Grand Finale: Hong Kong and Singapore
Josh had a training in Singapore the week that Becca was scheduled to fly back to the US, so we decided to make a trip of it and go for the weekend before. Singapore is a seven-hour flight from Tokyo, so to break up the trip, Becca booked a flight with an eight-hour layover in Hong Kong. One day was probably too short for Hong Kong, but it was a good way to get a feel for the city and to see its stunning skyline in person.
Two days in Singapore was the perfect amount of time to see the sights and enjoy the culture, as there isn’t a whole lot to see and do there. We loved the hawker food stalls and the modern, interesting architecture. After being in Tokyo for so long, we felt a noticeable difference in how diverse and international both cities are compared to Tokyo. This was particularly the case in Singapore, where there’s a real mix of ethnic groups.
The weekend was a fun endcap to our two years of travels, and we can’t believe this experience is over. We feel so lucky to have had this bonus time together in Asia and are grateful for the experience. Josh still has a few weeks left in Tokyo, but Becca is already back in the US. This is probably going to be our last blog post (a best-of London post may be forthcoming). Thanks for staying with us these past two years. We hope you enjoyed reading along; we certainly had fun sharing our experiences with you!
Friday June 23
Hong Kong Layover Tour
I had eight hours between my two flights, and several websites and blogs assured me it was sufficient time for a quick site-seeing trip into the city (this blog was really useful). After my crazy flight experience on the way to Tokyo (I got caught up in the BA system-wide outage and was stuck in Heathrow airport for 12 hours, had to take a flight the next day, and then my bags didn’t arrive for 3 more days), I was hoping I’d earned enough good travel karma to make the timing work out well, which it did. Eight hours was the perfect amount of time to get a feel for the city and see a couple of highlights, and it was a nice way to break up the 7 hour flight from Tokyo to Singapore.
It’s a four-hour flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong, and I was lucky that my flight landed a bit early. It was quick to get through passport control. Since I checked my bags straight through to Tokyo, I went straight to the train. The Hong Kong airport express runs every 10 minutes and takes 24 minutes to get to Hong Kong station, so I was in the city in no time.
Hong Kong is known for its dim sum, so having some was obviously high on my priority list. This restaurant is in the mall adjacent to the train station, and I was wary about the long line of people waiting outside, but it moved quickly and I was seated within 10 minutes. Even though there was a sign saying customers might be asked to share a table during peak times, I was surprised when I was seated the one open spot at a table for four. It quickly became clear everyone at the table was a single-diner, so it didn’t feel strange once I realized that. Dim sum is more fun with more people, so you can try more things, but since this was my one chance, I went for it and ordered a wonton noodle soup, steamed buns and dumplings. Everything was delicious, and I ate it all, despite it being way too much food.
Victoria Peak Tram
After lunch I walked 20 minutes uphill (a very sweaty walk in the heat and humidity) to the Victoria Peak Tram. I was nervous there would be a huge line for this top attraction, but I was lucky and only had to wait about 15 minutes before getting on the historic tram up to Victoria Peak. If you’re short on time, you can buy a skip-the-line ticket, which is probably worth it, since when I came down, the line wrapped around the block.
It’s a quick ride, and the view only lasts for a few minutes so you can also just skip the tram and take a taxi to the top. I went up to the Sky Deck to enjoy amazing 360 degree views of Hong Kong below. The city has an awesome skyline, and Hong Kong bay is beautiful as well. It was a pretty cloudy day, so I can only imagine how much nicer it is on a sunny day. There’s also a walking trail at the top, but it was way too hot and I was short on time, so after a look around, I took the tram back down. There was an amazing looking ice cream place right next to the tram stop at the top, but I was too full from lunch to try it.
Star Ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui
I walked back down the hill and found my way to a covered walkway that goes right up to the Star Ferry terminal. You have to decide which deck of the ferry you want to be on, which I didn’t realize, and accidentally got stuck on the bottom on the way there. The ferry runs every 6-8 minutes, takes about 15 minutes and offers amazing views of the city.
