Singapore–for all its skyscraping infrastructure, good food, and stylish shops–has a reputation of being the “boring” neighbor of tourist-magnet destinations like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. It’s westernized, for one, which makes it less attractive to thrill-seekers. It’s also famously expensive–you have to have deep pockets to move around the city comfortably.
But what only the most keen-eyed backpackers know is that it is a richly cultured country with gorgeous, interesting, and sometimes downright strange attractions. The best part? They’re free.
While the Making Mega series has got you catching the travel bug, we rounded up 6 super-fun, super-free things to do in the Land of the Lion.
1. Haw Par Villa
Abandoned theme parks are always creepy, but nothing can top the creep-factor of Haw Par Villa. Built in 1937 by the founders of the famous Tiger Balm ointment, it was originally used as an educational park to drill morals into young kids. Ticket prices used to be steep, which led to its eventual bankruptcy and abandonment (yay for us, admission is free now).
Singaporeans who lived through the 80s and 90s would remember the freaky sculptures depicting ancient Chinese legends, but what scarred them for life was the famous Ten Courts of Hell attraction. The sculptures–depicting in gory detail the consequences for very specific “sins”–are too graphic to be shown here, so better pack your bags and see them for yourself. But be careful, because there are one-too-many urban ghost legends surrounding this deliciously strange place.
2. Sri Mariamman Temple
Take your shoes off (literally, you have to leave your shoes outside before you’re allowed in) and enter into the very interesting religious culture of the Hindus. Built in 1827, it is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, where South Indian immigrants used to come to worship. Today, you’re very welcome to join them in their boisterous singing, dancing, and praying. Dedicated to Goddess Mariamman for her power to cure epidemic diseases, you will enjoy seeing the rituals they do for her. Better yet, time your visit in October or November to catch their main festival, the Theemithi Fire Walking Ceremony
3. Peranakan Museum
This 3-level museum is full of artefacts from the Peranakan culture–a mixed-race people from Southeast Asia–from their wedding traditions to their eating traditions to their intricate needlework. Enjoy the life-size and interactive displays in each of the nine themed rooms. For all the interesting things we learned in here, we were left wondering why admission is free.
4. TreeTop Walk
Wanna get fit? Lace up your hiking shoes and head over to the MacRitchie Trails. Located beside Singapore Island Country Club, this tree-lined hiking trail is perfect for joggers, families and nature-lovers. After taking a 15-minute walk, you will reach the TreeTop Bridge, which gives you a lovely view of the forest from above. Warning: you will come across cute, playful monkeys along the way.
5. Singapore Footprints Free Walking Tour
If you don’t wanna veer too far from the city center, just stop by the Raffles Place MRT station on weekends for a no sign-up tour by perky volunteers. From the banks of Singapore River through the monumental enclaves of the Bras Basah and Bugis Precinct, you’ll learn intimate, intriguing tales of Old and Modern Singapore that Google simply cannot give. As a bonus, you’ll make new friends!
6. Merlion Park
Your trip wouldn’t be complete without a night at the Merlion Park, where you can find the iconic symbol of Singapore pride, the Merlion. Its fish body represents the country’s humble beginnings as a fishing village, and its head represents Singapore’s original name, Singapura, or ‘lion city’ in Malay.
Walk, talk, eat ,and take pictures along the scenic bank. We suggest going when the sun goes down to avoid the humid Singapore heat (and because a band will be playing for free at the ampitheater).
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