Let’s Go Exploring! Singapore: All Food. All the Time.

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FIRECracker

FIRECracker is Canada's youngest retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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My body scan brings all boys to the yard. Damn right, it’s better than yours.

As much as I love traveling, I don’t love airports. The busyness, the long lines, the airport security dude constantly directing me to the body scanner while letting Wanderer waltz on through—it’s just not my thing.

But, as it turns out, I just hadn’t been to the right airport.

As soon as we landed in Singapore, I had to double-check that were still in the airport and not Disneyland.

Why?

Because in addition to the normal stuff like a mall, food courts, and lounges, we also found this:

An Orchid Garden

photo source: http://www.changiairport.com/en/airport-experience/attractions-and-services.html

A Sunflower Garden

photo source: http://www.changiairport.com/en/airport-experience/attractions-and-services.html

A Cactus Garden

photo source: http://www.changiairport.com/en/airport-experience/attractions-and-services.html

A Water lily Garden

photo source: http://www.changiairport.com/en/airport-experience/attractions-and-services.html

A Butterfly Garden

photo source: http://www.changiairport.com/en/airport-experience/attractions-and-services.html

An Enchanted Garden

photo source: http://www.changiairport.com/en/airport-experience/attractions-and-services.html

Are you sensing a theme here? Somehow they managed to cram six whole gardens inside an AIRPORT, and I’m not even done yet…

They also added:

An Entertainment Center with Xbox and Kinect stations

photo source: http://www.changiairport.com/en/airport-experience/attractions-and-services.html

A movie theatre playing FREE movies all day

photo source: http://www.changiairport.com/en/airport-experience/attractions-and-services.html

A Rooftop pool with Jacuzzi

photo source: http://www.changiairport.com/en/airport-experience/attractions-and-services.html

…aaannd….

A 12 meter long slide…known as THE TALLEST SLIDE IN THE WORLD.

 

photo source: http://www.changiairport.com/en/airport-experience/attractions-and-services/the-slide—t3.html

Seriously? It wasn’t enough to be voted the BEST AIRPORT in the WORLD, they had to also build the TALLEST slide in the world? Wow.

They even made a website to promote these so-called “Airport Attractions”:

http://www.changiairport.com/en/airport-experience/attractions-and-services.html

Move over, Disney! Changi Airport is where the cool kids hang out these days. PLUS, it has WAY better food!

In fact, I would honestly say it’s the best and cheapest airport food I’ve ever had.

So you can see why I was seriously thinking of cancelling our Airbnb and just living in the airport for the rest of my life.

But then I thought about my arch nemesis, the hateful body scanner, and decided OKAY FINE, I’ll guess I’ll get out of here and go visit the stupid city.

As it turns out, the city wasn’t stupid at all. In fact it was just as clean, orderly, and futuristic as everyone said.

Garden by the Bay

But by far, the best attraction was…

The food.

Oyster omelette
Fish soup with crispy pork, soy egg, and chilli paste
Frog leg casserole with rice and pak choy
Thick noodle with braised beef and black forest mushrooms
Black pepper chilli crab with garlic and ginger

Since Wanderer prides himself on his slim girlish figure, food isn’t usually high on his list of priorities. But that all changed when we found the Old Airport Road Food Market.

All of a sudden, instead of “oh I’ll finish it later” or frantically shaking his head as I try to shove spoonfuls of pasta into his mouth, he’s scarfing down plates of oyster egg, cha-siu-bao (bbq pork buns), and crispy pork like a bear in a petting zoo.

Somehow we’d gone from $30 plates of European food to $2-3CAD plates of Asian food and even though we were eating out all the time, it barely left a dent in our budget.

At one point, I miscounted and handed over too much money. But when Wanderer opened his mouth to protest, I snatched up the dough fritters and dragged him away.

“But you just overpaid!” He said.

“SHHHH!” I said, glancing around nervously. “Let’s just give the nice man the money and get out of here before he notices he’s charging WAY too little.”

Then I quickly shoved the whole thing into my mouth. “Ha ha! No taksey-backsey’s!”

Wanderer stared me like I’d lost my goddamn mind, but I was already off, sprinting to the next stand to buy more food.