Tsim Sha Tsui
There’s a riverside promenade at Tsim Sha Tsui that again has incredible skyline views, and also lots of shops, restaurants, etc. By this point I was pretty hot and tired, so I walked around a bit, got some frozen yogurt and took the ferry back. This time I made sure to be on the upper deck, which was even nicer than the ride over.
I took the Airport Express and was back at the airport with enough time for a quick very necessary shower at the lounge before my flight to Singapore. I had read there’s a Michelin starred restaurant called King’s Garden in Terminal 2, but I didn’t have time to look for it and instead grabbed take-away from one of the few restaurants past security. It was a fun and exhausting day and Hong Kong made a great place for a long layover!
Saturday June 24
80 Bras Basah Rd, Singapore 189560
Josh’s work booked him a room at the Fairmont Hotel, so I got a room there for Friday night. It’s a beautiful hotel in a convenient part of the city, and the pool and spa area were fantastic as well. Breakfast at the hotel was a real highlight, where they had a huge and delicious buffet featuring eastern and western style breakfast foods.
17 Hongkong St, Singapore 059660
Josh took the red-eye flight from Tokyo and arrived early Saturday morning, so we got an early start and went with a couple of his co-workers to this breakfast spot. The menu offered exactly the kind of western breakfast and coffee we were all craving, and it was the perfect place to start our day.
From breakfast, we continued walking along the river past the boat quay and towards the Merlion Statue. There were already tons of people out by 9am (probably people looking to beat the heat, and it was already sweltering by then!). This part of the riverside has beautiful views of the famous Marina Bay Sands hotel, as well as the rest of the Singapore skyline. We loved seeing the interesting and modern architecture and just taking in the atmosphere.
Gardens by the Bay
We continued walking past the Merlion Statue until we got to the Gardens by the Bay, which are beautiful man-made gardens. We went up to the Tree walkway , which was really cool and offered a different vantage point of the city. There were two other paid attractions inside the gardens, but the boys in the group were gardened out, so we decided to move on.
It was a quick and cheap cab ride over to Singapore’s Little India, and for some reason our cab driver assumed we wanted to go to Mustafa, a massive department store that seemed to have every toiletry product imaginable. We walked around and then found our way to Serangoon Road, the main street in the neighborhood. It had such a different feel from the glitzy high-rise neighborhood we’d just been in, and this felt much more local and authentic. We passed shop after shop selling saris, costume jewelry, Indian food, flowers and other nick nacks. The neighborhood was a lot bigger than we expected, and we had a fun time exploring (and drinking out a of a massive coconut!).
From there, we walked over to the Arab Street, which seemed a lot smaller and quieter than the Indian quarter. We were all getting pretty tired by this point, so we had a quick look around and then got in a cab to go for lunch.
Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle
This is one of two Singapore hawker food stalls that’s been awarded a Michelin star, and we were surprised that the line was pretty short. It’s a hectic place and hard to find a table, but things turn over quickly so we soon found a place to sit and wait for our food. The meal was really tasty, but we all agreed that we wouldn’t have thought it exceptional if we didn’t know about the Michelin star.
After lunch we walked up the block to the main Chinatown Food Street and then explored the market in the neighborhood. Many of the shops were selling similar souvenirs as in Little India, and we were all feeling worn out from the sun and only spent a short time here. If we had more time, we would have loved to come back for another meal at the market. After Chinatown, we went back to the hotel to relax by the pool and enjoy the spa.
CÉ LA VI
1 Bayfront Ave, Singapore 018971
Checking out the amazing rooftop at Marina Bay Sands was high on our Singapore bucket list. The rooftop pool area is only open for hotel guests, but there’s an observation deck and a cocktail bar on the 57th floor. We opted for the bar, since the entry ticket price was the same as the observation deck, and it could be used towards a drink at the bar. We got there in time for sunset and had a great time taking in the city views all around.
