Learn a bit.
Then hit up the stairwell and sneak up to the roof. You’ll find a lush rooftop tropical garden surrounding a large Buddhist prayer wheel. Grab the wheel, walk in a circle and make a prayer. It’s okay. You’re allowed to be there.
For lunch, go behind the museum to the Chinatown Complex (food hawker center). There are 1,000 food stalls. Take a deep breath and find a stall that sells ‘chicken rice’. When I was there it was #172. It should cost S$3. Wait for it. Make sure to take the little tray of red sauce. The dish will look bland – you will be surprised.
What the heck is a Hawker Food Centre? First and foremost, it’s the one place you can’t miss if you travel to Singapore (or Malaysia). Secondly, it’s delicious, cheap, clean food served food-court style. The problem is that Hawker Food Centres (HFC) can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re getting into.
There are several HFC’s all over Singapore in Little India, Chinatown, and elsewhere, so it’s not that hard to find one. What you might find difficult is choosing the best food stall to order from when there are so many choices, most of which look delicious. So here’s the best way to attack the HFC’s.
1. Decide what you want to eat.
Do you want chicken rice, char kuay teow, satay, or fish ball noodles? The last thing you want to do is get stuck wandering around an HFC trying to decide among all the options. Everybody else will know exactly what they want, where they’re going, where they’re sitting, and how to do it all. This only makes things worse for you if you don’t. I recommend chicken rice – it looks simple, but if you choose a good stall, you’ll be amazed how delicious it can be.
2. Choose a stall serving what you want.
Rule of thumb – look for the places with a queue. The locals know what’s up, and if they’re waiting in line, it’s because it’s worth it. Also, look for the busy cooks. The chefs standing around aren’t busy, which tells you a lot. The best stalls sometimes even sell out of food completely, so don’t be afraid to go earlier rather than later.
3. Order the dish and then sit down.
You can sit anywhere there’s a sit. Don’t worry about sitting close if the nearby tables are taken. The hawkers will bring you the food. If you’re out of view, point to let them know.
4. Pay when you get the food.
If you’re a foreigner, they might let you wait until you’ve finished eating, but it’s standard practice to pay when the food comes.
5. Don’t worry about cleaning up.
In Singapore, there are specific people paid to keep the HFC’s clean. As you’ll soon notice, Singapore is a very clean city.
Bonus Step: Watch the video the below: Know Before You Go. It’ll give you a few images of the Chinatown HFC in Singapore.