Welcome to ASEAN and another 4 days in gorgeous Southeast Asia. If you are planning summer vacations, our 48 hours series is perfect for discovering how to plan your trip. Today, our first stop is Singapore, the glitzy island city-state off southern Malaysia.
A hub of modernity, the nation of Singapore has so much forward motion that according to CNN Travel, its residents hold the most powerful passport on Earth. Let’s take 2 days to see both sides of this glittering metropolis.
Day 1: A Historic Bike Ride
After flying into Changi Airport, cab over to Hotel Mono, a boutique hotel converted from shophouses. Snap some photos in their gram-worthy lobby and store your bags. It’s time to explore.
Start with kope at Nanyang Old Coffee, a nostalgic roaster also serving boiled eggs and kaya butter toast slathered with coconut jam. Traditional and delicious!
Now let’s explore the city from the ground. Singapore was the free market’s testing ground for dockless bike sharing. Since arriving from China in 2017, these bikes have grow in popularity. Register through the app and you can unlock bicycles anywhere in town.
Cruise to Bedok Reservoir for city views and lush greenery. Fill up at a hawker center like Newton Food Center where Singapore’s diversity is on display: Chinese, Tamil, and Malay foods all in one place. Flaky curry puffs, Hainanese chicken rice, turnip cakes, lor mee gravy noodles, and min chiang kueh peanut pancakes.
Next is the National Museum of Singapore. One of absolute best museums you will encounter while traveling to Asia, the permanent exhibit details Southeast Asia’s history since the early 1900s. You’ll read about Singapore’s 1965 project that successfully provided affordable housing to over 82% of the nation’s citizens. Walk through a life-size replica of the government-issued apartments and appreciate the modern life they provide, though they admittedly lack curb appeal.
Finally, grab dinner and a locally made beer from RedDot BrewHouse on the Boat Quay waterfront.
Day 2: Luxe Living
Start with brunch at Pacamara, a boutique coffee roaster, and craft beer importer. You’re on holiday, aren’t you? How about sipping your way through the morning? With Hitachino espresso stout from Japan and Australian Hills apple cider, your morning coffee and juice is transformed!
Two city must-sees are the Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Art Museum or SAG. The gardens show exquisite city planning by providing a place for nature and technology to intermingle. SAG is a world-class contemporary art museum covering thoughtful topics such as the diasporas of Oceania or humankind’s obsession with space travel.
For a vibrant dinner in Little India, enjoy a piquant and creamy daal makhani with fresh garlic naan at Khansama Tandoori Village. Then head up to 1-Alititude for a 360-degree view of Singapore in lights. At this 63rd floor bar, you can sip a cheeky Singapore Sling and gaze at the signature skyline below.
From the top of the world you feel like a fancy jet-setter, but moving around the countries of the ASEAN is surprisingly effortless. Flights are short, airports are state-of-the-art, and mass transit systems are convenient.
How about we head to nearby Malaysia? At just 60-minutes from Singapore to Malaysia, it’s probably the quickest international trip you’ll take when traveling to Asia. Let’s go!
48 Hours in Malaysia
Malaysia is divided between the Malaysian Peninsula and the Island of Borneo. This ASEAN country boasts a mixture of influences from Malay to Chinese, Indian, and European cultures. With 48 hours to get a taste for Malaysia, let’s explore Kuala Lumpur to see how all of these cultures mix in a modern city.
Day 1: Food and Temples
Drop off your bags and hit the streets. Announce your arrival in “KL” by taking a selfie in front of the famous Petronas Twin Towers. Does everyone who visits KL take this photo? Yes. Is it played out? No way! These massive twin skyscrapers held the title of tallest buildings in the world from 1998-2004 and are still a marvel today.
For lunch, go inside to find the Suria KLCC (KLCC) mall. To eat local food, skip the expensive restaurants and head to the Signatures Food Court on Level 2 in the mall. Start with local specialty nasi lemak, a rice dish served with chicken or beef rendang, vegetables, and sambal chili paste.
In the afternoon, visit a temple to get a feel for local Indian culture.
First, hop on the local metro KTM about 35 minutes to the Batu Caves. The Hindu shrine features a massive 100-year-old statue of Lord Murugan at the entrance. Visitors can climb the stairs of the limestone cave to a shrine at the top.
After that, it’s time for dinner and a rest. For budget travelers, check the neighborhood near Changkat Bukit Bintang. This tourist area has hostels with plenty of lively bars and restaurants.
Day 2: Arts and Architecture
For your second day, start with local sweet coffee and a hearty breakfast of clam noodles from Kedai Kopi Lai Foong.
With a full tummy, walk the Islamic Arts Museum of Malaysia. This must-see museum features scale models of world mosques and historical copies of the Qur’an. With its massive white dome and filigree decorations, this museum is one of the most beautiful in the world.
For lunch, visit Shin Kee Beef Noodle Specialist that serves noodles in rich broth, piled high with meatballs and scallions for early dinner. After that shoot over to Hemisphere Restaurant & Bar for a sundowner. Sip your way into the evening and end your summer vacations in Malaysia the way you started—by gazing at the stunning Petronas Twin Towers.
After spending two days admiring architecture on the Malaysian Peninsula, it’s time to explore another country in the ASEAN. Where are we headed next? Keep an eye out for our next adventure to find out!