Dinner at Clarke Quay
Clarke Quay is an area with lots of restaurants and bars along the river. It felt pretty touristy but had a fun vibe, and we chose a Chinese restaurant along the water. The food was nothing too memorable, but it was a great ambiance.
Sunday June 25
After indulging in the incredible breakfast spread at the hotel, we went to Tiong Bahru, a neighborhood that’s a real mix of old and new. We walked around the wet market which sells fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and fish, and checked out the food hawker stands upstairs. We then explored the rest of the neighborhood, which was mostly older, low-rise buildings but had lots of little hipster coffee shops and bakeries mixed in. It had a really different vibe from the areas we’d been in the day before, and we enjoyed seeing this part of the city.
Orchard Road is considered to be the Champs-Élysées of Singapore, so we decided to check it out. Our cab dropped us off at a glitzy, luxury mall. When we walked out to the main road, it started to pour, so we ducked into another mall which was the polar opposite, with lots of cheap souvenir and clothing shops. The contrast was interesting to see. It was pouring with no end in sight, so we hopped back in a cab to go back towards our the hotel.
The Raffles Hotel was one of Singapore’s first luxury hotels, and it’s famous for being the birthplace of the Singapore Sling. It still maintains its classic luxurious charm today, and although most of the hotel isn’t open to the public, there is a section that’s open to tourists and explains some of the hotel’s history. We walked around a bit but decided to skip the cocktail.
Lau Pa Sat/ Telok Ayer Market
We felt like we needed to experience more of Singapore’s street food culture, and this market had been recommended to us by a few people. It was mid-afternoon by the time we got there, so many of the stalls were closed and it was pretty quiet. We were bummed that we didn’t get to see the full ambiance but also appreciated being able to get a table easily. We enjoyed some delicious dim sum and chicken with noodles.
By this point the rain had stopped and the humidity had broken, so we took advantage and walked back to the hotel along the water, which was packed with tourists. We relaxed at the hotel for a bit before dinner.
Singapore is famous for its chili crab, and Jumbo was recommended to us as the place to try it. There are two locations along the river, and we put our names in at both. We got a drink at Café Iguana, an adorable Mexican bar, while we waited for a table. We sat outside next to the river at the Jumbo next door (which we thought had better ambiance anyway), and ordered a ton of food. It was a fun dining experience (complete with bibs!) and the food was great too. We actually liked the black pepper crab better than the chili crab, and the lobster was amazing as well.
Marina Bay Sands Casino
Since we didn’t get to see the casino the previous night, we went back to the Marina Bay Sands to check it out. Foreigners can enter for free with their passports (locals are charged $100 to enter), and we had our passports checked twice on the way in and on the way out. The casino is massive and beautiful, and we spent some time walking around and playing roulette (one of us stayed out much later than the other… can you guess who that would be?).
On every trip we share our rose (highlight), thorn (lowlight), and bud (what we're looking forward to).
Rose- all the food (Becca), crab dinner (Josh)
Thorn- that we don’t have more time to travel (Becca), the heat (Josh)
Bud- meeting Baby Bonney-Cohen (Becca), America (Josh)
If you go, things to know…
How much time? I didn’t look into what else there was to do in Hong Kong, since I knew I’d only have a few hours there. It’s a huge city though, and I’m sure you could spend a few days there. Two days was plenty of time to see Singapore - there aren't a ton of sites, so it can easily be done in a weekend.
What else is there to do? Macau is supposed to be a great day trip from Hong Kong. In Singapore, we didn’t get to Sentosa Island or Fort Canning Park, which we heard was nice. Maxwell Food Centre was also recommended to us as another great place for street food.
How to get around? Public transportation in Hong Kong is super easy and efficient. In Singapore, we took cabs since they were so cheap (all of our rides were around $6-10 Singapore Dollars