Everything was SO good and SO cheap at the food market (called “hawker stalls”), I was getting MAJOR separation anxiety every time we had to leave for sightseeing.

As a result, only 20% of our time was spent walking around. The rest of the time was spent trying to fit as much food as possible into our faces without choking. Clearly, I was starting to develop a problem.

And this time, even the budget couldn’t save me. Because with dirt-cheap food prices, even though we ate out all the time, the budget barely moved. And my waistline also somehow barely moved. In fact, I think I LOST weight. I couldn’t believe it. My tastebuds, self-confidence, AND wallet were all feeling fantastic—and this was Singapore, the most expensive city in Southeast Asia! What would the rest of southeast be like? I couldn’t WAIT to find out.

One thing you need to know about Singapore is that it is HOT. Like third-degree-burn HOT.

So in our best attempt to defeat the heat, we decided….you guessed it…to eat more food. And this is how we discovered our favourite dessert: shaved ice drizzled with syrup, sweet corn pudding, and topped with peanuts.  Also known as “Ice Ka Chang”.

 

And no, those black dots are SEEDS, not fish embryos. Stop being weird.

 

Can you tell we like “Ice Ka Changs” a lot?

It turned out to be THE perfect treat on sweltering days–which, in Singapore, happened to be EVERYDAY.

Good thing we got a place with a pool from AirBnb:

Oh good. This will prevent me from spontaneously bursting into flames.

So even though accommodations were more expensive than some places in Europe, because of the food prices, our budget barely moved.

Here’s a breakdown of our spending:

Category Cost/couple/day (CAD) Thoughts
Accommodations $80 Not cheap for Southeast Asia but still a good deal as hotels were well over $100.
Food $20 This was our first taste of how abundant and cheap food is in Asia. We were immediately hooked.
Attractions $0 Singapore has lots free attractions like the Botanical Gardens, the waterfront, and free city tour. Also the airport–which somehow ended up being my favourite attraction of all.
Transportation $4 The only transportation cost was the Singapore subway over 4 days. We were also able to walk to some of the attractions.
Total $104

Rating: 4/5 Hawker Stalls

The food was so good in Singapore, I was salivating the whole time as I uploaded these pictures.

Basically, if I could describe Singapore with one image, it would be this:

 

Aaaaand now I desperately want to go back. *opens up SkyScanner, starts browsing for tickets*

Come meet us at this year's Chautauqua UK! Details here

37 thoughts on “Let’s Go Exploring! Singapore: All Food. All the Time.”

  1. yeah Singapore is an awesome place to visit as a tourist but the weather is crazy hot and humid! We should meet up in Singapore if we are there at the same time (i am Singaporean and working in Melbourne)

    The hawker centre food stalls are awesome! i am looking forward to go back in 2 weeks time for cny!

    How much did you pay for tickets from Canada? or are you living in Thailand at the moment?

    1. Yup, there’s no heat like Singapore heat. Having a pool helped a lot though. And yes we should meet up if we end up there at the same time.

      We didn’t fly there directly from Canada but from Greece because we were visiting Europe. The cost was only $110/person for the taxes because we used points.

  2. Wow… looks like Singapore really gives Tokyo a run for its money. Did you see any of the darker sides of Singapore anywhere? Like the massive gap between wealthy and poor? I’ve never heard any visitor talk about it, but apparently it’s the 2nd largest gap (next to Hong Kong) in the world.

    1. Surprisingly no. I actually saw more wealth gap in Cambodia where there were shabby tuktuks parked next to fancy Lexus SUVs.

  3. Now if a foreigner can find good health care and relatively cheap housing, I would have moved there permanently like … yesterday.

    I guess it all comes to down health care in the end … in any decision.

    1. That’s what Chiang Mai Thailand is for! (coming up in a future post). It’s got delicious cheap food like Singapore but housing is so cheap, as is healthcare (only $12 to see a doctor!). Only down side is you have to do visa runs every now and then. But Cambodia lets you renew your visa continuously.

  4. “And my waistline also somehow barely moved. ”

    I think it’s that Asian gene that we have. I sometimes would eat 5000 to 6000 calories a day but I wouldn’t gain weight at all. It’s like I have hit some asymptotic limit and my body is unable to go beyond that weight barrier regardless of much, or what, I eat.

