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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.
Because in addition to the normal stuff like a mall, food courts, and lounges, we also found this:
An Orchid Garden
A Sunflower Garden
A Cactus Garden
A Water lily Garden
A Butterfly Garden
An Enchanted Garden
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
A movie theatre playing FREE movies all day
A Rooftop pool with Jacuzzi
A 12 meter long slide…known as THE TALLEST SLIDE IN THE WORLD.
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”:
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.
But by far, the best attraction was…
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”.
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:
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:
|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.|
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*
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40 thoughts on “Let’s Go Exploring! Singapore: All Food. All the Time.”
Wow now I really want to fly through Asia just to check out that airport!
Yeah, that airport is mind-blowing! You should check it out 🙂
I can’t say I’ve ever had a particularly pleasant experience in an airport. That one looks pretty amazing! I would eat all the food.
I did eat all the food. It was GLORIOUS!!!
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?
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.
wah seh. very cheap leh. I use points for quantas in Melbourne to Singapore also not so cheap wor. 🙁
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.
Surprisingly no. I actually saw more wealth gap in Cambodia where there were shabby tuktuks parked next to fancy Lexus SUVs.
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.
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.
You didn’t stop by that boat located atop three buildings, a.k.a. the Marina Sands hotel?
Didn’t get around to it. Too much face stuffing 🙂 Maybe next time.
“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.
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!
“My Asian gene is broken in North America then ? It doesn’t work with Asian food, only with food in Asia”
Looking forward to more in this series.
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
Thanks, Melissa! I’m addicted to Thailand and looking forward to write that post!
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..
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!
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.
Wow! That’s awesome and congrats! You are SO close to the finish line!
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!)
Yup, Malaysia is the next post. And you’re right I do love it! 🙂
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!
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!
Brilliant. Thank you! Look forward to following your story 🙂
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?
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….
Now your just teasing me FireCracker! Oh where dost thou attain thy better edibles in SE Asia?
Patience my young grasshopper. Patience.
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.
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.
Holy crap!!! I would love this airport….
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!
Now you can see why I ate everything that wasn’t nailed down…and then I ate the nails.
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!
dang, wish i had known you were in singapore. i live 10mins walk from old airport road hawkers centre. and yes, the airport is amazing. a lot of people go there in their free time. i go there for my krispy kreme fix.
but i need to ask, didn’t you find the cost of accomodation expensive? i live here in a 500sqft apartment with a shared pool for 2200/month with my wife. i’m moving two roads away (i’m going to literally move my stuff at night in a shopping trolley – i’m not making this shit up) and 8 floors higher for 2000/month. i figured that 200/month = 80,000 FU Money cost savings at 3% SWR. anyways, my parents home in australia rents for about 1700/month and is 7500sqft (land area) and 1500sqft (living area). so, housing here ain’t cheap but food is (relatively). Cars are expensive here (60k for a suzuki swift), that’s why i don’t have one.
on another note, i’m been thinking (not always a good thing) about something that irks me about FIRE experts. most of them are US or Canada or UK (more so pre-brexit) or Australia based. Basically, any country with a strong currency. however, when you geo-arb into low cost countries such in se asia for example, it’s easy for you guys. but for us in the already low cost country in se asia, there’s fewer places for us to geo-arb into eg where would an developing nation citizen geo-arb to?
perhaps this question irks me because i don’t have an answer. perhaps it’s because i’m in a profession where i should have some sort of answer. or perhaps the answer is to geo-arb and migrate to a high cost/strong currency country, work your ass off, live frugally, save your money. wait for your home currency to weaken. convert everything back to your home currency and move back to said developing nation home to retire a king or queen.
think i need to think about this…or perhaps my fingers are itching for a new excel-based PF FIRE model…
anyways, keep up the jolly good work…toodles…
“but i need to ask, didn’t you find the cost of accomodation expensive?”
At $80/day, it was definitely more expensive than the other South East Asian countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. But luckily because Singapore is so close to those countries, we quickly moved on to Malaysia and our costs dropped dramatically. Eating out in Singapore was still way cheaper than in Canada though. We don’t have food markets selling $3 noodle bowls.
“Basically, any country with a strong currency. however, when you geo-arb into low cost countries such in se asia for example, it’s easy for you guys.”
When we were there, the Singapore dollar was pretty much on par with the Canadian dollar. So you could very well earn Singaporean dollar, and then later move to one of the other SE locales for your retirement.
Bookmarked. Probably not immediately when I break free but someday. I first read about Singapore eats and it being costly in that book Crazy Rich Asians and part of the sequel… glad to see they were doin that there truth- tellin’… 🙂