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48 hours in Singapore—where to eat, sleep & play during a short two-day layover

Stepping off the plane in Singapore, the first thing I noticed was the humidity. After spending two months in Australia on a Sydney to Cairnes road trip and checking out the fun city of Adelaide I thought heat of Singapore would be no different. Boy, was I wrong. After leaving any air-conditioned room, my clothes would instantly cling to my body since the humidity level was averaging 96 percent daily. Luckily cold beers came to the rescue during my 48 hours in Singapore.

pink incense sticks in gold pot in singapore, during 48 hours in singapore you'll be met with incense everywhere
Incense fills the city with an intoxicating scent
I was in the city for just a short layover before catching a bus north to Thailand. Here’s how I made my time in the city count, on a relatively low budget.

How to spend a fun 48 hours in Singapore

I visited the city-state during the month of June and stayed at the beautiful Scarlett Boutique Hotel (a much-needed break from eight months of dormitories during my round-the-world trip on a budget. Staying in a hotel was such an incredible treat after sleeping in shared dorms for months on end, I’ve never appreciated clean sheets and a private bathroom more. Housed in an art deco building and situated close to buzzy Chinatown, Scarlet is Singapore’s first luxury boutique hotel, and at just over $130 (£100) a night, it’s a great deal.

Even better, it’s just moments away from Maxwell Road Food Center, one of Singapore’s most famous hawker centers. The large population of Chinese, Malay, and Indians that make up the country means you can find incredible dishes from all over the world, there are over 100 stalls at Maxwell Road selling everything from steaming chicken-rice and pork satay to wanton noodles and Ice Kacang; a delicious dessert made up of shaved ice, red beans and agar jelly covered with rose syrup and condensed milk—it’s no wonder Singapore is one of the most impressive travel destinations for foodies. I tried many dishes during my few days in the city, mostly from Maxwell Road, and always delightful. The simplicity of the vegetable dishes was a real highlight, in particular, Chinese broccoli in soy sauce with crispy onions. It was so good though, that I forgot to note down the name of the stall. Like with any food stalls or street-side eateries, I always recommend picking the one that looks busiest, it's usually a sign of great food.

chinese broccoli and soy on brown plate in singapore's maxwell food centre, a must visit during 48 hours in singapore
Simple but delicious—one of the dishes from Maxwell Road Food Centre
While staying at the Scarlet I took advantage of its location and visited Little India with its impressive Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple which reminded me of some of India’s most beautiful temples, and later I sought out the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum back in Chinatown.

Everywhere I turned I was met with another amazing temple and hundreds upon hundreds of bright red and gold Chinese lanterns. I loved strolling through the city’s streets with the sweet fragrance of pink and orange incense burning in every nook. Singapore appears to have none of the chaos, noise, and litter of India or China—it feels like a little pocket of calm, hidden in Asia’s bustle.

hindu temple in litttle india, a must visit when spending 48 hours in singapore
One of the many temples in Singapore's Little India
Two museums I would recommend visiting during a short 48 hours in Singapore are The National Museum of Singapore, which is good for history and sections on the culture and psyche of the country, and the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), which usually has a fun modern art display outside too.

red and gold chinese lanterns hanging from the wooden ceiling in a building in singapore
Stunning Chinese lanterns are everywhere in the city
Old Hill Police Station (close to SAM) is also worth a visit due to the building's 927 windows, each with shutters painted in a different color of the rainbow. From there, it’s easy to do a loop downtown and pass over the city's famous Helix Bridge.

inside the glass and metal helix bridge, one of the best things to do during 48 hours in singapore
Helix Bridge
As well as being the longest pedestrian bridge in Singapore, it’s also quite unusual in its design, taking inspiration from DNA and is impressive at night when the iconic structure becomes aglow.

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