    1. My Asian gene is broken in North America then 🙁 It doesn’t work with Asian food, only with food in Asia. I suspect it has something to do with the organic-ness of the food (chemicals are more expensive than human labour in SE Asia yo!) and the fact that I walk everywhere and swim everyday.

      But yeah, that’s why I love Asia. I can eat as much as I want without gaining weight! It’s magic!

  5. Thank you so much for another amazing post! I always look forward seeing your new post in my emails.. Also very looking forward to the future Thailand post. I LOVE it there. Heading back in March for a month. Can’t wait.
    All the Best

      1. Have you checked out the Elephant Nature park in Chiang Mai? if not you guys must check it out.. amazing. Lek is a very special lady that runs the place..

        1. Yes I read the story about Lek and the Elephant Nature Park. Very inspiring! Because of her, there are now more elephant sanctuaries replacing elephant shows and people are more aware of the horrible treatment that elephants get in the tourist industry. She rocks!

          1. That is so great to here about more elephant sanctuaries! I may have to take another trip up there to visit. Thanks so much for your website and all the great info. This time next year I should be able to either retire or semi retire.

  6. If you liked the food in Singapore, you will LOVE Malaysia. Top marks for food all round, you could eat all day and night… (Singapore was also once part of Malaysia, so that explains it!)

  7. Great post, love Asia, could go on and on! I remember reading about your story a few years ago when I was living the corporate life but didn’t pay too attention to it until now as I’m sort of living your life now 🙂 My question to you is…how are you keeping up with the savings/spending given that you no longer are contributing as you were to you net worth through employment income. Im not asking you to post your Net Worth every month or anything like that, just curious how you adjusted to life once you quit your jobs and had at live off your 1M portfolio while also maintaining its value (increasing it as well Im assuming). Im in that boat right now and I working on that balance. Thanks for the insight. Congrats to you both…very inspiring! PS. Get on instagram…you have lots to share!

    1. Great question! If you read our post on the 4% rule, based on the historical performance of the stock market, you’ll see that 4% is the amount you can safely withdraw from your portfolio in order to preserve the value (taking into account inflation, capital appreciation and dividends).

      In our case, we went even one step further to reduce our risk. Our 60/40 portfolio is built such that it throws off approximately 3% of dividends and fixed income each year. Since our yearly expense for our trip around the world is 40K, that’s 4% of a $1Million portfolio. But most of the 4% is from dividends and fixed income, the amount we need to sell to capture capital value is only 1%, leaving most of the assets to appreciate. That’s why with the 8% gains (after fees) from last year, its value actually went up! So that’s how early retirees can end up with a portfolio that’s INCREASES in value after retirement. They control their costs within the 4%, live off the dividends/fixed income so that don’t have to sell during a market downturn, AND because investment income is taxed more favourably than earned income, pay very little or almost no tax.

      Hope that answers your question!

  8. I’ve heard horror stories about those Singaporean Food Courts. They’re really just devious traps set to capture tourists who’ve been stuck eating terrible food their entire lives.

    I’m curious how you escaped. Clearly you must have eaten all the foods, so they had to let you go.

    Seriously, the place looks and sounds like heaven. Why did you ever leave?

    1. Those devious bastards and their addictive food! *shakes fist*

      We would’ve never left if it wasn’t for accommodation costs. Good thing we checked out the rest of SE Asia, because as it turns out Singapore was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to addictive food….

  9. Man, I still get pretty jealous when I read your posts and see you two traveling. I’m late to the game but damn.. getting to that first mil ain’t easy. Singapore looks amazing.

    1. First mil isn’t easy but SO worth it when you get here. And you know what? It does pick up speed as you go.

      Yeah, Singapore rocks! I’m shocked that I don’t weight 400lbs after eating THAT much food. I’m like “What sorcery is this?” Well-played, SE Asia. Well-played.

  10. Omg I’m so jealous!! I’ve always wanted to go! It’s almost lunch time as I’m reading this and I am starving!! My lunch will never live up to your picture!! Ahhh!

  11. Awesome post & thanks! I will actually be in Singapore for business in February. Looking to use the weekends to get my foodie on! Singapore will be my last corporate project with travel in February and April (and retirement on July 4, 2017); true Independence Day!

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